One way to view the history of Western Civilization is to see it as moving through a series of collective and common systems of belief. These clusters of culturally held beliefs are often refereed to as Weltanschauunge, the predominant worldview.
Since the time of Nicolas Copernicus, at the beginning of the 15th Century, with the inception of the Renaissance and as part of it, the scientific revolution, the predominant worldview has been that science offers our best way of understanding the world.
Within this larger belief system of science which our cultural has mostly subscribed to, there have been what historian and philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn has identified a series paradigms, constellations of beliefs about what constitutes normal science, within the various major scientific disciplines.
Paradigms contain sets of accepted theoretical models, that scientists use as the basis of what to study. In addition, paradigms often contain a set of rules which scientists use do science.
While science has been with us since the time of Copernicus, Kuhn in his book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, provides examples that within major scientific disciplines, there has been sequence of these paradigms, which are at first accepted, but then later when observations inconsistent with the predominant paradigm start piling up. Each new paradigm represents a new worldview within science, which is then followed by it’s own kind of scientific revolution.
These inconsistencies might thought of as like Teutonic pressures building up within a major fault in the earth. When they reach a critical lever, there is a sudden shift, an earthquake. Similarly, scientific paradigms have their own kind of earthquakes, revolutionary periods within science which give way to new paradigms which may be radically different than those that preceded them.
Five hundred years ago, we thought that the world was flat. Old maps reflected this paradigm by showing a world as flat. The intrepid explorers of the day, sailed the seven seas, afraid at finding the far corners of the world. They were literally “on edge.”
So much was invested in the notion that the world was both the center of the universe and flat that map makers as recently as the Nineteenth Century clung to notion. Here is an image from the Smithsonian Institute depicting on such cartographer’s rendition of our planet.