The purpose of this chapter is to examine the process of knowledge change in the domains of science, religion, and magic. We examine knowledge change in institutions, in expert adults, in nonexpert adults, and in children. Throughout the chapter, we consider (a) similarities and differences in the knowledge change process across the three domains; and (b) similarities and differences in the knowledge change process across institutions, expert adults, nonexpert adults, and children.
Our focus is on how people modify their knowledge in response to anomalous data. Anomalous data are observations of real-world events, or reports of such observations, that contradict current beliefs. For instance, for a child who believes that God always answers prayers, an unanswered prayer would be anomalous data. We have chosen to examine the role of anomalous data in knowledge change because in many instances of fundamental knowledge change, encounters with anomalous data are at the core of the knowledge change process (Kuhn, 1962; Piaget, 1985). We think that anomalous data play a significant role in knowledge change in all three domains and at all levels of expertise.
At the outset, it is important to be clear about how we are defining the domains and the levels of expertise. Scientific knowledge consists of conceptions about the physical and biological world. Religious knowledge includes conceptions of a transcendent reality such as conceptions of God, salvation, heaven and hell, enlightenment, and Buddhahood.