“Normal science does not aim at novelties of fact or theory and, when successful, finds none.” – Thomas Kuhn, pg .52
Kuhn’s notion as stated above is contrary to the popular image of science. He challenges the normally accepted scientific beliefs. He states that if scientific discoveries are typically viewed as novelties, then this will lead to the end of what people believe to be normal science. Contrary to this point, normal science’s aim is not towards its end or towards strictly philosophical ideologies. But, according to Kuhn, normal science strives not towards progress but towards normal and/or revolutionary stages. Basically, Kuhn revolutionized how people view science and broke it down into stages:
- Emergence of Normal Science
- Emergence of Anomaly and Crisis
- Birth and Assimilation of a New Paradigm
These stages exemplify his point: that science is more than just an accumulation of new ideas. Instead, science is marked by revolutionary ideas that trigger new ideologies (or what he calls new paradigms) that change the way people view and understand science. It is in these revolutionary stages that big breakthroughs happen. His model is a cyclical succession of stages from pre-science to normal science to model drift to model crisis to model revolution to paradigm change and back to normal science.
But what causes a paradigm change? Looking at the structure of education systems (schools) at least in the U.S. and in the schools I have been enrolled in, fundamental models are never disagreed upon. However, this is how paradigms shift. People who engage in questioning what people generally believe to be the fundamental truths end up finding discrepancies in these facts. In normal science, theories are not questioned, however, in revolutionary science they are. Also, in normal science, change is gradual, but in revolutionary science, change is quick. Kuhn mentions the perspectives scientists have on the world, saying that those who work in different paradigms live in different psychological worlds due to their differences in beliefs.
Is Kuhn’s idea really as black and white as he makes it out to be? Is studying science as a philosophy the right way to study? Or, is studying science as a sociology correct? Kuhn believes studying science as a philosophy is wrong. But, he is unable to explain what scientists should do rather than what they actually do. Philosophers assess the goals of specific claims in order to explain how their practice can achieve these goals, so in my opinion, I believe there is a place for philosophers in normal science as opposed to Kuhn’s belief that they have no place at all. Just because something might be a poor argument does NOT mean that its conclusion in untrue, it just means that there are questions the argument does not address and everyone (philosophers, psychologists, and sociologists alike) must work towards addressing these questions.