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How Scientific Progress Occurs: Incrementalism and the Life Sciences


Subject Area(s):  General Interest Titles

By Elof Axel Carlson, Professor Emeritus, State University of New York at Stony Brook; Visiting Scholar, Institute for Advanced Study, Indiana University

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Preface
Introduction
Paradigm Shifts, Incrementalism, or Both?


© 2018 • 209 pages, illustrated (10 color and 46 B&W), index
Hardcover • $57 45.60
ISBN  978-1-621822-97-4
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  •     Description    
  •     Contents    

Description

The idea of a paradigm shift was initially presented in Thomas Kuhn’s influential book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962). Kuhn used this concept—the creation of a new world-view—to explain how scientific progress develops, specifically in the physical sciences. But does this concept also apply to the biological sciences? Noted geneticist and science historian Elof Carlson explores this question in this book. Carlson had originally posed this question to Kuhn in the early 1970s, asking why paradigm shifts were rare or nonexistent in the life sciences. Kuhn’s response was that the physical sciences depended more on theory than biology did and that biology was largely descriptive.

How Scientific Progress Occurs: Incrementalism and the Life Sciences examines how progress in the life sciences occurs. Detailed narratives of the development of the fields of, for example, cell theory, gene theory, mutation, evolution, and several others, are presented as evidence. And because of the interconnection of the life sciences, cognate fields and shared tools that they may use are also considered. Carlson concludes that progress in the life sciences occurs by a process that he calls “incrementalism,” which is analogous to Kuhn’s “normal science”—but in Carlson’s view is raised to a more significant level. As he states in this book, “Scientists are not solving a jigsaw puzzle. Most of the time they have no idea where innovation will lead and the paradigm, if it exists, is a constantly changing one, not a photograph on a box propped up on the table for us to look at.” This insightful journey exploring progress in the life sciences will appeal to historians of science, student, and working scientists, as well as philosophers of science.

Contents

Preface
CHAPTERS
Introduction
1 Paradigm Shifts, Incrementalism, or Both?
2 The Cell: From Empty Boxes to Coordinated Organelles
3 The Theory of the Gene: From Abstract Point to Nucleotide Sequence
4 Mutation: From Fluctuating Variations to Base Alterations
5 The Life Cycle: From Spontaneous Origin to Simple and Complex Stages
6 The Molecular Basis of Life: From Vitalism to Organic Molecules to Macromolecules
7 Sex Determination: From Wild Guesses to Reproductive Biology
8 Genotype and Phenotype Relations: From Variations to Genetic Modifiers to Epigenetics
9 Microbial Life: From Invisible Spores to Germs and Prokaryotic Organisms
10 Embryology: From Philosophic Forms to Epigenetic Organogenesis
11 Cell Organelles: From Cell Theory to Cell Biology
12 Evolution: From Guesswork to Natural Selection to Molecular Phylogeny
13 How Does Science Usually Work?
APPENDIXES
1 There Is More to Scientific Revolutions Than Paradigm Shifts and Incrementalism
2 An Incrementalist Timeline of the Cell Theory
Figure Credits
Index