As Thomas Kuhn famously remarked in the Structure of Scientific Revolutions, “Perhaps the most striking feature of [normal science] is how little they aim to produce major novelties, conceptual, or phenomenal.” (Kuhn, 35) In fact, an extensive study by Bernard Barber reveals that scientists are intolerant of new discoveries. Priestly never accepted Lavoisier’s oxygen theory. Kelvin never accepted Maxwell’s electro-magnetic theory. It took more than a century to convert scientists to Copernicus’ heliocentrism. Newton was not accepted for half a century on the Continent. There were good reasons for such resistance. Lavoisier’s theory could not cope with the proliferation of new gases. For a while, the phlogiston theory could legitimately claim that it solved many older problems better. For example, the phlogiston theory explained why bodies burned and why metals had so many more properties in common than their ores unlike Lavoisier’s. Copernicus’ theory was not more accurate than Ptolemy’s and it did not lead directly to any improvement in the calendar. It took time for the wave theory of light to be more successful than the corpuscular theory in resolving the polarization effects which were the principal cause of optical crisis. Throughout the 18th century, scientists failed to derive the motion of moon from Newton’s law of motion.
From reading the paragraph above, it is easy to assume that scientists were hesitant due to reasonable doubt. That is certainly a part of it. But, Kuhn’s book reveals a deeper truth about science: that it cannot function with deliberate skepticism. Normal science is an activity of puzzle-solving. After accepting a paradigm, normal science tries to articulate the theory through observation and research. Paradigm “forces scientists to investigate some part of nature in detail and depth that would otherwise be unimaginable.” (Kuhn, 25) Paradigms in their early states are always insufficient, as evident from the examples above. It requires faith from the first followers of the new paradigm to carry on the torch, until a generation of scientists verify through research and evidence that the new paradigm is better than the older paradigm. However, it is crucial to note that until that moment of total conversion, there is no way to resolve the conflicts between the two paradigms. They are both legitimate ways of making sense of the world, and, for a while, it is often the case that the older paradigm corresponds to facts better than the new one. The new paradigm might explain the anomalies that led the older paradigm to crisis, but it is not necessarily equipped with the means to explain many of the phenomena the older paradigm spent centuries researching.
In other words, verification or determination of theory by evidence is not a doctrine. Evidence only gets you so far. Imagine a person who keeps doubting their world view every time their sense data (evidence) contradicted it. That person would have rejected Newtonian mechanics altogether. Astronomers in the 18th century failed to derive the motion of planets from Newton’s law of motion. The evidence falsified the Newtonian world view, but these astronomers did not reject their theory. Instead, they hypothesized that, perhaps, there existed another planet that caused the mismatch of data with calculations. In other words, they postulated a non-observable entity to fit their calculations — an ad hoc hypothesis. Eventually, their telescopes detected the hypothesized planet and that is how they discovered Neptune. Evidence is not the only factor, and this makes convincing a scientist a difficult task.
Max Planck, surveying his own career in his Scientific Autobiography, sadly remarked that:
“a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”
A similar sentiment is echoed by Darin at the end of his Origin of Species:
“Although I am fully convinced of the truth of the views given in this volume…., I by no means expect to convince experienced naturalists whose minds are stocked with a multitude of facts all views, during a long course of years, from a point of view directly opposite to mind…[B]ut I look with confidence to the future, — to young and rising naturalists, who will be able to view both sides of the question with impartiality.”
Why is this the case? Kuhn explains this by pointing out that paradigms essentially determine the world view of an individual. Before Einstein’s theory of relativity, space was an absolute, immovable aspect of nature — and the world. In order to accept Einstein’s theory, one must begin to live in a world with curved space. Priestly regarded oxygen as dephlogisticated air, whereas Lavoisier called it oxygen. It is only in hindsight that we square these two incompatible world views. Can Newtonian dynamics really be derived from relativistic dynamics? With certain restrictions, it can resemble relativity, but we interpret that resemblance only because we know Einstein’s theory. Before Einstein, Newton’s theory was never interpreted it that way. In a Newtonian world, mass is conserved; in an Einsteinian one, mass is convertible with energy “Only at low relative velocities may the two be measured in the same way, and even then they must not be conceived to be the same.” (Kuhn, 102) It is not an easy task to convince a person who lives in a completely different world. This is why both Planck and Darwin believe that one can only convince the youth en masse, since they can be indoctrinated into looking at the world differently.
