Genesis Quest, Paradigms, Science
Understanding Paradigms and the Birth of Uniformity and Scientific Materialism
The term Paradigm was popularized by Thomas Kuhn in his groundbreaking book “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” in regards to the Sciences, in that Science as an institution, born out of and comprised of social agents in a social world is not, and cannot be outside of, or above, the very natural by-product of culture and human knowledge – the World-View, the Gestalt, or rather; the Paradigm.
A paradigm is a collectively agreed upon system of rules, thoughts, images, theories about the world, language use, and so on. It is, in a sense, a sub-domain of the over-arching cultural paradigm which in a general sense is comprised of many world-views. For our purposes, the modern Western paradigm is the one in which we shall discuss, attack, dissect and question; and this paradigm can now generally be viewed as a scientific materialist one – of uniformity – a world in which only the directly observable phenomenon are seen as Truth and Fact, in which cultural history is merely a long trail of fantastic and primitive fantasy, and a gestalt which has led human knowledge and creative and spiritual progress to a slow and steady halt.
The great fallacy that scientific paradigm has induced into its practitioners, suggests that Science itself is at the same time, Truth bearing and Fact giving, yet falsifiable. The religious practitioners of Science would have you believe their world-view is completely different then a staunch Religious perspective – and yet both are part of well funded institutions. Both hold an ultimate truth, or claim channels of thought to know the Truth. Both have practitioners within the institution who are the ‘learned’, who know the language, and act as intermediaries between Science and the general population. Both, when question by practitioners, will cast you out like a heretic.
This was not always the case, with modern Science. In the very early days of the Greek
natural philosophers, it was customary to study under the Trivium and Quadrivium. All branches of human thought were understood to compliment one another, to feed off of and melt within. The practical and the conceptual were tied together – arts and
biology – a truly interdisciplinary approach. When the western world began its march out of the Dark Ages we started to rediscover the classical Greek scientific literature from monasteries in the East (India, China etc) who had been studying the ancient sciences all along. In fact, it was their cultures who enlightened the Western world again – since they kept on to the knowledge we had forgotten about (for the most part).
We began to pour over the ancient writings, Aristotle, Plato, Pythagoras and the like. Suddenly inquiring minds began to question the Church, since throughout that time One major Paradigm had ruled. It was blasphemy to have varying world-views floating through the cultural sphere – but those early thinkers followed their logic, their rational minds and inquiring, thinking, creative minds to where the data led them. Something that a lot of Scientists should do today, but they cannot because paradigm will not allow it.
Fast forward to Galileo, Copernicus, Newton, Bacon, Boyle and the like – all the way up to when Lyel and Darwin’s generation started populating the Earth. Before then, the Western Sciences had enjoyed many varying paradigms – tons of theories about the world competing with each other. Rationality, logic – inherent in all mankind was put to use. They looked out, saw phenomenon and created logical and coherent arguments to explain it. The causal aspects may have been different, like Phlogisten, but the same pattern from Objective to Explanatory was in place with rational thinking. By the way, if rationality and logic are the hallmark of the Human Psyche, existent within all – then all cultural explanations of events are just as rational as the Western Scientific one.
At any rate, different world-views competed for adherents, there was healthy competition in those days. So what happened? Well, the cycle of knowledge progressed around the bend, of course. The wealthy British lawyer named Charles Lyell came along with an interest in Geology. Lyell was born into a time of great upheaval and strife, the great french Revolution, and where the creationism of the Church still held its grasp on the minds of many. Through the chaos of civil unrest, Lyell and many thinkers and revolutionaries of his day sought out
peaceful explanations for events. Lyell saw erratic boulders, fossilized marine animals in mountains, the bones of tropical beasts scattered in caves, and decided that the Church, like all of its other absolutes, was wrong on how the Earth was shaped as well. He wanted to rid of catastrophism and creationism, and replace it with a more ‘peaceful’ and placid answer to our terrestrial mishaps. He rejected catastrophism and the idea that erratic boulders, fossils
and mashed bones of tropical beasts resided in their place because of ‘Noahs Flood’, but instead were placed in their location over eons from natural processes.
