On Thomas Kuhn and Paradigm breaking…

From this weekend’s Guardian, here.

Money quote:

But what really set the cat among the philosophical pigeons was one implication of Kuhn’s account of the process of paradigm change. He argued that competing paradigms are “incommensurable”: that is to say, there exists no objective way of assessing their relative merits. There’s no way, for example, that one could make a checklist comparing the merits of Newtonian mechanics (which applies to snooker balls and planets but not to anything that goes on inside the atom) and quantum mechanics (which deals with what happens at the sub-atomic level). But if rival paradigms are really incommensurable, then doesn’t that imply that scientific revolutions must be based – at least in part – on irrational grounds? In which case, are not the paradigm shifts that we celebrate as great intellectual breakthroughs merely the result of outbreaks of mob psychology?

The Carr debate morphs: the internet does not equal a brain

Charles Arthur of the Guardian evolves the debate. It’s now about the complexity of the net versus the complexity of the brain (which of course is not a scientific debate unless you are talking about the brain of a simple animal like Aplysia californica).

Money quote on the idea the hyperlinks are like synapses:

This is simply rubbish. A hyperlink is nothing like a synapse, except that both describe a connection between two points… a synapse is a responsive, organic mechanism that has been tuned by hundreds of millions of years of evolution to react more strongly to some inputs rather than others. Throw in something between 1 and 10 quadrillion (1 quadrillion = 10^16) synapses in a human brain, and you have an organism that somehow becomes conscious, and yet can also function unconsciously, which uses chemicals for its transmission systems (across the synaptic gap, which is key to how synapses can vary in behaviour).

I’m with Arthur here.