A Paradigm Shift on the Term “Paradigm Shift”

Don’t use this term, unless you really mean: a mountain of clear data demands that we replace a well-understood and accepted scientific theory with a fundamentally different one that accounts for the newer clear data AND all the old clear data.

Don’t make me stop this car!

If what you mean is: I like looking at things in a new way because I really didn’t like looking at things the old way, regardless of the lack of data supporting this new way and ignoring data that doesn’t really fit the new way – then Do Not Use the phrase ‘Paradigm Shift’ to describe your mood-driven flip-flop. This would mean sociologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, among others, are forbidden the use of this term, as their sciences do not have a body of data, let alone a coherent theory, about which anyone other than members of their own schools agree.

For example, there are around 16 different schools of psychology out there, each one of which claims to have the theory that best explains what makes people tick. Practitioners retreat to incoherence, saying they take a smorgasbord approach, just using whatever they find true from whatever school strikes their fancy. This strategy, while perhaps allowing practitioners to do some good for their patients, ignores the fundamental incompatibility of, say, Freud and Jung and Skinner, in effect admitting that their theories are unconvincing and ultimately trivial – they don’t make a difference in the real world. Therefore, one cannot have a paradigm shift in psychology – what paradigm? Psychological paradigms metastasize, they don’t shift.

Better yet, since so few people have even a faint grasp of what we’re talking about here, how about we just retire the phrase to the ‘once useful, now just a smokescreen’ Hall of Fame?

Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

5 thoughts on “A Paradigm Shift on the Term “Paradigm Shift””

  1. In a day or two, I’m doing a post on the word “paradigm” in relation to real life. Your blog came up in my research…I may even have to do a link to it somewhere in my post…just for the fun of it.

    Now that you have my attention, perhaps I’ll have to do more browsing, and perhaps even end up following. Imagine that! Meanwhile, you are welcome to visit me whenever you have time :~)

  2. Thomas Kuhn himself may have come close to agreeing with you:

    “A few years ago I happened to meet Kuhn at a scientific meeting and complained to him about the nonsense that had been attached to his name. He reacted angrily. In a voice loud enough to be heard by everyone in the hall, he shouted, ‘One thing you have to understand. I am not a Kuhnian.’” – Freeman Dyson, “The Sun, The Genome, and the Internet: Tools of Scientific Revolutions”

    One slight quibble with your post, though: it was important to the thrust of “Structure of Scientific Revolutions” that the new paradigm does not necessarily to explain all of the data that the old paradigm did. On the contrary, Kuhn argues that at the time of the revolution or paradigm shift, it often does not. In many cases this loss is remedied by later developments within the new paradigm (i. e. by the progression of normal science in Kuhn’s terminology), but sometimes this remediation never occurs.

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