The Birth of Modern Geology and Evolutionary thinking had its genesis in this thought, and its important for people to understand the context. Why they thought this – they were rebelling against the prevailing paradigm of the church
From here the up and rising naturalist Charles Darwin and Lamarck (among others) were swayed over to Lyells Uniformatiarin view. Darwin’s Origin of Species was entirely written from this perspective, as well as borrowing Thomas Malthus study’s of the rich and poor – using a small percentage of a statistical analysis over a sixty year period to show how the wealthy deserve to be so, due to a type of ‘survival of the fittest’, and applying it to the natural world.
Thus out of the chaos of the French Revolution Uniformity was born. Through this, Lyell and Darwin brought in many adherents to their new found paradigm. As the New World was populated, and civilizations spread – philosophers and the natural scientists were very much sought after by royalty. Information, objects, artefacts of the ‘pristine, and beastly’ realm of the non-whites become high prized possessions of both the physical and conceptual. Fame followed this. As a few generations passed, more schools were built and the competing modalities of thought were increasingly pushed aside by Uniformity, the new students, born into a society where this was already in place as the Ultimate Truth, continued to treat it as such, and therefore teach it as such.
The unconscious patterning of human thought continued as Science progressed, became much larger and naturally became more compartmentalized and complex. Thomas Kuhn says:
“Research firmly based on one or more past scientific achievements that some particular scientific community acknowledges for a time as supplying the foundation for its further practice – these are repeated in scientific textbooks, elementary and advanced” (Kuhn:10).
This is what Kuhn calls “Normal Science” and this attracts “Strict adherents to the paradigm…who share two essential characteristics. Their achievement was sufficiently unprecedented to attract an enduring group of adherents away from competing modes of scientific inquiry. Simultaneously it was sufficiently open ended to leave all sorts of problems for the redefined group of practitioners to solve (ibid). Men whos research is based on shared paradigms are committed to the same rules and standards for scientific practice”
Kuhn lays out the groundwork for the construction of the ‘enduring’ aspect of a paradigm and simultaneously the conceptual categories of understanding that are required to live within the paradigm . This creates a system of self fulfilling prophecy – the agents within the paradigm only see things which its underlying rules dictate are allowed to be there. The adherents to the world-view, so let us say – the few generations after Uniformity was solidified, unconsciously disregards information that does not fit with the accepted modalities that the paradigm produces. As such, the history of Uniformity produces sets of methodologies, theories, instruments, to set out and dissect the observable realm in accordance with the ‘Habitus’ and ‘Practice’ that uniformity laid out. I
will quote Bourdieu:
“The Habitus, a product of history, produces individual and collective practices – more history – in accordance with the schemes generated by history. It ensures the active presence of past experiences nwhich, deposited in each organism in the form of schemes of perception, thought and action, tend to guarantee the ‘correctness’ of practices and their consistency over time, more reliably then all formal rules or explicit norms” (Bourdieu: 54, 1992)
What the brilliant Bourdieu is saying here is quite simple: The Habitus (a set of unconscious rules that govern our behavior, thoughts, language, actions) is a product of specific people in specific times who agree on certain ways the world works. This produces sets of people who further the paradigm, and all its latent rules, through the very act of practicing these unconsciously installed axioms over time. This then creates, over generations of practioners within the paradigm – a set way to view the world, and it regulates the underlying values through the very simple act of Living within the active agents who practice it. Thus, concepts such as Uniformity can become engrained into the students mind, so engrained they do not even realise it, over generations of being absorbed into the various language sets
and cognitive schemes produced.
