04 July, 2020

When Proof Is Not Enough

The conclusion: When confronted with something that does not fit the paradigm we know, we are likely to resist acknowledging the incongruity. This is because we see what we have been primed — through shared education and culture, and our own lived experiences — to see, so that new evidence that we encounter is immediately, as philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn would explain it more than a decade later, “fitted to one of the conceptual categories prepared by prior experience.” Kuhn applied this reasoning to explaining the tumultuous nature of scientific revolutions, where he argued that the conceptual categories that ordered scientific research were precisely those that made it so difficult for scientists to accept information that could challenge the frameworks they operated within. In such moments, logic and experiment alone were not enough to settle the matter. Kuhn noted, too, that the more time and effort a scientist had already invested in a research paradigm, the more resistance he or she was likely to exhibit toward accepting change. In other words, the higher the stakes, the greater the resistance.