May 26, 2021
Prompt 4: “On what grounds might we doubt a claim?”
Object 1: A box of cassette tapes signed by Harry Styles
This box, containing three cassette tapes of Harry Styles’ album “Fine Line”, and displays a clear signature of the artist on its surface. Created in 2020 to be sold in the artist’s pop-up store, it was aimed to attract his fans and promote his new album that had just been released at the time. As one of his fans myself, I bought the box purely due to the temptation of owning an item that is signed by the artist.
I acknowledge the signature on the box to be of Harry Styles’ because in his pop-up store, it was officially displayed as a product signed by the artist. Additionally, as several footages of the artist visiting the store himself were posted on social media, it can be said that Harry Styles himself accepts this claim. However, I occasionally cannot help but question this claim anyway, of whether it was in fact signed by Harry Styles.
Though a justification could be provided to support the claim that this box was in fact signed by the artist, it is highly unlikely for one to be obtained due to the fact that the action of him ‘signing’ the box had happened in the past. Another possible method for justification would be to interrogate the artist, however, the individual could easily provide a false statement. With these challenges, it is highly unlikely for a valid evidence to be provided for this claim. Thus, in this case, the claim that this box was truly signed by the artist may be doubted by reason of lack of potentiality to find supporting evidence.
Object 2: ‘Greensleeves’ – a traditional English folk song
‘Greensleeves’ is an English folk song that is famously known by most of the British population. It was often sung in my primary school and nowadays I play its tune on my guitar. As a traditional song composed in the 16th century, the origin of ‘Greensleeves’ is unclear. However, the persistent claim is that King Henry VIII wrote it for Anne Boleyn who was his lover at the time and later on famously became his second wife. I was first informed of this claim by a friend, and as I took a glance through multiple historical websites and textbooks which supported the claim, I was convinced enough to accept it.
This claim is similar to the one about Harry Styles’ signature in a sense that it is not backed up by any specific evidence. Some experts do provide explanations to how ‘Greensleeves’ had been written by Henry VIII, yet they fail to provide impartial explanations. For example, 1the lyrics “I have both waged life and limb/your love and good will for to have”, is believed to be of ‘a man who divorced Catherine of Aragon, subsequently split from the Roman Catholic Church and executed several of his closest advisors, just so he could marry Anne Boleyn’, hence Henry VIII. However, this connection may be perceived as historians’ mere attempt to link suitable parts of the lyrics with the story of the King and Anne Boleyn. Therefore, we can conclude that a clear justification to the claim is unprovided even by the experts. People cannot be convinced and as a result, doubt this claim about Henry VIII’s contribution to the origin of ‘Greensleeves’.
This song is a helpful addition to this exhibition because it holds a similarity to the box of cassette tapes from a different time period in history. Both claims of ‘Greensleeves’ and of the box of cassette tapes are doubted, with the box not only lacking sufficient justification but also failing to provide any justification. It is interesting to note that the claim on ‘Greensleeves’ written back around five- hundred years ago has been meticulously analysed, yet it is capable of being doubted. By examining ‘Greensleeves’, I have realised that an argument itself does not hold the ability to justify a claim but instead, have to be detailed and convincing to do so.
Object 3: Vitamin C Supplement
This is a bottle of vitamin-C capsules which I take every morning. Many people including myself had started taking vitamin-C supplements ever since the spread of coronavirus, following the claim that the vitamin helps to boost one’s immune system. This claim, supported by medical experts, had been repeatedly stated on multiple news articles and programmes throughout lockdown, which is the reason for its renown. As amateurs, we cannot identify the specific effects vitamin-C has upon our health or whether it has any effect in the first place, yet curiously, we continue taking the vitamin without desiring to justify its effects.
Many false claims about vitamins have been made in the past. For example, 2a claim stating that vitamin-E contributes to preventing heart attacks was later proven to be invalid. In this manner, the claim about vitamin-C boosting one’s immune system may be doubted as a result of reference class forecasting. In other words, one may question this claim by recollecting similar past situations and their outcomes. If false claims have been made about vitamins previously, there is a reasonable chance for this claim to have been falsified as well.
This bottle of vitamin-C capsules enriches this exhibition because it introduces the practice of reflecting back on our past experiences, thus reference class forecasting. Humans have the ability to question daily phenomena such as this and thereby discover errors in existing claims. By thoroughly assessing available information, we are able to make predictions with more accuracy.
Figure 1 and 3 – taken by me Figure 2 –
Times, The. 2021. “‘Greensleeves’ — An Irresistible Earworm, From Henry VIII To
Elvis”. Ig.Ft.Com. https://ig.ft.com/life-of-a-song/greensleeves.html.