Those whom Lakatos calls Elitists claim that good science can be distinguished from worse
science. That Einstein's. Newton's. and Dirac's science were clearly superior to Velikovski's or
Von Dannikens. They acknowledge progress in science. but will not accept any statute law. They
feel that each case must be judged on Its own merits and that the judges themselves must be
scientists. Since the outsider and the layman must not be allowed to judge the scientific elite,
this makes academic autonomy sacrosanct. He considered Elitists a major stumbling block to the
advance of science. The ideal Elitist. according to Lakatos is Stephen Toulmin. who has been
accused of being a Relativist because of his attitude that criteria of scientific demarcation reflect
our cultural and historical heritage. Yet, to Toulmin this
What is more important to him is that science includes a body of unarticulated knowledge that is commonly known only by those who work actively In the particular discipline. This means that only those who are conversant with this hidden body of knowledge can judge whether a theory or method is scientific or not. An Elitist position that differs drastically from Toulmin was put forward by Thomas Kuhn. It was so drastic. in fact. that it posed a real problem to traditional philosophers of science. particularly the Popperians. They would have been quite happy if he had faded quietly into oblivion. But the astounding success of his book forced them into taking him seriously, at least in appearance. There are three areas in which Kuhn's ideas threatened the validity of the Popperian view. The first is the concept of a "paradigm," which. because it is an approach to demarcation, will interest us at this time. The other two are the dichotomy between "normal science" and "extraordinary science" and the concept of a scientific revolution,. both of which we will take up later.
Kuhn's description of a paradigm put him directly into the realm of the Elitist. That description, however, is undermined throughout his world by a succession of contradictory or ambiguous statements. As a result. both the concept of a paradigm and their origin have been used by others to describe mechanisms that have nothing to do with scientific demarcation. He gave the impression that a paradigm is something that the fledgling scientist is forced to absorb during his formative years and then to hold dogmatically from then on until a scientific revolution occurs and replaces it with another. Yet he does not property address the problem of the origin of paradigms. Since he has eliminated scientists philosophers and historians from the process. This creates a strange kind of elitism where the elite are both unknown and undiscoverable.
It appears then, that Kuhn's ideas should be easily dealt with by the Popperians and indeed this is the approach they used. Lakatos and Musgrave's "Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge" is a good example, but it was a failure, at least as an attempt to replace Kuhn's "Paradigmism with Lakatos "Methodology of Scientific Research Progammes". By concentrating on Kuhn's week points,. his ambiguities, they failed to touch on his most important ideas, such as the existence of a body of knowledge that is dogmatically adhered to by scientists, and the fact that science sometimes changes abruptly. Of course, in his own defense, Kuhn. only added to the melee. Instead of clearing up the confusion he created by his ambiguous approach, he tried unsuccessfully to counter their specific arguments. most of which centered around points that were not particularly important to his main thesis. The existence of "paradigms" and "scientific revolutions", struck a resonant chord in his readers that his failure to provide clear and unambiguous meanings did not dampen.
Dogmatically adhered-to assemblies of scientific theories, attitudes and methods are part of every scientific philosopher's description of the activities of working scientists Popper called them "the heart of an organized structure" and Lakatos called them the "hard core". This means that if we bypass Kuhn's ambiguities and get to the heart of the matter, whether there does exist a body of theories, methods,. and attitudes that scientists adhere to dogmatically, we find considerable agreement in the affirmative. What we need is an understanding of how these are assembled and how they retain their hegemony. From this we can derive some good reasons as to why science has been successful.
One example of such a dogmatically adhered-to theory is evolution. According to the present scientific paradigm, the driving force of evolution is natural selection. By attacking this presumption I do not want to give the impression I am belittling the role of natural selection. In fact in most cases the role of natural selection and the mechanisms by which it operates provide answers to many of the most important problems facing biologists and ecologists. Although this may be crucial from an instrumental point of view, from a purely theoretical point of view it poses some real problems.
