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Essay: "There are no alternative ways beside passive observation and active experiment in which knowledge can be produced or developed"

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  • Published: 11 October 2015*
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The assessment statement explicitly states that t. But how true is this? In their book, Brown and Ford (2009) stated that when a titration experiment is done using a basic solution and acid solution with the added phenolphalein solution, then the phenolphalein will turn pink to indicate that the reaction has reached the point of neutralization. Having read this literature, I understood that when I titrate an aloe solution (a basic solution) using hydrochloric acid, the basic solution can be neutralised. So by deduction, I hypothesized that the phenolphthalein will turn pink. But, this was not the case, because the aloe solution was coloured, hence I couldn’t observe the colour change of the phenolphthalein. Thus, through active experimenting, my personal knowledge because I deduced that the change of colour for phenolphthalein can be observed if the solution used is clear. This observation can be regarded as personal knowledge because was not in the shared knowledge found in the literature. Due to this observation, I had to use other means to verify that aloe can neutralize an acid and this incorporated further experiments that required the use of the pH meters and plant analysis tools. Regarding the assessment statement, it can be argued that this incident supports it, because it demonstrates how personal knowledge was induced and developed through the use of passive observation and active experiments. This incident also illustrates how the integration of passive observation and active experiment assist in developing a new knowledge claim. As such, does this mean that we cannot integrate either passive observation or active experiments with other ways of knowing when producing knowledge under this area of knowledge and the human sciences?
Many biological discoveries demonstrate how passive observation and active experiments are used to mould an individual’s personal knowledge. In 1922, while Fleming was working with bacteria, his nose leaked and he accidentally dropped some mucus onto the dish (Rosenberg, (2015). Six years later, he picked one of the trays that had the cultured bacteria and he noticed that a mould had grown on the dish while he was away (Rosenberg, (2015). What was strange about this mould was that it killed a bacterium named Staphylococcus aureus (Staph) that had been growing on the plate (Rosenberg, 2015). He further grew more models in order to identify the substance in the mould that killed the bacteria and after various trials; he noted that it was penicillium (Rosenberg, 2015). Although he had gained an unshared knowledge, Fleming’s decision to further investigate the actual substance that acted on the bacterium suggests that Fleming was not confident with the knowledge he gained by passive observation. Thus, engaging in an active experiment helped him to further develop his knowledge and this led to the discovery of penicillium. Considering this example, it can be argued that in order to produce knowledge in the area of human science, passive observation and active experiments have to be integrated. Why? Well, Fleming as a renowned scientist observed an unfamiliar incident-unfamiliar in the sense that it had not been shared at all. Let alone this observation, his option to do more experiments rather than settling with the knowledge he gained passively, suggests that scientists integrate passive observation and active experiment in order to have assurance of the knowledge induced. As a result, this supports that passive observation and active experiments have to be integrated in order to develop new knowledge under this area of knowledge.
By way of contrast, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle was induced by using other ways of knowing beside passive observation and active experiments. During the 1920s, electrons had been found to display wavelike properties, but a model to account for this property had not yet been developed (Lanna, Connor and Jordan, 2011). In their book, Connor, Jordan and Lanna reported that, ‘Werner Heisenberg proposed that the dual nature of matter places a limitation on how precisely we can know the location of a subatomic particle such as an electron.’ This proposal was further used by Erwin Schr??dinger when he generated the model known as quantum mechanics, which shows the energy levels of the electron in all atoms (Lanna, Connor and Jordan, 2011). Heisenberg induced his proposal through intuition and imagination because there was not enough experimental and passively observed knowledge that supported his claim before Schr??dinger’s model of quantum mechanics. So before the quantum mechanics was generated, Heisenberg’s proposal stood as a theory, which was highly based on intuition and imagination. The model of quantum mechanics demonstrates the arrangement of energy levels of an atom. This knowledge is induced through passive observation and scientific experiments. Moreover, Schr??dinger’s knowledge claim concurs with Heisenberg’s’ proposal, but as I said, intuition and imagination assisted Heisenberg to induce his principle in the first place, thus proving that knowledge can be developed by other means other than passive observation and active experiment. Furthermore, the fact that nobody at that time had proposed this principle categorizes this as a form of personal knowledge that Heisenberg had gained through intuition and imagination.
