TOK Essay – Final draft
By: Sakshi Khanna 13B
Word count: 1413
“That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” – Christopher Hitchens. Do you agree?
“Seeing is believing.” Evidence can clarify doubts in certain areas of knowledge and can bring about conclusions. These assertions and dismissals can be driven by emotion and bias, while some individuals prefer to choose reason and logic over emotion in coming to asserting something, that is, they tend to assert something with concrete evidence. Therefore, this raises a question to whether opinions and arguments are subjective or objective, and what real-life situations, theories or historical events can support Hitchens’ quote. The question is interesting as in that it gives insight into what drives a person to assert something without evidence or dismiss it. While it is important to believe in one’s own principles about something, it is equally important to consider something that is supported by evidence. However, it finally depends on everyone’s perspective as he or she decides what should be asserted and what shouldn’t. What can be dismissed without evidence and who can dismiss this evidence? To what extent does perception matter in what should be asserted and what shouldn’t? There are a number of significant points that arise from Hitchens’ quote and can be answered by examples in AoKs though there is no certain answer at the end of it.
Theories are a combination of evidence and refutation. When individuals create theories, they either have empirical evidence or they are just stating their belief of something. For example, Russian psychologist Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky strongly believed that social interaction, culture and language play a significant role in a child’s cognitive development. While people may apply his theory to real life situations, many researchers disregard Vygotsky’s theory simply because there is a lack of empirical support for his ideas. This shows that while someone (Vygotksy) asserts something (that social interaction, culture and language help in a child’s cognitive development), others (other researchers) dismiss the information, as the person has not provided solid evidence of it. Even though there isn’t any evidence of Vygotsky’s theory, I can relate to Vygotsky’s theory because social interaction helps me memorise (memory is a cognitive process) things better. For example, if I memorise something from a textbook, it will only stay in my short-term memory whereas, if I discuss the topic, it will stay in my long-term memory. Many psychologists have dismissed Vygtosky’s theory, as there is no proper evidence. However, how much does their perception matter and to what extent can it be dismissed? I can say that his theory can be applied to real-life situations as I have actually experienced it, hence this example is a claim and counterclaim, in that, psychologists may not think too strongly of the theory due to lack of evidence but individuals in general may perceive it to be helpful, like myself, as it can be applied in daily life.
Assertions can also be dismissed because they have actually worked in some cases. For example, Einstein’s theory of relativity is rational and has been one of the backbones of science. What the theory of relativity states is that time and space are not as constant as it may seem in daily life. Einstein proposed that the speed of light - the only true constant – meant that time can run faster or slower according to how high one is, and how fast one travels. Evidence showing that Einstein’s theory of relativity works is an experiment, which was carried out by James Chin-Wen Chou and his team from the US National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado. They discovered that when they monitored to such clocks placed just a foot apart in height and above sea level, they found that time actually runs faster depending on how high you are, which is what exactly the...
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