Thomas Kuhn and Copernicus explain today’s media madness

As we wrote 12 years ago:

In 1962 Thomas Kuhn, then at Harvard, published The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, which quickly became one of the seminal books in the history of science. Kuhn argues that radical changes in thought often require, and create, a whole new way of seeing the world. He invented the term “paradigm shift,” to describe the phenomenon. Often, it is only when you have crossed over to the new paradigm do you see reality the way it really is.

One example Kuhn uses to illustrate his point is the Copernican Revolution. In 1500, the accepted view in the Christian world of western Europe was that the earth was the center of the universe, and that the sun and the planets revolved around the earth. The astronomer Ptolemy in the second century AD had worked out a set of equations for the movements of the planets and the moon based on the the earth being the center of the universe. Of course the set of equations describing the Ptolemaic universe had terrible problems since they were attempting to describe a universe that doesn’t exist.

In the early sixteenth century, Copernicus developed an alternative view of, and set of equations for, a universe in which the moon alone revolved around the earth, and in which the earth, like the other planets, revolved around the sun. His masterwork, De Revolutionibus, was published after significant delays, due to religious and scientific objections to his work. Copernicus finally received a copy of his book on May 24, 1543, the day he died.

Many people had a lot invested, professionally, culturally, religiously, psychologically, in the notion that the earth and man were the center of all creation, and so there was considerable resistance at first to the Copernican universe. Some scientists and religious leaders of the day were horrified at the universe Copernicus described, and adamantly defended their geocentric, Ptolemaic beliefs, refusing to accept the Copernican paradigm. Kuhn writes:

In a sense I am unable to explicate further, the proponents of competing paradigms practice their trades in different worlds. (p. 150)

The transfer of allegiance from paradigm to paradigm is a conversion experience that cannot be forced….

Darwin, in a particularly perceptive passage at the end of his Origin of Species, wrote: “Although I am fully convinced of the truth of the views given in this volume…, I by no means expect to convince experienced naturalists whose minds are shocked with a multitude of facts all viewed, during a long course of years, from a point of view directly opposite to mine….but I look with confidence to the future, — to young and rising naturalists, who will be able to look at both sides of the question with impartiality.”

And Max Planck, surveying his own career in his Scientific Autobiography, sadly remarked that “a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” (p. 151)

The media and their allies live in a different universe, a very nice universe where they are the smart guys and the rest are rubes, and somehow the rubes won. Unimaginable! These guys are going to blow gasket after gasket, given the new administration’s energy self-sufficiency policy. The inanity and scam of global warming is their Holy Eucharist. When things get really desperate, they might even be forced to learn how many molecules of CO2 are in 2500 molecules of air.

One Response to “Thomas Kuhn and Copernicus explain today’s media madness”

  1. Robert Risko Says:

    Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions never became one of the seminal books in scientific literature. The social scientists loved it; the hard scientists, not so much

    Love your stuff; hope you’re well.

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