This is a practice that you can do to prepare for your TOK Essay. Enjoy!
(NOTE: this is not my TOK Essay that I submitted to IB, look at my other blog post to see my TOK Essay)
“That which is accepted as knowledge today is sometimes discarded tomorrow.”
Consider knowledge issues raised by this statement in two areas of knowledge
Have you ever learned something previously that turns out to be wrong today? If you think you haven’t, the fact that we grew up believing and accepting the shared knowledge that Pluto was a planet until August 2006 when the International Astronomical Union downgraded the status of Pluto should be one knowledge that we collectively discarded after seventy-six years since it was discovered and published. This means that knowledge is unstable, it can change anytime as soon as there is new evidence that would replace the previous knowledge. Before we discuss the essay title, we have to understand the definition of knowledge. “Knowledge is information, facts, and also skills that are acquired by a person through an experience or an education about a subject”(dictionary.com). Therefore, to what extent is knowledge that we accept now is going to still be accepted in the future? Is knowledge ever really discarded or is it just evolved? Looking at natural science and religious knowledge systems by using reason, sense perception, faith, and imagination, the knowledge that we believe and accept today might not necessarily be reliable and accepted in the future.
The study of natural science and religious knowledge systems have been around for the last thousands of years. We are really familiar with both natural sciences and religious knowledge systems and we are constantly developing and studying both of them that it goes to the point that both of them are always discussed with or against each other. In both science and religious knowledge systems, there are information that we used to accept that have been proven false or inconclusive and “discarded”. However, for the rest of the information, they are automatically considered as knowledge that we “accept” because they withstood the test of time (unless after that amount of time the knowledge is replaced). Theoretical physics is a branch in the natural sciences that have many knowledge that we accept that is still accepted even after years have passed by. For example, the theory of black holes and what it can do first starts from imaginations coming from physicists. From the ideas gathered by imagining a black hole, reason is used to try to prove the theory. Then vision from sense perception is used to actually search for the black holes in space. However since this branch of physics relies on theories, we do not know whether the predictions claimed are actually true. This is where faith plays a role in making us optimistic about the possibilities of a black hole. The proof is that even though we do not know whether it is true or not, people know and believe in black-holes. Therefore it shows that we accept an information as a knowledge because it stood through a period of time.
However, it is possible to come to a different conclusions looking at another side of Natural Sciences. For example in the previous example of Pluto, we believed the accepted the knowledge of Pluto as a planet because it is information that is shared to us for over 70 years. Therefore, automatically we think that is an accepted knowledge that is true. However, by using reason, and sense perception scientists worked out that Pluto is technically not a planet. In science it is believed that the standards for scientific evidence is based on the results of statistical analysis and the strength of scientific controls, and by using the advancements in telescopes and astrophysics has helped in providing information and evidence that reasons and proves the theory. Therefore it shows that even the knowledge that we accept and have stood through a period of time may not be accepted in the future.
In Religious Knowledge Systems, specifically in Christianity it is currently accepted knowledge that there are currently 66 books in the Bible. However back in 1611 AD that is not the case. The King James Bible originally printed with 80 books total consisting of the current 66 books added with the collection of books called the Apocryphal books. These books used to be positioned in the Bible between the Old Testament and the New Testament (these books also contained maps and genealogies). However by using sense perception to read the text and using reason, many claimed that these books should not be included to the Bible because there are references about magic that is inconsistent with the rest of the Bible. Faith and imagination also plays a role because Christians do not believe that these books relate to the Bible and to a Christian’s specifications they cannot imagine God’s people doing such acts that are being done in these books. These were reasons why there are currently 66 books in the Bible even though for thousands of years there were 80 books in the Bible. Hence, some knowledge that were accepted is sometimes discarded tomorrow.
On the other hand, Religious Knowledge Systems are based on faith meaning that you have to have faith in a religion and believe in a religion to trust it. For example, Christians use faith and sense perception to listen in Church and read the Bible resulting in the belief that Jesus is the Son of God and that everything in the Bible is true. Also in their faith, they also use imagination to picture themselves living in the afterlife in peace in a place called heaven with God. Faith can alter sense perception specifically alter how Christians view the world. An example would be the story of Jesus feeding five thousand people until they are full just with five loaves of bread and two fish. Christians view this event as a miracle and as a way to show that Jesus and or God has divine powers. However looking at reason as a way of knowing, this shows that Christians still accept knowledge that is currently impossible according to science. There is logically no way possible to feed five thousand people until they are full just with the provided resources. Therefore in this example, the knowledge that is accepted before are still going to be accepted in the future only to the people who have faith in the religion.
Now that we know the extent that knowledge accepted today is sometimes discarded tomorrow, we should ask ourselves if the knowledge is actually really discarded or is it just evolved. Reason plays a big role in determining the result. In the natural sciences, facts that used to be correct but now proved incorrect by science are automatically discarded. However from proving the discarded facts as false, people can actually learn something new that is then used to research and develop new theories and knowledge. For example, in my Physics class we learned about the plum pudding model that was developed in the early 1900s by J.J Thompson. However we learned that years later in 1909, the model became obsolete. Using reason, imagination, and sense perception as ways of knowing, new research have found that this model is not really an appropriate and accurate representation of the model of atoms hence a new model is created. Even though the plum pudding model became obsolete, it is not really “discarded” because this model sparked the invention of a newer and more accurate model. Therefore, is knowledge ever “discarded” or is it “evolved”?
For Religious Knowledge Systems, in Christianity the Bible is supposed to be a guide book on how to live in a Godly manner. Christians are supposed to believe and follow the Bible. However you may call Christians as hypocrites because not all that is written in the Bible is followed today. In the Bible, according to Leviticus and Deuteronomy it is not allowed to consume swine or dirty meat, and eating seafood without fins and scales or shellfish. However looking at the society today, Christians these days do not follow that command and eat swine and seafood regularly which is sometimes considered as gourmet food. This is an example of a previous accepted knowledge that gets discarded.
It is important that we know about the quote “That which is accepted as knowledge today is sometimes discarded tomorrow” to understand that knowledge is unstable. In conclusion looking at the quote at the perspective of natural science and religious knowledge systems by using reason, sense perception, faith, and imagination, the knowledge that we believe and accept today might not necessarily be reliable and accepted in the future. To answer whether knowledge that we accept now is still accepted in the future depends on the situation on the particular knowledge itself and also to the individual. However whether knowledge is ever really discarded or evolved, we do not always directly discard previous knowledge but instead we try to adapt new knowledge around it the old knowledge.
“King James Bible.” APOCRYPHA KJV. King James Bible Online™. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.
Saunders, Peter. “Christian Medical Comment.” : Why Christians May Eat Shellfish but May Not Have Sex outside Marriage. 9 Apr. 2013. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.