Richard Kondo (
25 Apr 1995 14:56:51 GMT

Poor Richard ( wrote:


: Poor Richard agrees with Dr. Fujita and believes that many scientists
: do not demonstrate a "modicum of integrity"; Poor Richard thinks that most
: of what fills the biological literature (almost 2000 journals now), is
: bullshit and not worth the paper it is printed on. That is perhaps
: why the government insists on us calling it an "advertisement"

: Poor Richard thinks that the peer review system is badly warped and that
: these two commentators have the right idea: Most scientific literature
: would be better off never having been printed, as law would be better off
: with fewer lawyers, more jails, fewer opinions and more facts.

As usual, Poor Richard has written another one of his/her
provocative statements without much evidential substantiation. However,
the issues raised are important.
I don't know to the degree that the peer review system is
abused and the degree to which orthodoxy reigns.

However, I would like to consider the ideas of Thomas Kuhn,
elaborated in his book, 'The Structure of a Scientific Revolution'.
His idea, paraphrased and filtered through my interpretation, is that
science proceeds via 'paradigm shifts'. In this scheme, scientists
do science according to the reigning paradigms and orthodoxies. These
paradigms include theories, experimental methodologies and tools.
The paradigm shapes the types of the experiments done and the
interpretation of the data. However, as the science proceeds,
contradictions between the experimental data and current theory
accumulate to the point that someone creates a new paradigm. Some
of the usually cited paradigms have been a) Ptolemic universe to
Copernican Universe, b) Newtonian to Einsteinian c) classical to
Kuhn's ideas were attacked by philosophers of science, since
he seemed to deny scientific progress. Additionally, it is
difficult to discern shifts in paradigm (it depends on the eye
of the beholder). However, they lit the imagination of many in
other fields, and they introduced the notion of the sociology of
Scientific endeavour includes not only an empirical
search for the nature of the universe, but political
squabbling and scientific doctrine. Individual scientists
can and do fall victim to these forces. However, before we
completely condemn orthodoxies, it should be noted that
paradigms focus scientific effort in areas and questions which
have been shown to be fruitful in the past. Most of us, myself
included, need such structure.

Richard Kondo

Cardiac Muscle Research Laboratory
Boston University