Progress in science does not
occur by accumulating old knowledge but by revolutionary steps. Each
scientific revolution alters the historical perspective of the community
that experiences it. In both political as scientific development the sense
of malfunction can lead to a crisis that is prerequisite to revolution.
These are some sentences from the book
“The structure of scientific revolutions” from Thomas S. Kuhn
Even before the eleventh of September the situation in the world was
horrific (malfunctioning). A political solution can hardly be found by
slowly changing the existing situation. It is very unlikely that the situation in which every year 50 million
people die only because they cannot get enough food can be solved
gradually. Therefore a
revolution is needed, a catastrophe after which scientists, who are led by
a new paradigm, see new and different things when looking with familiar
instruments in places they have looked before. It is rather as if the
professional community has been suddenly transported to another planet
where familiar objects are seen in a different light and are joined by
unfamiliar ones as well. (Kuhn).
Though it is dangerous to compare the scientific world with the much more
complicated political world this is just what the world needs: a
fundamental change in which ideas are different though the same objects
and the same people are still present. But people will see different
things in places they have looked before and they will solve problems that
were impossible to solve in the old situation.
How can such change occur? In science this occurs after scientists become
increasingly dissatisfied with the ruling paradigm. In the Middle Ages the
earth was seen as the centre of the universe. More and more people did not
like this. Suddenly Copernicus concluded that the paradigm was wrong, that
the sun was a better centre of the universe. Many dissatisfied scientists
took his side and astronomy changed. Many new things were found though
some old ideas were still preserved.
I will to translate this to politics. Many people are dissatisfied with the
present situation. They do not know what to do because an old paradigm (capitalism, but
also communism, socialism, Christianity, Islam, evolution, etc.) obstructs their
view. The old paradigms paralyze development and the world petrifies.
A new paradigm must not only contain a more or less vague concept of a
possible new society but must also include a practical way to reach this
new society. The new paradigm will have in the beginning only a few
supporters. But the mind of more and more people will change when they see
that contemporary practical activity opens the road to a new future.
a scientific catastrophe a few scientists advance a new idea. Because of
their strong arguments other scientists will be won over and the situation
slowly develops in the direction of a jumping point. Then suddenly a
fundamental change takes place after which the vast majority of scientists
see new and different things when looking with familiar instruments in
places they have looked before. Copernicus, Newton and Einstein are only
some of the people that changed science. They became aware that the old
situation was not right and that existing theories could not solve the
anomalies and their activity caused a sudden change in the old paradigms.
After the new situation is reached you need normal scientists who
re-establish order by solving yet unsolved puzzles within the boundaries set by the new theory. This normal science does not aim at
novelties and its findings are seldom or never an increment to what is
already known. Often it even suppresses fundamental novelties because it
is necessarily subversive to the basic commitments of normal science.
Political revolutions bring a new situation and new politicians will order the new situation. They often make a mess of it (Soviet Union for
example) but some new ideas are accepted and some of the outlived ideas
are discarded. Since the Middle Ages the Western society has progressed in
a jumpy way while the situation petrified in countries that where then
more advanced (Arabic World, China etc.). The Chinese Revolution brought
China in a new situation while India stayed behind. The Moslem world also
needs a revolution to get out of the quagmire. The present warmongering
policy of the USA pushes them deeper in the morass
and that will also influence our progression, which is already threatened
by the waning power of the idea of democracy. Once this was a progressive
force, now it has become an obstacle for further progress. The democratic
paradigm has to be replaced by another political idea because anomalies
are growing and the danger for a blockade of further progress is looming
around the corner.
Nobody can predict how the situation will change after a catastrophe. Take
as example the stretching of an elastic string. It is very
difficult to determine beforehand how the two ends will move when the
string has snapped. But we can say much about the period before the string
snaps, about the way how to accomplish a catastrophe that will
fundamentally change (and progress) our world. From science we learn that
a revolution is coming nearer when awareness of an anomaly grows, the
recognition that nature somehow violates the paradigm-induced expectations
that govern normal science. Scientific revolutionaries must not discuss
their new views with normal scientists but develop their own theory and
practice and only make clear that the old situation is fundamentally
wrong. They know that old theories cannot solve existing problems. The
state of Ptolemaic astronomy was a scandal before Copernicus's announcement.
Galileo’s contribution to the study of motion depended closely upon
difficulties in Aristotle’s theory.
A political revolution comes nearer when more people see the anomalies and
difficulties. Awareness grows by pointing to the idiocy of the Afghan War
or to a Globalization that increases the differences between the Rich and
the Poor. Discussions about gradual solutions on the basis of the existing
paradigm are useless. A new theory has to be developed that gives room to
another society in which problems will be solved because politicians will
look with different eyes with the same instruments at the same places they
looked before. The minds of some politicians will indeed be changed by the
revolution but many old politicians will not be flexible enough to assist
in this new process. And it will still take some time before all problems
are solved. The new revolutionary theory of Copernicus was only widely
accepted after normal scientists had worked it out – and that lasted a
century. Without Copernicus the world would still be the centre of the
universe. Nowadays time is going faster.
Though a revolution seems far away, a small change can have large and
amplifying effects in our chaotic social system. That is a fundamental
principle of the theory of catastrophes. Nobody expected that the Wall
should fall in 1989 and the few people who caused the WTC catastrophe did
indeed change the world. Nobody knows how the future will be but the
present abominable world has to change. Therefore I am developing a new
theory and a new practice that has nothing in common with existing
ideas. Because when you are caught in endless discussions with
‘normal’ politicians nothing will change.
I have elaborated these ideas in Political
Catastrophes, Lessons from the WTC
catastrophe, some mathematical
background in the Mathematical Appendix of "The
Scarists" and also in the 11th Chapter of that book.
For more information on Thomas S. Kuhn see http://www.emory.edu/EDUCATION/mfp/Kuhnsnap.html
Joost van Steenis (November 11 2001)