Theory of Knowledge
If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.
Edward O Wilson
There are plenty of opportunities to explore the theory of knowledge within ESS. The systems approach used throughout ESS is diflerent from traditional models of scientific exploration. This allows us to compare the two approaches to understanding. Conventional science tends to use a reductionist approach to looking at scientific issues, whereas the systems approach requires a holistic understanding. While the systems approach is frequently quantitative in its representation of data, it also addresses the challenge of handling a wide range of qualitative data. This leads to questions about the value of qualitative versus quantitative data. There are many checks and guidelines to ensure objectivity in quantitative data collection and handling in the purely physical sciences, but these standards of objectivity are more diflcult to rigorously control in ecological and biological sciences. In addition, ESS
is a transdisciplinary subject, the material addressed often crosses what may seem to be clear subject boundaries (e.g. geography, economics, and politics).
The systems approach allows comparisons to be made across disciplines, and the value and issues regarding this are discussed throughout the course and in this book. In exploring and understanding an environmental issue, you must be able to integrate the hard, scientific, quantitative facts with the qualitative value-judgements of politics, sociology and ethics. All this makes particularly fertile ground for discussions related to theory of knowledge.
Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge in the field of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.
Genius is 1 per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration.
Throughout this book, ToK boxes contain advice and information relating to this aspect of the course. This chapter looks in more detail at ways in which ToK can be applied in specific parts of the syllabus