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The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a 'C,' the idea must be feasible. A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith's paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)

ANOMALIES Previous | Next

The power of anomalies

What are anomalies all about? Are they just interesting quirks in science, or is there something more to them? If you believe the philosopher Thomas Kuhn, they are often the precursors of a revolution.

In the early 1960s Kuhn examined the history of science for clues to the nature of discovery. Scientists, he decided, work with one set of ideas about how the world is. There will be some evidence that doesn't fit, however. At first, Kuhn's study found, that evidence will be ignored or sabotaged. Eventually, though, the anomalies will pile up so high they simply cannot be ignored or sabotaged any longer. Then comes crisis, soon followed by the "paradigm shift" in which everyone gains a radically new way of looking at the world.

One example is the motions of the planets and stars as observed by the Greeks. The basic premise was that these objects revolved around the Earth. As observations got better and better, however, the astronomers had to repeatedly tweak their models of exactly how that revolving happened, adding layer upon layer of complication. It took a gargantuan effort to keep the theory together. Then, early in the 16th century, an astronomer called Nicolaus Copernicus recognised that Ptolemaic astronomers had created a monster, and set about working out a better system. When he published De Revolutionibus, it all suddenly became clear. The motions of stars and planets made sense – and worked out ever so simply – if everything was in fact revolving around the sun. After enormous efforts to maintain the existing paradigm, it finally shifted. More recent ideas, such as relativity, quantum theory, and the theory of plate tectonics arose in the same way.

Recognising and dealing with anomalies is a young man's game, Charles Darwin said. In On the Origin of Species, he wrote, "I by no means expect to convince experienced naturalists whose minds are stocked with a multitude of facts all viewed, during a long course of years, from a point of view directly opposite to mine," he says. Instead, he adds, he is looking with confidence to the future, to "young and rising naturalists, who will be able to view both sides of the question with impartiality.'

The question facing us now is, can science learn the lessons of the past? Can today’s scientists face up to, and deal with, today's anomalies? Or will the things that don't make sense always have to wait for a new generation of scientists?

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#1 - Posted: 16/08/2008 13:46

"At first, Kuhn's study found, that evidence will be ignored or sabotaged."  i'm afraid it's worse than that.  almost without exception the careers, work, or sometimes even the lives of the "lone voices in the wilderness", who call attention to the anomalous data which undermine the consistencies of the current scientific world view, are destroyed.   in earler years, of course, they were burned at the stake.  why?  because of  fear of the unknown?  because of power plays based on money and prestige?  because some things the world just isn't ready for yet?  do we have a more enlightened approach today? 

how many school children are taught about tesla instead of edison?  

how many people know what a poor scientist louis pasteur was, that he fudged his research.  and yet we remember him as the father of germ theory.  there is a huge amount of anomalous data out there that contradicts pasteur.  not everyone has stuck his head in the sand however.  there are some very effective products out there that are based on pasteur's contemporary competitors' findings.  (google sanum remedies.)

for more anomalies and a brilliant review of the skullduggery within archeology, upon which our acceptance of the darwinian model, as it is applied to homo sapiens, is based, see the work of cremo and thompson, "forbidden archeology" or its abridged version, "the hidden history of the human race."   don't just go to a website.  actually read the book.  the research is very thorough.

btw for the ultimate look at anomalies and their juxtaposition to scientific dogma, see the works of charles fort.  no, don't go to a fortean society website.  actually read his books.

my readings of many of the postings on this site suggest that most of the posters may be most comfortable with only a certain level of anomaly.  that's fine, that's a start.  as you go along you may be lead by the data deeper and deeper into territory that is no longer popular or politically (scientifically) "correct".   studies of human perception show that perception is not a passive receiving of data to our sense organs, but is an active process, a dialogue, which filters and focuses based on our conceptual framework, and our likes and dislikes.  we see what we want to see and what we are capable of seeing.  my daughter reminded me the other day of the story about when the spanish ships first landed on the coast of south america.  the natives literally couldn't see the ships sitting off-shore because they had no word or concept for such things.  perhaps if a ufo landed outside my apartment this morning i would think that it was a somewhat strange helicopter and go back to writing this forum entry.

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