Shifting Paradigms

Thomas Kuhn and Karl Popper have changed the way we think about science. Gone is the sense of certainty. We are left with the suspicion that all our knowledge is but historically relative opinion. How does this effect our claims to Biblical knowledge claims? Or is theology exempt from paradigm shift?

Two immensely important thinkers of last century were philosophers Karl Popper and Thomas Kuhn.

Concerning the method of science, Karl Popper's rejected classical empiricism, and the classical observationalist-inductivist account of science that had grown out of it. Popper argued strongly against the latter, holding that scientific theories are abstract in nature, and can be tested only indirectly, by reference to their implications. He also held that scientific theory, and human knowledge generally, is irreducibly conjectural or hypothetical, and is generated by the creative imagination in order to solve problems that have arisen in specific historico-cultural settings.

According to Kuhn, "When scientists must choose between competing theories, two men fully committed to the same list of criteria for choice may nevertheless reach different conclusions." For this reason, the criteria still are not "objective" in the usual sense of the word because individual scientists reach different conclusions with the same criteria due to valuing one criterion over another or even adding additional criteria for selfish or other subjective reasons. Kuhn then goes on to say, "I am suggesting, of course, that the criteria of choice with which I began function not as rules, which determine choice, but as values, which influence it."


At first, early modern science thought it's certainties had obliterated faith and revelation. Intellectuals turn away from God, or toward a rationalistic god behind the laws of physics. But now, even that god is undermined, and we have been cut adrift from the certainties of human reason. Is this a good or a bad day for metaphysics and faith? Did Kuhn open the door for post-modern theologies, or render further religious claims just more shifting frameworks destined for the dustbin of history?