Tag Archives: truth

Retraction of major research on eating: a failure in scientific methodology, or a corrective in the process?

(by Eileen Dombrowski from OUP blog) Shock waves in the human sciences! Six more of Brian Wansink’s published papers are being retracted, Cornell University announced September 20, bringing the total to 13, and the professor has resigned in disgrace.  It is not just scientific peers who are affected as Brian Wansink’s flawed methodology is exposed and his papers are withdrawn from journals. Millions of ordinary people have also been influenced by his research on “mindless eating.”  Nutritionists and marketers alike have also based decisions on his findings.  But – what do these retractions mean for the methodology of the sciences?  And – why should we seize on this example in Theory of Knowledge?

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“Crisis of authentication”: true art, false art, and the science of detection

Dombrowski forger detailCunning criminality is nothing new.  But the “faithful duplicity” of some recent forgeries has stunned art experts and shaken the markets and social organizations that envelop this area of knowledge.  Stories of stolen fortunes and international detective work however, can kick-start student interest as we use fake art to raise questions about real art. The TOK questions scream to be asked:  What is a “real” work of art if a forgery is indistinguishable?  What gives works of art their value?

Stories:  truth, fakery, and stupendous fraud

When we start in TOK with a Real Life Situation (RLS) – as our course evaluation puts it – we often get the advantage of the appeal of stories.  An excellent article in a recent Guardian Weekly gives us background for narration of modern fakes and provides an account of processes of authentication: The master detective.

In our contemporary context of electronic fakery of all kinds – including the “deep fakes” on which I recently blogged – it’s not surprising that the arms race between criminality and attempts at detection should escalate in the art world.  Continue reading

“Deepfakes” and TOK: more trouble ahead for critical thinking? 

(Eileen Dombrowski from OUP blog) Could the development in artificial intelligence dubbed “deepfakes” really “trigger social unrest, political controversy, international tensions” and “even lead to war”? Have our previous methods of telling fact from fiction been irremediably undermined? As teachers, we’re careening down new paths in evaluation of knowledge claims, trying to learn to steer in time to teach our students to drive!

Technology just got even more amazing, and our everyday critical thinking just got even more challenging. “Deepfakes” are not merely a mini-advance in digital adjustment of images and videos. Instead, they are developments in machine learning, as artificial intelligence learns and applies the algorithms to enable users to replace elements of a video with other ones not part of the original.  It is now possible for users to swap one person’s face with another’s, such as (in its early applications) replacing a porn performer’s face with a celebrity’s. It is now possible to create convincing videos of world leaders firmly saying things they did not say – in fact. In fact. Continue reading

Stay cool. TOK teachers can handle this. 

180813 horoscope(Eileen Dombrowski from OUP blog) Are we on “the path back into darkness, tribalism, feudalism, superstition, and belief in magic”?  The apparent upsurge of belief in astrology has sent one of my favourite bloggers and podcasters, neurologist and skeptic Steven Novella, into a paroxysm of sheer frustration. How can anything so thoroughly debunked as astrology make inroads back into public belief?  But – stay cool, Steven! This is a job for Theory of Knowledge teachers!  It seems to me we’re in a perfect spot to raise questions about astrology – not with earnest annoyance but with humour and a light heart. Continue reading

History: writing the past, drafting the future

books_history(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) History, it often seems to me, isn’t essentially about the past. In so many ways, it’s about the present and the future – the afterlife in records, interpretation, and impact on thought. In current news, I’m struck by what lives on from bygone days in three seemingly unlike examples: a controversial law (Poland), yet another statue (this one in Canada), and a day of national commemoration (Australia). What they share is an eerie sense that we’re watching a troubled past in afterglow – and hearing in echo the resonance of TOK knowledge questions.

Here we go again? History is one area of knowledge that is keenly attuned to repetition, with variation! The knowledge questions from the current TOK Guide take another turn upon the stage: Continue reading

TOK and “fake news”: 3 tips, 2 downloads, and 3 resources

(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Well, we’ve done it at last. We’ve hit the Big Time. Suddenly the topics that we chat about every day in class – such as concepts of truth and reliability, the nature of “facts”, methods of validating or rejecting knowledge claims, and the dynamic and formative role of perspectives – have come into the glaring public spotlight. Headlines blare out claims about “fake news” or “the war on truth” over British and American politics most specifically, but with fallout that rains down on us all. It’s time for us Theory of Knowledge teachers to take a bow – and then eagerly scoop up for future classes all the new and relevant resources that are being churned out so energetically in the media-sphere that surrounds us. Continue reading

“Comfort” and discomfort: history and the shadows of the past

comfort-woman(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) At first glance, it’s a most unlikely statue to ignite a diplomatic row: a barefoot girl sits on a chair, her hands passively in her lap. Nevertheless, the placement of this gentle statue by South Korean activists in front of the Japanese consulate in Busan has set off a storm of controversy and provoked Japan to withdraw its ambassador from South Korea. But why? In Theory of Knowledge, clashing perspectives on this statue take us straight through concepts of symbolic representation and smack into history as an area of knowledge with ethical resonance.

It seems to me that this incident could be immensely useful for a TOK class. There are plenty of images online of the controversial statue, so there’s something visual to anchor abstract discussion. Moreover, students are likely to have their interest (and probably compassion) caught by the story of women forced into sexual servitude – and to grasp quickly both the desire to remember historically, and the desire to forget! The current strong feelings about the issue and how its story is told also help to raise a potent TOK question: Is history really only about the past? Continue reading

Thinking beyond the knowledge bubbles

soap-bubbles-01(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) I’m taking a little holiday from watching the news. I do this sometimes. I turn off the volume to watch all those mouths move, then let all of the frustrated and angry people float away, sealed in their lovely bubbles. Escapism? Yes – and no. Sometimes it’s the only way to imagine myself outside my own bubble of news and views, to try to see how people get sealed off from each other in their internally coherent mini-worlds. If I quiet my own rage at the world and stop myself from yelling about “truth”, I think I can see that the people inside all the bubbles are a lot alike, and are using similar ways to create their different versions of the world. It’s those ways that grab my attention for Theory of Knowledge. The following story is likely to grab your attention as well. Continue reading

TOK and zombies

1607 zombie(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Until this very moment I hadn’t realized exactly what’s been missing in my TOK classes.  Zombies! I’ve been missing zombies. For years I’ve introduced terms such as “justification”, “counter-argument” and “refutation” or “falsification”. For years I’ve compared areas of knowledge on the basis of whether their knowledge claims could be tested, and whether and why people in those fields would consider rejecting them. “And so you should,” you might say. After all, that’s core TOK. But don’t you think it lacks a bit of….je ne sais quoi… a bit of colour, perhaps…a bit of personality? Wouldn’t students find refuted ideas much more attractive if presented in terms of zombies? Continue reading

Conspiracy theories, intuitions and critical thinking: Part 1

160321 spooky hood(by Theo Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Did you know that the Charlie Hebdou attack was not, as the media tell us, an attack by terrorists offended by the satiric magazines’ portrayal of Muhammed, the Prophet? Did you know, rather, that it was orchestrated by the U.S. in order to punish France for its foreign policy decisions? Did you know that pop star Kate Perry is, in fact, a member of the Illuminati, bent on world domination? Both of these are carefully hidden facts, of course. And if you need any proof of the effectiveness of the cover-up of either and, therefore, the terrible power wielded by those running the world, what better proof than the fact that you cannot find a single shred of evidence for either claim? These are but two of literally hundreds of “conspiracy theories” reported in many media, but most widely on the internet. Continue reading