Where has all the science gone?

Stephen Needel
Advanced Simulations, LLC., United States


Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) analyzes the growth of science and concludes (I oversimplify) that it is not the steady accumulation of knowledge and experience but a radical revolution in thinking that spurs science to new achievements. In his exposition, the existing paradigm, the way most scientists approach problems within a given field, creates the questions deemed worthy of research. At some point, these questions become intractable, creating a crisis within the science – the current paradigm cannot account for certain observed behaviors. It is at this point that scientific revolutions are born. Kuhn calls this a paradigm shift, where the old way of looking at the world is discarded in favor of the new world view. A key feature of this new world view is that it answers the previously unanswerable questions and provides the platform for moving ahead in that science's understanding of its subject matter. This growth spurt comes about as a large leap in understanding, not the one small step so often assumed of knowledge accumulation.