Facebook’s A Year of Books drafts The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

March 23, 2015
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In his sixth pick for the social network’s online book club (“A Year of Books”), Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently drafted Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutionsa 52-year-old book still considered one of the most often cited academic resources of all time, and one of the crowning gems of twentieth-century scholarly publishing. Following in the footsteps of Pixar founder Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc., as Zuckerberg’s most recent pick, Structure will be the subject of a Facebook thread with open commenting, for the next two weeks, in line with the guidelines advanced by “A Year of Books.” If you’re thinking about reading along, the 50th Anniversary Edition includes a an equally compelling Introduction by Ian Hacking that situates the book’s legacy, both in terms of its contribution to a scientific vernacular (“paradigm shifting”) and its value as a scholarly publication of mass appeal (“paradigm shifting”).

Or, in Zuckerberg’s own words:

It’s a history of science book that explores the question of whether science and technology make consistent forward progress or whether progress comes in bursts related to other social forces. I tend to think that science is a consistent force for good in the world. I think we’d all be better off if we invested more in science and acted on the results of research. I’m excited to explore this theme further.

And from the Guardian:

“Before Kuhn, the normal view was that science simply needed men of genius (they were always men) to clear away the clouds of superstition, and the truth of nature would be revealed,” [David Papineau, professor of philosophy at King’s College London] said. “Kuhn showed it is much more interesting than that. Scientific research requires a rich network of prior assumptions (Kuhn reshaped the term ‘paradigm’ to stand for these), and changing such assumptions can be traumatic, and is always resisted by established interests (thus the need for scientific ‘revolutions’).”

Kuhn showed, said Papineau, that “scientists are normal humans, with prejudices and personal agendas in their research, and that the path to scientific advances runs through a complex social terrain”.

“We look at science quite differently post-Kuhn,” he added.

To read more about Structure, click here.

To read an excerpt from Ian Hacking’s Introduction to the 50th Anniversary Edition, click here.

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