This article does a fascinating job of evaluating what the author calls “common knowledge,” similar to the TOK concept of shared knowledge, as a way to discuss the general idea of the role of communities in forming beliefs and how modern technologies change the nature of common knowledge.
It’s only with the growth of communities of people interacting that most people gain such courage in their convictions to defy that which authoritative sources (media, political, corporate) deem to be acceptable narratives and acceptable norms. These communities generate more than validation of one’s preexisting beliefs. They generate the common knowledge that I know that many others feel the same as I do, others to whom I am joined in a community.
How real are the equations with which we represent nature? …
Physicists’ theories work. They predict the arc of planets and the flutter of electrons, and they have spawned smartphones, H-bombs and—well, what more do we need? But scientists, and especially physicists, aren’t just seeking practical advances. They’re after Truth. They want to believe that their theories are correct—exclusively correct—representations of nature. Physicists share this craving with religious folk, who need to believe that their path to salvation is the One True Path.
But can you call a theory true if no one understands it?
Interesting discussions around different ethical frameworks in this interview. Some of the approaches are strictly utilitarian: “get as much good…” and some deontological.
Basically what we are trying to do in thinking through the ethics of vaccine prioritization is to first identify the ethics values that matter the most, one of which is clearly that we want to get as much good in terms of the public’s health as we can from the vaccines available. But others include questions of fairness, equity and also reciprocity, recognizing that some groups have really taken on more risks and more burdens or have had more burdens imposed on them so that the rest of us could live more normal lives or have a better chance of staying healthy.
What’s also interesting are actions taken to address racial inequity in the impact of the pandemic. Should vaccine prioritization include race as a factor? Or simply other, race neutral risk factors that would account for this disproportionate impact (neighborhood, profession, etc.)? This article explores some of those ideas.
In California, experts are devising ways to ensure communities of color “disproportionately are benefited” from vaccine distribution, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) vowed, “because of the impact they have felt disproportionately” during the pandemic.
In November, 2020, Science Magazine published a study (link to the actual paper) evaluating the impact on younger female scientists of having female or male mentors.
Here are some sections of the paper:
“Our gender-related findings suggest that current diversity policies promoting female-female mentorships, as well-intended as they may be, could hinder the careers of women who remain in academia in unexpected ways…Female scientists, in fact, may benefit from opposite-gender mentorships in terms of their publication potential and impact throughout their post-mentorship careers.”
The paper drew rather swift criticism and outrage and then outrage at the outrage. Out of all the…outrage some interesting issues arise:
Was the methodology of the study sound? Also worth noting that this was a statistical study that found a correlation, how did they conclude a causal link? Related question is whether people are criticizing the methodology because they are interested in rigorous science or because they want to undermine a study whose conclusions they don’t want to believe.
More importantly though, even if the study were done soundly, is this an appropriate question to study? Does the question/issue being studied violate some ethical standards? If a study turns out to be true but causes harm, should it be published or even explored in the first place? Are some questions off limits?
If only one paper finds an association or correlation can we call this scientific knowledge?
How do we, as individuals or communities of knowers, respond when a scientific study violates our personal or political beliefs?
This last question above is basis of the backlash against many of the study’s critics.
Here’s one article that goes over the issue:
A Study Claimed Male Mentors Are More Helpful to Women Scientists—and It Did Not Go Over Well
Science is built on a bedrock of trust, which typically involves sharing enough details about how research is carried out to enable others to replicate it, verifying results for themselves. This is how science self-corrects and weeds out results that don’t stand up. Replication also allows others to build on those results, helping to advance the field. Science that can’t be replicated falls by the wayside.
At least, that’s the idea. In practice, few studies are fully replicated because most researchers are more interested in producing new results than reproducing old ones. But in fields like biology and physics—and computer science overall—researchers are typically expected to provide the information needed to rerun experiments, even if those reruns are rare.
The public health debate on masks is settled, said Joseph G. Allen, director of the Healthy Buildings program at Harvard. When you wear a mask, “You protect yourself, you protect others, you prevent yourself from touching your face,” he said. And you signal that wearing a mask is the right thing to do.
With coronavirus cases still rising, wearing a mask is more important than ever. In this animation, you will see just how effective a swath of fabric can be at fighting the pandemic.
The conflict over the proper role of data analytics has been an ongoing story in modern sports for many years now. The controversy only intensified with the way the final game of the baseball World Series played out. Lots of angry sports talking heads sounded off about how much they hated the decision for the Rays to pull their starting pitcher and hate the role analytics play in sports. Interesting contrast between what the “data says” and what your gut says.
This first link summarizes the situation and the videos at the top of the linked page are a few of the angry talk show hosts sounding off on their anger.
World Series 2020: Why the Tampa Bay Rays took Blake Snell out while he was mowing down the Los Angeles Dodgers
Great episode with some solid TOK connections. At around 30:55, the host talks to economist Ed Glaeser about the value and importance of cities. The arguments he present connect well to concepts of personal and shared knowledge. Cities allow for innovation and progress because of the ease of sharing knowledge.
DUBNER: You call the city “our greatest invention,” which means you’re putting it ahead of mathematics, the computer, antibiotics, rum-raisin ice cream. How so? How is the city the greatest human invention? GLAESER: It is the machine that makes all the other inventions possible, right? And the reason for that is that almost every one of the inventions that you raise, whether it’s mathematics and its development, whether in classical Greece 2,500 years ago or in the House of Wisdom in Abbasid, Baghdad, 1,200 years ago, it is human connections that make that creativity possible. Almost nothing that we have done as a species is a solo creation. We collaborate. We learn from each other. We steal each other’s ideas with some degree of regularity.
Further on, around 39 minutes, the host talks to economist Jennifer Doleac about crime statistics. What I love here is the way in which she talks about data and possible explanations for observed phenomena. All of this is a great representation of the methods of the human sciences and of economics in particular.
Homicide, it’s a bit of a mystery. And I think the mystery is compounded by the fact that we’re seeing different effects in different cities. So, it’s hard to come up with a really clear story. It’s possible that some of this is gang violence. And so, if people aren’t out and about, then there aren’t witnesses and bystanders who might deter violent crime or violent confrontations among people that perhaps don’t care about stay-at-home orders. Something else that has been written about quite a bit now is what happens to domestic-violence rates. We see domestic violence rates increase quite a bit. Some of those surely are turning into homicides. But that probably is not explaining all of the potential effect on homicides in these cities.
‘Battlefield maps’ show continent under attack from hostile invaders.
See, maps have a problem. They appear neutral, objective, authoritative. But that’s exactly all that they’re not. Each map reflects the many choices the cartographer has made, consciously or not, both in terms of content and form.
And so, without us even noticing it, maps can confirm bias, entrench prejudice and perpetuate injustice.
Question #1: Is it wrong to enjoy the art of “canceled” artists?
One of the first “canceled” artists Stephen and Angela discuss is, of course, Michael Jackson. To learn more about the allegations against the pop star, read this New York Times article by Ben Sisario, or watch the 2019 Emmy-winning documentary, HBO’s Leaving Neverland.
Angela wonders if it’s okay to enjoy Annie Hall, one of her all-time favorite movies. This 2018 New York Times piece offers a detailed timeline of Woody Allen’s controversial history.