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This scientific theory of Thomas Kuhn has been proven invalid.

Updated on February 5, 2013
Thomas Kuhn
Thomas Kuhn | Source

"A scientific theory is declared invalid only if an alternate candidate is available to take its place."

This illustration is based on the same conceptual idea as Thomas Kuhn from his essay the structure of scientific revolution. Although we did think of this concept before becoming acquainted with Thomas Kuhn, does not make it an original piece. One must always give credit to the original thinker whenever one becomes aware that his work shares some resemblance with the original idealist.

Kuhn argued that all scientific theories are formulated through compilation of scientific data, rules, standard and preexisting laws. Kuhn proposed that these scientific data, rules and standard or preexisting laws are all part of the paradigm.

Our example of a Paradigm is described as the foundation of building blocks that holds a building stand. In which case the building blocks are the paradigm that uphold the building like it uphold the value of the theory. As an example: if any of these building blocks shows cracks along the wall, these cracks are to identified as anomalies.

Kuhn argued that when scientific data rules and standard or preexisting laws have been found to have errors the 'paradigm' is considered to have anomalies. An anomaly in this case is best described as the misinterpretation of prior knowledge. Had we came across Kuhn essay on Scientific revolution before we probably would have referred to this concept of errors as anomalies, as indicated in his text, but fortunately I did not because if I did his philosophy would have influenced MY thoughts.

However, one thing that Kuhn said that we are not too sure if we completely agree with is that "a scientific theory is declared invalid only if an alternate candidate is available to take its place." In our chain of thoughts, we can foresee how it may be possible that a scientific theory could be proven invalid because the paradigm it depended on has been proven inaccurate, but yet no one is able to come up with a different theory to replace the one with the anomaly. If we think of the anomalies as cracks within the wall, than the strength of the building becomes a question for the reason being if the foundation of the building is fill with cracks we cannot build a strong building on top of it. Well, we can now think of Kuhn argument as resting on a weak foundation.

The reason for not having a replacement could be that the anomalies that we view as cracks which are found in the paradigm (the building) may not yet be fully understood or not base on truth, but we know that the paradigm does not correspond well with the theory ( blue print). Or we can say another reason for not having a replacement is because new scientific discoveries have created doubt, but has not yet destroy completely the foundation on which the paradigm stands. But through careful experiments we have found out that new scientific discoveries conflict with the data that are found in the paradigm to the point where this data from the discovery produces questions that the theory (blue print) may have overlooked.

Since a theory (blue print) depends on accurate data to uphold its value, to have anomalies in them would have caused the theory to be doubtful. In which case, because of more accurate discoveries the anomalies that were found in the paradigm have now caused the meaning of the theory to be questioned by other researchers. But by no way should we say that the paradigm hold firm because new discoveries are not yet available to be used as replacement. This in effect is our rationale for denying Kuhn proposition that "a scientific theory is declared invalid only if an alternate candidate is available to take its place."

To have accepted this concept from Kuhn would be like accepting a partial truth. If the paradigm that the theory depended on has been found to have anomalies then this theory therefore has been devalued. In which case whether or not we have a replacement for it, the scientific theory is still invalid to some degree. It is invalid because our reasons do not permit us to accept any theory that contains partial truths as being valid.

Even if we were to argue that there is no absolute truth it would still be hard to swallow this idea from Kuhn. Although we may not have an alternative, the truth of the matter is that the theory is doubtful because of the anomalies not because we haven't found new data that are accurate enough to sustain or replace the paradigm that the theory depends on.

This could be more accurate given a different example. Let say we spoke to Jim over the phone and during our phone conversation we say to him that he can come retrieve these three avocados he paid for yesterday. Meanwhile, there are only two avocados in the basket for Jim. Therefore, my statement is not accurate; there is an anomaly in that statement when perceived as a constructive idea. Just like in scientific theories scientist makes claims that are not there or claims that holds no value.

Likewise, since Jim doesn’t know about the missing avocado he regards my previous statement as the truth. Now if I call my friend Brett to ask him to bring one avocado over before Jim gets to my place can we agree that my prior statement to Jim that there are three avocados in the basket accurate? Since the truth is pending on one more avocado for it to be accurate, can we accept my previous statement to Jim as the truth?

The above analogy is similar to Kuhn proposition that state: “a scientific theory is declared invalid only if an alternate candidate is available to take its place”. From this understanding, if Brett never showed up with the third avocado can we consider our previous statement to Jim valid. No! Right, well according to Kuhn if Brett hasn't showed up with the missing avocado our previous statement to Jim would still be valid, that's our problem with Kuhn argument.

As you can see, it’s not logical to accept partial truths as being the whole truth even if the solution for the anomaly is not yet comprehend. What makes the theory doubtful is the fact that we become aware that there is an existing anomaly in the theory. Although we haven't found a replacement for the paradigm the theory is not completely valid due to the cracks we've demonstrated within the walls of the foundation.

