In thisstatement “knowledge” is data that we have gained through experience,perceptions of reality or it can be principles, ideas acquired by humans. Theword knowledge can also be reviewed as the understanding and awareness ofparticular aspects of reality. As time has progressed it has been explicitlystated that the accuracy and simplicity of knowledge have improved immensely ashuman mind has become more powerful and effective; improving the intellectualthinking in the society. In this statement, “accuracy” of knowledge is themeasure of correctness and precision of knowledge. Usually, people believe andagree knowledge that they currently possess without any uncertainty andhesitation. However, these claims and facts that we believe in may have been falsified,re-evaluated and redefined by the discovery of latest evidence or by theexperience we have progressively gained in life. Subsequentlythe question arises, to what extent does the knowledge we acquire in thepresent time reliable and accurate? In another word, will the present expertisethat we consider it to be accurate be discarded in the near future? Consideringthe above question, knowledge in natural science is considered to be lengthy,grueling system of trial and error in which false claims and discoveries constantlyarise and are discarded on further examination.
These unsuccessful attempts andthe ability to rectify the facts leads to the accuracy and validity of theknowledge. The field of chemistry is one such area where falsification andaccuracy of knowledge are distinctly visible. For instance, an example of thiscan be the study of element and atomic structure. In 300 BCE, the Greekphilosopher Aristotle declared that all matter was made of only four elements:fire, air, water, and earth. This statement was independently claimed and arrivedupon by many ancient people including Indian, Mayan, and Chinese.
In 450 BCEphilosopher, Democritus began search for a description of matter and believed thatthe smallest piece of matter is “atoms” that are indivisible and indestructible.This was continued by nearly 2,000 years of small progress towards greateraccuracy which lead to a greater understanding of the nature of elements andatoms. Finally, in the 20th century, it was concluded by professorSchrodinger Heisenberg that electrons move at high speeds in an electron cloudaround the nucleus. This example shows that human reject some of the knowledgein natural science with the progression of increased perspectives. Moreover, sense perception and evidence arethe two major roles that are changing people’s perspective in natural science. Furthermore,through this example, it leads to an epistemological fact that suggests, theaccuracy and reliability of our knowledge of the natural scientific world hasbeen progressively built upon the understanding and ideas held by ourpredecessors.
Infact, the knowledge in natural science that we possess todayhas been re-evaluated numerous times throughout the history of Natural scienceand some of them are discarded from existence by the scientist. However,this also leads to my counterclaim, that knowledge which is considered accuratein today’s time will also be accepted in the near future. In Physics one of themost obvious example is Newton’s theory of gravity, which was assumed as truthfor centuries because it was considered that objects do not fly away from earthdue to gravity. This theory seemed to match the data gathered by research andexperimentation but was always subject for testing.
Moreover,Einstein’s theory makes falsifiable predictions that are dissimilar from the factsand predictions claimed by Newton’s theory. This example which is related tothe precession of the orbit of Mercury and gravitational lensing of light. Inreality, Einstein’s and Newton’s theories hold the same predictions, hence theyare both right. But Einstein’s theory holds true in a superset of theconditions in which Newton’s theory holds, so according to the principleof Occam’s Razor, Einstein’stheory is preferred. However, Newton’s theory is also considered correct instudies. Thereby itcan be concluded that accuracy of knowledge constantly shifts towards accuracyby rectifying and redeveloping of existing theories.
On theother hand, this also leads to my second question that is what leads to the reliabilityof knowledge and does it create simplicity in that area of knowledge? In thefield of History, we look for thecauses of events using Reason in order to gain an explanation and anunderstanding of those events. The event in its standing is the primary objectfor our research. When we have gained the knowledge of what we believe to bethe “cause” of something, this also offers us with an explanation of “how” and itsimpact. In additionto this, we can claim that accuracy and validity of knowledge are subjected tochange as time progresses due to the discovery of new artifacts that exposesmore truth of the past.
One of the example that we can consider is when we reada history book from the 1950s, related to start of the cold war. The book claimsthat it is the fault of Soviet Russia, under the leadership of Stalin and refersto Stalin’s takeover of Eastern Europe. However, in the 1960s, a different viewwas considered, that the responsibility for the cold war was Washington andthat Stalin just acted defensively, after losing around 25 million people dueto the Second World War. This way of looking towards the Cold War was called’Revisionist’.
By the 1980s and 1990s, the event was retold again with somechanges. Historians would point out that the Cold War turned into unavoidable,given the ideological variations that remained between East and West, and itsfar futile attempt to blame one country or even one person in particular. Didthe Cold War even start in 1945? Is it now not more correct to trace itsorigins back to 1917? This school of thought and questioning was called withthe name of ‘Post Revisionism’.
The pointor fact depicted by this example is that retelling and accuracy of knowledge ofpast events change constantly. With the discovery of more new evidence,historians are able to create a better picture of the actual reason behind thehistorical event. Considering the above example, after the collapse of theSoviet Union in 1991, lot of materials, that was previously hidden in thedreaded “Iron Curtain” was made available for the historians and they were ableto investigate and understand a lot regarding the cause of the cold war. On the contrary note, the finding of new evidence doesnot bring accuracy and simplicity but instead makes knowledge of history morecomplex. For instance, the archived data may be hiddenby the Governments for decades, in order to conceal political misconducts or toprotect data essential for country’s security.
When these documents are recovered,they can reshape the historical view of an event. With the discovery of the ULTRA archives in the 1970s which was under 30 years of theBritish rule, many Allied high command tactical decisions became re-evaluated,specifically the conflict of the Atlantic. The disclosure of the informationalso forced a re-defining of the historyof electronic computer; hencemaking it even more complex situation. Hence to conclude, anything we state about the past is primarilybased on evidence found, and if we adopt different evidences, we will undoubtedlyarrive at a dissimilar adaptation of what likely occurred in the past. In addition to this, historians should use awhole lot of findings as possible, and the poof needs to be as varied andwidespread as possible, to avoid creating a biased image of the past. Though itmakes history even more complex but creates a detailed precise version of whatactually happened in the past. Overall, I reckon the fact that the “Accuracy” of knowledge over the years isexplicitly seen in both areas of knowledge; History and Natural science.
Knowledge in natural science has substantiated through empirical methods. Whilein History accuracy of knowledge has increased due to the discovery of more evidence.Moreover, in the pursuit of accuracy in knowledge, we consciously look intoerrors. These insights and learning from error hold deeper roots in ourmemories.
Nevertheless, recognizing and dealing with “errors” leads to theprocess of inquiry and more experiments; that leads to the accuracy of theknowledge. Thereby greater research leads to the development of accuracy andreliability of the knowledge.