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    What is a theory (somatic mutation model) supposed to accomplish? What is the purpose of competing theories? When can you discard a theory? What constitutes "success?" These are obviously philosophical questions, and scientific philosophers have puzzled over them quite a bit. So my challenge to you this week is to address those questions - maybe after checking out some summaries of major philosophical contributions (for example Google Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn, and/or Imre Lakatos - or try a few websites that offer thumbnail accounts of their ideas; a good one is http://plato.stanford.edu/contents.html.

    After chewing this over a bit, ask how these two ideas (germ line versus somatic mutation) fit into these notions of competing theories and whether they were "successful." Offer your ideas of whether they were "falsified" (see Popper), were "regular science" that fell prey to "revolutionary science" (see Kuhn) or simply stopped yielding "progressive problem shifts" (see Lakatos).

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    Major references for info below & for further reading:

    In summary:
    Popper's theory of falsificationism implied that scientists should give up a theory as soon as they encounter any falsifying evidence, immediately replacing it with increasingly 'bold and powerful' new hypotheses. Popper believe that there can never be enough positive outcomes can be truly prove that a theory is right, while a single counterexample is considered logically decisive and is sufficient to falsify a theory.

    Kuhn described science as consisting of periods of normal science in which scientists continue to hold their theories in the face of anomalies, interspersed with periods of great conceptual change. Kuhn believed that science does not progress through a linear accumulation of new knowledge, but instead undergoes periodic revolutions that he calls "paradigm shifts", in which the nature of scientific inquiry within a particular field is abruptly transformed. The first stage is called "prescience" and lacks a central paradigm. In the second stage, called "normal science," scientists attempt to provide evidence for the central paradigm by "puzzle-solving". Thus, the failure of a result to conform to the paradigm is seen not as refuting the paradigm, but rather as the mistake of the researcher, an idea that contradicts Popper's falsificationism. Only when many anomalous results build up, then science reaches a state crisis, during which one compares the rivaling paradigms and considers which one is more rational & plausible, leading to conceptual changes.

    Lakatos tried to resolve the conflicts between the ...