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May 26, 2021
34. In what ways do our values affect our acquisition of knowledge?
Object 1: A timetable of a scientifically inclined student
This object explores the real-world context of a grade 11 student’s timetable after switching one IB higher level subject, in turn making their curriculum predominantly numerically based. Interestingly, the student chose their subjects to conform to socialised (family) values, i.e. that STEM subjects have high economic value in today’s capitalist society. Essentially, cherry-picking subjects important to their material success. However, it could be said that the student will be overly immersed in objective subjects, developing a narrow focused skill set and perspective at the expense of realising their other abilities.
This object’s inclusion exemplifies how our values, i.e. what subjects we deem valuable to us, dictate how we acquire knowledge. Moreover, when we focus on a particular subject group it may only allow us, as the knower, to obtain knowledge from a limited viewpoint. Consequently, the knower’s outlook on life will probably be a reflection of the ideas learnt from this body of knowledge, and how, from that, they will continue to seek knowledge via this lens. Importantly, because the knower’s values have led them to make these educational decisions, the knowledge acquired may also mold future
values, which might be overly objective, e.g. studying statistics might engender a disposition to view humans, collectively, as quantifiable data rather than individual persons.
Furthermore, a second link to the question is that values exist, whether acknowledged or not, and can mean this student’s focused timetable may only nurture their values from a numerical and logical perspective, and while doing so, leave their creative abilities dormant (see Object 2 regarding the union of science and art). Thus affecting their acquisition of knowledge, in that only one area of knowledge is developed, hindering the formation of new non-scientific values, gained from a variety of subjective perspectives in the future. Therefore, our values, reflected in our educational choices, can both open and close opportunities to acquire a diverse range of knowledge.
Object 2: A boomerang from Australian indigenous tribe in the 1930s
The real world context of this object is its modern use and its contrasting traditional use. In modern terms a boomerang has multiple meanings, e.g. a toy that people play with friends; a person who has left her/his significant other and then returned; a device that comes back when thrown. Traditionally, though, boomerangs, as weapons, helped indigenous peoples hunt and clear the forest of branches and flora to form a path. This wooden boomerang is interesting from a ToK perspective as it exemplifies the technical abilities, and indirectly informs us on the values from supposed microcosmic groups. More specifically, it shows how indigenous peoples dedicated time to honouring this weapon.
This object contributes to this exhibition by signifying how an artifact blends two opposing values, so they go hand in hand in acquiring knowledge as a form of received wisdom across the ages. The fact that this weapon, is intricately carved with patterns, as well as a horse and cow appearing at the vertex, shows not only a value for beauty but also destruction. The contrasting notions are also interdependent; a concept which conveys spirituality (as opposed to dogma in Object 3) and honour that comes with hunting in this way.
Another link to how this object enriches this exhibition is through the fact that ancient indigenous tribes, as the knower, value knowledge acquisition physically but also intellectually.
It shows aboriginal peoples did not remain in a fixed position, but would rather move in accordance with what they deem the most valuable resources for life, so much so that they crafted an aerodynamically accordant weapon to accelerate the process. This shows us their value of scientific innovation from physics (also relevant to both Object 1 and 3), which was an understandably underdeveloped concept at the time. Therefore, from the examples given a balance between spiritual, artistic and practical values inform the way we, as the knower, acquire and interpret knowledge.
Object 3: Tweet from a flat Earth Twitter account, claiming “The Bible is a flat Earth book”
This object enriches this exhibition by demonstrating how our religious values allow us to interpret our surroundings and acquire knowledge from the exclamations of people’s religious jargon and ability combat, or ignore the values of science. Furthermore, this object represents, how the dispersion of knowledge via online platforms, in this case Twitter, and how algorithms trap individuals into what is known as an echo chamber. Today, people with opposing beliefs take to these platforms to argue their case and share ideas with like-minded users across the world. The modernity and reigniting of this flat earth theory also shows how the social media system is flawed. On a global scale, this makes us consider, but not necessarily accept, opposing opinions.
Religious beliefs and there affects can vary dramatically for individuals, and in this case, a community of 21st century Creationist Christians here, have collated all biblical evidences to illustrate their idea of how the earth is flat; that the promotion of a spherical world is societal conspiracy. This establishes a strong sense of conformation bias, by which most scientific
principles, contradictory biblical references, and verifiable historic and geographic evidence are blatantly neglected to ‘prove’ this theory. Showing that values can negatively hinder our ability to acquire but also to accept empirical knowledge (science’s objective methodology; see Object 1).
Launching off the previous point, a second link to the question shows that due to the sorting of these algorithms, people who believe the earth is flat often find themselves in the same online communities, and how this can amplify their beliefs, blinding them from other perspectives. The sentiment of a community and support from others is a strong power to feel; this support system can help accelerate the accumulation of data to ‘prove’ the theory but can also hinder the knower’s ability to acquire different knowledge, as this is going against their religious dogma but also their conformity to a group. Therefore, unchallenged erroneous values limit our abilities to acquire credible knowledge.
- Hawes, Lorin Lindley. Boomerang with Carving of Horse and Cow. April 9, 2021. National Museum Australia . https://www.nma.gov.au/defining-moments/resources/earliest- evidence-of-the-boomerang-in-australia.
- Flat as Flix. The Bible is a flat Earth book. December 19, 2020. Twitter.
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