Shift your paradigm

Every now and then science runs into what is called an “anomaly” – an event or observation that deviates from the rule, something that doesn’t make sense. If the anomaly cannot be explained by the current way of thinking – by the current paradigm – what usually happens is that scientists will say: “We cannot explain this as yet, but don’t worry. In time – when we gather more information – we will.” This attitude gives scientists a reason to ignore the anomaly and to postpone asking fundamental questions about their current way of thinking.

The late American physicist and expert in the history of science Thomas S. Kuhn, described a very interesting psychological experiment in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962). Researchers Jerome Bruner and Leo Postman asked their subjects to identify playing cards on short and controlled exposure. Many of the cards were normal, but some were “anomalous”, like a red six of spades and a black four of hearts. When these cards were first exposed briefly they were almost always identified as normal. The black four of hearts was, for example, identified as the four of either spades or hearts. So the cards were immediately fitted into one of the conceptual categories based on prior experience.

When the subjects were exposed to the anomalous cards more often however, they began to hesitate. After having become aware of the anomaly it was not uncommon for the subjects to get irritated, confused or even distressed. Further increase of exposure resulted in still more hesitation and confusion until finally most subjects produced the correct identification without hesitation.

Over 100 years ago physics couldn’t ignore the enormous amounts of anomalies it was running into and eventually had to expand it’s old paradigm. The way quantum physics explained the Universe was completely different from how Sir Isaac Newton (father of the previous paradigm) had described it. No longer were we living in a giant mechanical clockwork, but in a sea of intelligent and interconnected energy. No longer were spirit and matter separated and no longer could spirit be denied as (at least partly) the force field behind creation. And no longer could we blame the Creator (or whoever else we point our fingers at) for our fates. We were now co-creators in an interconnected Universe.

One of the famous pioneers of the Quantum Theory paradigm was the Danish physicist Nils Bohr. After his scientific world view had been turned upside down and he realised the consequences, he said: “Anyone who is not shocked by Quantum Theory has not understood it.” How shocked are we? How shocked are you? How shocked am I?

Shock, confusion, irritation and distress are normal reactions when paradigms are challenged. But if we allow these emotions to happen – if we allow ourselves to question the paradigm and let the uncertainty and chaos be – then we give ourselves the opportunity to learn, to grow and to evolve as a species. Embrace the crisis!

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