Paradigm change in evolutionary microbiology

Abstract
Thomas Kuhn had little to say about scientific change in biological science, and biologists are ambivalent about how applicable his framework is for their disciplines. We apply Kuhn’s account of paradigm change to evolutionary microbiology, where key Darwinian tenets are being challenged by two decades of findings from molecular phylogenetics. The chief culprit is lateral gene transfer, which undermines the role of vertical descent and the representation of evolutionary history as a tree of life. To assess Kuhn’s relevance to this controversy, we add a social analysis of the scientists involved to the historical and philosophical debates. We conclude that while Kuhn’s account may capture aspects of the pattern of an episode of scientific change, he has little to say about how the process of generating new understandings is occurring in evolutionary microbiology. Once Kuhn’s application is limited to that of an initial investigative probe into how scientific problem-solving occurs, his disciplinary scope becomes broader
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