TOK natural sciences (3)

How can scientists decide between competing hypotheses?

Develop your response with specific examples and counter arguments.

p.s. In terms of counter arguments here, you are not likely going to present ‘yes vs no’ arguments, but are more likely to demonstrate how one or more of the possible criteria for choosing between hypotheses are not completely satisfactory or at least problematic.


In terms of demonstrating the validity of a hypothesis, scientists often believe in the nature of science. They do not explain the exact reasons that caused something to happen as they think that things are just how they are and they believe that science is fully based on facts. Therefore, scientists rely on general theories and laws to support their observations in relation to the hypothesis, which is problematic as there is no practical evidence to show why they choose a specific hypothesis over another in a specific experiment. 


Confirmation bias is a kind of cognitive bias that scientists might have when they are to find evidence that aligns with their beliefs, which is subjective as they are not open-minded while collecting data or making observations. They also prefer the simpler theory when there are two or more theories that make the same predictions, which is called the principle of simplicity, in terms of deciding between competing hypotheses. These phenomena are caused by background assumptions, which means that scientists create hypothesis based off their beliefs, which could possibly be wrong. To go more in-depth, the principle of simplicity is largely caused by aesthetics as it has been proven that people love seeing things organized in a way that is clear and easy to perceive. Thus, scientists have the habit of choosing the simpler theory than a more complicated one, resulting in systemic error of inductive reasoning and loses the meaning of being fair in an experiment. However, it is same as how scientists believe in the ‘nature of science’, meaning that there is no reason at all behind the a particular theory and instead they just say that those are ‘facts’. For example, according to the video about Occam’s Razor, it is a algorithmic method used to decide which tree of gene sequences is the ‘best’. Usually, the sequence that has the fewest stages would be considered to be the ‘best’ in the scientific world. This relates to the theory of simplicity, suggesting that scientists tend to believe that the easier version is ultimately the most correct one.


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TOK natural sciences (2)

Video – Why do people believe in weird things?

What does Michael Shermer mean when he claims that science is a verb?

He means that science is not an object/a thing that physically exists, it is an abstract concept or activity in which you would use scientific laws/theories to prove that certain phenomena is true. It is also commonly seen as an area of knowledge, which also makes the quote “science is a verb” become logical because an “area of knowledge” is philosophical and we often use this idea to conduct further experiments and establish in depth knowledge.


What reasons does Shermer give for our tendency to believe unlikely claims?

Shermer stated that the main reasons of why people believe in weird things is because of the appearance of miracles and illusions. This means that unlikely claims might not be actually true, because the proof that you have might not be consistent, it might just have happened in a sudden or it may be perceived wrong. However, there is still a possibility that the certain weird claim is true because miracles may have taken place and made the claim true, which cannot be explained scientifically. For example, Shermer gave an example about auditory illusions, about a film that features a dead man talking. This shows the violation of the theory that dead would not be able to talk and it will be extremely difficult to find evidence to prove the point.


What two advantages did Christiaan Huygens have over Galileo in trying to understand observations of the ring of Saturn?

Christiaan Huygens had a good theory of planetary rings and how solar system operated. Better telescopic was also available at the time during his exploration, which allows better quality images and data and eventually leads to a reasonable conclusion.


According to Shermer, what mistakes do pseudosciences such as astrology or parapsychology make that prevent them from gaining knowledge?

Knowledge within pseudosciences are usually not as reliable as natural sciences due to the bias that most people develop according to what they believe. This is because there is no scientific proof to those areas of knowledge, resulting in different opinions, meaning that some statements do not make sense to some people. For example, we always use our intuition to judge something vague without making a rationale, it is just that we believe in it and there is no way that we could explain. This makes it harder for us to gain knowledge because we do not actually understand the logical reasons behind it, in fact, we are persuading ourselves to think in the way that we intuitively think is right.

Furthermore, Christiaan mentioned that people tend to remember the hits and forgot the the misses, however, science subjects are based on concrete evidence and observations. Pseudoscience does not have a balance between data and theory, which makes it difficult for others to understand because it is often illogical. Therefore, this prevents people from gaining sufficient knowledge in pseudosciences such as astrology because there is no solid evidence to base on.


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TOK natural sciences (1)

Reflecting on our discussions in class, and with inspiration from the TED video, what distinguishes Natural Sciences from other AOKs?  

