Resurgent ideas as paradigms regained in the history of geology

Harmon Droge Maher

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    3 Scopus citations


    A modified Kuhnian framework of nested and overlapping scientific communities sharing a four-component disciplinary matrix (a paradigm) allows exploration of the history of resurgent ideas in geology. Problem-solution couplets, known as exemplars, are important in this disciplinary matrix. Problems are data or behavior that need to be explained. Everything from physical laws to qualitative models (a range called law-sketches) are used to solve problems and to generate explanations. An important distinction can be made between accepted versus critical law-sketches, the former used in teaching, the latter the focus of ongoing research. Three ideas that served as the basis for critical law-sketches more than once in geology are: a) continental drift, b) gravitational spreading, and c) volume change related global tectonism. Resurgent law-sketches may initially fail due to association with the wrong problem, association with other exemplars that are falsifiable (poor paradigmatic construct), or lack of a problem (appropriate data) to explain at the time. Teaching a modified Kuhnian framework allows for a more sophisticated presentation of the complex scientific endeavor and helps students recognize false claims made about the nature of science. Resurgent ideas nicely illustrate the evolution of scientific thought.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)121-128
    Number of pages8
    JournalJournal of Geoscience Education
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Mar 1998


    • Education - science
    • History of geology
    • History of science
    • Philosophy of science
    • Plate tectonics

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Education
    • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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