What distinguishes the natural sciences from other AOKs?

Natural sciences is just one of the many AOKs but what really distinguishes it from the others?

Natural sciences versus the arts:

Some often consider natural sciences to be the furthest AOK from art and the two are often pitted against one another but they do share similarities. Both are primarily theoretical, though in different ways. Whilst science is measurable and applies to the physical world, art uses theories in ways more open to interpretation and measuring this goes against the values put in place typically.

Natural sciences versus History:

The key difference between history and natural sciences is that whilst history looks to the past for a certain truth, natural sciences can look into the future to find understanding. Both are receptive to change and theories but history is not able to be observed in real time and thus not testable and verifiable in the same way the natural sciences are with experimentation.

Natural sciences versus Maths:

A key difference here is the way the AOKs come to reason. Natural science is about inductive reasoning whilst math is deductive. Both areas use theories and ways of backing up statements or claims but typically natural sciences are based on physical evidence whilst proof in math comes about by way of theories.

Natural sciences versus human sciences:

Natural sciences and human sciences share a clear similarity in that they are both classified as sciences. The scientific method can be applied in both with a full research question and hypothesis method along with measurable evidence. They also both follow inductive reasoning and are fundamentally a search for understanding. The differences come around via limitations. Human sciences are not limited to just the physical world and measurable in different ways that can be hard to repeat.

 

 

Natural sciences versus Ethics:

Neither natural sciences or ethics are an absolute AOK as well as neither are a collection of solid facts. Both can be especially biased, but ethics perhaps in a more human way. Ethics is also not based upon experimentation and evidence though people will sometimes interpret their own evidence to support ethical beliefs.

 

Natural sciences versus Religious knowledge systems:

Natural sciences and religious knowledge systems are rather different and are famously known for being “in war” with each-other. Natural sciences deal with the natural physical world whilst religious knowledge can go beyond this. Natural sciences are at times more open to changes in theories based on evidence whilst religious systems may not rely on physical evidence and are decided upon by belief and faith. Despite this they do share some similarities such as neither being certain or disprovable. Neither are also able to be applied to every issue in the world.

Natural sciences versus Indigenous knowledge groups:

The main differences here are that natural sciences are measurable and based on testable predictions whilst indigenous knowledge is not and at its core, natural sciences are a search for understanding, using theories and experimentation. Both however can be biased and unfair since neither AOK is without bias.

All in all, Natural Sciences are an AOK focused on helping us better understand the physical world around us through an experiment and induction based system.

AOK 1: Natural Sciences

Knowledge claim: The difference between science and pseudoscience is that science can provide us with the truth. Evaluate this claim.

Science is defined as the intellectual and practical activity of studying of the structure and behaviour of the physical / natural world through experimentation and observation. Pseudoscience on the other hand is a set of beliefs or practices that are supposedly (but incorrectly) based on scientific method. An example of this would be something like palm-reading, where palm-readers claim they can understand someone’s life based off on the topography of someone’s hand.

Looking at this knowledge claim after reading through the definitions of the key terms, we can see that on a base level the knowledge claim could be seen as somewhat true. Since pseudo-science is based off of improper or no use of the scientific method whereas science relies on this method of experimentation and observation, it could be implicitly inferred that this means science is more likely to give us reliable and valid results, whereas the results provided by pseudo-science may not be reliable.

