The paper deals with the interrelations between the philosophy, sociology and historiography of science in Thomas Kuhn’s theory of scientific development. First, the historiography of science provides the basis for both the philosophy and sociology of science in the sense that the fundamental questions of both disciplines depend on the principles of the form of historiography employed. Second, the fusion of the sociology and philosophy of science, as advocated by Kuhn, is discussed. This fusion consists essentially in a replacement of methodological rules by cognitive values that influence the decisions of scientific communities. As a consequence, the question of the rationality of theory choice arises, both with respect to the actual decisions and to the possible justification of cognitive values and their change.
With The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn challenged long-standing linear notions of scientific progress, arguing that transformative ideas don’t arise from the day-to-day, gradual process of experimentation and data accumulation but that the revolutions in science, those breakthrough moments that disrupt accepted thinking and offer unanticipated ideas, occur outside of “normal science,” as he called it. Though Kuhn was writing when physics ruled the sciences, his ideas on how scientific revolutions bring order to the anomalies that amass over time in research experiments are still instructive in our biotech age.
Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions is one of the most cited books of the twentieth century. Its iconic and controversial nature has obscured its message. What did Kuhn really intend with Structure and what is its real significance? Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is in many ways an unusual and remarkable book. It has a strong claim to be the most significant book in the philosophy of science in the twentieth century, even though it was written by a man who was not, at that time, a philosopher, describing himself as ‘an ex-physicist now working in the history of science’. Kuhn’s intentions for his book were nonetheless philosophical; yet, its effects have been felt widely beyond philosophy of science. The fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Structure provides an appropriate moment to consider the true significance of Kuhn’s book.
Diet is a major issue facing humanity. To combat malnourishment and diseases associated with over nutrition, both research and technological breakthroughs are needed. Can science help us develop better ways to feed ourselves? This, of course, is a complex question with many potential answers—from innovations in agricultural sciences and crop production, to changes in livestock farming, to implementing and enforcing broad changes in the sustainable use of land and marine resources.
In this brief Essay, I will consider three attractive opportunities in my own field that may help provide solutions to these challenges: (1) understanding our brain circuits controlling appetite for sweet; (2) developing ways of producing intrinsically palatable, novel protein-rich nutrients in a low cost, self-sustainable, renewable, high-capacity platform; and (3) elucidating the links between our diet, the microbiome, gut-brain circuits, and metabolism. Ultimately, it may be possible to prevent disease through our diet.
This book presents a unique synthesis of the current neuroscience of cognition by one of the world’s authorities in the field. The guiding principle to this synthesis is the tenet that the entirety of our knowledge is encoded by relations, and thus by connections, in neuronal networks of our cerebral cortex. Cognitive networks develop by experience on a base of widely dispersed modular cell assemblies representing elementary sensations and movements. As they develop cognitive networks organize themselves hierarchically by order of complexity or abstraction of their content. Because networks intersect profusely, a neuronal assembly anywhere in the cortex can be part of many networks, and therefore many items of knowledge. All cognitive functions consist of neural transactions within and between cognitive networks. After reviewing the neurobiology and architecture of cortical networks (also named cognits), the author undertakes a systematic study of cortical dynamics in each of the major cognitive functions–perception, memory, attention, language, and intelligence. In this study, he makes use of a large body of evidence from a variety of methodologies, in the brain of the human as well as the nonhuman primate. The outcome of his interdisciplinary endeavor is the emergence of a structural and dynamic order in the cerebral cortex that, though still sketchy and fragmentary, mirrors with remarkable fidelity the order in the human mind.
Most accounts of human cognitive architectures have focused on computational accounts of cognition while making little contact with the study of anatomical structures and physiological processes. A renewed convergence between neurobiology and cognition is well under way. A promising area arises from the overlap between systems/cognitive neuroscience on the one side and the discipline of network science on the other. Neuroscience increasingly adopts network tools and concepts to describe the operation of collections of brain regions. Beyond just providing illustrative metaphors, network science offers a theoretical framework for approaching brain structure and function as a multi-scale system composed of networks of neurons, circuits, nuclei, cortical areas, and systems of areas. This paper views large-scale networks at the level of areas and systems, mostly on the basis of data from human neuroimaging, and how this view of network structure and function has begun to illuminate our understanding of the biological basis of cognitive architectures.
Evolutionary biology is not a slow-moving science. Just last month a new species of hominid (Homo naledi) was unveiled at a news conference in South Africa. When did modern humans branch off as an independent species? What have been our most important adaptations? And, most importantly, what is the next evolutionary step for humanity? We reached out and spoke to five of the foremost experts on human evolution, who shared their expertise and predictions.
Anatomically modern Homo sapiens (us), are thought to have emerged as a distinct species around 200,000 years ago in Africa. While we often imagine one species of hominid handing the baton to the next in a neat, linear “evolution of man” progression, Homo sapiens lived simultaneously with several other hominid species—Homo neanderthalensis, Homo floresiensis, and the much older Homo erectus, whose geographic and temporal boundaries remain fuzzy. They also had sex with each other, as evidenced by the amount of Neanderthal DNA in our genetic material (about 2.5% – 3% on average).
Various neuroimaging studies, both structural and functional, have provided support for the proposal that a distributed brain network is likely to be the neural basis of intelligence. The theory of Distributed Intelligent Processing Systems (DIPS), first developed in the field of Artificial Intelligence, was proposed to adequately model distributed neural intelligent processing. In addition, the neural efficiency hypothesis suggests that individuals with higher intelligence display more focused cortical activation during cognitive performance, resulting in lower total brain activation when compared with individuals who have lower intelligence. This may be understood as a property of the DIPS. The present results support these claims and the neural efficiency hypothesis.
I’ve suggested that traditional ethical convictions in our culture have been grounded in a belief (often tacit) in an immaterial soul that somehow uses the brain, but reserves for itself the powers of moral reasoning, decision making, and an appreciation of meaning and purpose. The cognitive neuroscience revolution challenges that belief, and increasingly forces us to recognize that all mental life is a product of the evolved, genetically influenced structure of the brain. This challenge has also been seen to threaten sacred moral values, but I would argue (and like to think that Gazzaniga agrees) that in fact that is not a logical consequence. On the contrary, I think a better understanding of what makes us tick, and of our place in nature, can clarify those values. This understanding shows that political equality does not require sameness, but rather policies that treat people as individuals with rights; that moral progress does not require that the mind is free of selfish motives, only that it has other motives to counteract them; that responsibility does not require that behavior is uncaused, only that it responds to contingencies of credit and blame; and that finding meaning in life does not require that the process that shaped the brain have a purpose, only that the brain itself have a purpose.