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Soil Science Society of America Journal Abstract -

The Soil Survey as Paradigm-based Science


This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 56 No. 3, p. 836-841
    Received: Apr 22, 1991

    * Corresponding author(s):
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  1. Berman D. Hudson 
  1. USDA-SCS, Federal Building, Room 152, 100 Centennial Mall North, Lincoln, NE 68508-3866



Thomas S. Kuhn developed the paradigm theory of science. The soil survey is an example of paradigm-based science. The soil-landscape model, on which the soil survey is based, is an operative paradigm. An extreme reliance on tacit knowledge, the knowledge gained by experience, creates serious inefficiencies, both in learning the soil-landscape paradigm and in disseminating the information resulting from its application. This article introduces concepts important to understanding paradigm theory and the nature of tacit knowledge. Among these are elements of Gestalt psychology, the theory of natural families, maps as conveyors of knowledge, and the linguistic nature of human perception. Students and field soil scientists should be provided explicit instruction concerning the paradigm on which soil mapping and interpretation are based. I also recommend that more of the soil geographic relationships discovered while making detailed soil maps be described and published so that the knowledge can be communicated to others.

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