Taking this further however, we can begin to further examine natural sciences not only as an area of knowledge but as a way of finding the truth. Science uses primarily empirical observations (knowledge acquired by means of senses) and inductive reasoning. The inductive reasoning method is often also called the scientific method, as if we see an event over and over again we assume that it is the norm and presume that a pattern is present. For instance, if we see the sun rise every day then we assume that the sun will rise everyday and that we’ll see it rise tomorrow. Inductive reasoning is basically going from a handful of specific observations and forming a general law (I see the sun rise each morning, therefore the sun will rise every morning). If you looked at this you may originally presume then that the scientific method with inductive reasoning will reveal the truth to us. Ultimately, there are some faults with inductive reasoning however. If we make general laws based only on what we have seen before, there may be outside variables that we haven’t seen before that change that law. An example of this is the black swan conundrum presented by David Hume: For centuries, people believed that all swans were white as they had only ever seen white swans before. When black swans were found in Australia however, this general law was proved incorrect. So no matter how many white swans there were, it only took a single black swan to reveal the faults in the law. This is the central issue with inductive reasoning and thus the scientific method. Science can be used to form laws but these laws can always be found to be incorrect through new evidence coming in. This can raise some red-flags then as if there is the possibility that new evidence can be found out there in the physical universe to disprove a law, then how much trust can we put in what science believes to be “the truth.” Experiments and observations have been made in the past to prove laws such as gravity but laws can always be disproved or changed.

Whereas pseudo-science can’t reliably provide use with the truth as it doesn’t follow a reasonable scientific method, there are also faults with the scientific method that natural sciences use to prove the truth. Because of this we could see that between the two, natural sciences could be seen as more reliable because of the process used but ultimately in “truth finding” it can not always be trusted.

 

Invisible Man and the Seven Plots

In Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, we follow the journey of a black man in an America dominated and controlled by white men and see his struggles in and against the model of this world. What has happened in what I have read so far is that the title character – the invisible man – was brought up in a middle-class family environment and granted a scholarship to a prestigious black university. Where I am right now, he is waiting to see whether he will be allowed to stay in this school after driving around a wealthy white man, who on the trip talked to a disgraced back father and nearly died at a local bar.

Another piece of reading that we have done in literature class is the Seven Plots by Christian Booker, a mammoth of a book that talks about the different types of stories in history. When looking at these two books together we can start to analyse and choose which plot the Invisible Man best resembles. At this point I believe that Invisible Man follows the tragic plot of ‘rebelling against The One.’ The characteristics of this plot are that there is a smaller force (the invisible man) trying to rebel against a large powerful force (the white dominating culture). The plot is typically tragic as the smaller force is crushed into submission near the end. We see this plot in books such as Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and 1984 by George Orwell, where both protagonists are defeated by the overwhelming power of the force. Thus far in the book it seems that the invisible man is struggling with the world he is in and overwhelmed by the dominance of the white man. We also see many allusions to religious stories and religious diction and imagery. This could refer to the Book of Job, which is one of the original ‘rebelling against The One’ stories, where Job is literally rebelling against the ultimate One (god, of course). Although I still have a fair amount to read yet in both books and my interpretation of what plot it follows may change yet, it is still very interesting to study these two texts at the same time and see how they can work together to produce further meaning.

Language

“The vagueness and ambiguity of language always limits the production of knowledge.”

This is an important question to examine as language has an immense impact on our understanding of our world. What we say and more importantly, the way we say it can unforeseen consequences or interpretations chiefly because everyone understands and uses language in different ways. There are lots of questions that we can also pose about this statement.

Firstly, we can examine this statement through the lens of two different AOKs. If we look at it through a maths AOK, it can be very true. The kind of language and the extent of the language that we use to express ourselves in this subject can limit the meaning that it can have. In maths class, we are always learning to use specific language to describe equations or events as each word in maths has a set meaning that can infer its direct meaning. Meanwhile if we look at this through and arts AOK (for example: looking specifically literature) then the vagueness and ambiguity of language is literally what you study and thus doesn’t limit the production of knowledge. In literature/theatre/film/art, everyone creates in a different style for different reasons and when we study this it isn’t limiting our knowledge but expanding it through variety.

We do however, have to pose some knowledge questions when we look at this statement. Questions such as: What defines language as being vague or ambiguous? How does language affect the way we produce knowledge? Is our use of language affected by our values and beliefs?

 

Reason and Logic

In TOK we learnt about the different kinds of logic: inductive and deductive. Inductive knowledge is where we see conclusions or rules based on a limited number of observations and is the kind of logic we would see in the sciences. An example of inductive knowledge is: My pen fell when I dropped it, all pens will fall when I drop them. Deductive knowledge on the other hand is taking a series of statements and finding a conclusion based on them. This way of logic is used in maths and could look like: All men are mortal, Johnny is a man, therefore Johnny is mortal.

