Do uniformities exist? Is their existence merely an
assumption? When we do so, we are assuming that the same processes and laws
operate in the universe at any point of time and space regardless of the
situation. Uniformities can be considered to stem from shared knowledge since
the same theory, law and, or language is known, agreed upon, and obeyed by a
group of people. In addition, from countless flawless accounts of proving,
these knowledge become a guide for us to understand the scenario and we
eventually assume the knowledge itself to be true and reliable. Moreover,
without any arguments countering the validity of the knowledge, they are
adopted as a standard way of knowing on why and how something occurs. How do we
know that new knowledge exists with uniformities? Sometimes we know based on
our religion, our culture, the laws, having the answer biologically ingrained
into us. The benefit of having uniformities is that
they create a sense of security. Already accepted as true and credible
knowledge, we are able to keep certain principles and values while adapting and
being flexible to allow further exploration of any situation. Even
so, can knowledge be produced without the existence of these uniformities?
Often, this alternative method derives from our (early) personal experience,
prior being informed of the knowledge itself. At what point can shared and
standardized knowledge produce new knowledge? Is it more important to be able
to generate knowledge from an existing set of theories and laws, or from our
personal explorations and discoveries? It can be argued that both with and
without the existence of uniformities allow us to produce new knowledge.

 

To what extent can shared knowledge be
considered as standardized knowledge?
Often, we assume that any knowledge that is imparted into a group or a
community becomes the one and only method of knowing something. This is because
we are not exposed to any other kinds of knowledge that rebuts the existing
one, hence, we accept this shared knowledge as a true and standardized. This is
very common in the field of the Natural Sciences. Newton’s Three Laws of Motion
– the first physics laws that we learn in science class in high school. While
it has become a shared knowledge over the centuries since it was first
introduced in his book, Principia
Mathematica, it has also become a standardized knowledge as it correctly
describes the motion of any physical object at any space and time. Its first
law – the law of inertia, for instance, which states that an object remains at
constant velocity unless acted upon by an external force, correctly explains
different situations from why a ball travels endlessly in the gravity-less
space when an astronaut kicks it, or why a car will come to an instant stop
when it crashes into a tree while being driven at a high speed.

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On the other hand, following the
definition of shared knowledge, such knowledge may not always be true and thus
cannot qualify as standardized knowledge. This is evident in the area of
Indigenous Knowledge Systems. Indigenous knowledge is locally bound and
specific in understanding the processes and relationships of the surrounding
environment. They are integrated and applied to daily living and traditional
subsistence practices. However, due to its informal and oral records, through
demonstration and shared work, through all the customs and rituals of everyday
life, there are usually no scientific proves that reason the accuracy of the
knowledge itself. An example of this is when I learned about papaya leaf juice
and crab soup being alternative treatments for dengue fever. Growing up in
Malaysia where tens of thousands of dengue fever cases are reported each year,
I have heard my Malay and Indian neighbours advising my mother to feed us
papaya leaf juice and, or crab soup if anyone in my family were to be diagnosed
with the illness. Initially, I was skeptical about the effectiveness of these
complementary and alternative treatments. Like many westerners, my
understanding was that one is to be treated at a hospital if diagnosed with
such serious medical issues. This knowledge is shared within the individual
cultures, but not universally accepted. A main reason for that is due to the
lack of reliability of the knowledge itself. There is no
known vaccine or antiviral treatment for dengue fever, and so far, no
established medical care authority that has acknowledged whether papaya leaf
juice and crab soup are able to cure dengue fever. With that, not everyone is
confident and comfortable in trying out these new “medications”. They have
apparently been proven based on personal experience. Still, as each patient’s
experience may vary from others, there is no guarantee that it will work for
everyone. Furthermore, with the lack of scientific evidence supporting for
these claims, as well as only having a handful of people who have undergone any
related scientific experiment, these claims have been inevitably debunked by
the health side-effects discovered. According to researchers conducted by local
Malaysian medical professionals, such as Dr. Hafizah Mohamed Haniba and Dr. A.
Krishnan, consuming papaya leaves as a practice will increase blood platelet
levels. It also exposes the consumer to high dosage of cyanide which could
potentially cause liver, heart and kidney failure. (“Papaya Leaf Juice, Crab
Soup and Isotonic Drinks as Cure For Dengue Is A Myth.”) From the above, shared
knowledge and standardized knowledge have many parallels. A uniformity should
be referred as shared and standardized knowledge – it has to be universally
accepted and practiced.

 

Under what circumstances is new knowledge
produced? If not
all shared knowledge can be categorized as standardized knowledge and thus, not
a uniformity, how do we create new knowledge? New knowledge can be produced when it has
not been scientifically discovered and, or proven. With the highly dynamic,
adaptive and context-specific nature of indigenous knowledge, it is bound to
becoming new knowledge when informed to the “western” and modern society. An
example of this
is the introduction of Moringa capsules. Native to the Himalayan-areas of
India, the Moringa plant has been regarded as a superfood and herbal medicine
to improve our immune system, curing any bacterial and viral infections, and
calming the nervous system. As it can be grown easily at low costs, they have
remained highly popular among the Indians for its nutritional values. Once
again, due to its informal documentation in which this knowledge was
transmitted through word-of-mouth and demonstration, many Indians were unaware
of the exact values and benefits of this medicinal plant. It was not until a
few decades ago, the Moringa plant was tested and found to contain high levels
of antioxidants and a wide variety of vitamins and protein. As soon as this
discovery was made, many westerners and entrepreneurs started harvesting them.
Today, they are manufactured, made into capsules for easy consumption, and sold
at a premium in many pharmacies worldwide (“MORINGA: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions
and Warnings.”). Therefore, if it was not scientifically tested, millions of
people today would probably have not heard about this plant which also contributed
to the boom in herbal medicine industry. In short, it would not have become a new
knowledge.

 

New knowledge cannot be produced when it
has been accurately and scientifically proven. The reason for this statement is
because some scientific laws and theories were created based on a set of
assumptions and conditions which do not always correctly explain the many real
life situations. For instance, Newton’s Law of Viscosity describes a fluid’s
flow behaviour based on the ratio of dynamic viscosity to the fluid’s density,
whereby the shear stress between the adjacent fluid layers is proportional to
its shear rate, and the proportionality constant is its viscosity. Even though,
this law normally applies to Newtonian fluids – fluids with small isotropic
molecules, like water and honey, similar discoveries have been made for
non-Newtonian fluids, like blood, ketchup and paint. The difference is that
non-Newtonian fluids display a non-linear relationship between the shear stress
and shear rate due to the reorganization of the fluid molecules’ when it is
flowing (“Viscosity of Newtonian and Non-Newtonian Fluids.”). Based on this
example, since the law has been proven correct along with other discoveries
made for any variations,
the knowledge of a fluid’s viscosity’s behaviour is only left to be applied to
develop a better understanding for ourselves by recreating experiments and
conducting our own investigations.

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