Paradigm Shift

Paradigm Shift

Each of us forms a concept of the world, an understanding of the way things are, a map of the world. Not just a literal map in the sense of where things are in the world, but also an understanding of how things work, and what things are likely to happen and what are not. This is one’s worldview. When it changes the effect can be shattering. But this is exactly the effect of a scientific revolution, a revision of the conceptual map of the nature of reality.

Scientific Revolutions

Thomas Kuhn is often considered the most influential philosopher of science of the last century. He coined the phrase scientific revolution, and also the term paradigm shift. His work addresses the severe difficulty of updating the current paradigm, the well-established and generally-accepted scientific worldview, even when it is clear it is inadequate or even wrong. As he explained, solutions that do not conform to the current paradigm are just assumed to be mistakes. Because of this a new breakthrough concept is not recognised as such. If new research indicates there is a fault in the deeply-established worldview of the paradigm, this is not seen as refuting the worldview, but as a mistake by the researcher. In his later work he explains the root of this seemingly unscientific behaviour.

He came to see the issue as primarily a problem of language. As he explained, when deeply novel ideas appear, the new perspective requires a new terminology, a new lexicon; and without this the new paradigm cannot make headway. As philosopher of science Eric Oberheim writes in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

In the influential The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), Kuhn made the dramatic claim that history of science reveals proponents of competing paradigms failing to make complete contact with each other’s views, so that they are always talking at least slightly at cross-purposes. … These competing paradigms lack a common measure because they use different concepts and methods to address different problems, limiting communication across the revolutionary divide. (2013)

This is precisely the case with the current impasse in the comprehension of quantum theory.

The standard worldview gives rise to severe paradoxes as described on the Home page. As shown by QBism, the work of Christopher Fuchs and his colleagues, they all disappear if reality is taken to be defined by experience. But this does not make any sense in the standard worldview. The new idea is completely incompatible with the current paradigm. So although does solve the problems, it creates a new one. It seems that it hardly makes better sense than the paradoxes did. How can looking at the world make it real? It seems likely this too must be a mistake in terms of what it means about the real world.

As stated in The Conceptual Revolution, applying the concept of logical type expands the conceptual framework, and demonstrates that both perspectives are perfectly correct. In this light it is clear the physics is complete and correct; all that is missing is this further explanatory principle. The world of the individual is a class-of-worlds-as-a-world, a second-logical-type phenomenon. This is described in Logical Types. As Kuhn describes, the new perspective demands a new language, a restructured or quite different lexicon. As explained here, logical type is the key missing terminology. The current paradigm is a special case of the next and more complete paradigm, with a slightly wider conceptual framework. It explains the current paradigm as a special case, showing that the paradoxical phenomena are simply the dynamics of a different level of logical type within the context of the current paradigm.

The Conceptual Revolution

The current paradigm is the result of investigation of the real world with great thoroughness. It is because we have achieved comprehension of the objective physical reality of matter and energy at a fundamental level that we have been able to build such powerful and extraordinary technologies. Now, as always, the new paradigm moves on in a different direction, one hitherto invisible. In the current paradigm the objective physical world is the basis of all phenomena, and anything that cannot be explained in these terms cannot be real. Therefore the QBism explanation, which brings in experience as fundamental to defining the world, cannot be correct. But the new paradigm explains how the world of experience is in exactly this position. In experience, in the world you are experiencing at this moment, the physical reality is the superimposed sum of a great number of ordinary worlds. And this is because you exist in all these worlds, simultaneously. This is the new explanation; and it means the world you are experiencing is a second-logical-type phenomenon. It is a completely different type of thing to the objective physical reality, but it is of course every bit as real. This is described in detail in the pages headed by World Superposition.

In relativity, a new and wider context is also required to resolve the great paradoxes, the passage of time, and the present moment. Here the language is not new, but existing terms have to adapt to new meanings. The conceptual revolution is completed by understanding that the experiencing consciousness supervenes on a moving frame of reference that can only be a property of the universe as a whole. This is explained in Universe Consciousness. It means that the passage of time, and the present moment, are third-logical-type phenomena.


In academic terms, there is a missing taxonomy, a new system of classification is required. As described in Logical Types, three different levels of logical type are required for a complete ontology, the fundamental explanation of what is real in the world. This kind of massive mental shifting of gears required to understand the new physics is exactly what Kuhn is describing. As he explains, such scientific revolutions are huge cultural upheavals because they not only affect the scientific worldview, the paradigm, but what science is practised. It changes what about the world itself is studied, and different areas of investigation are pursued.

With so much at stake the whole debate can degenerate into a struggle between the old and the new. It is because such changes are often strongly resisted that Kuhn called them scientific revolutions. By this he means not only a dramatic change but also a heavily contested overthrow of the established worldview. As he explains, when the worldview has become a paradigm, meaning a deeply-held and well-structured worldview, the emergence of a new worldview incompatible with this worldview is automatically rejected because it seems obviously wrong from within the existing paradigm. But the prize is enormous. What changes each time is that the conceptual map is expanded. We know more, understand more, and technology is renewed, updated and empowered to make the next great leap. Kuhn defined a distinction between normal science and revolutionary science, and he came to see this as the difference between activities that do not require changes in the lexicon and those that do. Clearly the latter is the case with the meaning of the new physics. The semantic rules of logical type become fundamental explanatory principles.

Logical type is the key. We do live in an ordinary physical world, and in this world, things are what they seem to be, solid, determinate reality in all directions. But one lives in a great number of such worlds simultaneously, a world superposition. And in this kind of reality the physical world is determinate solely where observed. This is the reality of QBsim, the reality of a class of worlds. It is an emergent, second-logical-type phenomenon. The further revision of the current paradigm explains how time effectively passes in the static space-time universe of special relativity. The reality encountered is the four-dimensional space-time matter-and-energy universe movie of life. And the movie runs because the moving frame of reference passes along the world-line of the body, at light speed; and this is necessarily a third-logical-type phenomenon.

The tremendous conceptual revolution is that there are three fundamental categories, three utterly different types of phenomena. The world-view of modern science addresses only one, considering this, perfectly naturally, to be the only valid framework. In physics there is only what exists as matter and energy, and this is the fundamental category out of which all is built, and from which all properties of the real physical world are derived. But in order to make sense of the reality that is actually encountered, all three fundamental categories have to be included. This is the technical structure of the new paradigm. It is subtly but powerfully different to the science of the ordinary physical world of matter and energy. The paradoxes are resolved.