The natural sciences have been essential in allowing humans to acquire knowledge about the workings of the universe.

The scientific method has been key to this process as it has helped bind the different disciplines together especially when it comes to distinguishing between pseudo-science and real science.

Additionally, aspects such as justification and evidence have also played a crucial role in answering any tok knowledge questions that arise. 

From the various IB theory of knowledge topics assessed in the recent past, it is evident that Western Civilization has gone through a significant cognitive paradigm shift in the past few centuries.

Discoveries made by scientists such as Isaac Newton and Galileo Galilei have changed the prevalent dominant discourse. This explains why most of the knowledge issues formulated within this area of knowledge are mainly based on reason and empirical evidence.

From the different examples highlighted in past tok essays, scientists have begun relying on ways of knowing such as imagination and faith to hypothesize about ideas that cannot yet be verified.

This has become a common practice within this area of knowledge because experts do not always have the means to produce the evidence need to justify their theories.

Aspects such as advanced technology has helped these scientists to prove whether their assertions were rights and wrong. Such factors explain why the natural sciences has produced more valid and accurate knowledge in comparison to the other areas of knowledge.

However, it is also important to point out that there is some information that scientists are unable to access through their limited human frame. In such cases, ways of knowing such as sense perception and reason have ensured that experts in the natural sciences understand human nature better.

Examples and Explanation

Example #1

presecribed title
  • Claim - The evaluation of the contrasting perspectives present in a disagreement leads to the resolution of the differences and results in new advances in knowledge.
    Example – The debate on whether the remains found in Flores, Indonesia represent samples of Homo sapiens or Homo floresiensis.
  • Counterclaim - The presence of disagreements in natural sciences has also derailed and blocked the pursuit of scientific knowledge
    Example - Contrasting knowledge claims on the morality and ethicality of stem cell research.

In deconstructing this TOK prescribed title, it is essential to recognize that it raises two questions, the differences between knowledge claims that result in disagreements within the natural sciences and the extent to which these disputes arise. 

In the natural sciences, there often arise various disagreements that have prompted experts to examine the resultant knowledge produced and how the contrasting perspectives promote unexpected insights.

Scientists have acknowledged that the interpretation of data can result in the generation of competing knowledge claims. In most cases, this area of knowledge benefits from the evaluation of the contrasting perspective because it presents new advances and leads to the resolution of the differences. 

Reason plays a significant role in examining the distinction between knowledge claims, and it allows experts to adopt a rational stand that gives equal attention to dissenting peers. 

Example #2

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

Scientific inquiry has never been about certainty but about experts providing the most reliable form of thinking depending on the knowledge present.

Based on this assertion, it is evident that reliable knowledge within the natural sciences often lacks certainty.

One of the main foundations of science is the ability of experts to keep the door open to doubt. As highlighted by previous tok essay examples, scientific knowledge can never be absolute. This explains why scientists rely on their intuition and reason to question every aspect of our universe.

The idea that a good scientist will never be certain shows how scientific inquiry works. Most of the knowledge produced in the natural sciences is reliant on empirical content.

As paradigms often shift, this empirical content forms the foundation of scientific knowledge. The lack of certainty ideally makes any conclusion made by experts more reliable.

For instance, in 1917, Albert Einstein adopted the idea of the cosmological constant which proposed that the universe is static. As this constant was included in his general theory of relativity, it was considered reliable by the scientific community.

However, in 1929, Edwin Hubble generated more accurate evidence that proved that the universe was continuously expanding. This new theory was subsequently accepted within the field of physics.

Alternatively, it can also be argued that the scientific method ensures that experts within the natural sciences acquire knowledge that is completely accurate. Therefore, reliable knowledge cannot possess any uncertainty.

Over the years, the scientific method has become a key aspect of scientific inquiry. This methodology is significant because it binds the different disciplines present within this area of knowledge and allows them to distinguish between real science and pseudo-science.

As a result, justification and evidence play an essential role in the knowledge production process. This means that the presence of uncertainty is not an option.

A tok essay example that justifies this assertion is the case of Andrew Wakefield and the claim that the MMR vaccine caused autism in young children.

While this information was initially accepted by the scientific community, various researchers were uncertain about its validity and opted to research this claim.

Eventually, it was discovered that Wakefield had tweaked his findings. This example shows that reliable knowledge in the natural sciences cannot possess any uncertainty.