The natural sciences seek to develop our understanding of the universe, and the human sciences to understand ourselves. Our pursuit of these Areas of Knowledge has been aided and hindered in a multitude of ways. Amongst these, the role of disagreements, in its various forms, in either spurring or inhibiting progress is a complex one. Overall, it seems that disagreements have indeed helped in many ways, perhaps more in the natural sciences than in the human sciences, in how they often eliminate confirmation bias, and can challenge fallacious paradigms. Its use has been recognized through history and is an integral part of the scientific method. However, differing circumstances can result in debate being a hindrance, and causing stagnation in scientific progress. Opposition to correct ideas, the inclination to hold to ones current way of thinking and the inability to find conclusive proof all make disagreements ineffective in aiding progress. Additionally, history tends to remember the successful disagreements and not the ones that slowed development, and although the question implies that disagreement is a major factor in gaining knowledge, it is unclear if it really is in comparison to other factors. However, I feel that although their role may be clearer in the natural sciences than in the human sciences, disagreements are important factors that aid the pursuit of knowledge, provided that they are not abused or nullified by other factors like emotion and bias.
Disagreements are integral to the scientific method itself – in which a hypothesis is formed and then data is collected that will either prove or disprove it. It has become apparent that without disagreement, confirmation bias becomes a problem – a researcher might use data that suits his hypothesis and ignore data than doesn't, as are the allegations against the work of Gregor Mendel on genetics (Hart).
[...] In this case where emotion overpowered reason, disagreement did not develop mathematics, and the limited Pythagorean number theory lingered on. The publics' reluctance to change their way of thinking has been a common in the history of science. The most famous being the hostility against the heliocentric astronomical model in lieu of the geocentric one. Such a reaction is known as the Semmelweis Reflex the tendency to reject new theories because they contradict the current norms, which is named after an 19th Century Hungarian doctor who suggested that maternity doctors should wash their hands before handling births in order to lower infant mortality due to disease. [...]
[...] pag. NCBI. Web Feb Lagemaat, Richard Van De. Theory of Knowledge for the IB Diploma. Cambridge: Cambridge UP Print. Pugh, Peter, and Chris Garratt. Introducing Keynes. London: Icon Print. Taboos of Science. Dir. Hank Green. [...]
[...] Discussions with Einstein on Epistemological Problems in Atomic Physics.Cambridge University Press: n.p Marxists Internet Archive Sept Web Jan Everdell, William R. The First Moderns: Profiles in the Origins of Twentieth-century Thought. Chicago: University of Chicago Print. Kuhn, Thomas S. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Center for Science and Technology Policy Research. University of Colorado Boulder May 2012. Web Jan Hart, Daniel L. "Mud Sticks: On the Alleged Falsification of Mendel's Data." Thesis. US National Library of Medicine Anecdotal, Historical and Critical Commentaries on Genetics (2007): n. [...]
[...] In Conclusion, disagreements form a fundamental part of our quest for knowledge and can aid it in many ways. Without it, the proof of theory's, hypotheses and ideas could be logically flawed and at risk to human bias. Disagreements negate this and result in generally more objective results, as well as improving our scientific paradigms by questioning them, instead of accepting them as complete truth. However, if human emotion gets in the way, fallacious ideas may be held in spite of disagreement. [...]
[...] By Dave Loos. Perf. Hank Green. Youtube. N.p July 2012. Web Jan Thornton, Stephen, "Karl Popper", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta . [...]
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