Paradigm Shift

In terms of Thomas Kuhn's (1962) Structure of Scientific Revolutions, there has been a 'paradigm shift'. That is, the whole of science is now beginning to change away from the analytical and mechanical approach, often called the 'mechanistic' approach. It is changing towards systems thinking. Complex adaptive systems, the non-linear systems, have become more important than linear systems. The more important aspects of science now involve systems in which the output is greater than the input, and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

The Kuhnian paradigm shift in biology is fundamental. During the entire history of biology, we have been using the old mechanistic reductionism exclusively. Indeed, any discussion of life, or 'vital forces', was considered unscientific, and verging on mysticism. We must now have a change of emphasis. We must reinforce the old mechanistic reductionism with the new theory of complex adaptive systems. It was this exclusive use of reductionism and empiricism that led to the misuse of the vertical subsystem, the ignoring of the horizontal subsystem, and the currently absurd reliance on crop protection chemicals (see 11.3.2). Reductionists were blind to the higher systems levels, and to the emergent properties of those levels, such as the system of locking provided by the gene-for-gene relationship at the systems level of the pathosystem, and its role in controlling allo-infection only (see 4.15).

Self-organisation in crop improvement could lead to another Kuhnian scientific revolution. This paradigm shift, is often called a 'break-through'. This was originally a military term, and it implied breaking through a defence line. A static war would then be dramatically changed into a war of mobility. Stasis and stagnation would suddenly become change, and progress. It is perhaps worth noting also that a paradigm shift occurs only when the pre-existing science is fundamentally flawed, and that flaw is exposed.

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