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Science and Scientific Change - Essay Example

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In this paper, I shall focus on Thomas Kuhn and Karl Popper’s analysis of science and scientific change. The philosophy of science offers a critique of science and shows us how science might not be as superior as we’ve always thought it to be. …
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Science and Scientific Change
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"Science and Scientific Change"

Download file to see previous pages I regard Kuhn’s contribution to the field as one of the most important, not because I think he’s correct, but because it radically changed the way people think about the nature and purpose of science. Before Kuhn, philosophers generally regarded science as a rational and logical enterprise, with strict standards that guaranteed objectivity. What Kuhn shows, in his The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1970), is that science, as well as scientific change, is not as rational as we think. Scientists themselves are guided not by a set of objective principles, but by their personal interests and values as much as anything else.
Many philosophers and scientists have criticized Kuhn for portraying scientific change as an irrational process, one of them being Imre Lakatos. In this paper, I shall focus on the debate between Kuhn and Popper, as emphasized by Lakatos in his Falsification and The Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes.
I shall divide this paper into four main parts: the first part will discuss Popper’s views on science and scientific change. Part two will be devoted to Thomas Kuhn’s analysis of the irrationality of science and paradigm shifts. The third part will synthesize the Popperian and Kuhnian debate. Here I will introduce Lakatos’ critique against Kuhn. Finally, I shall end my paper with my conclusion regarding the said issue at hand.
Karl Popper What is the main difference between scientific theories and non-scientific theories? This is often referred to as the demarcation problem, which asks, what criterion can we use to distinguish scientific claims from non-scientific claims? What demarcates science from non-science? This is Karl Popper’s most renowned contribution. Yet what solution did Popper offer to his said problem? Popper’s solution to the demarcation problem is really quite simple. He says that what distinguishes scientific claims from non-scientific ones is its falsifiability. Thus, a hypothesis is scientific if and only if there is some way in which it can be falsified by means of some experiment. If we cannot construct an experiment, which can potentially falsify a hypothesis, then the hypothesis, even if meaningful, is really not scientific. In line with these two theories that are foundational to Popper’s philosophy, it is clear that Popper views science as a rational enterprise, where theory-change is characterized by scientific progress. According to Popper, science changes through a two-step cycle. Stage one is conjecture, and the second stage is attempted refutation. Under the stage of conjecture, a theory is proposed as an attempt to solve the problem at hand. The theory is then put to test by attempted refutations. Attempted refutation occurs when “the hypothesis is subjected to critical testing, in an attempts to show that it is false” (Godfrey-Smith 61). Moreover, Popper notes that after the hypothesis is refuted, the process repeats again starting from a new conjecture, and so on and so forth. If the theory is corroborated, then it is temporarily accepted as un-refuted, but not justified. What is important to take note of here is that as the process ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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