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phoenix goodman

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Does the scientific establishment unwittingly suffer from paradigm bias? Does it assume incorrect axioms of existence?

In the light of Thomas Kuhn's "Paradigm Shift" theory, and inspired by the TED controversy of removing Rupert Sheldrake's talk, let us examine the current scientific establishment.

The scientific process is capable of historical meta-analysis to make sense of its own patterns and processes. As Kuhn points out, every generation of scientists tend to assume premises that are fundamentally false but define the paradigm in which they work, and all assumptions flow from those premises.

Two major examples to illustrate are the geocentric/religious paradigm overthrown by Copernicus, and the Newtonian absolute space-time paradigm overthrown by Einstein. Of course, we must look to the actual psyche's of the establishment itself in those contexts. Was Copernicus not considered a heretic? Did not pre-Einsteinian physicists literally just ASSUME absolute spacetime as an axiom when contemplating physics? They are only easily shown to be incorrect in 20/20 hindsight, although up to that point, all the textbooks of school and general consensus among very smart 'experts' propagated those fallacious foundations.

Scientists that are overly specialized, careerist, non-philosophical, and lacking in paradigm shattering intuition/creativity might be the 'gatekeepers' of today, propagating fallacious assumptions themselves, and dismissing all non-establishment positions as heretical.

Has science itself transcended all biases? Has it overcome all incorrect assumptions? Was Newtonian absolute spacetime the final barrier? If not, then we MUST give 'heretics' a shot, should we not? What if they are a paradigm shifter?

As a thought experiment- if we are to contemplate the hypothetical that there are indeed wrong assumptions, what might they be?

Could it be that matter emerges from mind, and not the other way around?
Can Cartesian dualism be solved?
Could it be that the paradigm of Empiricism is merely a subset of the superior Rationalism?

Was Leibniz right?


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  • Mar 26 2013: I'm jumping into the thread far into it. My apologies for the poor etiquette. I couldn't help myself on this one.

    I just wanted to say that I was a big fan of Kuhn's Structures of Scientific Revolutions and that one of the most persuasive parts of the story he weaves is the biographies of our most famous scientists. Discoveries are mostly made by people who are young and often by people who come from outside the establishment. Einstein's biography certainly should count as evidence that one of Sheldrake's introductory points in his talk has some merit: the current system of centralized education, training, and research funding deserves to be questioned.

    There's a great synergy I think between Sheldrake's emphasis on the nature of inquiry and Dan Pink's talk about motivation and our system of cultural incentives. His thesis is that highly intellectual tasks require intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivators to be successful. Extrinsic motivators narrow our focus to specific incentivized results and keep us from exploring and using our critical faculties.

    I'm not up on current scientific practices, but it seems to me that scientist are very driven by grants. Pink's talk on motivation would lead us to hypothesize that this means our current system inhibits intellectual processes and most inhibits the most highly intellectual processes, theoretical science.

    Also, everything I've read about scientific realism says that scientists have one of two opinions on the question of whether or not their assumptions/theories/laws are "true" of the "real" world. Most commonly, they think it's a stupid question because whether or not the assumptions are correct, they enable us to interact with our environment in predictable ways with a high level of consistency is complicated tasks. And if the assumptions are wrong, they can be changed when necessary. If you can get them to answer the question, they'll most likely say, "No. These are just hypotheses for now."

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