Human interaction has been engaged in conflicts historically. For very opinion or issues that affect humans, there is more than one opinion about it. Some of the conflicts have led to devastating and negative effects such as war and loss of lives. The contradicting interests and points of view will continue to be part of human life.
However, what remains largely not evaluated are the benefits that disagreements have had. One field that largely benefits from these disagreements is the field of science.
Ways in which disagreements aid the pursuit of knowledge in the natural and human sciences
Disagreement is a salient concept in natural science. Without disagreement, it will be hard to have progress. In any endeavor or study regarding natural sciences, there is a criterion or a scientific method. The criterion includes a method of observation, the creation of a hypothesis, the undertaking of experiments, and the formulation of a law follows. The formulated law is what gathers into a theory.
In natural sciences, a law should be controllable, measurable, and repeatable. Karl Popper’s idea of falsification can be used to show the salience of disagreements in the pursuit of knowledge as far as natural sciences are concerned. The falsification is a concept that states that, after the formulation of a theory, scientists should endeavor to prove that theory to be wrong. The theory then becomes accurate and strong as uncertainties are debunked and refuted through a scientific process.
In this case, scientists, like all human beings, have their own limited points of view and bias that make them unaware of their errors. However, after disagreements and evaluation by other authors, there is sharing and thus furthering of scientific knowledge (Martin, 36). Scientific inquiry is an important concept in the natural and human sciences. However, it cannot take place in the absence of disagreement. Scientific inquiry can be traced in all the major paradigm shifts that have been witnessed in the field of science.
The purpose of scientific inquiry is to explain phenomena. This is achieved by getting to know explanations that can be tested and made into a pattern that will predict the results of future research. Charles Sanders Peirce is one of the scholars who contributed to this debate in the 19th century. Charles redefined what the pursuit of truth and knowledge entails.
The redefinition of those concepts helped bring a comprehensive definition of the concept of scientific disagreement, which had previously been defined in verbal rhetoric. Pierce went on and presented his hypothesis on the four methods that are involved in the settling of disagreements or the building of consensus. The four methods include the methods of tenacity, authority, congruity, and the scientific method (Kelly 631). To look at the scientific method, we should note that a paradigm shift can only occur if refutations and conjectures have been used to falsify a hitherto acknowledged and accepted the statement, theory of hypothesis. A conjecture in this context refers to an observational data that disagrees with the concept, or idea that is undergoing tests. On the other hand, refutations are attempts aimed at solving the dilemma associated with the gray areas in any inventions.
Refutations show that it is much easier to prove a theory or an idea to be incorrect than it is to show that it is correct. For a theory to be acknowledged as a law, one should prove beyond a reasonable doubt that there is no single refutation or conjecture that disproves such a law. This means that it is not easy to do these tests given the scenarios that can be tested are countless. This is not the case in falsification, which only requires one counterexample and the law can then be said to have been falsified effectively. A distinct characteristic of human and social sciences is that their progress does not occur gradually. In this case, there is a series revolutionary invention or a paradigm shift that debunk beliefs and notions that have hitherto been regarded to be true. A good example in natural health can be found in the case of marijuana. There has been a series of radical changes in terms of scientific knowledge of this drug.
In the 1900s, the drug was used and even allowed under the US law as a recreational drug. Later, in the 1920s the US government started testing marijuana on humans with an aim of establishing if the drug could be categorized as a habit-forming drug. It was also meant to determine whether the drug had the capacity to induce sanity among human beings. This was a paradigm shift. Later in 1937, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics collaborated with Congress in categorizing marijuana as a recreational and hazardous narcotic that had the potential to cause several mental illnesses. In the 1990s, a number of psychologists led by Thomas F.
Denton introduced another paradigm shift as far as the knowledge on the medicinal value of marijuana is concerned. They began noticing that marijuana could be tremendously instrumental in the treatment of a number of mental disorders. The revelation of this concept has provoked debate and disagreement among researchers in the field of medical cannabis. Those who seek to dispute this revelation have argued that the tenacity of the methods used and their authority is not guaranteed. In this regard, marijuana remains an illegal drug and is considered harmful as far as the federal government is concerned. This line of argument stems from the fact that the critics cannot dispute the positive effects that marijuana has been found to have on patients (Yan 378). The timing of falsification is an important factor.
