INTRODUCTION Withinthe Areas of Knowledge (AoK’s) like the natural sciences and mathematics thereare different ways and different rates of progression. This is partiallybecause in each of these AoK’s the definition of knowledge slightly differs.For example in the natural sciences ‘scientific knowledge’ may be defined asinformation that has been found to be valid through empirical evidence andrational deduction and has not yet been disproven. Additionally, in mathematicsthe process of developing new theories and methods for solving equationsrequires an organised system of agreement and disagreement to improve thetheories further by disproving a theory or finding more details hidden withinthem.
One may argue that robust knowledge consists of only consensus or onlydisagreement, or a combination of the two. This leads to the connection to theWay of Knowing (WoK) Reason, because to come to a consensus or disagreement,one must use reasoning to support one’s claim. Furthermore, this may lead tothe knowledge question: “To What Extent Are Disagreements and ConsensusValuable and Contribute in Building Robust Knowledge?” In order to come to a form of agreement,some form of disagreement has to take place in order to scrutinize the proposedsuggestions and in some cases improve them. The method of forming consensus anddisagreement varies across AoK’s like the natural sciences and mathematics,although similar, may process the arguments differently. Additionally, thedefinition of knowledge, robust knowledge in this case, varies across all AoK’s.In the natural sciences “scientific knowledge” may be defined as information thathas been found to be valid through empirical evidence and rational deductionand has not yet been disproven.
Robustknowledge can refer to the testability of the knowledge and whether theknowledge can be defended in the AOK when consensus and disagreement areoccurring. Additionally, within these areas of knowledge there are certainaspects that require consensus or disagreement to further improve and confirmthese statements. The knowledge can only be considered robust by someone is inthe same field. It is typically the root of knowledge and other knowledgestems from it. The claim is that robust knowledge can only be achieved througha combination of consensus and disagreement, whereas alternatively robustknowledge can be achieved through only consensus or only disagreement. Amethod of supporting a claim through consensus and disagreement is the supportfrom Evidence and Proof. Evidence is defined as the facts we offer to supportour claims of truth. Proof is defined as what we interpret from the factsoffered.
In both situations an opinion is created which leads to the formationof consensus or disagreement. When a claim is made by an individual therecipient will often require evidence or proof. Depending on the requirement, adifferent answer will be formed in reply. This will in return lead to a debateof consensus or disagreement. If there is no proof, the knowledge loses itscredibility and will most likely be disregarded.
The Natural Sciences The nature of scientific knowledge isarranged for the way in which it progresses. The previous knowledge isquestioned and shaped, rather than discarded, to form new knowledge. Withinthe field of science, a largely discussed and argued topic is Climate change.Within this field of study there has been debate of what to call thisphenomenon that is changing or world at a faster rate than ever seen before. Onepart of the debate is whether it is called Global warming or Climate change.Scientists have to prove with reasons that not only are we experiencing thisphenomenon, but also giving the name to the process. One argument that is oftenused is this concept that the earth goes through cycles of temperature changes,and every so often experiences extreme high temperatures, and extreme low temperaturesand this has happened ever since the earth came to existence.
However,scientists have said that our earth is experiencing the rise in extremetemperatures globally, but also the rise in extreme weather fluctuations and inthe not too distant future could experience a great freeze. The other side of thedebate argues that the earth is only experiencing the phenomenon oftemperatures raising, hence the name Global warming rather than climate change.Consequentially, large debates have developed as to which concept is to blamefor the changes we are experiencing on our planet, but the largest debate ofall is the question of whether climate change is actually real. Within science,the method in which knowledge is confirmed or solidified is through testing; controlledexperiments such as temperature observations, ice core dating etc. Once evidence is created, the size of debateusually decreases, which solidifies a theory or concept leading to what one canconsider robust knowledge. In the climate change debate, within the communityof scientists there is generally overall consensus that climate change is realand the evidence strongly suggests that it is a natural process.
The only part of the debate that stands out is the idea that mankind isworsening the effects climate change (anthropogenic the effect of mankind) ishaving on our planet, and that we are speeding up the process through ouremissions and overuse of fossil fuels. This debate is between theIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Think-tanks. Think-tanks havecreated over 90% of their articles, disputing that climate change is a realthing.
Think-tanks such as The Heartland Institute and Exxonmobil are keyplayers in this dispute. This is where other AoK step into the debate and tend todisagree. This largely happens in politics and religious knowledge systems, likewe are seeing in our day and age. Someareas of Knowledge don’t believe in scientific evidence because there is notrue reasoning behind the argument. One may call it the forcedconsensus/disagreement, or even a paradox, if somebody in power disagrees theneverybody in respect should disagree as well (Knowledge by authority). This maybe a problem in religious knowledge systems. As the Austrian-Britishphilosopher Karl Popper argues in his book ‘The Logic of Scientific Discovery'(Karl Popper, 1959), scientific knowledge has a history, solidifying itsrobustness, and has a testable nature. However, religious knowledge consists ofideals that are not necessarily the same as they were a thousand years ago, andis a field that has no evidence and is not testable, almost a belief bias.
Itrelies purely on peoples own beliefs and religious knowledge. Over thousands ofyears, scientific knowledge has developed and increased in robustness withmultiple layers of proof, whereas religious knowledge has changed itscomplexity and only accounts for religious knowledge which does not havetestable factors within it.MathematicsIn mathematics, however, there is a differentconcept of robust knowledge and how it is derived.
In the first stages of atheory being developed there is the process of both consensus and disagreementarising, yet, in the last stages and after being officialised in most casesthere is no room for disagreement. This is due to the nature of math, and howthe majority of problems have set solutions. The consensus and disagreement mayarise in the methodology of solving the problems or equations, because therecan be multiple ways of solving a problem. For example in a quadratic equation,one can use the quadratic formula, or factorize it if possible.
You stillarrive to the same answers but they are different methods. Those differentmethods were developed in order to speed up the process or efficiency ofsolving the equations, but like every process in developing a method, it has tobe tested and agreed on.Another mathematical example,still within trigonometry, is the equation of the trigonometric identity cos2?+sin2?=1.Without debate this equation is true. It is the most fundamental identityin trigonometry. The identity is equivalent to the Pythagorean Theorem. Theproper question is then whether it is possible toprove cos2?+sin2?=1. However, the debate arises once somebody uses adifferent method to solve this identity and prove it.
I experienced this firsthand in my math class during our unit of trigonometry. We were asked to provethe exact same trigonometric identity as mentioned before, and I solved it byinserting the same value for both angle values in the equation and received theanswer of 1 as predicted. However, my friend used a different method andreplaced an equivalent value for the two trigonometric identities and still gotthe same answer. Yet, the problems arose when I asked her how she got heranswer, and she couldn’t explain it. This lead to me disagreeing with hermethod, but I couldn’t disagree with the answer she got because it was the sameanswer I got. This is also most likely the way in which new methods arediscovered, because somebody at some point in time tried a different method andhad to prove and satisfy the people who didn’t agree with their method.
This isanother example where disagreement leads to the development of robustknowledge.CONCLUSION We can’t really come to a conclusion aboutrobust knowledge and whether it comes from only consensus or disagreement or acombination of both. It varies from each AOK to the next because they are differentsystems and often implement different methods or formats for agreeing ordisagreeing with a statement or fact.
From exploring the concepts of robustknowledge, I can conclude that in order to obtain robust knowledge some form ofdisagreement and agreement must take place to solidify and improve theseconcepts and develop to reach the end result of consensus or dismissal.