Normal Science: A Kuhnian approach to the Work of Michael Cremo
In 1962 Thomas Kuhn authored “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”. If we are to judge by the amount of times it is cited, this book is one of the most influential works of 20thCentury Philosophy. Many aspects of Kuhn’s seminal work are applicable in looking at developments in Archeology and Ancient History.
Kuhn proposed that sciences progress over time through a fivefold cycle that ends in Paradigmatic change. Prior to change, however, Kuhn describes a period he called “Normal Science” where, for the most part, work is being practiced routinely according to the prevailing model.
According to Kuhn, to practice Archeology, to take one example, in a period of “normal science” is to practice under the rules and procedures (formal and informal) of an accepted system. These guidelines are set forth in contemporary Universities or Museums and implemented by Department heads, Editorial Boards etc. As Kuhn states: there is a “strong network of commitments—conceptual, theoretical, instrumental, and methodological…[that] provides rules that tell the practitioner of a mature specialty what both the world and his science are like…” In this phase of “normal science” the Archeologist can “concentrate with assurance” on problem solving.
I would add that within the confines of that paradigm in a period of “Normal Science” there may be somewhat different theoretical approaches to interpret the findings. For example, in Archeology there is “Processional Archeology”,” Behavioral Archeology”, “Historical Particularism” etc. These differing theoretical orientations, however, are all accepted variations that operate within the established larger dominant paradigmatic framework. Revolutionary theoretical frameworks that would constitute a change in paradigm, if adopted, are not challenging the main view point in this stage.
Normal Science continues productively within these confines, according to Kuhn. Scholarly papers are published and lectures are delivered all without really challenging the main paradigm. In archeology, part of what keeps the status quo firmly in place is a host of assumptions and, ironically, an almost religious adherence to a historical timeline.
In a period of Normal Science, Authors who have marshaled evidence challenging the timeline have been effectively marginalized. Michael Cremo is one such author. In his 1992 book “Forbidden Archeology,” he presents evidence which would shatter timelines on human origins. Not surprisingly, Cremo’s findings were dismissed by academics. He contends that this is because there exists in Academia a kind of “filtration system” whereby evidence that does not conform to the timeline is suppressed. Conversely, evidence that does conform is accepted. But is this too simplistic?
Kuhn would say that it’s all about the timing and not about the truth. He would take a different approach. According to his theory, it’s all about the part of the cycle that Cremo’s work was published in. Cremo published “Forbidden Archeology” in the early 1990’s. It directly challenged the Paradigm but did so at a time when practitioners were not in a “crisis phase”—i.e. when there is a large scale reconsideration of central beliefs of the dominant paradigm. Kuhn would therefore categorize Cremo’s work as an anomaly that developed within this normal phase.
Despite his meticulous and daring research, which should stand on its own merits, Cremo made himself an easier target for Western Academics by both not having a Doctorate and aligning himself with an Eastern Spiritual movement which advocates Vedic Creationism. Vedic Philosophy is not a credible source according to the university system --i.e., it does not follow the rules of research and evidence of the dominant Paradigm.
In 2018, Cremo’s work is still not accepted by Academia but is, nevertheless, part of a massive and ever accumulating body of evidence that is pushing the paradigm into a crisis phase. The timetable of this development was brought about sooner by the advent of the internet: Websites and videos promoting evidence that contradicts the prevailing paradigm are freely available. Kuhn would contend that we are in the midst of a process of change whereby the current Paradigm is not immediately rejected but is publically and widely seen as inadequate.
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