Normal Science and its search for the end.

higgs-bosonKuhn asserts that if we study the history of science, we can deduce from it that developments in scientific fields happen in phases. The first phase he refers to as “normal science” in which researchers fit a common paradigm to the questions they seek answers for. These paradigms make predictions of what reasonable outcomes could ensue from their observations and experiments – thus, in Kuhn’s case, theory precedes observation. Normal science does not intend to discover novelty, rather it aims to fit observations within an already established, scientific framework that will accommodate its findings. However, when discrepancies arise, and observations or experiments tend not to fit into this framework, it is the framework that needs to be questioned.

From here, we enter the next phase of scientific development. Kuhn describes this phase in terms of entering a crisis, where the framework fails to uphold certain observations or results found. This crisis is resolved by means of revolution – a process “by which an older theory is rejected and replaced by an incompatible new one” (Kuhn, p. 2). In other words, a paradigm shift occurs, in which we encounter revolutionary change regarding the frameworks, which we use to make new discoveries, however once in use, these revolutionary frameworks yet again become normal science.

Kuhn offers a completely antithetical theory to that of Popper, who places falsification of theories at the core of scientific discovery. For Kuhn, to refute the theories embedded in the current paradigm is not a means of attaining scientific knowledge. I agree with the way in which Kuhn treats scientific developments as puzzles because it predetermines that there are solutions; one must simply do the experiments and observations necessary to attain them. If we take the Higgs Boson experiments at Cern for example, we can witness a puzzle-solving process at work. The existence of the particle was predicted by the “standard model” of particle physics, which represented the overarching paradigm that would guide researchers through their exploration and ultimately towards an answer. If what they discover negates the common paradigm, then we will be entering yet another scientific revolution that will bring with it a new paradigm that will shape the way in which we attain scientific knowledge.

In other words, the Higgs Boson is there, and researchers are trying to falsify that theory. Current theories and equations are based on the theory that the Higgs Boson does exist so essentially, if we do find it, then that’s it for science and that’s it for physics, there’s nothing else to find. Everything would have fit into the paradigm and so there’s nothing else to discover. We have yet to complete the paradigm.


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