Knowledge, the growth and development of robust knowledge in

Knowledge, an essential aspect of civilization, has enabled human societies to survive and thrive through different historical time periods. Knowledge refers to the collection of facts, information, and skills obtained through education or experience.1  Regardless of the area of knowledge, development of robust knowledge demands enormous investment in time and effort to formulate, test and validate theories into conceptual facts. While there are scientists who argue that consensus and disagreement is a requirement for the development of robust knowledge, there are other researchers of the opinion that growth of robust knowledge does not require either. This paper explores the different perspectives of the importance of consensus and disagreement for the development of robust knowledge in the fields of natural sciences as well as ethics. Natural science is the study of the physical, chemical, biological and geological phenomena of the world.2 Ethics is a branch of philosophy that focuses on the study of human behavior.3 Both of these fields have been developing and are still developing to this day, meaning that there has been a sufficient accumulation of arguments in favor and against this topic that can be supported by various real life examples.On the one hand, it can be argued that the growth and development of robust knowledge in the field of natural sciences require both consensus and disagreement. Broad fields such as biology, chemistry, and physics are still very much far from being fully explored. The reason for this is because of the limits imposed by technology as well as current experimentation methods. Mistakes and faulty experimental procedures obviously affect knowledge derived from them. Cycles of consensus and disagreements in the process of falsification and paradigm shift of research information is an important means of creating robust knowledge in the field of natural sciences. Fleming’s accidental discovery of penicillin in 1928 underwent merely eight tests on mice before proceeding with human tests with just five samples, which is hugely insufficient. As a result, a policeman suffering from a facial infection died because of a relapse- not enough of the drug was provided during the human trials.1 This phenomenon goes to show that a lack of communication with other scientists resulted in no disagreements and a go-ahead for an under-tested drug to be released. Fortunately, this incident was an eye-opener, and nowadays new scientific knowledge has to go through several rigorous assessments by different institutions before they can be provided to the public.The consensus is particularly important in the development of agreed-upon standards and codes of ethics which guide scientists in dealing with different aspects of this field of science. The John Cook et al (2013) study, that has reached 97% consensus by scientists to confirm that global warming is an issue caused by humans, is a good example of this. By gaining awareness as to what the source of the global warming is, the slowing down of it can be facilitated. This window for consensus and disagreement in the field of natural sciences motivates scientists to produce their best and to adhere to the highest standards of experimental procedures to ensure their data and information do not face serious ethical issues.On the other hand, one can argue that robust knowledge in the field of natural sciences does not require both consensus and disagreements. The argument from this point of view is that both consensus and disagreements within the field act as an impediment to the development of robust knowledge, as it limits the imagination of an individual scientist to explore new approaches in natural sciences. Therefore, a consensus is not necessary for knowers to generate knowledge in physical science. For example, various conflicting theories explain the same facts in natural sciences. The case of Newton physics of gravity and Einstein Physics of relativity is a depiction of why consensus is not essential in acquiring knowledge in natural science.  Both theories are different from each other, but they explain various things in the universe. Newton believed in a fixed or constant space while Einstein stated that space was flexible and ever-changing.2 Both theories have been used to generate robust knowledge in physics.Disagreement according to this opinion is also not a requirement for a robust knowledge of natural sciences. Disagreements can seriously undermine the research output of scientific papers and in some cases complete abandonment of the research.  In this case, disagreements have brought about unhealthy competition in natural sciences whereby every scientist becomes a marketer of their hypothesis and ideas. Biased theories have come up because of disagreements. For instance, some theorists and scientists have researched campaign against vaccination. In addition to that vaccine, controversies have erupted because of the competition of pro-vaccine parties and anti-vaccine campaigners.3 Both parties have conducted empirical research to validate their points of view and it is one of the primary factors that has diluted robust knowledge regarding vaccines.Unlike other areas of knowledge, ethics is special because of the unique role it plays in setting moral standards within a given society. Therefore, like natural sciences ethics requires robust information in order to overcome various nuances such as bias. In the majority of societies in the world, the moral standards of what was considered right or wrong were determined by the most popular religion within those particular societies. With time, however, the ethical standards and perception of morality have changed due to the emergence of different factors such as globalization. These factors have exposed people to different cultures. It is for this reason that some argue that robust knowledge in ethics requires both consensus and disagreement.The concepts of cultural relativism and cultural relativity are a perfect example of why both consensus and disagreements are required for robust knowledge in the field of ethics. Cultural relativism states that what is considered normal in one society is not necessarily considered the same in another society.1 Cultural relativity, on the other hand, is a prescriptive assertion that what is right and good is what the culture considers to be. This concept insinuates that there are no higher grounds for judging a cultural norm in society whether they are for better or worse, or good or bad. The implication of cultural relativity is grave because it can be used to justify immoral actions as long as they suit their narrative. The consensus is important for setting limits to which the concept of cultural relativity can be used to justify certain cultural norms. At the same time, disagreements are also required to give room for people in different societies to develop their understanding. In this case, consensus brings about the concept of universalism whereby societies are guided by universal principles that are independent of culture, gender identity, and religion. For instance, the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights is a universal principle that was brought about by consensus among different nations2.Considering there is not a universally agreed-upon culture that can be claimed to be ideal, all societies have the right to draft norms they deem fit for their society. This consensus and disagreements in ethics allow for the development of culture-specific norms in different societies but at the same time create limits on what norms can be considered as moral. For instance, journalistic studies have indicated that codes and regulations of journalists are different in various countries. In this case, every country has its legal framework for handling the journalism profession. Therefore, there are disagreements between countries on how to regulate journalism such as training of journalists. However, there are universal codes of ethics that guide journalists all over the world. These codes include objectivity, accountability, and accuracy.3 The above example shows that consensus acts a framework to control disagreement between different parties which in turn translates to robust knowledge.To counter the claim, one can argue that consensus cannot be used to generate knowledge in ethics because some societies may justify the use of this kind of violence against another as it helps them achieve their objectives. In this case, societies can agree to create cultural principles that support negative norms in the community.  For example, studies on gender have indicated that some societies have created gender stereotypes against women.  For instance, in some Arab countries, women are not hold leadership positions.4 In addition to that, disagreement cannot be used to acquire knowledge in ethics because it raises controversies around various moral concepts. For example, disagreements on ethics of abortion have raised debates around the act. The controversies have alienated moral autonomy of self-determination and free choice5.  As a result, ethics of abortion have brought about moral dilemmas especially on doctors who have to decide whether a mother should give birth or not.In summary, it is a well-known fact that areas of knowledge change from time to time as a result of the influence of different factors and are still far from being fully explored. Maturity and robustness of the different areas of knowledge vary from one place to another, depending on some social and cultural aspects of the particular community. Consensus and disagreement are two examples of these factors that play a key role in influencing the robustness of a particular area of knowledge. From the previous arguments, it can be concluded that the claim that robust knowledge requires both consensus and disagreement is subjective to each individual, and to the area of knowledge concerned. 


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