A Paradigm Shift Can Improve Your Life, So Be Unreasonable!

How We Think Is How We Live

paradigm shifts

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

George Bernard Shaw Irish dramatist & socialist (1856 – 1950)

paradigm shifts

Foot massage (from Tara), is great, whether you have a muscle strain, or not!

This subject came to mind today, while talking to my friend, massage therapist and body movement instructor, Tara House. We were discussing the challenges of getting people to realize that many body movement and pain problems come from their hips. That the pain isn’t necessarily where the problem lies. But this ‘revolutionary idea’ is extremely difficult to convey. They get a little pain, and head for the doctor, who will rarely assess their body movement status and skills.

I studied both Pilates and Gyrokinesis with Tara for a number of years, and I sure learned a lot. Especially about the critical role of the pelvis and core in body stability, flexibility, strength and movement. Such training contributed in a major way to Tom’s stories about fixing so-called plantar fasciitis (NFP). Changing people’s minds, especially our own, is an extremely difficult task. This is why paradigm shifts are so rare in science, be it the science of body movement or the science of anything else.

Here’s a book that changed my mind and contributed to the creation of this blog. Thomas S. Kuhn’s, The Structure of Scientific Revolutionsparadigm shift

Each paradigm [pattern or model] will be shown to satisfy more or less the criteria that it dictates for itself and to fall short of a few of those dictated by its opponent. 
— Thomas S. Kuhn The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), 108-9.
To me this means, question your own assumptions in addition to those of others. At least question the obvious, or you’ll make no progress. So I did! I questioned where I was and whether I should stay there.

Reading this book back in 2009 led to the title of my last scientific lecture. The thoughts generated in my head by that remarkable book, during that lecture, resulted in the creation of my current life-style: struggling writer having a great time learning new stuff.

It was 2010, and I’d been invited to be the keynote speaker for a small society meeting. I chose the title, Paradigm Shifts in Biology. I didn’t know this was to be my last lecture as a practicing (paid) scientist.

paradigm shifts

Toroidal magnet I used for studies of mucus viscoelasticity. Created with the help of NASA. I had fun doing science.

On arriving five minutes before my talk was due to start, at 8:00 a.m., I was greeted at the lecture hall door by a young man wearing an impeccable suit. I was in my usual garb, having come from an early morning run: tee-shirt with a cow’s skull image, if I remember correctly, running shorts and running shoes. The young chairman of this opening session of the meeting was clearly nervous. He was evidently wondering if I’d come to fix the lights or something. I hadn’t worn a suit for talks in years, but that’s another story.

I tend to lack any understanding of conventional human mores. Malcolm Gladwell would classify me with Mr. Spock, in the group, ‘irritating people.’ I didn’t intend to show disrespect for the audience. I just didn’t think that I’d been invited to speak based on my dress sense. In fact, I tend to suspect people of hiding something if they get all dressed up for a scientific presentation. Makes me think of the Turk and the asteroid b612, in The Little Prince.

paradigm shifts

Scientific boundaries are simply tools of the human mind. The universe doesn’t think that way. I enjoyed using this slide to explain the role of wave forms in liver function.

I explained that, Yes, I was Dr. Morgan. And Yes, I was about to give the keynote address. And would the young man please turn off the projector, as I had no slides. And would they please leave the lights on, as I wished to see and interact with the audience. I always told my students, Lecturing is show business. If you don’t make them laugh or cry, you won’t get the message across.

A one-hour time slot. Nothing prepared. I didn’t need anything. I was about to tell a story I knew by heart. A story I had lived for more than five decades. Six, if you include my boyhood love of ponds and hedgerows. I had experienced, first hand, the impact of technology on biological research. If I didn’t know the story by then, surely I never would. It also helped to become an experienced story-teller. This, also, had to be learned through training (Toast Masters) and experience.

One key to story-telling is know your audience. I knew at least half of them. They were largely in their thirties, forties and fifties. All types, ranging from extreme lumpers to more research oriented splitters.

paradigm shifts

I’ve been a Biologist and researcher as long as I can remember. Here is a drawing of the microscope I bought at age 12 (Created with Snap Art). Oddly enough, it had great optics.

I painted the picture of data analysis with slide rules and log tables. No computers. I described my excitement on seeing the first ‘affordable’ commercial hand held calculator with a square root function. This was not long after seeing my first television set at a friends house, at age thirteen.

The audience warmed to the idea that technologies change, but science does not. It still involves finding problems and working out how to solve them. I emphasized the importance of questioning the obvious, which is really what research is all about. I raved on about my favorite book on the relationship between technology and epistemology (theory of knowledge), Amusing Ourselves to Death, by Neil Postman.

After about 30 minutes, I was having fun with an appreciative group of young scientists, when I had my own paradigm shift. A true epiphany.

A little voice in my head was saying, as I continued tell my stories, You’ve been in this career for 40 years. Here you are, in the middle of an unprepared lecture that is going well. It’s too easy. You’re not learning anything. Out there is some 40-year old man or woman who needs to be up here, building their career. Get out of their way, and do something new.

So I did, and here I am!

Blogging contentedly!

 

Comments

  1. Nice story, and epiphany.

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.