Another important factor is the amount of evidence that is needed to falsify a theory or a hypothesis effectively. One example that can be used to explain this concept is the controversy that continues to dodge genetically modified foods. There has been disagreement about the effects that genetically modified food has on the human health. Genetic modification of food is the process of altering the DNA of an organic plant. This leads to a new breed that possesses traits that the organic plant did not have.
The GM foods are then made adaptable and easy to produce, which means that corporations prefer producing GM foods to increase their profit margins through the reduction of the cost of production. There has been no evidence of a credible publication to show that GM foods have negative effects on the human health. However, this does not mean that there has been no hypothesizes to this effect. Several scientists continue to hypothesize on the negative health effects of GM foods. However, the counter argument has been that there is no enough evidence to show any harmful effects on the human health as a result of consumption of GM foods. In this case, whenever the scientific methods are applied, the results have shown that GM foods are potentially hazardous. However, this does not qualify as a paradigm shift given that the evidence has not shown GM foods to be dangerous (Berland & Victor 1877). The contribution of knowledge through disagreements is not only applicable in natural science, but also in the human or social sciences.
One example is the paradigm shift concerning the question of whether or not sociological factors are applicable as far as the study of the human history is concerned. One of the most celebrated historians of the 20th century called Howard Zinn published a book titled “A People’s History of the United States” in the year 1980. In publishing this book, Zinn had sought to introduce a paradigm shift in the history discipline through an objective acknowledgement of members of lower socioeconomic class. The same idea can be seen from the time gender became an important factor in the sociological examination of historical events. Historians were forced to evaluate the sociological history from a feminist point of view after the feminist movement kicked off in the 1920s. This paradigm shift led to the emergence or discovery of an immense amount of historical information that had previously not been investigated or studied (Berland & Victor 1859). Another good example is the history of racial discrimination, which begun after the civil rights movement kicked off. African and Hispanic Americans begun were increasingly campaigning for their rights to be respected.
This led to the admission of a significant and increased number of Hispanics and black Americans to major institutions of higher learning such as universities and colleges. History changed as the field of study had broadened from a sociological perspective, which effectively qualifies this as a paradigm shift. In general, disagreements have boosted the pursuit of knowledge as far as science is concerned. However, despite this fact, there are instances when disagreement has blocked and derailed the pursuit of knowledge in science. One example of such an incident is disagreement over the ethicality and morality of stem cell research. This is a controversy that has remained unresolved in the US and Europe for close to twenty years. This led the US government to withdraw their funding of research.
The disagreements did not have a positive effect, but rather a negative one. In this case, the research could have been hugely beneficial in the pursuit of knowledge had it been successful. Other examples include in animal testing. There has been a blockage of any further research on the effects of consumer products after some researchers questioned the ethicality of the research (Kelly, 622).
From the discussion, it is clear that the disagreements have had a positive impact in the pursuit of knowledge.
It has elicited debate, which has introduced a broader point of view among both natural and human scientists. Unlike in other spheres of life where disagreements are made to seem retrogressive and ignorant, science considers them progressive and informative. In this case, they make both sides of the arguments motivated to explore their area of research scientifically, as well as realize their own biases.
Berland, Leema K., and Victor R.
Lee. “In Pursuit Of Consensus: Disagreement And Legitimization During Small-Group Argumentation.” International Journal Of Science Education 34.12 (2012): 1857-1882.
Print. Kelly, Thomas. “Disagreement, Dogmatism, And Belief Polarization.” Journal Of Philosophy 105.10 (2008): 611-633. Print.
Martin, Michael. Readings in the Philosophy of Social Science. Cambridge, Mass. [u.a.: MIT Press, 1994. Print.
Yan, James A. “Moral Relativism And The Argument From Disagreement.” Journal Of Social Philosophy 34.3 (2003): 377-386. Print.