Natural sciences differ from other AOKs because it is a subject that requires us to build our knowledge on logic and using specific scientific methods to prove particular phenomena. Concluding the discussion that we had in class, the main ideas that make natural sciences different (in my perspective) is that everything is based on belief and there’s always scientific laws or claims to prove something is true. Naomi Oreskes suggests that hypothesis is the law of nature, claims are judged and proved by scientists, which means the reason that we are trusting in scientific theories is that we believe in scientists and the “factual statements” that they made. On the other hand, natural sciences is said to be an area of discipline that provides factual information while it is also tentative, which makes it confusing sometimes as facts tend to be fixed. This makes natural science stands out from other subjects because it combines imagination and factual information. For instance, we create testable predictions to conduct experiments and eventually, laws are used to backup the data. This shows that natural sciences aren’t like math and languages as math theories are not open to change; languages are completely open to interpretation.


Identify any potential issues or questions that may arise when you consider your definitions.

According to Naomi Oreskes, “most of us were taught in school that the reason we should believe in science is because of the scientific method.” This indicates that we do not actually know the reasons behind how specific methods are created as we are just “told” to believe in it. Thus, we do not know whether those laws are guaranteed to be true at all times while “law” means that it is always true, in other words, cannot be broken. 


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Real Life Situation:

Much of what goes on inside our bodies and our brains is influenced by a combination of genes and environment, nature and nurture.

2nd Order Knowledge Claim:

One’s actions and decisions can be influenced by the way they are brought up.

Environmental factors are crucial to physical development in living organisms.

Knowledge Question:

To what extent is the way one is brought up an influential factor for his/her action and decision?

How significant are external factors to physical growth in all living things?

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Ifolio Entry #2

1. Biology and TOK

It is important to explore those TOK questions regarding biology because we should develop better ideas of the concepts that we are constantly learning as biology is all around us. For example, one of the TOK questions that I created for this specific biology case is “Why do consumers only become ethical when facing crisis”. This allows us to explore into the concept of ethics when thinking about consuming endangered species, in which majority of consumers do not often think about this topic, which triggers us to reflect on our lives and to deeply understand the importance of caring about the environment or the society as a whole, thus, it will be easier for us to understand the real life situation claim “consumers start to reject shark fin products” as we explored into ethics and human behaviours.

2. Business and TOK

Exploring the TOK questions relevant to business is significant because we encounter businesses every day, such as, restaurant and public transport. We can reflect on our lives so that we will be more familiar with the concepts when looking at more specific claims (first order). For example, a second order question that I created is “how useful is motivation in terms of increasing productivity”. This is a general question that can be applied to everyone, such as, students and labour workers, which makes us think about the topic of motivation and relate back to our experiences. Therefore, it is easier for us to understand the first order claim “employees should be motivated to come to work” because we know that motivation is crucial in terms of producing good process/results.

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TOK Intro Activity


Link to PDF of my TOK Intro Activity about the statement: “If you cannot explain something to someone else, you do not know it”


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TOK Ifolio Entry 1 – Sense Perception

“Even though there are problems with our perceptual systems, this doesn’t mean that knowledge gained from our senses is completely unreliable.”

In the Arts, we often perceive the messages behind it in different ways. For example, the most common and direct way of understanding a piece of painting or to appreciate a music piece, is to use our visions to observe and read. However, for some people who is blind usually use their better sense, such as, touching, to feel a piece of painting, and listening, to appreciate a music piece by telling someone to play it for them. This shows that even if there are problems with one of their five senses, they can still gain knowledge through other ways, which can still be accurate. This shows that we do not only use one of our senses to perceive things and people use different senses to perceive what they want to see. However, this limits to the amount of knowledge that we gain as we often selectively choose only certain things that we want to see instead of seeing the bigger picture.

In addition, we often perceive things differently in the arts, such as, interpreting a piece of abstract art in our own system of thinking, which might as well differs from the original intention of the artist who created the art piece. However, people believe in what they perceive so even if your interpretation differs from the original meaning, it does not necessarily mean that you are wrong because the arts is open to interpretation, which is usually depending on your intuition and imagination. This indicates that our knowledge would not be completely unreliable because people have faith in their beliefs and we all perceive things differently.

