Thursday, September 30, 2010

Scientific Communities Reluctance To Consider Alternative Thoughts

Charles Darwin’s theories are accepted almost unanimously in the science world, however this seems to cause a contradiction. In an article titled The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), Thomas Kuhn discusses the effects of normal science. Kuhn argues that through this structure limited efforts are made through science to find new explanations of events, but is instead just to entrench old thoughts (Kuhn, 1962). He argues that accepted paradigms in science are built into scientific thought and scientific procedures are similar to that of building a puzzle that has set pieces (Kuhn, 1962). In addition to the structural problems with the process, when tests show certain results, they are generally discarded as anomalies (Kuhn, 1962). In order for there to be a change in scientific thought a scientific crisis has to occur, which has a strong effect on those inside the community (Kuhn, 1962).
This type of thought could be seen in how Darwin’s theories have been so entrenched in the thoughts of the scientific community that any tests that show differences in opinion are often discarded. The ideas that Darwin presented created a scientific crisis, which lead to the paradigm (which he did not create on his own, but for which he was a major advocate) of natural selection and sexual selection becoming widely accepted in the community. Even individuals that do not necessarily agree with sexual selection still agree with natural selection. Doctor Joan Roughgarden who is the subject of another blog post as well, states at the beginning of one of her articles about the problems with sexual selection:
May a biologist in these polarized times dare suggest that Darwin is a bit wrong about anything? Even worse, does a biologist risk insult, ridicule, anger and intimidation to suggest that Darwin is incorrect on a big issue? We have a test case before us. Darwin appears completely mistaken in his theory of sex roles, a subject called ‘the theory of sexual selection’ (Roughgarden, 2007, p. 23).
Later on in the article Roughgarden discusses the backlash that her criticism of Darwin have lead to (Roughgarden, 2007, p. 36). This further proves Kuhn’s point about science, that it is not necessarily about exploring other aspects of theories and paradigms, but instead moving forward to further solidify their place in the scientific community. Instead of embracing change that could create controversy, the scientific community may actually be trying to resist it.
Note: For a short synopsis of Thomas Kuhn’s article by Professor Frank Pajares please visit Then click “extras”, then click “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”
Roughgarden, J. (2007). “Challenging Darwin’s Theory of Sexual Selection”. In Daedalus, 136(2), pp. 23-36.
Kuhn, T. (1962). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Synopsis by Pajares, F. Retrieved January 30th, 2010 from the Communications 260 website at:

No comments:

Post a Comment