We would like you to understand one thing. As stated in various scientific sites there is a big difference between what is a “theory” vs. what is a “law”. But according to our interpretation of the two we have come to realized that a theory is a set of logical interpretation that has not yet proven meaningful enough to become “laws”, whereas, a “law” is base on a set of logical reasoning that has either been scientifically or logically proven to be factual on all measure of accuracy available at the present time. But by no way does it mean that a law may not have fault in it. The fault may just be that it hasn't been detected, therefore we view the law from the limiting faculties of our thoughts within a certain time period.

This article was published 17 months ago under the title - All truths are relative to prior knowledge.


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    • Coolbreezing profile imageAUTHOR

      James Dubreze 

      6 years ago from New York, New York

      Well, I think we can derived to a theory through careful observation of a casualty which produces the same result when measurements are at a fixed value. In this example the occurrence observed is the explanation for the theory because it is by observing the casualty that we were able to formulate the theory.

      This example below is more than a theory it is a natural law:

      "Energy cannot be created nor destroy it can only be transferred from one form to the next.”

      To my understanding, a theory is not necessarily a law for the reason being that the theory may be true at most times and not true in some cases. They may be a natural force acting on the casualty which could have prevented the effect to behave a certain way.

      This could be the result of an environmental circumstance which is not a normal scenario, especially not one under which the theory was initially examined. Therefore, a theory is not especially an explanation. But nonetheless an explanation may be offered which could result in the development of a theory.

      In that sense, from observing the explanation we associate the circumstances that are true under a given scenario and proposed a theory for it by concluding when x = 2 and y is constant than z must be a fixed value.

      They could be a different theory for each scenario, we don't know until we can prove by example that for every circumstances we have described the most probable answer will be between a certain range.

      This is why a Natural Law Theory is superior to that of a theory, because the only time a theory can elevate to become a Natural Law is when the circumstances are true under all cases. One

    • ScienceOfLife profile image


      6 years ago

      Surely a theory has to be an explanation, not a mere description?

    • Coolbreezing profile imageAUTHOR

      James Dubreze 

      6 years ago from New York, New York


      A definition from the top of my head is as follows:

      A Theory is a statement which defines a set of ideas that must be proven factual through careful analyzation of its hypothesis. We do not have a working theory until we can prove by example that our hypothesis is not based on assumption , but instead factual data or events that are probable relative to the validity of the theory. Hypothesis - If the orange tree produces orange than no matter where the orange seed is planted it must produce oranges. The line between hypothesis and a theory is thin, but it rest between a proposed statement (the theory) and the explanation for that statement the (hypothesis) .

      The scientific methord and my opinion:

      Hypothesis, Theory, then Conclusion , but what if we were to say that the scientific methord is based on Theory, Hypothesis then Conclusion would it make any difference?

      Example: If via scientific discoveries I found out that a certain types of orange seed planted in a cool climate produces "A" type oranges, and because of that I construct a theory stating that all "A " type oranges are produced in cool climates.

      Hypothesis - If the orange tree produces "A" type oranges than no matter where the orange tree was discovered it must have been a cool climate because all "A" type oranges have been scientifically proven to have grown in colder climate.

    • ScienceOfLife profile image


      6 years ago

      Also I have seen at least five distinct and different definitions, approches or procedures proposed by various scholars for what constitutes the scientific method! But supposedly we've nailed the scientific method and it's all done and dusted.

      Yet no-one can ever tell me straight what THE method is (or ought to be). Is it still in dispute? Or can someone at least elaborate as to what THEIR method is so I can understand its significance. Wiki is uncertain, so is the OED. So are all the physics sites I've visited. Definitions vary or are circular or ambiguous and leave loopholes.

      It can't be that hard though surely. But I'd like someone to give it to me straight: i.e. what do YOU mean by _______? And so on. That's what I'm getting at, basically.

      Ona side note, in school I was always taught that the Sci Method had three stages, two of which were critical, the last optional. This was: Hypothesis, Theory, then Conclusion. IN most UK schools this was how it was taught! Then they'd sort of bundle in a bunch of other stuff like testing/experiments, predictions, observations, etc. But are all these necessary? What are the barebones essentials, and what is it we're trying to achieve? Pragmatism and prediction (aka what [probably] works), or explanation (aka help me understand...)?

      Thanks again.

    • ScienceOfLife profile image


      6 years ago

      I think it'd be good to first distinguish, unambiguously, between a theory and hypothesis. The way Popper types use it, or empiricists, is often as a "tentative theory". OK, but then 1) what's a theory and 2) where is the line between hyp and theory? Why do we even need the two words?!

      An so on. There must be some reasoning behind it, is all. I don't mind what that is, as long as it's consistent and makes sense. I have my own thoughts on the matter, but I'll warn you they differ from pretty much the entire current school of philosophers of science!!!

    • Coolbreezing profile imageAUTHOR

      James Dubreze 

      6 years ago from New York, New York

      Good Idea, but I would appreciate it more if you were to identify and associate from your proposed list what is missing from the above Hypothesis.

    • ScienceOfLife profile image


      6 years ago

      I think a set of definitions would be nice with all relevant technical terms, i.e.




      Prove (or "Proof")...


      True (or "Truth")...



      And so on. I think it'd help to clear up some confusion and allow for more objective communication between debaters.


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