Robust knowledge is knowledge that is valuable,relevant and accepted within the context of its application and its area ofknowledge.
It is achieved when the knowledge is reliable, pivotal andconstructed in a legitimate way. Facts can be seen as robust knowledge as afact can be defined as information which is justified beyond doubt, thereforerobust knowledge includes, but is not limited to, facts. The reason robustknowledge is not limited to just facts is because of personal knowledge; sharedknowledge refers to facts that are socially acceptable, however one may havetheir own personal knowledge, which isn’t deemed as factual, that is acceptedas robust knowledge in their personal belief. Consensus refers to the idea ofgeneral agreement; opposing the idea of personal knowledge.The synthesis ofrobust knowledge in the natural sciences are linked to the necessity fordevelopment to help the world move forward medically and technologically.Similarly, robust knowledge from history is linked to the form the basis formodern day justice systems and political decisions. In spite of robustknowledge consisting of sturdy information, discrepancies may exist whenattempting to link facts and information across all areas of knowledge, such asfaith; faith ultimately refers to one’s personal beliefs, opposing the idea ofsocially robust knowledge, or ethics, as ethical information essentially cannotbe tested and proven or disproven.
AOK #1:NATURAL SCIENCESCLAIM: For robust knowledge to exist within the natural sciences, disagreementis necessary. Knowledge within the natural sciences can be considered robust ifit can withstand continuous criticism which derives from disagreement, whichleads to the examination and further testing of a theory.EXPLAIN: Science essentially works because scientists disagree; ideas arechallenged and different ways to interpret and analyse information are foundand utilised, leading to the resulting outcome being based on a robustfoundation of strong knowledge. If criticised knowledge emerges with consensus,it is robust, otherwise it ceases to be knowledge at all. The reason whydisagreement is highly necessary in the formation of robust knowledge withinthe natural sciences is that the examination that comes along with it demands deeperrecollection and judgement instead of mere settlement or easy agreement. Theway a theory within the natural sciences begins to be considered a fact is bythe testing and confirming of data.
Without disagreement in the naturalsciences, many things that were believed in the past that have been falsifiedwould continue to be believed now, such as the theory that the Earth is flat.Disagreements in the natural science are fruitful are they encouragediscussions and further examination of a theory until it is proven not justsuggested, leaving no room for further disagreement.EXAMPLE: An example of the necessity of disagreement within the natural sciencesfor the formation of robust knowledge is the falsification of the phlogistontheory. During the mid-17th century, physicians suggested the existence of afire-like element called phlogiston, which was said to be contained withincombustible substances and released during combustion. The theory suggestedthat charcoal, for example, left very little residue after combustion becauseit consisted of nearly purely phlogiston. This was the accepted belief untilScheele’s experiment led chemist Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier to prove, in 1779,that when oxygen was isolated, fire could be seen as a result of a chemicalreaction, instead of as an element in the reaction itself. It was Lavoisier whonamed the element, oxygen. By falsifying the Phlogiston theory, Lavoisier ledto the birth to the field of modern chemistry.
That made for dramatic changesin the science thereafter, and it was due in large part to the discovery ofoxygen.COUNTERCLAIM: On the other hand, one might argue thattheories within the natural sciences require a general consensus amongst thescientific community after the observations, experiments, investigations andresults are found to be consistent and reliable. The robustness of knowledge inthe natural science could solely depend on consensus, without the necessity fordisagreement.EXPLAIN: Scientific consensus is what most scientists in a particular areaof study agree is true on a specific question, where disagreement on thequestion is limited and insignificant.
For example, if the scientific communityis asked: “If I let go of this apple in my hand, will it fall to the ground?”The answer will be “yes,” according to the scientific consensus that the appleis susceptible to Earth’s gravity. It’s worth mentioning that a scientificpaper is not an average or an ordinary paper. It is a paper that is evaluatedby a group of specialists in the field of study who examine its limitations,its experimental procedures, and its findings. Only after the paper has beenthrough this review process is it accepted for publication, and each new paperbuilds on the information communicated in the papers that preceded.Thus, theemergence of a scientific consensus isn’t dependent on a majoritarian rule. Itactually highlights the fact that many great scientists from differentbackgrounds have considered the question at hand and have reached similarconclusions. That doesn’t mean that science is flawless or always 100% correct.It is important to remember that science is adaption; it’s change.
But what it does mean is that we have a pretty goodunderstanding of how things work, and it will take an enormous, perhapscurrently impossible, amount of evidence to change our current understanding.EXAMPLE: For example, scientific consensus agrees that climate change is realand that it’s caused by human activity. A recently published paper by John Cookalong with seven other researchers of climate change studies found that 97% ofpublishing climate science authenticate the consensus that climate changeoriginates from human activity. Furthermore, the paper found that the studiesconducted by more expert scientists confirmed the consensus more.
