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“God may have separated the heavens from the earth. He did not separate astronomy from marine biology.” (Jonathan Levy) To what extent are the classifications separating Areas of Knowledge justified?

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Introduction

"God may have separated the heavens from the earth. He did not separate astronomy from marine biology." (Jonathan Levy) To what extent are the classifications separating Areas of Knowledge justified? The International Baccalaureate subject areas are divided into natural sciences, human sciences, history, mathematics, ethics and the arts. Both astronomy and marine biology fall under the natural sciences. Jonathan Levy would therefore have little argument with these classifications. However, to what extent can we justify these divisions? Although the areas are separated into distinct subject matters, they often overlap in their content and the way we approach our learning. However, while these areas of knowledge share many ways of knowing, it is necessary to separate them for practical purposes. Moreover, in our own learning we recognise their differences. Of all the areas of knowledge, mathematics and natural sciences are the most that are based on reasoning as a way of knowing. Science is reliable, precise, objective, testable, and self-correcting1. Natural science uses a consistent scientific method that tries to reach objectivity and precision. One branch of mathematics is a relatively simple and precise field: logic through the use of numbers, where it is utilitarian and deals with the problems of the physical world2. ...read more.

Middle

This makes it almost impossible to separate ethical knowledge from the human sciences. Indeed, ethical concerns inter disperse all areas of knowledge. Ethical choices often need to be made, for example in the case of stem cell research in biology. Some believe it is morally right to further research in this area, as it can greatly help or cure people who are sick, injured or disabled. On the other hand, some believe that it is wrong to exploit and destroy that which could potentially be a person (as stem cell research requires the removal of stem cells from an embryo, destroying the embryo in the process). Mathematics and natural sciences are not always objective, nor is any other area of knowledge. We must consider ethical implications of our actions in all fields of research, even those based on reason and logic, because these rules govern our way of life. Natural science is invaluable in the pursuit of historical fact. Forensic science uses specialist techniques in crime detection to recreate history using the scientific method. This means we cannot disregard science when studying history, because so much of what we know about history is discovered through the natural sciences. ...read more.

Conclusion

Knowledge is so vast, and in order to study in depth a topic, we must specialise. For example, at a year 12 level, an IB English teacher could never teach IB Physics unless he/she had studied physics. Also, libraries use the Dewey Decimal System7 to organise their collection of easy retrieval. Universities also classify knowledge into distinct areas: science and the arts. The depth of knowledge one learns at university level makes it essential to break down areas of knowledge into specialised subjects, due to the vastness of knowledge. However, the broader Areas of Knowledge classifications, such as the Natural Sciences, allow for diverse subjects such as astronomy and marine biology under the same heading, focusing on their similarities rather than their differences. I think that therefore they are flexible enough for our purposes in our education. To conclude, the areas of knowledge must be divided for practical purposes, but nonetheless are all interlinked. However, we know, when studying that they are distinct, albeit with similarities in our approach to learning. Although all areas rely on each other, we have found a way to separate these areas, mainly for convenience. Thus, the classifications dividing the areas of knowledge are not always justified; they are a division by humans to make education and knowledge, amongst other things, more manageable. ...read more.

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