For Lakatos, what we think of as a ‘theory’ may actually be a succession of slightly different theories and experimental techniques developed over time, that share some common idea, or what Lakatos called their ‘hard core’. Lakatos called such changing collections ‘Research Programmes’. (1)
Here is a description of three research programmes concerned mainly with biology but also with geology and cosmology from the distant past to the present.
The Aristotelian Research Programme
Aristotle and those who followed him described a world that is largely static. Archetypes of all species were created by special act of God (or the gods) and species have not changed since then. The earth is also the same as it was from its beginning. Whether the cosmos has always existed or was created, it has never changed appreciably.
Aristotle asserted that the cosmos has always existed and was always basically the same. This was changed in later centuries to a relatively recent special creation (<10,000 years ago). In either case, it is a static world picture.
The Evolutionary Research Programme
Darwin and those who followed him described a world that is largely dynamic. All species developed from other species and the original simple organism developed somehow from inanimate matter. No special act of creation was involved. Lyell and those who followed him described an earth that is in slow continuous change with minor exceptions.
An evolutionary research programme requires that there be long ages of time for gradual changes to accumulate and produce the world of today.
The Combination Research Programme
This programme describes a world that is both static and dynamic. Archetypes of basic kinds of organisms were created by special act of God and all species have developed from these. The earth was created and has not changed drastically except from a global flood in ancient times.
|What dominates?||Initial state||Both||Process|
|Change from initial state?||No change||Some change||Complete change|
|Species?||Fixed species||From kinds to species||Changing populations|
|Past time?||Eternal or short||Short or long||Long|
|Nature or History?||Nature||Both||History|
|Type of change?||Catastrophic||Both||Gradual|
|Character of change?||Revolutionary||Both||Evolutionary|