Recent Posts by Theo Dombrowski

Sensationalizing and distorting science: the media and “shared knowledge”

“Researchers Shocked To Discover Hidden DNA Code”!  Anyone even casually interested in the ever expanding pool of shared scientific knowledge is likely perk up at such a headline.  It takes a lot more than casual interest, of course, to keep track of scientific discoveries:  dozens of credible websites (let alone scientific journals) are crammed with articles about yet more discoveries about the human genome—or about yet another exoplanet  or species of bizarre beetle. Barraged with far more information than we ...

Googling 2013: questing knowledge?

The end of a calendar year (at least in Gregorian system that dominates most of the globe) is the time for reflection, statistics, and resolutions:  global issues vie, in retrospective summary, for comparative significance.  Bloggers, talk show hosts, prime time news shows are busy ranking and assessing. Globally, they ask, what are the most important news stories? Scientific discoveries? Sports events…”? and so on. Who is better to judge the real significance of news stories, though, than The People?  This is ...

TOK and popcorn

Imagine a world where popcorn protects your mind from dark forces trying to penetrate it and rob you of your free will!  Does this sound like a ridiculous parody of a science fiction storyline? Well, it seems that this is not entirely science fiction. In fact, a research publication called The Journal of Consumer Psychology  has recently reported findings of a research group at the University of Berlin that advertisers and TOK students may find fascinating – though for very different ...

Ninja alert: TOK and the media

Would you trust “news” if it came from Ninjas?  In fact, do you fully trust any news at all?  As a TOK student, you no doubt have your antenna out when any media claim to provide you with “knowledge.”  When such a claim comes from a group that call themselves the “Midia Ninja”, you might be doubly alert. And yet, huge numbers of Brazilians are putting their faith in this source of information.  Why?  Well, these Ninjas aren’t like some of ...

“Uncertainty” in science: TOK and UN climate science report

Here’s a question to ask yourself and your students: what percentage of trained scientists have to accept that a knowledge claim has been proven before you yourself will consider it reasonable to accept it?  How many scientists have to be “certain” (that is, convinced)?  And the next, closely related, knowledge question is not about the scientists (and their degree of psychological conviction) but the knowledge claims themselves: how much certainty is necessary for scientific knowledge? Certainty of shared knowledge in the ...

Quebec Charter of Values in TOK: perspectives, symbolism, fallacies

[youtuber youtube='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTlDcDYf-ao'] Today protesters march in the streets of Montreal, opposing the newly announced Quebec Charter of Values.  The government of the Canadian province of Quebec has declared that certain values define their society, which has often had a fractious relationship with the rest of Canada.  Among those values – valeurs québécois -- are ones that would broadly capture agreement from Canadians, such as the religious neutrality of the state.  It is the application of this principle that has provoked outrage ...

Correlation or causation?: climate change and increased violence

Few recent scientific studies have received as much media coverage as one published recently in Science, arguing for a causal link between climate warming and violence.  The range of media sources covering it is as impressive as the number:  not just general news media at all levels, in many parts of the world, and not just science journals, but also those with particular perspectives, among them religious (or, at least Christian) environmental, police-based, medical and business.  Why should this particular ...

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