Both of these kinds of logic come with their problems. Inductive logic can not always be certain as your experience of the world may be limited and it makes us assume the world is a regular predictable place. You may have only seen black pens in your life and therefore concluded that all pens were black but on the other side of the world they may see only blue pens. The problems with deductive knowledge is that the premises for conclusion usually come from inductive knowledge. Additionally this kind of logic cares strongly about the structure of the argument and thus could be less certain.

IB Retreat Reflection

Let me set the scene for the morning of the first of September. It’s a Thursday morning. Not a particularly beautiful one at that, but you could wax whatever poetry you wanted about how as the clouds cleared towards the end of the day, so did our minds. I’m on a bus. I’m very sleepy and it’s a crowded bus and I’m trying to play a game on my phone that has quickly become the bane of my existence. It involves collecting fruit and jumping over spikes and it is infuriating. I had no clue what to expect from the IB retreat, and frankly at that point in the morning, I felt so preoccupied by other things. The game, the dreary sky, the fact I would be missing a rehearsal that afternoon, the ending of a book we were reading in literature, my own existence as a cog in the machine of life. You know, standard thoughts. We finally arrive at the Gold Coast Hotel and I feel like I’m on familiar grounds (I had been here last week for the student council retreat) but that was a misconception. Like I said, I didn’t know what to expect from the IB retreat but I definitely did not expect anything that I got from it. The retreat rid my mind of all the thoughts that seemed to be cluttered in it. I wasn’t thinking about the weather or the rehearsal or the book ending or the stupid iphone game (that’s a lie, I am a slave to technology and I had to finish that level).

The first day was frankly intellectually overwhelming and I enjoyed it immensely. The thing about the first few weeks back in school is that there are no challenges. We made a music video for film, yes. We devised a piece in theatre, sure. Read some traumatising short stories, definitely. But at one point you realise that you’re not applying yourself 100%. You get work but you get no challenges. That’s what’s so dangerous about the regular school routine. You have work to do so you do it. You don’t complete challenges you complete work. So suddenly I’m in a very austere looking set of ballrooms surrounded by my peers whilst the aircon in turned up too high and I don’t understand half of what anyone is saying at first and I love it. There is no work to do here, there is just thinking. Before I continue off on a tangent about the incredible yet terrifying aspects of thought, it’s probably important to reflect on some of the specific activities that stuck with me from the retreat. The whole TOK rotation of talks were all very nicely done. Two that especially stuck were the poetry sessions and talking about how we are not our own thoughts. The second rotation got increasingly interactive with a poetry performance from an extremely talented Blair Reeve and some talks that facilitated more discussion and then the third rotation got even more interactive, especially when it came to a mindfulness session and an improv session. The only problem here was that these two were in adjacent ballrooms so the process of extracting stress from my subconscious was periodically interrupted by Mr Smeed screaming about a hamburger.

The rest of the day was a strange affair for me. To be suddenly tossed back into the world after all those activities is like walking out of a cinema after watching a movie. You’re slightly light-headed, you can’t stop thinking about what you’ve just seen, and you need to pee quite badly. 

Spending time with friends is always nice, and after we’d loaded up on slightly (correction: very regrettably) unhealthy provisions and made a whole lot of weird faces at each other, we returned to freezer ballroom to watch ’12 Angry Men.’ Setting the scene for this is equally as important as the beginning. Roughly 120 tired sixteen year olds are in a room. In this room, a film called ’12 Angry Men’ is playing. At first, people are making jokes: Why are they so angry? Where are the angry women? Why are we watching this in an icebox? Then slowly, like the jurors within the film, students start to get into it. I see a girl a few rows in front of me sit up straighter. Someone stretches and sits forward. My friend behind me nearly spills water because she’s focusing too much on the film and not on the fact that she placed the cup of water was nowhere her mouth (again, I’m lying. This was me). Like typical sixteen year olds we continue to make jokes throughout the movie to avoid giving away that we are actually enjoying something in a pure form. A chorus of challenging ‘oooohs’ emits from the crowd whenever Henry Fonda brings up a particularly good point.

