Paradigm Shift Anthropology

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Marshall Sahlins’ has a quote that we stand on the shoulders of giants to shit on their heads reflects the idea of paradigm shift. The shoulders personify the collective knowledge of those researchers before us, as students it is where we gain our information. It is not through our own work that we initially study our respective fields; we study the accumulation of work that those giants have codified. The shit represents new ideas, criticism, and reworking of the previously held beliefs. The constant questioning of beliefs, seeking new answers is an intrinsic feature of scientific inquiry. This holds true not only in the hard sciences but in the social sciences as well, some may say to an even greater extent, due to the nature of the inquiry itself, it is highly subjective. It is much easier to leave your personal mark on a theory within the social sciences due to interpretation of data, which as stated can be highly subjective. Thomas Kuhn first classified the comprehensive worldview as a paradigm. This personal mark, this new interpretation that one struggles hard to have published is not necessarily, as Kuhn would see it, sufficient for classification of a shift in paradigm. Paradigm, by its definition, is a consensual worldview on a particular subject. They exist within communities, thus for the shift to occur, the group must come to a new consensus; an individual outlier does not a new paradigm make.

The scientific community can be seen to be defined by its allegiance to its paradigm. These outliers, those with ideas either opposing or falling outside the bounds of the paradigm are strongly resisted as Kuhn noted. Change does not come easily. Years of research and consensus are bound to the existing paradigm, changing this worldview that the community holds takes more than someone disagreeing. Necessary requirements must be met. First and foremost is the necessity for data, new data. Data is the currency of science; buying yourself a...
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