Theory of Knowledge and the Science Student
How do you know what you know?
You could say that you heard it somewhere, or you read it somewhere, i.e. through language.
You could say that you feel it, i.e. through emotion.
You could say that you worked it out, i.e. through reason.
You could say that you saw it, i.e. through perception.
Natural Science is the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment. So, if you are a student of science, you know what you know because you observed it through experimentation, put your observations through rigorous testing and arrived at some conclusion by analyzing the data obtained from the observations.
What would be the best method to be sure of your observations? Let me illustrate my point with a simple question:
Here is a series of numbers: 2, 4, 6…..
Try to give me the next three numbers in the series and then tell me the underlying rule for the series.
These are the answers that I got:
As you can imagine, most people gave me the first answer, and as soon as I told them that 8,10 and 12 are acceptable, they jumped into the conclusion that this is a time 2 table.
The only way to check for sure was to present me with the number 7 (which does NOT follow the rule which you hypothesize is the right one). Does this fit in the series as well? It does, showing that the even number hypothesis is incorrect. This points to an important aspect to the nature of science – to truly know whether you’re on the right track or not is to try to disprove your hypothesis vigorously. Just collecting data that adds to your bias proves nothing.
The first step to being a good scientist is to acknowledge your own inherent bias, and knowing that your perception is always coloured by what you WANT your data to look like. Good experiments and good areas of knowledge are the ones that have stood the test of many attempts of disproval. Knowledge is iterative- we are only right until proven wrong.
International Baccalaureate relies on providing its students’ such insights into the nature of
science and incorporating scientific reason in every aspect of learning.
At ReWiser, we are committed to teaching not just the bare facts, but the skills of learning
scientific methodology. See you in class!