29 January 2016

Book Review: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can understand why probably the author thanked his family for their consideration of the author's efforts towards this book, because it must have demanded a lot of painstaking effort not to mention time. I would have given it 3 stars for its complicated way of delivering its points, the language is highly complex that it tends at many certain points throughout, that the arguments contradict each other. Five stars, however for its complexity and taken as a whole it is actually coherent. The contradictory statements can be attributed to the fact that in science or fields of science, there is a particular paradigm that practitioners adhere to. However, this paradigm at specific points in history, encounter change brought about by new discoveries, anomalies or crises that can disprove it or demand that it be rejected or replaced. In this process, as what this book points out, there are resistances by scientists whether they will discard this paradigm or replace it - and thus, the phenomenon of Paradigm Shift will occur or whether practitioners will stubbornly cling to the original paradigm.

This historical process is nuanced and subtle because scientists even though they are eager to discover new phenomena on their field or contribute something original - are prone to protecting that particular paradigm that they follow. But crises and anomalies do certainly have to occur and be encountered, thus earlier theories have the potential to be discarded or new theories modified in such a way as to reduce contradictions with earlier theories. The gradual process of resistance and/or acceptance is highly nuanced and complex, hence the nature of this book. The presentation of analyses of the author can also be the reason why the book received critical comments particularly by philosophers of science, for instance, there was a comment whether 'he believes in reality?' Towards the end part, there is also the question of the evolution of human knowledge, whether it has a telos or whether, as compared to Dawinian concept, it evolves by itself towards a certain progression of which the goal is unknown.

No theory ever solves all the puzzles with which it is confronted at a given time; nor are the solutions already achieved often perfect. On the contrary, it is just the incompleteness and imperfection of the existing data-theory fit that, at any given time, define many of the puzzles that characterize normal science. If any and every failure to fit were ground for theory rejection, all theories ought to be rejected at all times. On the other hand, if only severe failure to fit justifies theory rejection, then the Popperians will require some criterion of "improbability" or of "degree of falsification". In developing one they will almost certainly encounter the same network of difficulties that has haunted the advocates of the various probabilistic verification theories [that the evaluative theory cannot itself be legitimated without appeal to another evaluative theory, leading to regress].

The author also contrasted his analyses with Karl Popper's method of falsification and demarcation of knowledge, and stated that this method as espoused by Popper, needs a certain criteria as where to base the falsification of theories, and what qualifies that criteria? Or if that criteria were to be stated, an infinite regress is inevitable. "Truth" is not the criterion of scientific knowledge, because it will have a tendency that once that "Truth" was discovered, that will mean the end of scientific search for knowledge - this is where Kuhn and Popper meet. However, whereas Kuhn would propose the concept of "Paradigm Shift" (he actually used the perceptual psychology concept of "Gestalt" in this sense), Popper proposed the method of falsification of scientific theories. Kuhn's concept can be regarded in the sense, that it is what actually happens in the enterprise of science (it is the actual event), but Popper's falsification even if it is used by practitioners remains an ideal method and the question arises, as to what specific criteria will that 'falsification' be based upon? That will have to be addressed, and I hope will be clarified on my reading of Karl Popper's "The Logic of Scientific Discovery" or "Logik der Forschung".

Although both concepts by Kuhn and Popper appear to be antagonistic as written by critics, I'm looking forward that in a way, what they actually proposed as regards their method of inquiry and analysis are reconcilable. After all, scientists and philosophers even though they devise systems of inquiry and discover phenomena, are not that arrogant to claim that they know the "Truth".