Paradigm Shifting

Ok, here’s a new look at current social discourse.

Does the phrase paradigm shift mean anything to you?
It means a shift of paradigm, obviously.  Got that?  No, probably not.

Thomas Kuhn

So, what’s a paradigm?  Not easy to define; especially since the word was hijacked by science historian and philosopher Thomas Kuhn around 1960 to describe a deeply established mindset of scientific thought.  It served him to describe how all science is based for a time on a defined, agreed body of knowledge and belief and practice until … along comes another body of knowledge and belief and practice which replaces (or subsumes) the former: the first paradigm changes (shifts) to the new paradigm.  It’s “a profound change in a fundamental model or perception of events”, according to Wikipedia.  The classic example is the way Science’s total embrace of Newtonian Physics (after the late 1600s) shifted to embracing Quantum Physics after the work of people like Rutherford, Bohr, Planck and Einstein in the early 1900s.
Or the way the early belief that the earth was the centre of the universe shifted to the radical new idea that the earth actually revolved around the sun (a la Copernicus and Galileo).
Or the way evolutionary theory replaced creation theory in not just scientific thought but also in the global public mindset.

The phrase then migrated out of science to use in any field or discipline where huge change of thought or attitude or mindset was identified.  Notably in the fields of psychology, philosophy, economics, linguistics and medicine. (A huge paradigm shift occurred in medicine in the 1800s from ‘miasma’ theory to germ theory, as the basis of disease).

Max Planck

My point, and I do have one (quoting Ellen de Generis, 2007), is that we can all get caught up in one paradigm or another, one which may or may not have good foundation; and change from one to another is very difficult.  Paradigm shift usually takes time, because proponents of the old are very reluctant to let go, to embrace the new.  Max Planck, really the founder of quantum mechanics, wrote in the early 20th century, “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it”!  A truism that has been re-framed to “Science progresses one funeral at a time”.

We all hold to our own paradigms, don’t we?  We subscribe to the Christian paradigm or the Islamic one. Or atheism.  We are pro-abortion or pro-choice (a paradigm shift which is taking place in America this very month).
There used to be a strong anti-gay paradigm; now the paradigm (and it’s taken a while to shift) is strongly pro-LGBTQ+.  The same could be said of current pakeha uptake of Māori culture and language. Or to be vax-compliant or not.

And, always, some of us are zealots and some of us are … less zealoty.

Which paradigms do you hold to?  And how resistant to ‘shift’ are you?
What would it take to overcome the old, to embrace a completely new paradigm?
I am persuaded that which paradigm you cling to directly correlates to which culture group or Facebook feed or public discourse you identify with – what echo chamber you belong to!  And I’m not saying you need to change, or should change.  But it is wise to be aware of the psychologies that tend to hold you fixed in one paradigmatic mindset, resistant, and not open to radical beneficial change. 

😊 Ruminate on that.

Ken F

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