The challenges and the immense enjoyment continued into the second day when we visited Crossroads to go through a poverty simulation. Since I’ve set up the motif of setting the scene, it must continue now. We’re at crossroads and it’s hot. The fans aren’t on because we’re all incredibly smart students in a competitive school and none of us have tried to turn the fans on. There’s some frogs jumping around along a wall. I see two of the frogs pee. It’s a magical start to the day. The poverty simulation itself is the most stressful experience. 45 minutes of hands-shaking-bag-making-flour-glue-losing-my-shoes fun. My “family” and I all work pretty well so we can afford to go to the toilet and none of us get diseases. Yay. Ignoring my naturally sardonic tone, the poverty simulation really was incredible. The man who ran the simulation (and I believe crossroads as well) was the most passionate man that I have ever met. You really do walk away from that feeling like you can make a difference in the world despite being so small.

And then it’s back to the real world where there exists both work and challenge. Once I am back on the bus I feel like I am becoming preoccupied again. I have to focus on a flute audition I have later that day and on eating the strange looking egg tomato rice in front of me and on the iphone game once again. But at this point I realise that these things that seemed menial before aren’t. We’re all just living and what we’re preoccupied with is a part of that. Participating in experiences like the retreat give you a break to step back and examine them under different lenses. To examine where we’re going with life.

It’s a Friday afternoon. Not a particularly beautiful one. I’m on a bus and I’m playing an iphone game and somehow I feel entirely different.

Emotion

The arts are all about emotional expression: emotion is the most important thing in this area of knowledge

There are aspects of this statement that can be argued for or against. Firstly there is a lot that you can say to support this claim. Art is typically the expression of creativity and skills, showing that it is about a form of expression on its own. Much of what the art I am familiar deals with is emotion. Whether it be paintings, music, theatre, film, dance, or any other form of art, the art that I am familiar with doing deals chiefly with emotions and how they are expressed. Art pieces are typically made to make you feel a certain way. When an artist makes a minimalist sculpture, it is not (always) about just making a structure to confuse people, but to make them really think and feel. Similarly, in theatre and dance, conveying emotions is one of the most key performance aspects.

Despite all this, a counter-argument can definitely still be made. To say that the arts is all about emotional expression diminishes the skills put into all art forms. Beyond making an audience experience an emotional response or conveying an emotion through performance, there are a myriad of technical skills and techniques needed for the arts, and in a sense there is a methodical science to the arts as well. In theatre, there in an entire other world backstage running technical elements and though the products of their work may go towards expressing an emotion (the lighting / sound / set), in their jobs it is not all about expressing emotion. In visual arts, there are infinite techniques and styles meaning that when an artist is painting, they are thinking not only of what they want to represent but the way they are working.

In terms of my own view, I am in the middle when it comes to whether I agree or disagree with this statement. Arts is not all about emotional expression, but it can not be denied that they go hand in hand.

Perception

Can we trust our senses? Something that we discussed in TOK was the way that we perceive things. What we see, hear, smell, feel, and taste may seem real to us but there are very valid ways in which our senses can trick us. For instance, if you look at an optical illusion, you may be seeing something that’s not really there, or you could not be seeing something at all. Our perception of colours, shapes, lines, etc, can be manipulated through these means. For hearing, we may be hearing things that aren’t there based on our experiences. Walking along a road at night, you may swear that you hear things behind you just because you’re scared, or you may think that you can hear a certain song in the distance when its just your mind perceiving it that way.

Our senses aren’t always the most observant as well. For instance, we watched two different videos in class designed to test your observation skills. In the first, what was framed as a murder mystery actually included a bunch of changes in scenery and props that went usually unnoticed by the viewer. In the second, you were told to count how many times a basketball was passed around and may have missed the moon-walking bear. Interesting stuff.

