This is a TOK Essay practice you can do at home! You can look at my answer to see an example of what an answer could be. Enjoy!
(NOTE: this is not my TOK Essay that I submitted to IB, look at my other blog post to see my TOK Essay)
“There are only two ways in which humankind can produce knowledge: through passive observation or through active experiment” To what extent do you agree with this statement?
In the world today, the internet has all the information and the things that people need to use and access every day. For education purposes, the internet is now like an encyclopedia with the added bonus of many other websites to choose from to learn new information deeper. The internet literally has every information the user wants to know about, even about the weird and mythical ones such as mermaids or unicorns. However when you think about it, where does all of this information come from? The statement where “there are only two ways in which humankind can produce knowledge: through passive observation or through active experiment” is a statement in which I agree on to a certain extent. I agree that passive observation can produce knowledge because it has been used in many forms of findings such as pseudo sciences, theories, and beliefs. However I definitely agree that active experiment is a definite way in which humankind can produce knowledge.
Before continuing on, according to the dictionary provided by Google, knowledge is a fact, information, and skill which is acquired by a person through experience or education. Or it could also mean the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject. Active experimentation is a definite answer in which humankind can produce knowledge. By using active experimentation, the end knowledge is going to be more factual and more accurate because in the end of an experiment, there will always be a result that will conclude the experiment and its hypothesis. This type of gaining knowledge is supposed to be much more accurate because it uses the reason as its way of knowing meaning. A good example of this is the show on Discovery Channel called Mythbusters. In this show, the hosts will show a myth or it can be connected to a passive observation and test it with active experimentation to see if this myth is confirmed, busted, or plausible. The team will do experiments the best that they can and if they cannot confirm the knowledge question, they will try to replicate the results and see what it takes to do it.
However, it is possible that the knowledge that is done by using active experimentation is not actually really a “knowledge”. The dictionary specifically states that a knowledge is a fact. Experiments on the other hand might not conclude real fact even though it tries to get as close as the real information as possible. An example is that many experiments might be done in a controlled and small scale manner and not in the real scale because of limitations. Even though it makes sense to hypothesize that this experiment will show what happens in real scale is not always correct. In the show Mythbusters, the host will start to conduct a small scale controlled experiment to see if the myth might show a confirmed result and if it does, they will continue on to the real scale. However, it has showed that in the real scale the result might be different than what they get in the small scale because of the real life problems it faces that disturbs the controlled experiment results.
On the other hand, passive observation is the second way that humans use to produce knowledge. In fact, most science textbooks today are filled up with knowledge that people got by doing passive observation. One of the most famous theory that every school teaches to all of the students is Dalton’s atomic theory. The theory that all matter is made of atoms initially came from passive observation that he has done. At that time, Dalton did not have the technology of microscopes to zoom in really close to see these atoms. Instead Dalton made this theory and tried to use what he learned to prove his theory.
Humankind has been claiming information and claiming many knowledge that are sometimes out of the ordinary. Sometimes so out of the ordinary that when asked, the person claiming it cannot show the evidence and prove the point. An example is the pseudo sciences. Pseudo sciences are studies that are mostly claims without enough evidence backing it up. For example, the Discovery Channel used to have a show that is supposed to show that mermaids exist. However, at the end of the season the show never actually had an evidence to support the claim and only used eyewitness stories. It is hard to believe what they said because the stories the eyewitness might have said could have been altered because of memory loss. There are not even pictures or photos that are shown in the documentary. Therefore even though this supports the topic in which there is knowledge that is learned about the mermaids, it might not represent the topic and the word ”knowledge” in a good manner because of the lack of evidence. At the end it is only a theory.
The topic where “there are only two ways in which humankind can produce knowledge: through passive observation or through active experiment” is correct to a particular extent. From the examples that has been discussed, passive observation might lead to an answer but it might not lead to an accurate and factual answer for the word “knowledge”. However active observation might lead to an answer that should be more accurate and more factual because there are evidence that proves the fact.