Tok Essay

Topics: Scientific method, Science, Theory Pages: 5 (1689 words) Published: February 24, 2013
5. What is it about theories in the human sciences and natural sciences that makes them convincing?
Man has always struggled to understand the world around him and, as a result, has relied heavily on the sciences. The sciences first became popular in the Greco-Roman era and from then have continued to develop and ultimately diverge into two separate subjects, human and natural sciences. Each of these has further diverges in which there can be up to fifty categories within each subject. However, despite the fact that there are numerous categories within the sciences, the two are able to remain related through their many convincing theories; all of which seek to explain the world around us. Theories are, by definition, an idea or assertion that is descriptive, explanatory, and/or predictive in nature (“What is it About Theories”). That being said, theories are built around prior knowledge and evidence that corresponds to what we already hold as true. Furthermore, theories are able to be falsified which can result in two issues with knowledge, past experience interference and bias.

The question now is why are theories in the sciences so convincing as opposed to theories in other realms of knowledge? To answer this question it is vital to define a convincing theory. For the purposes of this paper, a convincing theory is one that has surpassed most criticism and is widely accepted.

To begin, it is impossible for a null hypothesis to be rejected and thus it is impossible to prove a theory. This is because the probability that a difference is exactly zero is not possible; there is always a chance of an alternate outcome. Despite this, many theories are made convincing enough that they are just accepted. For example, we do not question whether a ball thrown up will always come down, or whether plants gain energy from the sun. Instead, these theories are regarded as true. Why ? One explanation is that reasoning is the primary way of knowing and is also considered reliable.

The sciences use the scientific method which is a method that attempts to test observations through several steps. These steps consist of identifying a problem, performing background research, designing an experiment, formulating a hypothesis, testing the experiment, analyzing the results, concluding the results, repeating the experiment and communicating the overall results. Therefore, it relies strictly reasoning, no assumptions. An example of this method being implemented is Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsden’s Gold Foil Experiment. The aim was to determine whether the charges of an atom were evenly distributed or not. To test this, the experimenters passed alpha particles through a piece of gold foil and then measured the diffraction angles. Their results were that because of the large deviations in diffraction angles, there had to be a densely positive area. Though at first this theory was questioned, now it is not because replications have yielded the same results (“Rutherford Experiment”). Additionally, because a standardized system had been used, the theory gains its convincing nature.

Another form of reasoning is deductive reasoning, which is simply reasoning based on already known facts. One example of a convincing theory based on deductive reasoning is 460 B.C. Greek philosopher Democritus’ theory on the atom. According to him, if a piece of matter is repeatedly split in half, then eventually there will come a point when it is too small to split. This he theorized is the building block of matter or an atom. However, because of the absurdity and lack of evidence and time period the theory was developed in, it was quickly dismissed by society. This dismissal was because many people did not wish to reject their belief that God created the world. Over time, the theory was determined to be convincing as times and beliefs changed. The implication of this is that deductive reasoning is only effective when the majority of the population accepts the...

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