So far, we have seen that faith in theory and paradigm are large factors in the development of science. There are also other factors at play that might surprise some readers. For example, Copernicus’ work was influenced by social pressures like calendar reform. Medieval Philosophers’ criticisms of Aristotle, which led to the rise of Renaissance Neoplatonism, and other significant historical elements certainly had a part in the work of Copernicus as well. (Kuhn, 69) Many historians and philosophers argue that aesthetics played a role in Einstein formulating his theory of relativity. It is certainly naïve then to conclude that science is a discipline full of skeptics, constantly challenging their most fundamental assumptions based on contradictory evidence. Science’s efficiency is based on its narrow scope of research and inquiry. In this way, science is structurally closer to theology than other disciplines.
Unlike other disciplines like art or psychology, research scientists are not concerned with the opinions of the public. Due to the importance of preserving the paradigm, scientists also approach their education ahistorically. Students are not taught to read primary sources like Newton’s Principia and its critics in a historical lens. This would allow the student to doubt the paradigm and experience the world from the viewpoint of a different paradigm. Science cannot exist or function without a paradigm; therefore, it is more important to indoctrinate the students into accepting the paradigm first. This is why science textbooks are treated like doctrine, whereas in philosophy textbooks are of secondary importance. In science, key figures and their texts are interpreted in an ahistorical lens; in other words, from the viewpoint of the current paradigm with cherry-picked excerpts in text books.
“Many scientific curricula do not ask even grad students to read works not written specifically for students. The few that do assign supplementary reading in research papers and monographs restrict such assignments to the most advanced courses and to materials that take up more or less where the available texts leave off. Until the very last stages in the education of a scientist, textbooks are systematically substituted for the creative scientific literature that made them possible. Given the confidence in their paradigms, which makes this educational technique possible, few scientists would wish to change it.” (Kuhn, 164)
The Bible is similarly interpreted by theologians as their primary source of indoctrination. Like scientists, theologians operate within the paradigm of trying to understand divinity. Despite their structural similarities, there exist stark differences between theology and science. Their methods of research, equipment, and fundamental assumptions are all drastically different. But, it is interesting to note their structural similarity, given the recent attack on religion from New Atheists and popular scientists.
For the perceptive reader, this question might dawn upon them: “why do science popularizers perpetuate the lie that scientists are skeptics?” or that “science is an accumulation of theories and evidence.” I believe the reason is political. New Atheists like Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker, and Sam Harris are trying to spread a secular version of neoliberalism. Their outdated enlightenment thinking naturally leads to accepting a neoliberal, imperialist, and colonial narrative that deems feminism, Islam, and activism for social justice as “anti-science.” They disguise their patriarchal, capitalist, and imperialist politics in the name of Reason and Science. This is precisely what happened in the 19th century. Another reason is that science needs to regard itself as cumulative. It cannot anticipate an upcoming revolution. That would be unhealthy for the narrow and efficient practices of normal science. In order to proliferate puzzle-solving, they must approach their discipline in an ahistorical manner: as if they had always been operating under this paradigm. God cannot be questioned, even if the definition of God had changed. It is essential that you never reject God. Every conflict, therefore, is regarded as happening under the same umbrella.
Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
 Bernard Barber, “Resistance by Scientists to Scientific Discovery,” Scienc, CXXXIV (1961), 597-602.
 Engler, Gideon. “Einstein, His Theories, and His Aesthetic Considerations.” International Studies in the Philosophy of Science, vol. 19, no. 1, 2005, pp. 21–30., doi:10.1080/02698590500051068.