For example, natural selection serves to increase the specialization of an organism by increasing its optimization within a specific environment. Intra species competition is its major mechanism. The role of natural selection is to choose from the variety available in a population those elements that are best suited to its present environment. It is a mechanism which results in a subsequent decrease in variety. Historically, however, the amount of variety, seen as the total number of species in the world, began as a small number and has been increasing ever since. Also, natural selection, while it explains the gradual improvement of a species cannot account for the emergence of new species. We need to examine the following three factors more closely.
1 The total number of species has been increasing steadily since life began on earth. In fact the variety of the earliest life forms was extremely limited and the number of species is still increasing today.Point 2 is a continuation of the same general progress. New species are continually emerging out of the mass of life on earth and. by the same token. old species are continually passing into extinction. The total number of species is still growing. Point three is the most important. The number of varieties of single-cellular species that are capable of surviving in any given environment is less than the possible number of viable multi-cellular species if only for the simple reason that more complex mechanisms are capable of developing more kinds of survival mechanisms. Later we will examine the meaning of complexity closer, but for now it is sufficient to realize that this advantage a multi-celled animal has over a single-celled animal is an example of one of the ways complexity creates variety.
The statements I have made about evolution seem innocuous, yet to bring them up in conversation with evolutionary ecologists or biologists is tantamount to waving a red cloak in front of a bull. The problems these scientists are working on may not be solved through the study of mechanisms for increasing variety. It is the role of selection that is important, for example, in the development of pest-control materials and methods. It is the role of selection that overcomes the usefulness of such materials and methods. The variety must be assumed. Yet. even though the primacy of mechanisms for increasing variety seems to me to be obvious, the maintenance of the theory of the primacy of natural selection enables them to concentrate on the narrow problem that is before them. There is no reason for a scientist to question problematic areas of the paradigm when this would not result in better answers to the problems he is solving.
Paradigms, if we use them in a more restricted sense rather than trying to subsume all of Kuhn's ambiguous definitions allow a scientist to concentrate his efforts on the problems he is trying to solve rather than having to re-invent the wheel every time h walks into his laboratory. The number of unquestioned theories with which the average scientist works with every day is far greater than the number he considers problematic. It does not matter that they might not be completely free of ambiguities, as long as the approximations they assume are sufficient that they do not affect his own project. The normal activity of scientists is the solving of real life problems by testing ideas and performing experiments. Procedures which are not developed in response to these activities are just not in the scientists normal repertoire.
In order ro understand how paradigms are formed and grow with time. consider the following. Scientists usually are active within a research program,. the semi-coordinated activity of scientists working within a paradigm that may be shared with other research programs. When a scientist performs an experiment or tests an idea, it is because there is a question that needs answering. The answer will require the application of the paradigm to a special problem area within his research program. In this sense we can consider a paradigm to be a "tool box" of science. It contains those theories, methods and attitudes he has learned through experience and through his apprenticeship. These are not questioned they are assumed without question.
If the experiment or test is successful the application will have been corroborated and the results will become part of the repertoire of the research program. If the results are profound they might find their way into other programs and eventually become part of the paradigm. The important thing is that they will emerge into the paradigm if they serve to elucidate problems of a number of different research programs. If, on the other hand. the experiment or test fails. it is the application and not the paradigm that has been found wanting. In this way paradigms grow with successful tests but are not affected unduly by failures. Therefore, over a period of time paradigms grow In strength and resist forces that one could expect would weaken them.
Paradigmism is one way of answering the basic question of elitism. That is, how does one, once he has rejected all objective Demarcationist rules, determine who is qualified to judge the relative merits of a scientific discipline. Both Kuhn and Toulmin, each in his own way trying to overcome charges of relative rationality, recognize the simple fact that only those who create and develop a scientific discipline are in a position to determine what is rational within it and what is not Thus the inevitable conclusion of the Elitist is that only those who are involved in a science are capable of appraising its theories.