Pushing the Paradigm Button

Ryzer Jamie Walters recently asked, Are there really new paradigms? That's a good question.

The concept of paradigms was all the rage in corporate circles back in the Eighties when consultant Joel Barker arrived on the scene and popularized the term. He acknowledged at the time that he was standing on the shoulders of Thomas Kuhn, the philosopher of science who first wrote about the concept of paradigms in his slim but deep volume the Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

From my understanding of Kuhn's argument, one of the characteristics of a really new paradigm is that it should appear to be absurd, ridiculous and wrong...at first. Meaning that the audience that is considering the new paradigm is steeped in the context of the existing or "old" paradigm. The old paradigm makes sense. The new one seems like heresy.

In the news today, I saw a story that can illustrate this, where a research scientist, in dating some ancient human footprints, has said that the relics appear to be over a million years old. For the majority of scientists who are wedded to the existing paradigm, which says that humans did not enter the New World that long ago, this new finding is complete poppycock and there must be something wrong with the researcher or with the footprints.

The strong resistance, to the notion that humans could have been around that long ago, is evidence that an old paradigm is being challenged by a new one.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 12/12/2005


Rhodes Hileman said…
While it is true that the reaction to the human footprints one million years ago is an example of resistance to information which would violate current understandings of human origins, it may be correctly skeptical. The prints are not all that clear. The date is. In his book on paradigm change, Kuhn shows that there is a function to this skepticism; it is not only a useless sludge in the wheels of progress. It remains to be seen whether the prints can be tied to humans. It is an exciting possibility though.
Terrence said…
Hey Rhodes,

Welcome to my blog. Glad you stopped by.

I am enjoying your list of interests at smsys.com. Like you, I am interested in non-violence. And facilitation.

I may do something like your list...On my list would be archaeology because I have been fascinated by ancient stuff since I was a kid.

I think it's because of my genius (as Dick Richards defines it) which I am realizing has to do with discovering wisdom.


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