Gary Sims Jr.
a significant change in the paradigm of any discipline or group: “Putting skilled, tenured teachers in failing schools would cause a paradigm shift in teaching and education.”
A Paradigm Shift is not just a small change in science, or the modification of a theory. It is a scientific revolution and completely changes the way in which science looks at the world. It often dictates how the public looks at the world.
A paradigm shift is often the result of scientists working at the fringe of the paradigm, performing research that most other researchers feel is a little misguided, or a dead end. In most instances, this view is correct but, every so often, a scientist has a revelation. More often than not, they feel the weight of scientific and public opinion, and become ridiculed. However, slowly but surely, other scientists try out the research, and a few lost voices in ...view middle of the document...
This process continues for a long time, until some experiments begin uncovering errors. A certain amount of error is accepted, and it can be absorbed by slight changes in the paradigm. However, eventually, the basic and fundamental principles may be shown to have error and there is a paradigm shift, a way of looking at the same information in a completely different way.
Probably the best way to look at a paradigm shift is through example, using example of Ptolemy, whose fixation upon a paradigm created problems. Ptolemy, in common with most Ancient Greek philosophers, believed that the earth was at the center of the universe, and that the sun and other planets revolved around it. The problem with that view came when Ptolemy, and later observers, made more accurate observations. More epicycles had to be added, making circles within circles. It was not until Copernicus that this view was challenged. He postulated that the sun was at the center of the solar system, which was regarded as the center of the universe at that time. The paradigm shifted, and it was only the resistance of the church that prevented immediate adoption. After this came Newton’s ideas and physics worked within a new paradigm. Ptolemy is often used as a metaphor for bad science and irrationality, but this is very unfair, and is an example of a fallacy, an argument from superiority. Using the equipment he had available, with no telescopes and limited mathematics, there was little wrong with his theory or methods. His measurements were supremely accurate and were used for measuring the motion of the planets until the time of Copernicus. His rigorous and meticulous approach was faultless, and he was a good empirical scientist. Copernicus, Galileo and Newton had a lot of respect for him, so the modern world must be careful not to judge Ptolemy harshly.
Unfortunately, this is one of the downsides of paradigm shifts, where scientists who performed good work within the confines of the paradigm become ridiculed. Much of the problem is that they cling to their theories, becoming more stubborn, and showing signs of confirmation bias. This opens them up to ridicule by history, and they are judged by this, rather than by their other achievements.