The observable realm is matched up with accepted belief systems, and this is taught and passed on, thus cementing itself as self evident ‘Truth’. Part of Kuhns concept of the paradigm shift relates to how ‘normal science’, because of what was just mentioned, actually acts as the building ground and catalyst for a paradigm revolution. In essence, every paradigm throughout history – every major one, its the cause of its own demise. Why is this so?
Here is how I conceptualize the Paradigm Shift:
We are in the third phase of the paradigm chart above. With the advent of the internet and mass media, so many people around the globe have access to information and ideas that were previously almost non-existent. Scientific disciplines like Geology, Archeology, Biological Anthropology and even aspects of Physics are clearly undergoing a type of shift in paradigm – due to the fact we are so far removed from its initial genesis that more and more people are seeing anomaly and questioning things. Kuhn says that discovery in science “commences with the awareness of anomaly, ie, with the recognition that nature has somehow violated the paradigm induced expectations that govern normal science” The failure of pre-existing rules within the paradigm is essentially the pre-curser for a paradigm shift. How do the faithful followers react? Severe resistance, or completely ignoring it or not acknowledging
So when Shock and West go out and re-date the sphinx, and archaeologists the world over are up in a huff – everything that happened after that incident is step by step with what Kuhn refers to as resistance to a changing paradigm.
Prolonged exposure to anomaly creates awareness within the paradigm – and keep in mind, Uniformity is the Western paradigm! This then involves the gradual emergence of observational and conceptual recognition that something is amiss, and then finally a change of paradigm and categories and procedures occurs, which is met with heavy resistance from the Priests of the current / previous paradigm. This leads to crisis, resistance, a revolution and finally a new paradigm. And the whole process starts over again.
“Normal Science does not call forth new phenomenon but explains phenomenon that are already recognized within the paradigm. Anything outside is not seen” (Kuhn: 24).
Immanuel Velikovsky and revolutionary thinkers like him, have had profound impacts on Uniformity and Geology. Schoch and John Anthony Wests’ work have the potential to re-write Egyptology and Human History. More and more people are turning to more ancient philosophical concepts, and ideas are crossing cultural and disciplinary boundaries. It is time for a return to the multi-disciplinary approach to episteme, it is time that the student of Science learns the sociological and contextual histories of their discipline, its time they are taught the theoretical underpinnings of why they think what they do. Otherwise, the institution that is Science has merely, in a lot of aspects, replaced the Church in its authority to not only govern human knowledge but persuade its direction. There is nothing wrong with being interested in UFO’s or alternative realms of knowledge. In fact, this is a healthy sign of progress – the inquiring mind should not stop where the invisible lines of Uniformity
and Scientific Materialism apparently end. If the history of human thought tells us one thing, its that every time we think we have it right, we are reminded through revolutionary acts of understandings that our perceptions are still in its infancy.
It’s OK to be interested in the unusual, the unexplained, the alternative. All of what is currently considered the norm was once labelled as this by a previous prevailing paradigm. It is OK to question the latent and implicit rules that govern us – it is OK to believe in other possibilities. Inquire, but be sceptical. Learn, but be cautious. And while doing so, keep in mind you too are operating under a paradigm! It’s a vicious cycle is it not? The majority of individuals who may laugh because you are interested in the the sudden demise of the megalithic civilizations have never once looked into it for themselves. How can you dislike lobster if you’ve never had it?
"Philosophy of Science", "Science as Paradigm", Darwin, Lyell
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Hi Preston! Let me introduce myself first. This isn’t easy: identity is a temporal, fragile and complicated thing. So let me start with what brought me to your site.
For months now I have been reading up on the peopling of the Americas, and one of the first things that caught my attention was the acidic reception of the Solutrean Hypothesis. From there I came to the various sites in South America, where ample evidence was neatly presented for human presence in the Americas well before 30 kya BP. And found the same posse on the warpath there! Doing all the things that I was taught at University serious scientists would never do … Yesterday I came across Bill Tiffee’s contributions to Jennifer Taff’s blog. He got the same treatment that I have got familiar with by now, at the hands of otherwise quite serious scientists! I then googled ‘Bill Tiffee’, and here I am. Does that explain who I am? Only partly.
