One of the main factors that have made the human sciences so valuable over the years is their ability to explain and describe human behavior.

Despite the fact that this area of knowledge is composed of a wide range of disciplines such as economics, sociology and psychology, they all rely on a shared methodology to examine human existence or behavior.

To solve any knowledge questions that arise, experts have used observation, the collection of data and the formation of hypotheses to ascertain the legitimacy of any assumptions postulated within the human sciences.

Experts have been able to uncover specific theories or laws after they ascertain whether a specific hypothesis is able to stand the test of time.

However, when compared to the natural sciences, laws in this area of knowledge are more challenging to define because human behavior is erratic and often changes.

Therefore, during the process of knowledge production, experts often face challenges when applying the scientific method.

While it is evident that these challenges are not only confined to this area of knowledge, they are magnified when IB students are answering knowledge questions about human behavior.

Another significant limitation associated with the human sciences is that not all knowledge issues associated with human behavior can be addressed through experimentation. This is mainly because experts find it hard to repeat experiments pertaining to human behavior under the exact same conditions.

Examples and Explanations

Example #1

presecribed title
  • Claim - The examination of both sides of a disagreement often provides information that guides theorists in various disciplines within this area of knowledge
    Example – Presence of different schools of economic thought.
  • Counterclaim - Not all forms of the approach proposed by this tok prescribed title produces the same results.
    Example - Contrasting claims on the determinants of demand or supply in economics.

In order to assess the influence of disagreements within the human sciences in IB TOK essay writing, we need to examine Thomas Kuhn’s argument that proposes that anomalies often exist for different paradigms and theories. 

This essentially means that scientific inquiry often involves an acceptable level of error or uncertainty due to the lack of absoluteness in this area of knowledge.

Regardless of this fact, scientific knowledge claims are rooted in empiricism. Additionally, these claims are subject to limitations such as the influence of ways of knowing such as emotion and paradigm bias.

This aspect explains why the interpretation of shared empirical evidence can result in the development of competing claims.

However, the examination of these claims often provides information that guides theorists in various disciplines within this area of knowledge. An instance that exemplifies this fact is in economics where experts come up with different schools of economic thought.

Ultimately, the resolution of these disputes results in perspectives such as classical economists believing in a free market’s ability to achieve equilibrium.

Such discoveries have shaped economic models for the past few decades and have helped experts to explain events such as the Great Depression.

Based on this information, it is evident that the evaluation of the contrasting claims eventually results in the formulation of better models.

However, on the contrary, not all forms of the approach proposed by this tok prescribed title produces the same results. In some cases, aspects such as differences in methodologies that are employed by experts can result in disputes that cannot be resolved.

This shows that there are inherent drawbacks to the examination of competing knowledge claims. In such instances, standards and generalizations that result in consensus are preferred during the pursuit of knowledge.

As a result, some of the models developed by experts within the field of economics cannot be disagreed with.

For instance, even though there exist contrasting claims on the determinants of demand or supply, economists rely on the demand or supply curve to represent the influences of the determinants of demand or supply.

This tok essay example shows the drawbacks associated with the development of disagreements in the human sciences.

Example #2

“Reliable knowledge can lack certainty.” Explore this claim with reference to two areas of knowledge.

Knowledge in the human sciences often possesses a margin of uncertainty mainly because it is based on human interpretation. However, this uncertainty does not invalidate the legitimacy of knowledge.

In this case, scientists have realized that we can never have information that is regarded as scientifically proven facts. However, most of this knowledge possesses a sufficiently high degree of probability.

As long as ways of knowing such as reason and sense perception are used to examine the validity of knowledge, scientific ideas in the human sciences are considered credible. Also, any knowledge that has been able to survive continuous critique is regarded as reliable despite the lack of certainty present.

As shown by most tok prescribed titles in the past, the human sciences are continuously changing. As new information is generated, experts alter the consensus adopted by this knowledge community.

For example, in economics, experts have come up with theories that analyze aspects such as money supply and debt. While this knowledge lacks certainty, it has been reliable in that is has helped them predict economic crises.

On the other hand, it is also evident that knowledge about human behavior can be considered timeless because it is independent of the context it was based on. This essentially means that some theories and ideas have survived the test of time and are still applied today.

Based on this fact, reliable knowledge in the human sciences cannot lack certainty. An instance that highlights this assertion is the historical development of the field of psychology.

While the methodology of this discipline has continuously changed, the actual theories and methods have remained the same. Due to the high certainty associated with knowledge such as Sigmund Freud’s theories, they are still considered relevant in the contemporary context.