It between the scholarly and non-expert worlds differ. That

It can be said that a major area of contention within
epistemology revolves around the nature of robust knowledge. One perspective of
this debate is personified by the knowledge claim: “Robust knowledge requires
both consensus and disagreement”. To effectively evaluate this claim, the term
robust knowledge must be defined. This work is premised on the notion that
robust knowledge refers to both abstract and applied knowledge that is valuable
and reliable, enabling further knowledge creation. Accordingly, given its
subjective nature, it must be specified who determines whether knowledge is in
fact robust. This determination is contingent upon the person interpreting the
body of knowledge, as the perceived value and reliability of shared knowledge
between the scholarly and non-expert worlds differ. That being said, the
intention of this exploration is to answer the knowledge questions: “To what
extent does disagreement and consensus enhance the reliability of knowledge
creation within History?” and “How far does disagreement and consensus in the
Natural Sciences contribute to the validity of knowledge creation?” This
analysis will show that robust knowledge necessitates the harmonious
co-existence of disagreement and consensus. This becomes evident when closely analysing
the interaction between conflict and universal acceptance with shared knowledge
in History and the Natural Sciences, with regards to reason and language.

Historical knowledge is reliant on
disagreements as a prerequisite to forming consensus and thereby improving
reliability. The manner of constructive debate, along with the type of knower,
has a significant impact on the value and validity of historical knowledge.
Disagreements are predominantly found within historiography, the area from
which historians draw interpretations and attempt to describe past events (Jayapalan 4). For instance, as
explored in my extended essay in History, the papacy of Pius XI was immersed
with debate and controversy, which was somewhat remedied following the opening
of the Vatican archives of his pontificate in 2006 (D’Emilio). Within the
scholarly world, such debate has remarkable value for historians as they become
exposed to diverse viewpoints to aid in reducing historical inaccuracies. The
additional source material made available from the opening of the archives was
invaluable, given its importance in the historical method. This gives rise to
the possibility for historians to use their historical reasoning in an attempt
to resolve disputes and expand shared knowledge within the field. The fact that
disagreement and thus various viewpoints are at the centre of historical
knowledge, drastically improves its reliability since historians rely on
Hegel’s dialectic. This significant component of philosophy is a method of
argument and dispute resolution whereby the antithesis possesses great value in
the dialectic stages of development (McTaggart 237). Accordingly, in the scholarly world,
constructive debate and the subsequent consensus increases the value and
reliability ascribed to historical knowledge. Such developments in the field
form the foundation for future shared knowledge that would arise as a result of
a greater understanding of past events.

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However, when interpreting the
meaning of sources, it is common for intractable conflicts to occur, thereby
hindering the reliability and value of historical knowledge creation. Given
that historical methodology is incredibly subjective, the subsequent
disagreements are typically overtly ideological in nature. The research
conducted whilst developing my internal assessment for History highlighted such
conflict. The diverging views from historical schools of thought regarding the causes
of the Ukrainian famine of 1932 illustrated how, in certain cases, bias
severely hinders knowledge development in this field. Historians may have the
tendency to adhere to confirmation bias, whereby source material that merely
confirms one’s belief is specifically chosen, whilst contradictory evidence is
dismissed (Willingham 46). Evidently, bias affects the way in
which historians interpret events. The key issues this presents, in terms of
shared knowledge, is that a flawed interpretation can be circulated as a fact,
thereby solidifying a biased argument. Another major issue faced by scholars is
the translation of historical sources. Language can be extremely ambiguous,
where simple misinterpretations can change one’s outlook of an event. One dire
example of a misinterpretation was witnessed in the Pacific war. Ten days prior
to dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima the Japanese Premier Kantaro Suzuki’s
response to President Truman’s ultimatum was misinterpreted. The Premier used
the word ‘mokusatu’ in his response which means ‘no comment’ but was
misinterpreted as ‘reject’ (Torikai 35).
Accordingly, it is clear how historians’ reliance on source material can be
flawed. Furthermore, non-experts may lack the historical reasoning to
differentiate between a reliable and an unreliable source, thus resulting in
the development of erroneous personal historical knowledge. In these
aforementioned examples, the zone of exchange is minimal as personal knowledge
does not contribute to expanding shared knowledge, since consensus is not
reached. Although it may appear that intractable arguments pose an impediment
to creating reliable historical knowledge, their consequence indicates
otherwise. Due to the difficulty of objectively assessing source material,
numerous historical schools of thought are ultimately formed. Thus, intractable
debate can arguably be said to improve the reliability of historical knowledge
as it has forcibly led to the creation of diverse viewpoints. Accordingly, the
study of history and its reliance on differing perspectives leads to an
expansion of the zone of exchange thereby refining historical knowledge and its
robust nature.

