The Use and Abuse of History

The Divergence of Science and History

The quest for knowledge must begin with humility: that is, with a keen awareness of our limitations. None of us possess a God’s-eye view of the world. None of us can be “objective” in any meaningful sense of the word. Everything we know is known from a particular point of view. That’s true even of the most successful method for aggregating knowledge—modern science. After all, a scientific hypothesis is a point of view.

So we are immediately confronted with a problem of selection. There are an infinite number of facts present in the world, and they can be described from an infinite number of perspectives. Which facts are important enough to merit our attention, and under which aspect?

 

About this site

This is a site where I post articles, videos, and various resources relevant to a Theory of Knowledge teacher or student. You can find handouts, activities, and day to day plans on the resources for the TOK class page.

You can follow my day to day lessons with my Year 1s here.

The folder linked above lists the daily lessons chronologically. For the individual articles and resources linked below, there is no particular order but you can search by relevant Area of Knowledge or Way of Knowing by navigating the tabs above.

This site is currently configured for the “old” TOK course whose last assessment is 2021. Here is what I have gathered about the new course.

Please contact me by email if you have any questions.

TOKTopics[at]gmail.com

 

How to Detect the Distortions of Maps

Every map is infused with its maker’s decisions, which ultimately present a pattern, story or argument. Sometimes those choices of design, labeling, data selection, and data slicing show up as obvious biases, as in the case of Donald Trump’s infamously augmented 2019 map of Hurricane Dorian. More often, though, this inherent “truthiness” flies under the radar of a map’s tidy, matter-of-fact visual presentation, as in the many maps and models being made now of semi-reliable Covid-19 case data.

So while it’s relatively easy to make a map in an age of abundant data and digital tools, it isn’t always easy to read them. How can you tell what’s real, and what’s a distortion?

https://www.citylab.com/design/2020/05/map-history-data-literacy-propaganda-exhibit-bending-lines/612157/

Link to the museum exhibit referred to in the article linked below

Screen Shot 2020-06-05 at 6.55.52 PM

https://www.leventhalmap.org/digital-exhibitions/bending-lines/

 

TOK Distance Learning

We are about to start week 3 of distance learning. I’ve worked on adapting my lessons to be completed on google classroom and submitted. Students can join the “class” on zoom to work through these as if we were doing a normal class. This provides for opportunities to discuss course content which is a central part of the course.

Here is a folder of the work I have done. Please feel free to take what works for you. You can duplicate any of the docs. Please also feel free to share other experiences you have had that work.

An algorithm that can spot cause and effect could supercharge medical AI

How do we make better use of this piecemeal information? Computers are great at spotting patterns—but that’s just correlation. In the last few years, computer scientists have invented a handful of algorithms that can identify causal relations within single data sets. But focusing on single data sets is like looking through keyholes. What’s needed is a way to take in the whole view. 

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/615141/an-algorithm-that-can-spot-cause-and-effect-could-supercharge-medical-ai/?utm_source=newsletters

Five myths about conspiracy theories

Much has been written about the concept of “fake news” and conspiracy theories but this brief list helps bring together some interesting information.

Presenting fringe theories as the essence of conspiracism gives the impression that conspiracy theorists are a handful of kooks who will believe even the most ludicrous ideas. But conspiracy thinking — the inclination to entertain conspiracy theories in general — is much more widespread than belief in any particular theory.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/five-myths/five-myths-about-conspiracy-theories/2019/01/17/0ef1b840-1818-11e9-88fe-f9f77a3bcb6c_story.html?utm_term=.53804eeeb1db

A Songwriting Mystery Solved: Math Proves John Lennon Wrote ‘In My Life’

Mathematics professor Jason Brown spent 10 years working with statistics to solve the magical mystery. Brown’s the findings were presented on Aug. 1 at the Joint Statistical Meeting in a presentation called “Assessing Authorship of Beatles Songs from Musical Content: Bayesian Classification Modeling from Bags-Of-Words Representations.”

https://www.npr.org/2018/08/11/637468053/a-songwriting-mystery-solved-math-proves-john-lennon-wrote-in-my-life

For better science, call off the revolutionaries

Good science requires a spirit of collaboration, not domination. The debate in social psychology involves some essential criticism of past scientific practice, but revolutions can also lead to a bandwagon effect, in which bullies pile on and bystanders fearfully turn a blind eye. Especially as more disagreements among researchers surface in social media rather than professional publications, there is an insidious temptation to mistake being critical for being right, and to subordinate humility and decency to a “gloating sense of ‘gotcha,’” as the journal Nature put it.

There is a better way forward: through evolution, not revolution.

https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2018/01/21/for-better-science-call-off-revolutionaries/8FFEmBAPCDW3IWYJwKF31L/story.html

Additional Resources

  1. Facebook Experiments Had Few Limits
    “Thousands of Facebook Inc. users received an unsettling message two years ago: They were being locked out of the social network because Facebook believed they were robots or using fake names. To get back in, the users had to prove they were real.”
    Subscription Required
    https://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-experiments-had-few-limits-1404344378
  2. Furor Erupts Over Facebook’s Experiment on Users
    “A social-network furor has erupted over news that Facebook Inc., in 2012, conducted a massive psychological experiment on nearly 700,000 unwitting users.”
    Subscription Required
    http://www.wsj.com/articles/furor-erupts-over-facebook-experiment-on-users-1404085840