Misinformation, implications, and responsibility: fact-checking on Africa

"What do these statements about Africa have in common? A white farmer is killed every five days in South Africa. Earlier this year Nigerian Islamists Boko Haram burnt 375 Christians alive. The Democratic Republic of Congo is the rape capital of the world. Johannesburg is the world’s biggest man-made forest. Answer: despite being widely accepted, none of them are true." ("Get your Africa facts right") Sorting fact from fiction is particularly difficult when the stories come from afar and are buried in myths previously ...

Shared knowledge: 2 stories of significance

Behind the stark issue of climate change -- like the other challenges of our times -- looms a concept essential to explore in Theory of Knowledge: shared knowledge. How does knowledge reach people? Through what process of sharing does the public gain knowledge that will affect their lives?  Two recent news reports highlight contrasting processes by which knowledge claims on climate change reach the public -- with profoundly different implications for action. The two reports I pick out are from science ...

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 ...

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 ...