Moving on to the Natural Sciences,
it can be said that the validity or reliability of shared scientific knowledge,
in the scholarly world also increases with disagreements and consensus. In the
case of the scientific method, knowledge is only valid and valuable when it can
be methodically tested and quantitative empirical data can be collected to
support the theory. Accordingly, the importance of disagreements in increasing
the reliability of theoretical science becomes evident since it cannot be
empirically tested. For instance, recent disagreements about the theory of
gravity negate the need for dark matter as the answer for the abnormal motion
of stars in the galaxy (Galeon). Rather, the string
theory expert Erik Verlinde contends that a more accurate explanation can be derived
if gravity is considered to be an emergent phenomenon instead of a fundamental
force (Galeon). Utilising the
theory of emergent gravity, efforts can be made to reconcile the conflicts
between Einstein’s theory of general relativity and quantum physics. This
illustrates how disagreements can increase the reliability of theoretical
scientific knowledge. Such an impact is significant as theoretical knowledge is
crucial for developing a greater understanding of applied scientific knowledge.
In turn, this forms the foundation for future shared scientific knowledge.
Accordingly, the value and reliability that scholars attribute to shared
scientific knowledge improves as a result of disagreements since they reveal
flaws with established knowledge and contribute to the progression of the
field.

On the other hand, it can be argued
that disagreements and consensus in relation to theoretical scientific
knowledge are limited in their ability to contribute to improving reliability
or value. Scientific language is a major cause of long-standing debates within
this field. For example, scholars have been debating the meaning of quantum
mechanics, ever since its inception. The division among experts in this
instance stems from the various interpretations of the theory’s foundations,
thus preventing consensus from being reached and impeding further progression
within the field (Ball). Moreover,
scientists’ disagreements often arise from their use of inductive reasoning to
explain a phenomenon. Accordingly, this process is inherently flawed as it can
potentially lead to faulty generalizations, since conclusions made are not
certain, but merely probable. Arguably, even after effectively reaching
consensus, the perceived value and reliability of scientific knowledge to a
non-expert is limited. This is a consequence of the fact that they may lack the
scientific background knowledge to comprehend and recognise the significance of
the newly acquired scientific knowledge. The complexity of scientific jargon,
further restricts the layman’s ability to understand and appreciate this new
knowledge. I became aware of the issues arising from scientific language during
my internal assessment for Physics. I only began to appreciate the
significance and value of specific heat capacity and its theoretical basis
following extensive research. The fact that a thorough exploration was needed
to understand this scientific concept highlighted the impediment non-experts
face when attempting to comprehend complex scientific lexis. Hence one’s
personal knowledge has substantial importance in determining the reliability
and value of newly acquired scientific knowledge. Nevertheless, it must be
noted that the process of disagreement within the Natural Sciences is still
fruitful. It is a vital tool to understand and develop scientific facts to
better explain the laws of nature. More importantly, disagreements challenge
the nature of established scientific knowledge, thereby further motivating
experts to seek out the truth and create robust knowledge.

To conclude, the existence of
disagreements prior to establishing consensus, significantly impacts the
reliability of knowledge creation. The implications of this finding are noteworthy.
Arguably, in the scholarly worlds of History and the Natural Sciences, the
presence of diverse viewpoints greatly increases the reliability and validity
of shared knowledge, as debates generate immense value to historians and
scientists in their pursuit of robust knowledge. However, in the non-expert
worlds of History and the Natural Sciences, the knower may lack the personal
knowledge to appreciate the value of disagreements as a prior necessity to
forming consensus, for robust knowledge creation. Consequently, for knowledge
to possess value from the perspective of non-experts, it must form the foundation
for future shared knowledge whilst being
comprehensible for the layman. However, this is not to say that disagreement
and consensus are the only way of creating robust knowledge, rather, it
increases the probability of its creation. 

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