Paradigm Shifts – UPDATED

I’ve said many times that every wacky notion Academia has crapped out in the last century has its kernel of truth.  Professors, like politicians, talk out of both sides of their mouths for a living, so all their goofy pronouncements can be taken two ways.

Thomas Kuhn’s idea of the “paradigm shift,” for example.  In the weak sense, it’s a good reminder that scientists are people, too.  “Scientist” is a guild profession and, as such, members of the guild end up defining for the guild what counts — or doesn’t — as scientific evidence.  This continues until the guild is in mortal danger of putting itself out of business…. at which point it recognizes the new “paradigm,” but goes on acting exactly as before.

The strong version takes this “paradigm shift” stuff literally.  People who view the world through differing paradigms literally can’t understand each other.  This is obviously an Ishmael Effect-type situation — how did Thomas Kuhn, alone of all men, see past his paradigm enough to tell us that no one can see past his paradigm? — but that’s just, like, logic and stuff.  The Left has never let mere reason stand between themselves and tenure, and so you got “The Strong Programme [sic] in the Sociology of Science.”  This reached its nadir in the late 1990s, when physicist Alan Sokal claimed that “gravity is just a social construction” in the pages of the prestigious PoMo journal Social Text.  Sokal was joking, of course, but the PoMos doubled down, telling a working physicist that they — Professors of English Literature — understood physics better than he did.

It’s good for a laugh, but also terrifying, as it suggests that the strong version of  “paradigm shift” might be closer to right than the weak version.

I know, I know, but hear me out:

We Normals think of “science” as a process.  I’m not going to go full Vox Day here and start making up words, but when we say “science,” we mean it almost like a verb.  “Science,” for us, means something like “functioning as a scientist, doing science, science-ing” — that is, testing a theory against the bedrock of Reality.

The PoMos, by contrast, use “science” like a noun — “science” is whatever the community of scientists say it is.  It’s not a process, it’s a thing, a body of “knowledge” handed down like Scripture.  That’s why they love the idea of “falsifiability.”  It’s why the phrase “the science is settled!” makes sense to them.  Actually doing science — behaving as a “scientist,” science-ing — is, to them, a process that we Normals would call “hermeneutics.”  Hermeneutics is the interpretation of scared texts.  The Bible doesn’t contradict itself all over the place.  Nor was Karl Marx wrong in every prediction he ever made.  Rather, the apparent contractions are all perfectly consistent in the light of the Higher Truth.

Science as it was practiced in the 16th century (that is, in the time Kuhn was writing about in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions) was the best-case scenario.  I can’t do the math off the top of my head that would prove Copernicus was right and Ptolemy was wrong, but it’s not too difficult; I could’ve aced it back in high school.  And I could schlep on down to Wal-Mart and pick up a far better telescope than anything Galileo had for less than a hundred bucks.  Even if I’m die-hard committed to the old paradigm, the evidence only points one way.

But what about modern science?  I can’t do the “global warming” math, and I’d wager long money you can’t, either.  Neither can the dreadlocked Angry Studies majors who yell about “climate change,” of course, but that’s the point — since we’re all mutually ignorant, the PoMo position wins by default.  They are fanatically committed; we have day jobs, and since they get to decide that every single fluctuation in temperature, anywhere on the planet, counts as evidence for their assertion, “climate change” really is Science, capital-S, full stop.  “Climate change” is “falsifiable,” of course, but since disconfirmation will never come — it can’t, by definition — then that “paradigm” will never fail.

That’s terrifying enough, considering the “climate change” laws on the books that will never be repealed short of total societal collapse.  But what about those cases where the “paradigm” not only can fail, but must fail?

None of us can do the “climate change” math, but we can all see what’s happening all around us…. or can we?  That’s where this “paradigm” stuff, strong version, has some real explanatory power.

The Media, for instance, are in thrall to their paradigms.  Trump 2016 would never have happened if they’d been capable of drawing the simplest, most crotch-kickingly obvious conclusion from Kerry 2004.  In case you don’t remember that circus:  The Media had convinced themselves that George W. Bush was the stupidest idiot who ever breathed.  The problem was, that same moron got everything he wanted, usually with the full, enthusiastic, very public support of the Democrats.  The Iraq War, for instance, which left them in the very awkward spot of having to explain why their certified genius candidate, John Kerry — who made being against it the cornerstone of his campaign — tripped over his own feet rushing back to Washington to vote for it just one year earlier.*

Since it’s cruel to make yet more fun of the intellectually challenged, I’ll spell the lesson out for all you Media types who lurk here: Maybe W. really is a moron, but by painting his every word and deed as the Distilled Essence of Idiocy — and, by implication, your side’s every word and deed as the Superconcentrated Solution of Smart — you left your guy zero wiggle room for the backtracking, double-dealing, and assorted flimflammery that make elections actually work.  Bush might’ve been dumb, but he was consistently dumb.  When your guy said eighteen different things before lunch, and you painted each and every one of them as the only true and proper scientific answer, the only people you fooled were yourselves.

