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Saket Vora

HI 322 Dr. Kimler 11/28/2006

Kuhn and the Structure of Scientific Revolutions

How does one describe the process of science as a human endeavor? How does an

account of the natural world become widely accepted, be it the motion of planets or the products

of a chemical reaction? And why can long held theories be supplanted by new ones that

seemingly invalidate the former, such as replacing Newtonian absolute spacetime with

Einsteinian relativity or geocentrism with heliocentricism? These are the kinds of questions

Thomas Kuhn attempts to answer in his preeminent work The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

Published in 1962, Kuhn outlines a compelling vision of scientific inquiry, using prime historical

examples to accompany an erudite prose, and elevating ideas such as a ‘paradigm shift’ into the

popular lexicon. The influence of his account is still seen today in mainstream science

magazines, though the results are often hyperbole. This essay will describe the Kuhnian model of

scientific change and discuss how the model informs how a Discover magazine article presents

an alternative theory to dark matter, a major cosmological subject among astrophysicists today.

Before beginning an explanation of this nuanced topic, it is helpful to be aware of some

conditions for Kuhn’s model. First, the path of scientific progress is not strictly linear. Even in

times of wide acceptance for a particular theory, there are people working from different

perspectives and on alternate ideas. There are numerous concurrent paths of inquiry at work with

many different outcomes; some amounting to nothing, some affirming an existing theory, and

some though seldom resulting in revolutions. Signs of linearized and discretized steps are

primarily for didactic purposes. Additionally, Kuhn employs certain key words in defining his

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