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TOK-Question 6.

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I'm doing question 6 for TOK, which is "In knowledge there is always a trade-off between accuracy and simplicity." Evaluate this statement in relation to two areas of knowledge.

 

 

So I basically picked natural sciences for one of my areas, because in many of the sciences, scientific knowledge is simplified in order to make it understandable for the average person, and in many cases that means that it loses its accuracy along the way.

 

However, for my second area of knowledge, im torn between religious knowledge or ethics?

Which one would be more appropriate for this question? And how so? 

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I think you should go ahead with religious knowledge because defining and explaining simple and accurate knowledge in ethics is kinda tough. I don't know about ethics, but for religion, you can argue whether the knowledge that we gain is accurate or not? If so, how accurate it is and how we can know if its accurate. The main WOK in this case is faith. The faith that we have in God, Holy books and so on. The knowledge we gain is simplified for our understanding, but we cannot say the same about accuracy.

 

If I were in your place, I'd include history. You can question the tradeoff between accuracy and simplicity in a better way. We're often told a simplified version of what actually happened. Especially when history is taught in lower grades, some details are left out or some things are explained generally rather than going in deep. Here, the accuracy of the information is sacrificed for simplicity. You can even question the accuracy of knowledge that we gain through history as an AOK. Its just an idea, I could be wrong, but you can include something similar if you want.

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I'm doing question 6 for TOK, which is "In knowledge there is always a trade-off between accuracy and simplicity." Evaluate this statement in relation to two areas of knowledge.

So I basically picked natural sciences for one of my areas, because in many of the sciences, scientific knowledge is simplified in order to make it understandable for the average person, and in many cases that means that it loses its accuracy along the way.

However, for my second area of knowledge, im torn between religious knowledge or ethics?

Which one would be more appropriate for this question? And how so? 

 

First of all, I'm not going to say anything about religion, because it's really hard for me to see it as actual knowledge. Secondly, I have some ideas on what you can write for both science and ethics. But these ideas are just my own take on the question and may contain bias/inaccuracy, so please read with critical eyes. I am no expert on TOK!

 

Science:

  1. Modelling: In science, modelling (preferably with mathematics) is extremely common for gaining knowledge. It makes things simpler for us to understand & analyse. But by doing that, we are making things less accurate. We often use many assumptions in our models, including less variables than there actually are. Look at weather predictions for example. Why can't we get 100% accuracy? It's not because we don't understand the physics, but it's because our computer models are too simplistic to account for all the variables!
  2. Measurement & everyday life: In classical mechanics (CM), there's an assumption of being able to measure things to an infinite accuracy. That is a wrong assumption, but it's not because of the limitations of our measuring equipment, but the reason is because that's not what nature wants (look at Heinsenberg's uncertainty principle). However, CM is way simpler compared to quantum mechanics (QM), and thus is more applicable/useful to our macroscopic world. We surely don't need QM to fly to space. We surely don't need QM to build a house. So in this case, simplicity is more useful than accuracy.
  3. Reductionism is the idea of breaking problems down into smaller & simpler steps, but it involves making things less accurate. To understand the complex system such as the solar system, physicists start by analysing gravitational force between 2 objects (i.e. a simple 2-body problem), then increase the accuracy by analysing the force between many objects (i.e. the complex multi-body problem). It's possible that reductionism might not work for all scientific problems (such as the study of human consciousness, because human consciousness may turn out to be some kind of emergent property), but reductionism surely has given lots of success in many fields within science.
  4. Analogy: Obviously, by using analogy to explain concepts is basically a trade-off between accuracy & simplicity. Look at the analogy of the Higg's boson. Simple but very inaccurate. If you're interested in what's inaccurate, watch Leonard Susskind demystifying the Higg's boson :)

Ethics:

  1. Thought experiment: In ethics, thought experiments are useful and simple, but they often lack accuracy in the sense they these experiments hardly ever happen in real life. Take the trolley problem for example, it describes a very simple situation, but there's no way that that could happen in real life. So nobody really has to make any moral decision like that. But of course, that's why it's a "thought" experiment!
  2. Problem with ethical theories: Similar to thought experiments, I think theories in ethics are quite simple in their forms, but in many cases, inapplicable to real-life situations. Take utilitarianism for example, the core principle can be stated in a very simple way (moral action is the one that maximizes utility). Same thing with other theories like deontology or virtue ethics. But the thing is in order to make moral decisions, people often look at things from different theories depending on the situations. Utilitarianism might be useful in some cases, while in other cases, people should rely on deontology. Sometimes, moral decisions are based upon mixture of many theories. I see this whole thing as an "intellectual laziness", a failure to come up with a more complex ethical theory that can accurately be applied to real life in all situations.
  3. Accuracy of facts: When people debating in ethics, they should definitely use facts & evidence to support their claims. But sometimes, they choose to ignore scientific facts in order to make their arguments simpler that would then lead to the conclusions they want. Here's an example: people who opposes homosexuality may argue like this: Natural selection says that the purpose of animals is to propagate genes, and since humans are animals, homosexuality is wrong. This argument is extremely simple, and would shut many people up. But logically speaking, it's inaccurate because it has a logical fallacy. In the words of Steven Pinker (How the mind works, chapter 1), "the ultimate goal of natural selection is propagate genes, but that doesn't mean that the ultimate goal of people is to propagate genes". Besides, it has been shown by many studies that homosexuality is a heritable trait, thus is compatible with theory of natural selection. So while this argument against homosexuality is simple in its form, it contains both logical and scientific inaccuracies.

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