Mulder Thinks Outside the Paradigm

This point also returns us to Scully's and Mulder's debate over their respective methodologies. It is clear they both use detective semiotics and the logic of abduction. But why is Mulder almost always the one who makes the really creative leaps of thought and almost always the one who can read the harder signs (like the sign of absence)? He was the one who knew right away that they were still inside the mushroom, that nine minutes missing meant alien encounter, and that the U.S. government had systematically undermined the American public (and the entire world) for decades, ever since Roswell.

Perhaps part of the reason that Mulder is so good, and Scully lags behind, is that he is able to think more creatively—he is able to extrapolate widely from various scientific data (while Scully is not), but, more importantly, he is able to think beyond the given scientific framework of today. This ability is evident even in the series' pilot episode, when Mulder and Scully meet for the first time. He has read her undergraduate thesis on Einstein and tells her he likes it, but that, unfortunately, in most of the X-Files cases, the laws of physics do not apply. In fact, most of the cases Mulder works on are well beyond the pale of what the scientific community takes to be true or reasonable.

To put it another way, Scully is still operating within what Thomas Kuhn, in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, calls a "paradigm," or a set of acceptable explanations as a way of practicing science.23 And, as far as Mulder is concerned, that paradigm is a little outdated. Kuhn says there are two stages of science: "revolutionary" (e.g., Aristotle, Galileo, Darwin, Freud, Einstein), in which a paradigm is established, and then "normal science." Once a paradigm is in place, certain ideas are no longer in question; they are just taken for granted, and normal science simply fills in the paradigm. So, for example, Watson and Crick discover the DNA double helix (which is certainly very revolutionary), but the generations who fill in the genomes of humans, pigs, flies, et cetera, are working from within a paradigm, filling it out rather than challenging it. And if an anomaly arises within the theory, typically the scientist ignores it or forces it into the paradigm, since it is more than inconvenient to give up the entire paradigm for just a few anomalies. But if enough anomalies build up, a crisis state arises and science is ripe for a paradigm shift or revolution. In these times, competing theories are on an equal footing until one paradigm gains support and wins out. And then the process begins all over again.

Here we should point out that Kuhn's views on science are somewhat controversial. Many philosophers think the idea of paradigm shifts is too rela-tivistic because the choice of a new theory, according to Kuhn, is not rational. The crisis state does not contain within itself a vision of the new paradigm, which guarantees improvement. Rather, a new paradigm is established for reasons of power, control, and authority. Yet, it is hardly necessary to reject Kuhn's idea of how normal science is done as opposed to revolutionary science, even if one does reject the relativism or irrationality of theory choice. After all, most scientists will tell you quite frankly that sometimes the work is slow and tedious, and they certainly do not throw out a theory based on a few anomalies. They will also say that a Galileo or Darwin comes along rarely, which is not exactly controversial.24 And there is, in fact, a way to conceive paradigm shifts as a little more rational. Eco, for example, claims that these shifts are perfect examples of creative abductions, which provide logical explanations of the problematic anomalies.

With that in mind, it seems clear that Scully represents the dominant scientific paradigm. If she cannot explain something using current science, she will dismiss it or suspend judgment, noting that an explanation eventually will come. For example, with Eugene Victor Tooms (Doug Hutchison), who fits into tiny spaces, like pipes ("Squeeze" and "Tooms"), Scully has no explanation, so she suspends judgment (rather than reasoning creatively). Mulder, however, is never satisfied with what the paradigm leaves out or science's dismissal of anomalies, a point made by Mulder's informant "Deep Throat":

Deep Throat (Jerry Hardin): Mr. Mulder, why are those like yourself, who believe in the existence of extraterrestrial life on Earth, not entirely persuaded by all the evidence to the contrary?

Mulder: Because, all the evidence to the contrary is not entirely dissuasive.

Deep Throat: Precisely. ("Deep Throat")

Anomalies show that something is possible, and that is enough for Mulder's considerations—even enough for belief.

Scully, however, does come to believe as the seasons progress; and this (using Kuhn's model) is because the anomalies build up within the paradigm and create a crisis state. By the middle of the series, she is ready for a paradigm shift and sees Mulder initiating it. Indeed, Mulder has been quite ready for a paradigm shift since he was twelve. And he knows, too, that paradigm shifts follow a pattern. For just as alien science now looks crazy within our current paradigm, so, too, did Galileo to his contemporaries. And someday, Mulder knows too well, alien science will be just as common and foundational as the heliocentric solar system is today. He also knows that, far from the accountant type of scientist, who dutifully fills in the paradigm, it is, rather, the extremely passionate and obsessive—sometimes even religious (seemingly unscientific)—scientist who changes the way we see things, a man, in fact, just like Mulder.

Indeed, Mulder almost seems beyond paradigms altogether. After all, when we consider the incredible number of possible explanations to which Mulder opens himself, he seems to be the most revolutionary scientist of them all. He is open to almost anything: UFOs, telepathy, astrology, precognition, miracles, demons, shapeshifting, body-jumping, astral projection, stig-matas, aliens, monsters, werewolves, renegade alien bounty hunters, witches, ancient myths, anything that is possible, no matter how unlikely. And this openness to anything is why Mulder is perfect for the "X"-Files—again, these are cases filed under "X" for unclassifiable, unable to be fit into the FBI's paradigm. So, like any dominant paradigm, the FBI relegates the X-Files (as a set of strange anomalies) to the margins (out of sight, out of mind: in the basement). And Mulder (also marginalized) examines these obsessively, without ever worrying how fit them into the dominant paradigm.

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