Announcing the Thomas Kuhn’s “Structure of Scientific Revolutions” Comparison Watch!

The official GIF of the competition.

Following a Twitter exchange with Michael Barany last Thursday evening, I am pleased to announce the start of a new series on this blog: the Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions Comparison Watch.

Have you noticed how frequently some writer on science, social science, or business will favorably compare an individual they like (often themselves) to a paradigm-shifting scientist from Kuhn’s Structure—Copernicus, Galileo, Lavoisier, Einstein, etc.? Because we have! And now, at last, there will be a place where all those comparisons can be assembled, collated, referenced, and analyzed as a phenomenon in the popular cultural understanding of the history of science.*

Please tweet us your favorites at @americansciblog, or in the comments. And keep us posted as you find new ones in the future. (Ideally, these should not merely be references to paradigm shifts, but explicit mentions of Kuhn and/or his book.)

Our first entry, again thanks to Michael, is Martin Bernal, from his Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization, Vol. 1:

Extra points to this one, since it’s the epigraph (+1) to the introduction (+1).

The floor is open—tweet or comment with your entries.

*For an inspiration, see James Fallows, who has kept track of the exasperating “boiling frog” metaphor for years and years.

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5 thoughts on “Announcing the Thomas Kuhn’s “Structure of Scientific Revolutions” Comparison Watch!

  1. Kenneth Thomas

    There is nothing quite like choosing a major work in a field you have little comprehension of, and making fun of it in the lowest of fashions– while thinking you are cute.
    This is why there is a lack of public support for academia. This kind of behavior, is essentially indistinguishable from that of gangs of thugs– while you blithely presume that the work you supposedly perform (“science”) is so important to humanity, to justify your infantile behavior.

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    1. Evan Hepler-Smith

      Kenneth,

      I’m not quite sure what you mean. We certainly don’t mean to be “making fun” of either Kuhn’s _Structure_, which is by most accounts the most influential book about the history of science – our field – written in the past six or seven decades. Nor are we making fun of authors who invoke Kuhn. Rather, our goal here is to call attention to the ways in which some of Kuhn’s central ideas – paradigms, scientific revolutions, normal science – have been invoked by lots and lots of different writers, and how they’ve shaped the way that these writers and their audience think about how science (among other things) works.

      If anything, we would like to think that we’re honoring Kuhn and those who cite him by trying to take stock of how broadly influential Kuhn’s ideas have been, and the processes by which other scholars have spread and reworked Kuhn’s thought. We’re doing so in the spirit of critical examination rather than uncritical celebration, for sure, but that doesn’t make us thugs – it makes us historians.

      We’re going about this in a rather lighthearted way here, as you point out. But we hope that lighthearted conversation about serious matters can be productive, too!

      Evan

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  2. Pingback: Whewell’s Gazette: Year, 2 Vol: #11 | Whewell's Ghost

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