"Mop-ping-up operations are what engage most scientists throughout their careers. They constitute what I am here calling normal science. Closely examined, whether historically or in the contemporary laboratory, that enterprise seems an attempt to force nature into the preformed and relatively inflexible box that the paradigm supplies. No part of the aim of normal science is to call forth new sorts of phenomena; indeed those that will not fit the box are often not seen at all. Nor do scientists normally aim to invent new theories, and they are often intolerant of those invented by others. Instead, normal-scientific research is directed to the articulation of those phenomena and theories that the paradigm already supplies.
Perhaps these are defects. The areas investigated by normal science are, of course, minuscule; the enterprise now under discussion has drastically restricted vision. But those restrictions, born from confidence in a paradigm, turn out to be essential to the development of science. By focusing attention upon a small range of relatively esoteric problems, the paradigm forces scientists to investigate some part of nature in a detail and depth that would otherwise be unimaginable. And normal science possesses a built-in mechanism that ensures the relaxation of the restrictions that bound research whenever the paradigm from which they derive ceases to function effectively. At that point scientists begin to behave differently, and the nature of their research problems changes. In the interim, however, during the period when the paradigm is successful, the profession will have solved problems that its members could scarcely have imagined and would never have undertaken without commitment to the paradigm."
(Thomas Kuhn, 1962, Vol. II, No. 2, p.24)
Thomas S. Kuhn (1962). "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions".
20 February – 26 May 2014, Folio Society Gallery; admission free, London.
"Turning numbers into pictures that tell important stories and reveal the meaning held within is an essential part of what it means to be a scientist. This is as true in today's era of genome sequencing and climate models as it was in the 19th century.
Beautiful Science explores how our understanding of ourselves and our planet has evolved alongside our ability to represent, graph and map the mass data of the time.
From John Snow's plotting of the 1854 London cholera infections on a map to colourful depictions of the tree of life, discover how picturing scientific data provides new insight into our lives."
(The British Library)
"TechNyou is a free information service to help raise awareness about emerging technologies and associated issues, for example GM foods, stem cells, gene therapy, cloning, synthetic biology and nanotechnologies."
The series includes: This Thing Called Science Part 1: Call me skeptical; This Thing Called Science Part 2: Testing, testing 1–2–3; This Thing Called Science Part 3: Blinded by Science; This Thing Called Science Part 4: Confidently Uncertain; This Thing Called Science Part 5: Do the right thing; This Thing Called Science Part 6: Citizen Science.
"If we look at the history of medicine, we can see that it became what it is today because of a sweeping social transformation that modernized Europe centuries ago. Urbanization and commerce, along with Protestantism and the Catholic Counter–Reformation, encouraged new ways of conceiving and interacting with nature. It was within this context that 'scientific medicine' was invented and elaborated. The particular scientific model that became predominant in Europe in the seventeenth century accepted the mind–body dualism of René Descartes, for whom the human body is a self–contained, entirely material machine. His contemporary, Baruch Spinoza, on the other hand, elaborated a more relational view, stemming from a Jewish tradition that regards the body as essential to a complex and ultimately spiritual being, and all beings as mutually dependent.
Spinoza's perspective is no less compatible with scientific medicine than the Cartesian view. For science has two complementary ways of explaining: by taking apart–as atomic physics mainly does–and by bringing into relation–as Einstein's relativity theory does. Spinoza was quite aware of the power of the first approach, as elaborated by Descartes and advanced by technologies such as the newly invented microscope. Spinoza acknowledges that the human body is composed of parts, and those parts of smaller parts still. But he recognizes also that bodies are encompassed by, and can be adequately understood only in relation to, unities larger than themselves, until we reach the widest system of all, which is 'the whole of nature.' Spinoza was an early exponent of what is known today as 'systems theory.'
Medicine in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries could have taken a more integrative path, in keeping with Spinoza's insight that we are guardians not only of our bodies, taken individually, but of the entire domain of nature with which they are continuous. Instead–for reasons that this essay will explore – mainstream medicine adopted the Cartesian machine model."
(Raymond Barglow, Tikkun Magazine, March 2002)
"The beacons of the philosophy of science include Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn, Paul Feyerabend, and Bruno Latour who refute scientism from various angles: arguing that scientific observations are theory and value laden, science takes place within communities, science can be anarchic, etc, all suggesting that science is as dependent on processes of interpretation, community, and tradition as any aspect of the humanities."
(Richard Coyne, 2011)
Excerpted from a letter to the editor, first published in ARQ: Richard Coyne (2011). What's science got to do with it?. Architectural Research Quarterly, 15 , pp 205–206, doi:10.1017/S135913551100073X