Disagreement Aid in Pursuit of Knowledge
“The important thing in science is not so much to obtain new facts as to discover new ways of thinking about them.” – William Lawrence Bragg The heart of science is an essential balance between two seemingly contradictory attitudes- an openness to new ideas, no matter how strange they may be, and the other is to be skeptical of all ideas, old and new.
Theories in the sciences are built around hypotheses that are supported with evidence, and that corresponds to and is coherent with current knowledge. Most importantly, theories in the sciences must, by nature be able to be falsified.
Theories by definition can never be proven completely right; at best, they can stay untouched by arguments of the opposition. As a result, throughout history, humans have been known to argue and disagree on just about everything. From religion to science and with a wide range of perspectives, it does not seem as if humans will agree and be on the same page as each other.
Disagreement is central to the process. Disagreements in most cases are thought to be negative and quite often they are negative but it can be positive at the same time when it leads to the search of new knowledge. Logically, disagreements can lead to the pursuit of knowledge.
I think that disagreement is necessary for a deeper understanding in all endeavors. If we only surround ourselves with those who agree with us then we will never stretch our minds or test our limitations.
In natural sciences, it is very common for scientists to argue with one another regarding academic findings or theories because of their emotions. When a new theory is presented, scientists will immediately try to counter the theory, resulting in disagreements. They may disagree in terms of the set-up of experiment, methodology, data collection or analysis.
These disagreements will result in new experiments or research being conducted by those who disagree, thereby aiding in the pursuit of knowledge. The pursuit of knowledge helps scientists to find problems and discover new evidence to improve their ideas.
As a result, new evidence is available and more research can be made to refine a theory or idea. Since no ideas are complete, they can be changed as time goes by with new findings. An example would be the popular disagreement of creationism and the theory of evolution. Darwin disagreed with the theory of creationism leading to his pursuit of knowledge and his development of evolution.
His disagreement resulted in his desire to answer his questions to satisfy his natural curiosity. Many people thought Darwin’s theory was blasphemy to the church and disregarded his theory. Despite these accusations, Darwin’s pursuits of knowledge lead to the discovery of natural selection and furthered knowledge.
Without his disagreement of creationism, we would not have obtained the knowledge of natural selection. In the human sciences, disagreements also aids in the pursuit of knowledge.
Disagreements may result in new research or it may be in the form of new ideas or perspectives. Due to the experiments not easily replicated in the human sciences, it is common to come up with alternatives points of views.
So, the pursuit of knowledge can be aided by new views and theories as a disagreement to earlier views. Emotion and culture can elicit disagreement.
This is more important in human science than natural science. People have different ways of viewing development. The two main economic disagreements include Keynesian economics and free-market economics by Hayek. The Keynes-Hayek Showdown has been popular in response to government involvement in the economy.
Economists in different countries and within a same country often disagree about the correct method to deal with economic problems. Government and politics when they disagree, they will try to come up with different solutions. The new solution represents new knowledge developed in order to further research. Cultural background in the human sciences can highly influence disagreements and aid to the pursuit of knowledge. Take for example women’s rights and its development throughout the years.
In the Victorian Era, culture played a role in which allowed society to view women as property and dependent upon a man to be able to make it in the world. Little attention was given to women since they did not have any rights. It took activists and reformers’ disagreement of male oppression to fight for their rights to vote and have a voice for themselves.
Women such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott fought for women’s rights and formed the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Many campaigns were set up for women’s suffrage and took nearly 100 years to win that right. On August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was finally ratified, allowing all American women and declaring for the first time that they, like men, deserve all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. If not for the disagreement of culture standards and challenging it, women would not have been able to receive the same rights as men.
Due to the fact that the human mind is designed to believe in falsification, disagreement will never end with ideas or experiments. Different methodology, uncertainty and evaluation in natural science provide the new knowledge only if the result is more applicable than the previous theory.
Once you have a working theory then you would expect your results to confirm your theory, which results in confirmation bias. For example, if you get a working theory that says that cells behave in a certain way then you will expect that you can make a prediction and it will be true. If it does not come true, this shows that your theory is wrong and your desire to prove your theory helps to drive your pursuit of knowledge.
The more evidence you find to support your theory, the more confident you become that your theory is right. For example, Nicolaus Copernicus’ model of a sun-centered solar system was developed to prove Claudius Ptolemy’s model of an earth-centered solar system wrong. Copernicus’ disagreement aided his pursuit of knowledge and lead to his discovery of the earth revolving around the sun rather than the sun revolving around the earth.
Through his disagreement, he was able to formulate the model accordingly to his evidence he gathered. Additionally, falsification allows scientists to research and develop new ideas to contribute to already discovered knowledge. The new ideas create a window for innovations to arise in the world through the discovered knowledge.
While disagreements are good, too many disagreements can slow down the pursuit of knowledge in the sciences since perception can elicit disagreement. At some point, an agreement is required to allow conflicting theories to be put to rest in order to move on and pursue further knowledge of other subjects.
Otherwise, researchers may not know which direction they should take and may end up confused with what to do. With too many disagreements, anomalies occur in the development of research and become questionable evidence.
Additionally, science regulations would become strict since there is no agreement, which allows us to disregard all “accepted” knowledge in the sciences. The challenges of disagreement are the inability to believe theories presented to us since they are so frequently disagreed on.
Too many alternative views can end up muddying the situation. Sometimes, much progress in the pursuit of knowledge can be achieved when we agree, then we can proceed much faster in the pursuit of knowledge. In most cases, it does not advance knowledge but restrict it from developing into something much more. Overall, I believe that disagreement between individuals is a key factor that unravels more knowledge learned than before.
We all definitely have blind spots, and the different views of people may help us in achieving greater knowledge. However, it is only effective when based on reason as way of knowing. The disagreement makes you changes your model, your theory and it does not always prove the previous to be wrong it only shows that the new theory is more reliable.
Falsification helps science to progress and is always followed by a pattern shift. I personally like disagreements simply because it helps me to gain new knowledge. Despite disagreement can become somewhat out of control, the conclusions achieved are definitely worth it. Therefore, in order to move on the next level in both natural and human science we need to disagree.