Hence, Trump 2016.  Trump didn’t beat Hillary Clinton.  He  beat you, The Media.  Every single thing he said or did on the campaign trail was designed to point out just how stupid you self-anointed geniuses in The Media are.  Hillary Clinton was just a target of opportunity.  A truly great target of opportunity — being so very, very stupid herself, she kept walking into it like a lobotomized Wile E. Coyote — but a target of opportunity nonetheless.  Here’s a freebie, one I even offered y’all at the time:  Treat Trump like he’s just another ordinary, run-of-the-mill politician, and he’s toast.  Make him talk policy.  Don’t make him justify his record — that’s moral language — but do make him explain it.  Do that, and you can probably drag even a mouth-frothing lunatic like Kamala Harris over the finish line.

But The Media won’t do that, of course.  They can’t.  They’re too enthralled by their paradigm.  If Trump isn’t the biggest devil in their pantheon, their lives lose all meaning.  So they’ll go with stuff like this.

Those events have pushed the rising tide of white nationalism to the forefront of the 2020 presidential campaign, putting Trump on the defensive and prompting even some Republicans to acknowledge that the president is taking a political risk by continuing to stand by his Charlottesville comments.

The rising tide of white nationalism, fer chrissakes.  And this would be…. where, exactly?

You couldn’t have a pickup basketball game with the number of people out there willing to publicly state that White people deserve their very own homeland.  Even if we consider everyone who flirts with the “dissident right” to be a “White nationalist” — The Media sure does, so why stint ourselves? — you could maybe fill a junior high gym.  To get to even “minor league ballpark on nickel beer night” numbers, you’d need to start writing off huge swathes of the electorate.  Pretty soon, a “white nationalist” will be anyone to the right of Rachel Maddow…. y’all see where I’m going with this?

That’s the last, truly terrifying thing about the strong sense of “paradigm shift.”  If you’re willing to go down with the ship — and they really, truly seem to be — you can actually make it real enough to kill you.  The reason nobody gives a shit about “global warming” anymore is that the panic has achieved all it is capable of achieving in people’s daily lives.  When absolutely everything is “evidence” of “climate change,” then nothing is.  We’ll use those stupid curly light bulbs because we don’t have a choice — and, crucially, because it’s not too inconvenient — but that’s as far as it goes.  Take away something that matterscut smartphone use because it’s bad for the earth, say — and you’ll see riots that make the Jacquerie look like the happy ending to an Oriental massage.

What happens, then, when pretty much everyone is a “white nationalist”?

The Media isn’t really egging on a race war.  They don’t fret about the “anti-Muslim” backlash they’ve been predicting since the afternoon of 9/11/2001 because they want to see the country in flames.  It may look that way sometimes, but it’s the newsitorial equivalent of Ptolemaic “epicycles.”  The Media doesn’t think in terms of concrete outcomes.  The terrifying truth is that they — like the Democratic Party, Hollywood, Academia — don’t think at all.  They have their worldview, their paradigm, and they’re not going to give it up, no matter what.  If it means actively creating the very people who will put them in camps just so they can yell “I told you so!”, then that’s what they’ll do.

[UPDATE]: Looks like The Z Man wrote on similar theme today.  There was no coordination involved, which is yet another example of my point.  How could there be?  There are a few secret handshake “dissident right” societies out there, and he’s in at least one of them, but they have their meetings in places like Finland.  I sure as hell can’t afford to go to Finland, can you?  Meanwhile, we all assume that the Feds are at least passively monitoring us, and if anyone actively reached out we’d assume he’s a narc.  “Greetings, fellow revolutionary!!  I find your ideology intriguing and I wish to subscribe to your newspaper.  Would you please send me your full name, home address, and Social Security number?”




*The “answer” they briefly settled on was “Vice President Dick Cheney is the evil genius who gets everything he wants.”  They even made a movie about it just recently, in which Christian Bale does his usual “gain or lose an obscene amount of weight while getting buried under mountains of makeup” thing.  But that’s just The Media’s typical self-congratulating rationalization — even the Bill Maher types had a hard time swallowing that one back when it mattered, as Dick Cheney famously spent 99% of his time in office in the “undisclosed location.”
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4 thoughts on “Paradigm Shifts – UPDATED

  1. WOPR

    I always find it amusing that Findland sent the communists to the camps. Of course, the Finnish elites were smart enough to see what made the communists attractive and make the necessary reforms. Then when the exiled Finnish communists came back during the Winter War, they didn’t gain much traction.

    The last two synagogue shootings and the mosque shooting, should be warning signs to the establishment*. It always starts with the fringe people getting pushed over the edge. That’s why you see a lot incoherent ramblings in the shooters’ manifestos. But, you can see the main triggers. Yet, the establishment is going to double-down on what they are doing. Eventually they’ll flick the grain of sand that causes the landslide.

    Do not worry though, the conservatives and libertarians will be there to constantly post about how the Left are the real racists, anti-semites, etc.

    *NSA/FBI/CIA please not that I find such shootings immoral and do not condone them in any manner.

  2. MBlanc46

    Bush v. Kerry in 2004 was Steve Canyon v. the Sad Sack. Yeah, Bush was a pretty lame Steve Canyon, but Kerry was on the money as the Sad Sack.

  3. RRW

    Hey Severian,

    Slightly off topic, but my copy of Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism came in the mail today. Since I’m no longer registered at Amazon I found a copy at Abe’s. I wonder how much longer such books will be available on the interwebs.

    1. Severian Post author

      Let me know how you like it. Actually, I doubt the censor will get around to books like that anytime soon. It’s about 1950s China, after all, and since the Thought Police are both lazy and abysmally ignorant, they’ll ignore it.

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