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Tok Essay 2014 Grade A Level 7 Student Revision
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"That which is accepted as knowledge today is sometimes discarded tomorrow." Consider knowledge issues raised by this statement in two areas of knowledge.
To what extent can knowledge progress over time and does the nature of knowledge influence its progression? For instance, across Areas of Knowledge (AOKs) like the natural sciences and the ethics knowledge may progress differently. This is partially because in each of these AOKs the definition of knowledge slightly differs. The quote by using the word "sometimes" takes into account different possibilities, yet implies that knowledge is not always discarded. To explore whether knowledge accepted today is discarded tomorrow it is important to specify what "knowledge" means in the context of specific AOKs. In the natural sciences "scientific knowledge" may be defined as information that has been found to be valid through empirical evidence and rational deduction and has not yet been disproven. The nature of knowledge may be described by its establishment: It is established through various ways of knowing (WOK). First the scientist uses sense perception to observe his natural surroundings, then using creativity and imagination he could question how a specific natural phenomenon occurs. The natural scientist then aims to find an answer to the question through inductive and deductive logical reasoning, by setting up a hypothesis and finding supporting evidence. Other natural scientists may then come to know those findings through language and replicate them to strengthen prior knowledge or research may result in opposing evidence, potentially leading to the replacement of the old theory with a new one. Thus, the nature of the natural sciences influences its progression. Knowledge in the natural sciences aims to discover permanently valid objective laws of nature. Yet, can a theory be permanently valid? For instance humankind has learned long ago how to make fire and this knowledge has remained permanently valid. However, we have used this knowledge to develop new inventions like fuel, factories, or the Bunsen burner that we use in biology class. Thus, the natural sciences aim to make valid discoveries but since research is ongoing knowledge in the natural sciences changes over time instead of being "discarded".
It is the provisional nature of scientific knowledge that sets up the basis for the way that it progresses: previous knowledge is questioned and shaped, rather than "discarded", to form new scientific knowledge. The latest findings of natural sciences are then regarded as scientific knowledge accepted today while the older findings are one step in the process of acquiring this knowledge. For example in my science class I learned about Leucippus and Democritus, 5th century BC (Timeline of the Atomic Bomb), who were the first to develop theories on atomism, forming the foundations for knowledge developed by Newton in the 17th century and following various scientists that again developed this knowledge further (History of the Atomic Bomb). In such cases, knowledge may still be accepted as being valid, yet is perceived as limited since more extensive knowledge has been built upon it. However, this is assuming that scientists knew about the previous scientists' work. It may have been unlikely such knowledge existed when we consider scientific research in a time before communication between scientists around the world was possible. Oftentimes the buildup of knowledge is possible by enhancing WOK, as with the stethoscope that enhances auditory sense perception. From the above it can be seen that in the natural sciences knowledge accepted "today" is modified rather than discarded - even if a previous scientist found knowledge that could be falsified, it may have led later scientists closer towards a valid model. In contrast, it could be claimed that a paradigm shift, where a former valid theory was totally abandoned and replaced by a different theory, shows that knowledge in the natural sciences can be discarded. An example of an old theory being replaced by another, since contrary evidence was found, can be taken from my IB biology class where we learn about Mendel's law of independent assortment that widely changed the understanding of genetics. He proposed that alleles of genes located on different chromosomes assort independently from one another, creating genetic variety. Before Mendel, people often believed that the characteristics of parents were equally blended in the offspring. However, the paradigm shift may require some time to be accepted by the general public, as this depends on factors like perspectives, culture and beliefs of people, as well as pre-existing assumptions that had
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Natural Science Notes - Theory of Knowledge
Natural Science Quotes
- "It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this." (Bertrand Russell)
- "I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use." (Galileo Galilei)
- "He that will not reason is a bigot; he that cannot reason is a fool; and he that dares not reason is a slave." (William Drummond)
- “As a matter of historical fact, the history of science is, by and large, a history of progress.” (Karl Popper)
- "Critical reason is the only alternative to violence so far discovered." (Karl Popper)
- "Reason itself is a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all." (G K Chesterton)
- "You do not reason a man out of something he was not reasoned into." (Jonathan Swift)
Definitions of Natural Science
- A science or knowledge of objects or processes observable in nature,as biology or physics, as distinguished from the abstract or theoretical sciences, as mathematics or philosophy. (Dictionary.com)
- any of the sciences (as physics, chemistry, or biology) that deal with matter, energy, and their interrelations and transformations or with objectively measurable phenomena. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
Insights from Natural Science
The insights of science allow us to understand the processes of our world. People applying the methods of science have given us insights into things, from the more abstract (pure science) areas, such as the theory of relativity, big bang theory or evolution, to more practical areas (applied science) such as the research which have brought us antibiotics, electricity and all of our advanced technologies.
- Often insights which seem very abstract and unsuited to practical application end up having dramatic practical uses. For example, when the structure of DNA was first discovered, genetic engineering wasn't considered a practical possibility. Today, genetically modified crops have already reduced chemical pesticide use by 37% and increased crop yields by 22% (Klümper, W).
- The essense of the power of science is it’s predictive power. Science allows us to make predictions about what will and won't work in terms of technologies.
- Science is great at overcoming personal biases or wrong beliefs. Scientists aren't able to test every potentially wrong belief, but in the areas where scientific testing is possible (i.e. natural processes) the scientific method does a great job at uncovering false beliefs.
- Specific instances of scientific insight can be generalised, using inductive reasoning, to derive general principles of how the world works.
- Scientists are expected to record and share both their results and their methodologies. This means that new findings are shared widely and mistakes can be caught.
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