Theory of Plate Tectonics as a Paradigm Shift

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Theory of Plate Tectonics as a Paradigm Shift When Albert Einstein proposed his Theory of Relativity it was not accepted immediately but eventually over time and after some debate it became a replacement for the idea of physical mechanics formulated by Isaac Newton to explain the motion of large bodies in the presence of gravity. Relativity did not totally discredit Newtonian Mechanics but it did raise new questions and could prove certain things that Newton could not. There were questions, critics, and proponents of the new idea but it came in time and after much debate. Shifting from one theory to another after the original idea has existed and been accepted for so long never sits well with scientists. This same shift of ideas is true for Alfred Wegener and his theory of Pangaea and plate tectonics. Wegener’s theories gave a plausible explanation for the presence of the same species of fossils found on two different continents. His theory refuted the current theory of huge land bridges that connected the continents. This shift from one idea to another, according to Thomas Kuhn, is considered a paradigm shift. Kuhn said, a paradigm is term that relates closely to ‘Normal Science’. Normal science being “research firmly based upon one or more past scientific achievements, achievements that some particular scientific community acknowledges for a time as supplying the foundation for its further practice” (Kuhn p.159). In the sense of scientific discoveries a paradigm is considered an example of a model formed by the theories presented by a scientist. Wegener’s theory of plate tectonics and continental drift is an example of a Kuhn paradigm shift because it took an original idea that was believed to be true and expanded ... ... middle of paper ... ...resence of fossils on different continents with the knowledge of the time; there was no overhead picture of how South America looked when fit next to Africa. Wegener saw mountains, knew what the continents looked like from above, and felt earthquakes to know that there could possibly be something more the Earth. Since he could not prove the tectonic theory without going underwater he fell short but after some underwater discoveries it was found he was right. Because of new information and technology a theory can be discredited and a new one can replace it causing a paradigm shift in thought. It is up to the individual to accept or refute the specific paradigm but everyone must know that there is more than one explanation for things that occur in nature. Alfred Wegener theory of plate tectonics clearly represents Thomas Kuhn’s idea of paradigm shift of a theory.

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