Quintessential Paradigms

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Quintessential Paradigms
Ryan Malaty
Revolutions In Science

Quintessential Paradigms
It is human nature to try to find meaning in everything, even if some parts need to be dreamed up. There always needs to be an answer, or a method of finding an answer, to all the questions that tickle Man’s spirit of inquiry. However, for every way of thinking there is a way to think otherwise. In Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions, the nature of the “paradigm” is discussed. A paradigm can be lucidly defined as a pattern, or an accepted model of something. In regards to the scientific paradigm, Kuhn illustrates in great detail how a mainstream model can be philosophically unglued. He comments on the structure of these scientific paradigms and how they are created, and shifted into new ones. Certain scientific efforts and religious beliefs have proven to be dissonant over the examination of the heavens. From the perceptions of Ancient Greece to the studies of modern science, there has always been debate as to Earth’s locality in this universe. The Greek philosopher Aristotle [384 BC – 322 BC], who contributed amply to the maturation of human thought, theorized how the Earth resides in a fixed position while the Sun, Moon, planets and stars rotate around it. He uses “common sense” to explain the elements of motion, which is used in his contrast of motion on Earth as opposed to heavenly bodies. Where Aristotle’s system lacked in detail, Claudius Ptolemaeus [90 – 168], more widely know as Ptolemy, enforced with specifics. The Ptolemaic System also imposes Earth’s position at the center of the Universe, and illustrates the orbiting bodies that surround it. He does so in such predicted accuracy that it was predominantly accepted as the proper astronomical system. This Ptolemaic paradigm dwelled within Kuhn’s “normal science” and did so without variance. “Ptolemaic astronomy had failed to solve its problems; the time had come to give a competitor a chance” (Kuhn 76). The geocentric theory instigated many problems within its own standards. Questions arose concerning inconsistent observations and calculations, and these questions remained unanswered for centuries. Eventually, this crisis within the paradigm was responded to. While both Aristotle and Ptolemy inhabited the geostatic (immobile Earth) paradigm, there was a margin of error that required scrutiny. Nicolaus Copernicus [1473 – 1543] was the first to significantly shift the geocentric cosmology to a heliocentric (Sun-centered) one. He placed the Sun at the center of the Universe in order to explain celestial observations and geometric calculations he had endeavored. Kuhn describes this event a particularly famous case of paradigm change, one that was a response to a paradigm crisis. There were certain problems that the Ptolemaic System could not answer; this simple concern was responsible for the Copernican innovation. This paradigm shift is known as the Copernican Revolution, not only for stimulating further scientific thought, but also because of how difficult such a theory was to accept by the prevalent astronomers and Church. Copernicus inspired scientific investigations of the heavens for centuries to come. One of his system’s most famous campaigners was none other than the Italian mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher Galileo Galilei [1564 – 1642]. Galileo contributed heavily to astronomy and to the development of modern science. With his design of the terrestrial telescope, Galileo was able to observe celestial objects with a greater literalness than anyone preceding him. His observations confirmed that the Earth’s place in the Universe was not immobile, but relative. Aristotle’s notion that the heavens were “unchangeable” was invalidated by Galileo’s discoveries. Galileo was capable of promoting a cosmological system that differed from that of the Church’s preference, and that of their scripture. In part with that...
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