In what ways may disagreement aid the pursuit of knowledge in natural and human sciences?

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TOK Essay

Title: In what ways may disagreement aid the pursuit of knowledge in natural and human sciences?

Disagreement is the lack of consensus or general approval amongst two or more individuals or parties. It transpires when two or more individuals have contradicting or opposing opinions. Every Individual has personal opinions and, thus, disagreement is eventually inevitable. Although most see disagreement as a negative thing and a hindrance to furthering knowledge, disagreement may actually stimulate the pursuit of knowledge. Unless disagreement occurs, people will have blind faith in every knowledge claim without testing them. Knowledge is defined as a justified true belief; however, if people have blind faith in everything they hear knowledge will simply become a belief. In my essay I will use examples from the natural and human sciences to prove that eventually disagreement will lead individuals to pursue knowledge rather than cause a hindrance to their learning.

Empedocles, a Greek pre-Socratic philosopher, came up with a theory of spontaneous generation whereby life, and thus cells, are spontaneously generated and do not require pre-existing life to generate. This theory was universally accepted because nobody disagreed with it until very recently, when the French chemist and microbiologist, Louis Pasteur, decided that life can’t simply generate out of nothing and, thus, he disagreed with Empedocles’ theory. This disagreement was what motivated him to further search for alternative theories in creation of life. He conducted multiple experiments in search of evidence to disprove Empedocles’ theory of spontaneous generation. Finally, he conducted the famous “chicken broth” experiment that completely shattered the foundations of the theory of spontaneous generation. Today, people believe that Louis Pasteur’s theory that “all cells are created from pre-existing cells” is true but even if this isn’t they will not care to test it unless someone disagrees with successful justification of his disbelief in the theory.

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This leads us to the question of why people accepted Empedocles’ theory without question for hundreds of years. Empedocles’ word was given the stature of true knowledge even if it was not. Why? Was it because of his high status as a scientist? Or was it because he simply spoke with confidence? In either case, we can note that society tends to accept the word of an individual who speaks with authority. If this were the case, people could not believe in any scientific theory at all because it is highly unlikely that they have tried to test the ...

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