Re: Paradigm or Style?
Posted: Sep 13, 2006 4:03 AM
> iirc (which in this case is doubtful) when people started
> talking about programming paradigms they were using
> paradigm in a more specific and stronger sense than
> the dictionary definition - they were riffing on Kuhnian
> paradigm shifts to suggest that the existing
> programming paradigm would be over-turned and
> replaced by a new paradigm.
> "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions"
> In that sense, multi-paradigm is a contradiction in
I'm not sure about that paradigms. even in the Kuhnian sense, are mutually exclusive.
To take the list given here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradigm_shift), one example is the shift from Newtonian physics to relativistic, and quantum mechanics. However, surprise - surprise, Newtonian physics is still alive and well. For situations not involving speeds approaching the light speed, or enourmous masses, Newtonian physics give perfectly good answers (and much simpler calculations). It's similar with things like quantum mechanics, which you typically don't need to take into account, unless you're concerned with atomic or subatomic phenomena.
Thus, typically, earlier "paradigms" (in fields like physics) were not "wrong" - they just don't cover all cases, and may have been approximations, that could become intolerable in different conditions. If they had been completely wrong (or at least didn't provide any predictive power), they never would have been "paradigms" in the first place.
Isaac Asimov has a great article about this, "The Relativity of Wrong" (http://chem.tufts.edu/AnswersInScience/RelativityofWrong.htm).
Even the view that the earth is flat (which me may find laughable today) is _almost_ right (but the approximation becomes intoleable from an astronomical point of view). As he writes:
"In the early days of civilization, the general feeling was that the earth was flat. This was not because people were stupid, or because they were intent on believing silly things. They felt it was flat on the basis of sound evidence.
Another way of looking at it is to ask what is the "curvature" of the earth's surface Over a considerable length, how much does the surface deviate (on the average) from perfect flatness. The flat-earth theory would make it seem that the surface doesn't deviate from flatness at all, that its curvature is 0 to the mile.
Nowadays, of course, we are taught that the flat-earth theory is wrong; that it is all wrong, terribly wrong, absolutely. But it isn't. The curvature of the earth is nearly 0 per mile, so that although the flat-earth theory is wrong, it happens to be nearly right. That's why the theory lasted so long."
However, with "paradigms" in the realm of computer science, it's not at all clear that one paradigm is "better" or "more accurate" than another, although different "paradigms" (or computational models) typically work better for different things (as Christopher mentions in the blog).