Whena group of scientists, each with years of expertise in a particular area ofstudy, cooperate to make a scientific claim, it doesn’t suggest that theargument is completely over, but it does mean that the claim doubtlessly lackspersonal opinion or beliefs, and that, thanks to modern day technology anddevelopment, it is supported by enormous amounts of evidence, thussubstantially leaving no room for scientists to debate this specific issue, asit’s largely answered, rather that they should build upon this agreement. Inshort, a scientific consensus tells us things that we have already learned, andit lets us know when things have stopped being debated in the sciences.AOK #2:HISTORYCLAIM: For robust knowledge in history, consensus and disagreement mustcoexist within knowledge production.EXPLAIN: In history, strongknowledge is derived from facts about what happened in the past, why certainevents happened, their causes and effects, and the interpretation of thoseevents. Historians collect information by comparing accounts from a widevariety of sources, in search of common features that can verify a credibleclaim, therefore disagreement is necessary in order to ensure the confirmationand the validity of a theory.
Recently, in the knowledgeproduction there has been an accepted norm of exploring several perspectivesthat reflect different views including considering the disagreements of ahistorical event. The issue is that singular perspectives hinder the validityof information. Thus, historical controversy arises due to several reasonsincluding a historian’s personal point of view of society, the effect of thecurrent social and political climate on the historian, the historical approachused by the historian, the differenttypes of evidence used and how they have been understood, or newly foundevidence.EXAMPLE: An example of historical controversy is the different schools ofhistoriography. Counterfactual history refers to the ‘what if…?’ approach, andalthough some historians disregard it as it can mean dealing in possibilitieswhich will never be proven, it serves a very valuable purpose in testing howcompelling historical explanations are and makes room for discussion.
Anexample of this is the analysis of what caused the First World War. A WhigHistorian, such as Taylor, would argue that the war was caused by theassassination of Franz Ferdinand, therefore a possible question would be “Whatif Franz Ferdinand had survived the assassination?”, and possible insights wouldbe that Austria then wouldn’t have had a reason for war with Serbia, althoughthey could have found an excuse at some other point, so did the assassinationspeed up or actually cause the beginning of the war? A counter argument couldbe made by a Marxist historian, such as Lenin, that capitalism was the reasonfor the outbreak of the war, leading to the question “What if the Euro had beeninvented in 1914?”, causing the possible insights to the bitterness of France’sloss of Alsace-Lorraine would have worn off, however the strive for colonieswas as much about status as economics, so should the issue of colonies beconsidered an issue as much related to national status as economics? COUNTERCLAIM:Robust knowledge in history differs between communityto community and relies on knowledge production that is mainly consensual,whereby disagreement is unnecessary.EXPLAIN: In one knowledgecommunity, what may be considered robust knowledge may not be in another.Shared knowledge within a community relies on consensus within that community,however doesn’t require consensus between other communities. Disagreementbetween communities can exist, but this will not affect the consideration ofrobustness of knowledge or information.
EXAMPLE: An example of this is the Textbook Crisis in Japan over the Nanjingmassacre. Japanese students are taught in history class using a textbook thatonly refers to the Nanjing massacre in one line and refers to it as an”incident”, and glosses over the issue of comfort women. Nobukatsu Fujioka is an author ofa history book who said “It was a battlefield so people were killedbut there was no systematic massacre or rape,” “The Chinesegovernment hired actors and actresses, pretending to be the victims when theyinvited some Japanese journalists to write about them.” and that “All ofthe photographs that China uses as evidence of the massacre are fabricated”.
Furthermore, there are only seven history textbooks that are approved by theMinistry of Education in Japan which schools are allowed to use. Mariko Oi, a Japanese student,researched into the historical perspective of other countries and foundcontroversy over the event. “The Chinese say 300,000 were killed andmany women were gang-raped by the Japanese soldiers, but as I spent six monthsresearching all sides of the argument, I learned that some in Japan deny theincident altogether.” In 2005, protests were held in China and South Koreabecause of a textbook prepared by the Japanese Society for History TextbookReform, which had been approved by the government in 2001.
Foreign critics saidit concealed Japan’s war record duringthe 1930s and early 1940s. Therefore it is clear that because students in Japanare taught one thing that is approved by history textbooks and famous historians,their knowledge of the Nanjing massacre is considered robust to them, due toemotion getting in the way, despite another community, which is China in thiscase, opposing their belief, so what is considered robust in the sharedknowledge of one community is not affected by the disagreement from anothercommunity. CONCLUSIONIn conclusion, it is clear that defining robustknowledge is highly complex and it differs significantly between one field ofstudy and another. This is because for robust knowledge to exist, many aspectsneed to be considered including the synthesis of the knowledge, the evidenceprovided, and the culture or community in question.
Another important factorthat could hinder whether something is considered robust or not is the questionof personal versus shared knowledge, as a piece of information may beconsidered robust to one person due to faith or intuition or emotion, wherebyit cannot be proven strongly by reason, thus making it seem like frailknowledge to others. The same applies to communities or countries as shown bythe Nanjing massacre example. Furthermore, it is difficult to specify andstandardise the robustness of knowledge across different areas of study such asthe sciences and history due to the intense variation between the methods ofsynthesis of knowledge. The two areas of knowledge use completely differentmethods to produce knowledge therefore are incomparable in terms of robustness.Thus, although it makes sense to say that consensus and disagreement are bothrequired for robust knowledge, this statement can be opposed due to the idea ofpersonal knowledge and the ways of knowing of faith, intuition and emotion.