Quora Answer: Is it possible for a scientific field to undergo a paradigm shift in less than a generation?
This is actually a perfect question with respect to my research perspective, so let me give you an overview of my theory concerning this topic.
The actual question needs to be of wider scope. The question is in fact about discontinuous changes in our Western worldview. What is the rate of these discontinuous changes. Now I suggest that they follow a power law, that is to say that just like in Self-Organizing Catastrophes or Highly Optimized Tolerance types of change models there are various scopes of these changes, not just paradigm shifts, and also there are various temporal intervals between the changes. In general we are looking at Black Swan events, where as G.H. Mead says there are emergent events. The point of Nicholas Taleb is that these black swan events are more frequent than we expect. But I think we can agree that they are essentially chaotic. However, just like their temporality is a power law distribution, so is their scale. I identify the following scales: Givens, Facts, Theories, Paradigms, Epistemes, Ontos, Existences, Absolutes. Kuhn talks about Paradigm Changes, Foucault about Episteme Changes in The Order of Things, Heidegger about changes in the nature of Being in different eras, but we can also see that standings themselves like Being can change into other standings like existence, for instance with the advent of Buddhism in India there was a transition to a non-dual view within a culture steeped in Being (Sat). There are in fact changes also in the nature of the absolute during different periods of history. The biggest change we have undergone in our tradition is the transition from the Mythopoietic to the Metaphysical (cf. Hatab). We are still in the Metaphysical, or perhaps we have already transitioned to the next era, no body knows if metaphysics has ended or not. Different philosophers keep trying to kill it off and usher in a new era. Other changes are like the change from the Feudal to the Modern that occurred around 1850 finally everywhere, but started in the Renaissance. We might say that this change of absolute happened with Spinoza who was the first to consider God to be identical with substance and with reason so that nature became the outward manifestation of God.
So for me the real question, stemming from your first pass at the problematic, is why is our tradition shot through with these discontinuities, such that we really do not control them even though they occur in the culture we ourselves create. This essential lack of control of our own fate, within the products that we ourselves create is perhaps on of the deepest questions we can ask. It takes us straight into the question of the nature of our worldview. And as I have said earlier many times what is unique about our worldview is that we have the concept of Being in Indo-European languages. And that is unique to our Indo-European languages. If we accept the Worfian hypothesis then having that special category must change the way we see the world, somehow. But how? One thing we might point to is what I call the duality between Nihilism and Emergence. In other words the major thing that is produced by our worldview is nihilism, and that produces a pervasive background of minimal change on which emergent events can be seen. Without this meta-nihilism between emergence and nihilism we would not be able to see the emergent event when it arises.
But if discontinuous breaks (nb Rene Thom catastrophes, N. Taleb Black Swan events) occur at all scopes, i.e. at the level of givens, facts, theories, paradigms, epistemes, ontos, existences, absolutes via power law distributions both in terms of time and scope (space) and that is built in to the worldview at a fundamental level, then we must explain that in terms of the structure of the worldview, especially since the kinds of Being, i.e. Pure, Process, Hyper, Wild, and Ultra Being, are conserved. In other words, the mechanism of emergence in the worldview is itself very long lasting while within the tradition itself there are fundamental discontinuous changes at all levels fracturing the tradition, and thus we see that the difference between the long lasting nature of Being structured as kinds and the discontinuous emergent events are themselves a nihilistic duality. And so we come back to the question of how it is that our worldview is structured this way such that it produces discontinuities within the continuity of the historical tradition yet preserves the kinds of Being throughout the tradition in spite of these fundamental discontinuities at all levels of the tradition.
This of course is a study in fundamental ontology, and it makes us look deeply into our worldview. But to return to the question about whether changes at a given level of scope are accepted quickly or whether the believers have to die off, it turns out that his too is mixed, in other words there are some who are early adopters and others who are lagging adopters of these changes, just like with all technology. There are some people who will die without ever knowing how to use a computer even when almost everyone else is using them, and there were early adopters of computers who were enthusiasts, who learned how to use them when no one else knew how to use them. And in fact, according to Heidegger technology itself is a driver of this very phenomena of the production of discontinuities in our tradition. Heidegger says that the essence of technology is nothing technological but is in fact nihilism, and it is in the technological realm that new affordances emerge. According to G. H. Mead genuine emergence these changes deeply effect us changing the past, changing future possibilities, and changing present affordances. And I say also that it changes the mythos of the time, which is the fourth moment of time that was lost when we had the symmetry breaking that took us from the Mythopoietic to the Metaphysical eras. Thus what we recognize as time being three dimensional (past, present, future) was at one time four dimensional (adding mythos) and so some of the discontinuous changes that are very big actually change fundamental characteristics of the worldview itself, like the structure of time that we experience. So even to say that there are early and late adopters (or better recognizers) of emergent changes at various scopes suggests that we have a choice whether to adopt or not, but in fact we have no control over when these discontinuities occur, or their nature, or their effect on us and this is a fundamental feature of our worldview. So there is a deeper question here of the nature of the worldview itself that produces these profound changes based on the duality of emergence and nihilism and the spectrum of response by those within the worldview who either recognize the changes early or later and how they fare within this fated human condition within our worldview given individual resilience and adaptability. But in some sense our very experience of time itself is affected in some cases, so that early and late itself is relative to the metaphysical era where the symmetry breaking in time has already occurred.