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Grade 10 Service as Action

Service Experiences:

  • Experience week to Japan
  • Habitat for Humanity Build Trip to Conghua, China



  1. How did you become more aware of your own strengths and areas for growth?

    After participating in the two volunteering activities to two different places (mentioned above), I have become more aware of my own strengths and areas for growth because I learned to do something that I had never done before within a short period of time. I realised that I am a quick learner and I am able to communicate well with the locals. For example, during my experience week to Japan, my host family taught me how to remove crops from their farm, which was my first time doing this kind of work. However, I was able to catch up very quickly and helped her harvest a lot of sweet potatoes. Moreover, they cannot speak English well and I cannot speak Japanese fluently, I was able to communicate with them through body language and a little bit of Japanese simple phrases. Thus, I think that these are my strengths. However, I noticed some areas of improvement, for example, it took me quite a long time to remember the Japanese etiquettes and I could not adapt to the traditional culture in Japan. Therefore, I think I might need to improve in this area, to adapt faster to a new environment.

  2. How did you undertake challenges that developed new skills?

    In the Habitat for Humanity build trip to Conghua, we had to move bricks and build the wall using concrete and the bricks. I was in charge of the wall building part and a local villager taught me the skills that I need in order to build the wall of a house. The bricks were heavy and it was quite difficult to meet their expectations because we cannot make errors when building the fundamentals of a house otherwise people cannot live in it. Since I was not able to meet the requirements at the beginning, we had to demolish layers of bricks for several time which was quite frustrating because I worked very hard but at the end my work was not certified. I finally got the concept and skills of building a wall after few hours of building and demolishing, which I thought was definitely a challenge because it was not as easy as I thought, a lot of practises are needed.

  3. How did you discuss, evaluate and plan student-initiated activities?

    I was able to actively participate in those events, listen carefully to the leaders and collaborate well with other group mates. For example, we had a few info. sessions before the experience week to Japan took place, so we spent the time to do preparation work for the trip. I volunteered to be the photographer of the trip, which shows that I was able to take initiative during the planning/prep. process of the activity.

  4. How did you persevere in action?

    I persevered with the work that I was doing in the activities most of the time even though it was difficult because my purpose of joining those activities was to actually gain experiences, acquire new skills and help the others. Therefore, I reminded myself my intension of joining those activities very often as well as to think more positively, such as, thinking how meaningful it was. I think that those strategies were effective in terms of persevering with my work.

  5. How did you work collaboratively with others?

    I collaborated with others in both of the service experiences because both activities required group work. I worked as a group by listening to the others all the time, participating in conversations and helping each other out during critical moments. We were also divided into small groups and each group is responsible for a job. For example, in the China build trip, some of the teammates were in charge of moving bricks and the rests were in charge of building the wall. I was able to wait for my teammates to move the bricks to my side patiently and ask them if they needed any help. I thought that this kind of communication and collaboration skills are very successful because we were helping each other out and allocating work so that everyone has a chance to be responsible for something and eventually we could achieve our goals and finish the big project together within the time given.

  6. How did you develop international-mindedness through global engagement, multilingualism and intercultural understanding?

    As can be seen above, I went to two difference places that are outside of Hong Kong to volunteer, which clearly shows that I developed international-mindedness through global engagement, multilingualism and intercultural understanding. It is because I was able to work in other countries and contribute to their community, which shows that I engaged globally. I was also able to communicate with the locals in different languages, such as, using cantonese to communicate with villagers in Guang Zhou and using some Japanese phrases to have simple conversation with rural Japanese people. This shows that I developed my multilingualism as I was able to utilise my language skills as well as learning new languages to interact with the locals in the places where I volunteered. Moreover, I exposed to different cultures through my service experiences. For example, in rural Japan, I learned a lot about the Japanese traditional cultures and etiquettes, which allowed me to increase my global awareness.

  7. How did you consider the ethical implications of your actions?


    I noticed that people’s lives are very difficult in less developed cities. For example, all of the villagers have to be construction workers in a village in China and they work for long hours every day. Therefore, I decided to join this activity to help them build a better community and reduce the amount of work that they need to get done in order to complete the entire building project within their village. I think that the service experiences that I had this year were really meaningful to me because I feel that I contributed a lot to the community and helped a lot of people by taking action. Since I went to rural area and less developed cities to volunteer, I think that my participation made a difference to their lives as the villagers/locals become happier after meeting people from other places.