A “Defending Science” footnote

July 24, 2007 at 11:26 pm | Posted in Policy | Leave a comment

A great portion of my struggle in defending science, scientists and non-scientists is spent in an effort to provide a coherent statement about an established though somewhat abstract idea that makes sense to non-technical audiences yet does not result in outrage by technical audiences over issues of semantics. I feel that I am evolving and making progress in this regard due to my perceived increased effectiveness in successful delivery of a complex idea as judged by the audience’s ability to paraphrase to increasingly equivalent statements versus the time used in my presentation.

In an effort to progress further in this regard, I feel that a footnote for this blog is in order. One of the trickiest points to get across is what is “mainstream,” “textbook,” or “accepted” science. In the past, my answers have varied as I searched for the most effective phrases to get the point across, though my current reading of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. Kuhn has provided me an attractive solution to this particular problem.

At the beginning of Chapter 2, Kuhn says, “In this essay, ‘normal science’ means research firmly based upon one or more past scientific achievements, achievements that some particular scientific community acknowledges for a time as supplying the foundation for its further practice. ” The definition gets more precise and clear as the reader proceeds through the essay, but there I have provided the most essential portion of the definition. The existence of this normal science is of utmost importance to scientific education and progress because it is the foothold for which further steps, progress, have been made through the history of science.

Please, upon reading this blog I ask that all references to “mainstream,” “textbook,” or “accepted” science be replaced with Kuhn’s definition of normal science. This substitution should not occur when reading accounts of anti-science meetings where I made my best effort at providing the dialogues and verbal exchanges verbatim, however my intended meaning of the terms mentioned is that of Kuhn’s normal science, which I will now use in the future.

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