I studied medeaval literature (Arthurian and heroic), so I am at home with Aeneas, Cuchulainn, Beowulf, Gawain and the like, but also did my bit on the church fathers, especially Origen. The bottom-line here is that I know that ‘the letter killeth’. Of course I have cast my nets wider than this, but here my knowledge is patchy. Shakespeare (I know Macbeth backwards), Soefi, I Ching (which I still consult regularly!), Arab authors, 12th-century rabbis in Barcelona, Carlos Casteneda (out of place in this line-up? Hardly!) …
And then I went into teaching, and was lost to the world for 30 years. Suffice it to say I was socialised in entirely new ways from 1982 onwards.
As a teacher I quickly discovered that our teaching methods were debilitating eager children, guiding them away from their natural inclinations, and turning the energetic and honest ones into culprits. As I had been as a child … And spent the next 30 years fighting other people’s demons! Of course I lost … And of course I won … What else can one do?
That will have to do for the moment.
Reading Casteneda convinced me that our perception of reality is passed on to us within our culture. There is probably a rock-bottom reality out there (or within: we need a good wordsmith to find a term here, where are you Bobman?), but this is not the reality that we see. It may even not be ‘rock-bottom’. So when we talk about ‘facts’, we talk of something experienced within our cultural consensus. And our scientific community has been alerted to this! Don’t think that these people are dumb-asses! I have been doing some translation-work these last few years, and the word ‘metaphor’ comes up ad nauseam! They know there are no ‘facts’. They know that what we call facts may not represent ‘reality’, whatever that is. The really good paradigm-builders may be blinkered to an extent, but they have – through rigorous logic – arrived at a sort of awareness that they are blinkered. The first one that I know of was early 1970s, George Lakov, a linguist. But it seems to go way back further, to Levi-Strauss, an anthropologist.
And these paradigms were not new by a long chalk! The desert-fathers, and – perhaps on their cue – the later monastic writers all talked about ‘allegory’, and not just in reading the Pentateuch. And Heaven knows what shanachy, shaman, Babylonian star-gazer and whatnot before them. Students of the Rig-Veda cannot stop wondering at the clarity of mind with which people have perceived throughout the ages.
Paradigms are a language. Nothing more. Something people can share. Paradigm, language, culture, consensus, the ring of power. Outside that ring of power we are delivered to our fear, awe, selflessness. For most of us that is a porch where the light never shines, but not for all … It doesn’t tire waiting for all of us, down to the very last one I like to imagine.
People will never stop perceiving, not even in Dark Ages. In the Middle Ages there were monks who made a career for themselves whipping their own backs in public. Stupid? Not entirely, one may speculate there were some genuine insights there that we have now lost. Either that, or a medeaval variant of Talk-Show exhibitionism. But there is a thought very dear to me when we come upon this awareness of our own ‘sinfulness’: I can’t give the middle English quote, as my books are stacked away back in Holland, but the idea is this: “When the devil takes possession of you, then remember Jesus’ words: ‘Thou shalt not fight the devil’. Give in to the devil, but look over his shoulder, and there you will see your God the Father.” This quote tells me that even the ‘darkest of paradigms’ will afford people to perceive, which in my opninion is what life is all about.
Preston, I meant to comment on your article, which in many places I find a bit too schematic. But I’ve used up my space and then doubled it. Hope some people will appreciate my comment as a gloss.
I would like to add you strike all the right chords at the end. Wouldn’t it be nice if people who had it wrong were gently pointed out where they went astray, instead of all this filth? People pooring this over other people’s hard work show thereby that they don’t know how to prove otherwise. So they’re really just yapping at themselves. Real experts are good educationists, and never tire of showing the uneducated the ropes.