Of course, there are many situations that we can trust our senses but we just can’t believe what we hear, see, smell, feel, taste all the time. The best way to have more trust in our senses is to try and verify what we perceive.

Personal Knowledge and Shared Knowledge

Recently in TOK we have been examining the concepts of personal and shared knowledge. Personal knowledge is the knowledge that an individual has, whether from their experiences, or second-hand. Some personal knowledge can be incommunicable and private to the individual. Shared knowledge on the other hand is the knowledge that the collective has, meaning all the knowledge that all the individuals have shared.

A question to examine from the perspectives of personal and shared knowledge: Have you ever done a science experiment and got a result that differed from the textbook? If so, which did you trust – your own result, or the textbook? Why?

This has actually happened to me a few times in science class (something that I attribute to the fact that I am not very scientifically skilled or coordinated in the needed areas). In all cases I have trusted the results in my textbook or on the articles read on science websites due to the fact that I have more faith in their scientific academic knowledge and the knowledge they are sharing than my own personal knowledge. These textbooks have the responsibility to show the most correct aspects of the scientific community’s shared knowledge and since I understand my own personal academic scientific knowledge is not very high. To me, this is an example of where personal and shared knowledge work together to produce the best outcome.

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Here is a visual showing the areas of knowledge.

In terms of my own personal knowledge, at this point I can give a preliminary rating to each area of my personal knowledge:

Academic knowledge:
I believe this is moderate for me because personally believe I have a huge deal more to learn and understand in all AOKs and aspects of life.

Informal knowledge:
Again I would say this is moderate for the same reasons as above. Most of what I understand about culture and history has been given second-hand though additionally a good deal comes from what I have inferred and drawn conclusions on.

Experiential knowledge:
This area is slightly higher for me mostly because I think that 16 years of experience is a reasonable amount. I have always been an observant and introverted person so I learn a lot from my everyday experiences.

Secret knowledge:
Again since I’m an introvert, I believe there is a lot I choose not to share with people. Not because certain experiences / information is traumatising but because there are a lot of things that I believe to be deeply personal.

Incommunicable knowledge:
This refers to knowledge that may be more emotional and personally linked to yourself and incommunicable. I would like to believe there is a lot of this within me but really it is so difficult to judge (and to communicate!)

End of Year Service Reflection

At the end of the year now, I have completed service activities both within and out of school. Within the school community, for the past year I have been a member of the Environmental Club. What we do in the club is all to promote environmental sustainability and to raise awareness about key environmental issues both within and outside of the school. Some of the activities that we have done this year are organising beach cleanups, giving presentations and other activities, and making posters and signs for the school. Outside of school, I participated in some service work via helping out younger kids in a community theatre production. Though I was in the production as a cast member, I also participated by volunteering as a stage manager to manage to sound and lighting of the show and also organising things backstage such as makeup and cleaning up. Now that the year is ending, I am able to reflect on what I have done throughout this year.
Photographic Evidence of Service Done:
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(Picture of the E-Club Facebook chat where we share ideas and talk over things)
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(Tech notes being made during process of helping with theatre production)
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(Photo taken in booth on night of performance)
I became more aware of my own strengths and areas for growth through these service activities. I discovered that I feel quite passionate about the environment, as shown by my participation within the school community and I also found a newfound interest in helping out backstage in theatre. Some areas of growth would be interacting with others though. I found that sometimes when presenting to other people or children I can feel quite uncomfortable and this is something that I can work on as to put myself out there for more service activities. I developed new communication skills from encountering these challenges though, as since I had to work with children or people who sometimes had differing opinions, I worked on my people skills. I, myself didn’t organise a lot of activities by myself but this could be something to look forward to in next year though. I will be able to persevere and put myself out there more by maybe applying for an executive position in environmental club next year.
I think the ethical implications of my actions are quite positive as I was helping engage others to solve environmental issues and to develop their own skills and passion in theatre. Working with others on these important causes has helped me see the importance of international open-mindedness and service in all.