The preceding examples illustrated how ways of knowing assisted individuals when developing their personal knowledge. Similarly, ways of knowing can influence a community’s customs, and this can be illustrated by an example from the 19th century. Before the 1950s, the Chinese government encouraged its civilians to have more children so that the country’s workforce would increase(bbc.co.uk, 2015). Then during the 1950s, the government recognized that there was an enormous growth of the population and this observation was supported by the surveys that it made. The surveys indicated the population change to be 1.9% each year(bbc.co.uk, 2015). Thus, due to statistical knowledge they had acquired through the surveys, the Chinese government did an extrapolation of their population graphs and the results indicated that there would be a double increase in population in just 24 years(bbc.co.uk, 2015). As a result, the government imposed the one child policy in order to avoid the proceeding outcomes of large population growth and hence it dropped to 0.7 per cent each year(bbc.co.uk, 2015). This incident illustrates how the people of China changed their customary ways of having numerous children. Moreover, this change was induced by the knowledge gained through passive observation and the surveys that were done. Consequently, the implication of the one child policy brings to light the influence of knowledge derived through passive observation and empirical inquiry on humankind’s customs as the Chinese people adopted a new customary behaviour that made them to have lesser children than they usually did. Nonetheless, this does not mean that humankind’s behaviour and customs are affected by knowledge produced by either passive observation or active experiments only. Does it? While the implementation of the one child policy supports the statement, the principle of time zones contradicts it. Timesandzones.com(2015) reports that before the 19th century, many towns and cities around the globe set their clocks (time) according to the position of the sun and the stars. The transition to the use of time zones (which was recommended as a unified timekeeping system) was influenced by the rapid expansion of transport facilities and communication, as well as the trade globalization that boomed during the 19th century(bbc.co.uk, 2015). Since the time zones are based on lines of longitude; which are imaginary lines. It can be argued that the knowledge of time according to the time zone is therefore an example of knowledge that is induced beside the use of passive observation and active experiments. To be exact, it can be classified as knowledge that is induced through imagination and intuition. To demonstrate how time zones work, Timesandzones.com (2015) states that, ‘Civil time changes by one hour forward and backward respectively for every 15 degrees east or west of the Greenwich Meridian’. The preceding example, explicitly illustrates that we can identify the time in other regions of the world by simply adding or subtracting one hour with respect to every 15?? east or west of the Greenwich meridian (an imaginary line). This knowledge that utilizes the imaginary lines is widely used and it has changed humankind’s customary behaviour by influencing a transition from using the sun’s position as a way of indicating time to the current use of time zones.
In a like manner, the principle of time zones concurs with the Heisenberg uncertainty principles as they represent knowledge that was produced without the use of passive observation and active experiments. Having said this, I conclude that passive observation and active experiment are probably the prominent ways in which knowledge can be produced in some areas of knowledge such as the natural sciences. However, this does not mean that we can overrule the use of other ways of knowing when producing knowledge particularly in those areas of knowledge. Does it?#


Lanna B., Maria Connor and Carol Jordan, (2011), Chemistry for the use of IB Diploma Higher Level,1st edition, Pearson Heinemann
Timesandzones.com, (2015),[online],http://www.timeanddate.com/time/time-zones.html, [accessed 26-Jan-2015]
Jennifer Rosenberg, (2015), history1900s.about.com, [online], http://history1900s.about.com/od/medicaladvancesissues/a/penicillin.htm , [accessed 3-Dec-2014]
Walpole B., Merson-Davies A., Dann L, (2011), Biology for the IB Diploma, 1st publication, Cambridge University Press
www.bbc.co.uk, (2015), [online], http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/geography/population/managing_population_rev3.shtml, [accessed 25-Jan-2015]
Brown C., Ford M. (2009) ,Higher Level Chemistry developed specifically for the IB DIPLOMA, Pearson Education Limited 2009

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