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orion-list re: Kuhn and Popper

Stephen Goranson asks:

>  By the way, addressed to all, can we agree that Thomas S. Kuhn, author of
>  The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, disapproved of use of his
>  "paradigm" analysis outside of the history of science? 

    No, in the 1969 Postscript to his second (also third) edition(s) of The 
Structure of Scientific Revolutions, he addresses this specific question at 
pp. 208-210.  In response to those who "read its [his book's] main theses as 
applicable to many other fields as well" he says, e.g., "To the extent that 
the book portrays scientific development as a succession of tradition-bound 
periods punctuated by non-cumulative breaks, its theses are undoubtedly of 
wide application."

>  And that he and Karl
>  Popper, who advocated "falsifiability," quite disagreed with one another?

    It seriously oversimplifies the relationship of Kuhn and Popper to say 
that they disagreed with one another, especially with respect to 
falsifiability.  There are also important areas of agreement.  Popper's 
essential position (as articulated in his The Logic of Scientific Discovery 
-- see also Popper Selections, edited by David Miller) is that scientific 
theory is essentially that which is testable and capable of falsification.  I 
don't believe Kuhn disagrees with this essential observation, nor with 
Popper's "advocacy" (as you put it) of falsifiability as an essential 
function of scientific inquiry.  
    Kuhn's major contribution (as I see it) is that major paradigms or 
constellations of scientific beliefs very often survive falsification for a 
significant "crisis" period when contradictory data has arisen which the 
paradigm fails to account for.  The paradigm (or theory) struggles along 
during the crisis period by ignoring or discounting falsifying data or 
patching it over with ad hoc explanations.  Older, obsolete paradigms 
collapse not merely by falsification (as Popper would hope for in his ideal 
of scientific progress) but by falsification combined with a new paradigm.  
For instance, classical physics didn't collapse merely by the 
Michaelson-Morley experiment on the speed of light, which Newtonian physics 
was incapable of explaining, but by this theory AND Einstein's new theory of 
special relativity.  Scientists generally don't abandon one theory until they 
have a better one to switch to, despite the growing body of falsifying data.
    All this is applicable to the field of scrolls study, where current 
historical paradigms are entering a crisis period.  The reigning paradigm is 
of course that which correlates the scrolls sect with the occupants of Qumran 
and accordingly assigns the rise of the scrolls sect to the early first 
century BCE, and equates the scroll sect with the Essenes.  This paradigm 
usually involves a number of corollary conjectures that are impossible to 
either historically verify or falsify, and are unscientific in Popper's sense 
-- such as that the Teacher of Righteousness founded Qumran, that Jannaeus or 
some other Wicked Priest persecuted the inhabitants of Qumran, that the 
sectarian scrolls were composed at Qumran, etc.  Indeed, the history of the 
scrolls sect is conveniently invisible, having evidently left no trace in 
historical records.  
    This paradigm tenaciously persists in classical Kuhn-ian fashion despite 
having been falsified by a number of data, of which I immodestly might point 
out my own articles dating the War Scroll to 163 BCE based on both military 
data and historical allusions.  However, in my opinion (and consistent with 
Kuhn's theories) any new paradigm on the Dead Sea Scrolls, to be successful, 
must not only falsify current historical assumptions but also present a 
superior understanding of the historical background of the Nahum Pesher, the 
one apparent "success" of the old paradigm.  Current theories (and even some 
textual readings) of the Nahum Pesher are highly problematic, as I think will 
be brought out in important new studies next year.  Until then, I doubt that 
the field will perceive the depth of the current crisis.  

    Best regards,
    Russell Gmirkin
For private reply, e-mail to RGmyrken@aol.com
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