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Disagreement Aid The Pursuit Of Knowledge

1519 words (6 pages) Essay in Philosophy

11/05/17 Philosophy Reference this

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Disagreement may aid the pursuit of knowledge in the natural and human sciences because disagreement fosters new research to justify rival theories. Openness to allow disagreeing points of view and theories to be presented is important because it challenges scientists and prompts them to justify their points of view through a genuine dialogue. In this essay I will focus on biology and economics then I will try to discuss how ways of knowing are linked to disagreement. I will also endeavor to show how disagreement has helped me in the process of knowledge acquisition.

1858 was the year when Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace’s new theory was published – the evolutionary theory that was thoroughly expounded in the famous treatise “On the Origin of Species” (1859) [1] by Ch. Darwin. In contrast to Lamarck, Darwin proposed the concepts of the common descent and the branching tree of life, which means that two totally different species could have a common ancestor. The theory’s fundament was the idea of natural selection, and it was based on a variety of evidence from animal husbandry, geology, biogeography, embryology, and morphology. Evolution underlies every aspect of the form and behavior of organisms. We can see a proof of this in the way species behave and adapt as a result of natural selection. The ability to adapt is exhibited in activities such as locating food, keeping away from predators or finding mates. Life forms can also react to selection by ‘working’ together with each other, by assisting their relatives or entering in a symbiosis of shared advantage. In the end, evolution creates new species through separating the familial populations of organisms, forming new groups that are not able to produce a common generation.

Today, the contemporary evolutionary theory is accepted by the greater part of scientists. On the other hand, evolution is still a controversial notion for a number of theists. While a number of religions and denominations are prepared to accept the theory of evolution, making it compatible with their beliefs, there are creationists who purport that evolution is opposing the creation myths present in their religions. As the responses towards the Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation in 1844 show, the most controversial feature of evolutionary biology is the inference that human beings descend, together with apes, from a common ancestor and that the intellectual and ethical abilities of humans possess the same inherited attributes as those characteristic of animals. In a number of countries, particularly the United States, these strain between science and religion has produced the current conflict between creation and evolution, a religious conflict connected with politics and public education. While scientific areas such as cosmology and geology also clash with a number of interpretations of religious books, evolutionary theory encounters noteworthy antagonism from religious theoreticians and practitioners.

The debate over evolution shows how disagreement encourages more detailed research and, as a result, contributes to the pursuit of knowledge. However, it also shows that disagreement is not only about gathering reliable knowledge, but also about the way one undertakes the acquisition of it. Because theism had been a deeply-rooted philosophy for a very long time, people felt some kind of emotional attachment to it. The same, however, can be said about evolutionists. This can be seen from the fact that the supporters of evolution did not reject the theory in light of new controversial findings. In my opinion, the fact that the evolutionists accept evolution as a basic principle is not disputed by the creationists. It is absurd to say that creationists use the beliefs of the evolutionists to show that they doubt evolution. The purpose of quoting the supporters of evolution is to show the disputable issues in the field of evolution, which are being studied.

Another example of the role of disagreement in science is exhibited in the field of modern economics, especially when it comes to the long-run equilibrium [2] . It is a notion that aggregate demand is equal to long-run aggregate supply. Given that there is disagreement among different economic concepts, we distinguish between Keynesian equilibrium output in the long run and the new classical equilibrium output2.

According to new classical economists, economy will always try to achieve a long-run equilibrium at the full employment level of output. Thus, long-run equilibrium is where the aggregate demand curve meets the vertical long-run aggregate supply curve. The effect of any changes in aggregate demand will be only on the price level. In each case the equilibrium level of output is where aggregate demand is equal to long-run aggregate supply. According to the Keynesian economists, however, this equilibrium level of output may be found at different levels. They believe that the economy may be in long-run equilibrium at a level of output below the full employment level of national income. This will be the case if the economy is operating at a level where there is spare capacity. In this view, the equilibrium level of output depends mainly on the level of aggregate demand in economy. In the Keynesian view, aggregate demand can increase in such a way that there is an increase in the level of real output, without any resulting increase in the price level.

No clear conclusion has yet been made concerning the long-run equilibrium in macroeconomics. Instead of having a weak and formal equilibrium, vigorous disagreement between experts would give the decision-makers the opportunity to come up with meaningful alternatives that inform and enrich discussions.

Writing this essay invoked a memory of a disagreement I had with a classmate of mine over GMO (Genetically modified organism). Few months I watched a TV program on CCTV – it was an attempt to introduce the advantages of GMF. I know that the problem with genetically modified food is probably the most significant one. But I am quite aware for the fact that there are genetically modified elements in many other products. This program is very interesting and it widens the eyes. The one that I am sure of is cotton. It has brought many discussions all over the world. However, at the same time a friend of mine was convinced by a text in a website called Ten disadvantages of genetically modified food [3] .

We started doing a lot of research to support our personal argument. Thus disagreement aided our individual pursuit of knowledge. We did not reach a conclusion due to lack of enough reliable information. He asked me: “Can you imagine a genetically modified human being- can it be perfect?” Sure, we have to be careful as one day we, human beings, can be modified too. A genetically modified human is the logical continuation of this process. And as far as I know, many claim that choosing the genes for your children and improving their genetic material is good as long as we help them avoid diseases. But in my opinion is same of his, once we start doing this, there will be no going back. And one day some science – fiction movies will become reality.

When scientists aspire to speak in an unified voice, they usually do so in a quite scientific way: they make and launch consensus reports. The idea is to compress the knowledge of many experts into a single point of view that can resolve disputes and help policy-making. But the process of reaching such a consensus often works against these goals, and can challenge the very authority it tries to project. The idea that science best asserts its authority through consensus statements differs from the real process of scientific development. Consensus is good for textbooks; real science makes its progress by increase challenges to the existing state of always-incomplete knowledge. Science would present greater importance to politics if it uttered the broadest set of likely interpretations, possibilities and perspectives, anticipated by the top experts, rather than forcing meeting to a purportedly unified voice.

To conclude, a disagreement can often stop you from rushing into dire decisions and choices. They allow you time and give you space to think over it though you may get annoyed by the delay and hindrances. It is always possible you that may have done big homework on a decision, but you still may have left unnoticed a simple, but vital point, which the dissenting person can perceive when looked from a dissimilar viewpoint. Disagreement has fostered the pursuit of knowledge in the natural and human sciences such as biology and economics, because disagreement has led to additional research. We should not be afraid to disagree or recognize disagreement. Real leaders accept disagreement as truly successful one must periodically welcome a liberal dose of disagreement in every main or significant decision one takes, even if one is a specialist in what one does.

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