normal science and revolutionary science
normal science and revolutionary sciencethe important distinction, drawn by KUHN (1962), between periods of stability of concepts and assumptions in science, and periods of upheaval and rapid change. Contrary to the view that all science is characterized by bold attempts to falsify theories (see FALSIFICATIONISM), Kuhn sees normal science as usually involved in ‘puzzle-solving’which accepts and works entirely within the assumptions of a particular SCIENTIFIC PARADIGM. Only when an established paradigm fails to generate new puzzles or is beset by major ‘anomalies’ do exceptional scientists turn to revolutionary science in which new paradigms are created. Examples of such revolutionary shifts cited by Kuhn are the Copernican and Newtonian revolutions, Dalton's new system in chemistry, and the work of Einstein. In periods of normal science, scientific work is characterized by psychological and social conformity and group solidarity. Scientific revolutions ‘are like political revolutions’, and must struggle to overcome such conformity and when these occur ‘there is no standard higher than the standard of the relevant community’ (Kuhn, 1977).
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000