Gadianton wrote: ↑
Fri Sep 04, 2020 4:26 pm
[W]ould you say that the mathematical translation between relativity and quantum mechanics was true in the days the theories were coming out? ...
And what about the failure to quantize gravity -- as I understand the situation today -- could that be used to support Kuhn somehow?
Einsteinian relativity—the concept of relativity was old but Einstein changed it—and quantum mechanics were two separate revolutions. So it wasn't a matter of translating them into each other. For relativity the issue was translating previous concepts of space and time into the new one of spacetime, while for quantum mechanics it was, well, a bigger can of worms: things we thought were continuous were now discrete, but on the other hand every either-or was becoming a how-much-of-each, in a weirdly dumb-seeming way that didn't fit probability theory.
In both cases, though, the new and the old theories each made definite predictions for the same measurements, predictions which disagreed either slightly or violently, depending in definite ways upon circumstances. So in particular the new theories of Einsteinian relativity and quantum mechanics, respectively, could each account for all the successes of the old theories, by agreeing with them closely enough under previously well-tested conditions that we wouldn't have noticed the tiny differences. The new theories made dramatically different predictions, however, for the novel circumstances that had only recently become technologically feasible.
The new theories were, it's quite true, different in fundamental ways from the old ones. Those fundamental differences could still be directly compared both mathematically and observationally, however. It was only at the level of popular description in ordinary language that it was hard to relate the different pictures at all.
There was a later phase, mostly in the 1930's but extending into the 1960's, of putting quantum mechanics and Einstein's relativity together. That involved some startling new discoveries, but nobody talks about it as a revolution. It wasn't a matter of one established paradigm yielding to another, but of building up a paradigm where previously there was none. Different approaches were tried, but none of them succeeded well enough to become accepted as a paradigm, until eventually a single consensus emerged.
That's a phase of science that I think Kuhn overlooked, the frontier settlement phase, which is neither Kuhn's "normal science" nor a revolutionary contest. It's the phase we're still in now with quantum gravity. There are rival approaches to quantum gravity but none of them is yet confident enough to set up as a paradigm the way Galilean relativity and classical mechanics were. It's not even clear that the rival approaches are incompatible; they might be in a blind-men-meeting-elephant kind of scenario. Or they might all be wrong.
Normal science, in which the starting points are unchallenged and the task consists of working out details, is definitely a real thing. Most of science is like that. Revolutions do also happen, and I think Kuhn had some good insights about how. I think he had some wrong ideas about the nature of the revolutionary conflicts, however, mostly based on taking too philosophical a view of what scientific theories mean, and not sufficiently appreciating their technical nature. Much of what he said about paradigms was only true about paradigms-in-translation.
Back to Mormon apologetics, I don't think "we're just sticking to our paradigms as good normal scientists do" is a valid defense because—pacete
all the apologists indignantly demanding that we "engage" with their mountains of Bigfoot literature—Mormon apologetics doesn't really have a technical level. It's an amateur enterprise in which the practitioners never engage with each other in any significant detail, but merely agree that they are all on the same side. So the level of vernacular description in which things can be incommensurable is all that apologetics has. It has no analog to the math or the lab, where everyone speaks the same language whether or not they agree.