The nature of scientific revolutions and how science may become like a religion has been elucidated. Independent thinkers may be essential in this process.
Science is believed to be a product of human evolution. When human’s first started to observe and document the surrounding environment, the stars and everything animate in the physical world, this marked the beginning of a “scientific” mind-set. In ancient caves the first evidence of humans counting natural patterns emerged, groups of bones or rocks have been consistently found in numbers of 14, 28 or 29. This pronounced the beginning of mathematics to confirm natural patterns, the subsequent development of writing allowed the recording and sharing of this knowledge.
The success of science perhaps relies on its connection and description of the natural “real” world. When looked at side by side with other belief systems, science may differ by an ability to be personally verified or proven to certain degrees. This confirmation may then lead to more concrete belief systems which an individual may firmly believe to be true. Sciences almost becomes a faith when a truth is agreed upon and a consensus within a discipline is reached. This becomes challenging when a core goal of science is to head further to the truth or to achieve “scientific progress”.
The nature of scientific revolutions was elucidated by Thomas Kuhn in the 20th century. The suggestion is; revolutions are generated by clear, original and independent thinkers and throughout history are seen as changes in the worldview of the public, perceiving the new beliefs to be superior. Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin are examples of scientists whose work was formed independently then ultimately formed the backbone of particular sciences.
This new worldview or revolution is worked on by what Kuhn describes as “normal scientists”. This is where the nuts and bolts of a theory are calculated and may lead to these new theories becoming entrenched. A strong belief system evolves which may be resolutely protected by further revolutions by its adherents. Kuhn suggests it is analogous to a political revolution, where rebellions had to be suppressed if a revolution was to consolidate its gains.
When does science get to the point when it appears more like a religion than a science? This may be the question which epitomises the democratic progression of ideas, where a discipline becomes a faith with a dogma of beliefs. Open mindedness and rationality may be far from the response when a revolutionary idea exists. William Bates an ophthalmologist, discovered this in the 19th century when challenging the mainstream beliefs on the workings of the eye. Being rebuffed as quackery at the time, Bates demonstrated genuine reasons to look differently at how the eye functioned. Through many experiments on animals and humans he concluded the eye functions differently to the consensus within ophthalmology. Bates was forsaken by the “authority” of ophthalmology and is to this day.
An example of beliefs confining a science may exist in physics, in the theoretical framework of String Theory. It is based on a theory of everything similar to Einstein’s theory of relativity and has had some success. Evidence supporting it have been limited and mathematical proofs only work by speculating new dimensions as yet unseen. For many decades this has been the driving energy behind physics with most PHD’s awarded in this area.
This may be why ideas need to be impervious or normal scientists may spend years doing superfluous calculations as a result. Necessary scientific progress is suspended by this process because theorists naturally strongly protect it and this limit’s the potential advancements in understanding and technology. Science may need to free itself from conservative consensual thinking and allow more radical or audacious thinking to co-exist. Independent thinkers drive scientific revolutions and need to be encouraged to develop new and original ideas. The results may benefit humankind’s worldview and accelerate the advancement of technology. With the aim of emulating the golden age of science now almost a century ago.
What factors make science more believable?