Re: Bumper-Sticker Theory <debate> <long

Sat, 17 Feb 1996 23:41:00 PST

Cohen replies:

"But even in fields with well established paradigms, there are lower level
theories and models that come and go for reasons other than pure merit."

Definitely the case.

"The problem with the Newtonian v. Einsteinian paradigm example is that it is
... quite different than say, the 19th century shift from vitalism to
mechanism. ... But vitalism
and special creationism today lack any reasonable scientific or practical

Quite so, and certainly the rejection of theories that are based upon
hypothetical processes that have no independent evidence for their reality
should be the normal course of events. This does not mean that such theories
were not serious theories; e.g. the ether theory was proposed as a means to
make sense of observations about the speed of light which were inexplicable
in an empty space governed by Newtonian mechanics. However, the rejection of
functionalism and structuralism does not stem from demonstration that they
depend upon processes that do not independent evidence.

"Maybe the conclusion is that while we have had theoretical orientations such
as functionalism and structuralism, which have produced research strategies,
we have yet to develop a true paradigm."

This leaves open what is meant by a "true paradigm." One "rough and ready"
approach might be to require that a "true paradigm" be based upon
identification of a processes, or processes, sufficiently well developed to
allow their logical implications to be determined and suffiently rich to
encompass the range of phenomena deemed to be of interest. For example, the
process of natural selection lends itself to formal expression and thereby to
determination of its logical consquences under specified conditions. It also
has the property of encompasing a wide range of phenomena (and that range
continues to be exanded upon!).

D. Read