Resolving debates around theories arising out of incommensurable meanings, to enable communication in science



Communication is important in science. It not only serves as a way to let people know about science but also helps in doing science itself, thus at times enabling learners and practitioners of science to know about the nature of science itself. In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn talks about ‘communication break’ during periods of scientific crisis. Often, even during periods of “normal science” (as used by Kuhn), communicating science is a challenge, while still keeping intact the intended meaning. The incommensurability of meaning may lead to a communication break. Such a situation leads to a deadlock and resolving such debates becomes very difficult. This also takes a toll on the communication of the general idea of science being debated to the students, general public and even other researchers. Using ‘Do genes encode information about phenotypic traits?’ a debate published in Contemporary Debates in Philosophy (ed. Hitchcock C. 2004), I try to look into how, even when both the debaters seem to understand the science correctly, do they reach at different conclusions in their debate. I also try to provide a solution to the debate, by looking at the relationship between the concepts being talked about in the debate. Resolving such debates is necessary as the science that forms the background of the debate is fairly old and robust and has made its way into textbooks and popular science journals long back. Thus, such debates may create negative perceptions among the students and general public, about the information being communicated to them in textbooks and popular science magazines, thus hindering further communication.


Philosophy of science; Philosophy of biology; Science communication; Debates in science; Gene; Protein; Phenotypic trait

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