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ttruong's picture

Different name, same revolution.


I really like these two descriptions of the progress of science. I think that scientific progress is definitely a combination of revoluntionary leaps and accumlation of new observations and summaries (normal science). Take Darwin's ideas of evolution for example. His ideas of descent, with modifications, from common ancestors was a revolutionary leap, being formulated when people were still very deeply indoctrinated in ideas of special creationism. However, his ideas were incomplete with gaps easily targeted for attacks from non-believers. Only with the rediscovery of Mendel's research of hereditary particles (genes) did Darwin's theory become more coherent. Further research of fossils and carbon-dating, Watson-Crick's discovery of the structure of DNA, and advances in genetic analysis continue to add evidence to the theory of evolution. After Darwin's first revolutionary shift, normal science entered to fill in the missing pieces to form a more coherent story. The  two modes work together push science further along.

There are times when names that are given at the time of the revolutionary leap, when the story was still not so coherent, need to be altered once the story has been supplemented with further research. The name change is not necessarily indicative of another revoluntionary change; it is indicative that a more advanced understanding (that's still within the same paradigm)of the concept or object has been established.


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