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How to broaden your knowledge

Updated on September 24, 2013

Let's play TOK...

We believe that in an age where you're bombarded from every direction with all sorts of information and knowledge, it can sometimes very disorientating and hard to adapt your head to everything that's going on.

What matters is that you train your mind to become as supple and flexible as an athlete's body. Some people call it 'brain gym'; we prefer to call it 'TOK talk': the power of decent discussion to get the mind exercised and infinitely adaptable to the world of knowledge with which it is confronted.

So every now and then, we'll set up a debate to get you all talking and thinking!

These will be loosely based around some of the Prescribed TOK Essay titles, so at least you'll get some sort of focused enquiry (argument and counter argument) into the issues that really matter to you.

Just see - your mind will start to open up to a whole new realm of possibility...

TOK Play 4

Look at this before you start debating...

Watch the opening sequence of the new Star Trek movie, 'Into Darkness'. The scene reworks a similar ethical scenario in the earlier Star Trek movie, 'The Wrath of Khan', in which Kirk is unable to save his friend Spock from death: logic wins out over reason here. However, in the new version, Kirk follows his emotions and saves Spock, breaking the Prime Directive in his wake...

TOK Debate #4 - TOK about the big question of the day...

This debate is based loosely on Q2 of the TOK Essays May2014 list. In the action opening, Spock is stranded in the heart of a volcano which is about to explode; Kirk and the ship are bound by the Prime Directive not to reveal themselves to the indigenous population, not to mention the fact that the ship and crew might also be annihilated in the volcanic explosion. Now Spock, consistent with his Vulcan logic, argues that the Captain must stick to the Federation rules of the Prime Directive; Kirk only has one emotion: to save the life of a friend. In a last desperate plea, Spock presents his now famous line to shore up his argument: ‘the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few’.

When is it justified to take risks based on emotion? (or 'Would you have saved Spock?)

Michael Shermer
Michael Shermer

TOK Play 3

Look at this before you start debating...

Click on the picture to take you to a short TEDTalk by Michael Shermer entitled 'Why do people believe strange things?' Shermer's talk is humorous, but extremely thought provoking about the nature of evidence and also very lucid about the way science works. His arguments that we are hard wired to recognise faces and are pattern recognising creatures goes a long way to explain why we beleive weird things, but can you find the flaws in them?

TOK Debate #3 - TOK about the big question of the day...

This debate relates to the TOK Essay May 2013 Question 5 - Christopher Hitchens' quote that assertions made without evidence should be dismissed without evidence. It raises the issue of the 'ad ignorantum' fallacy: when I assert that because there is no evidence to support a belief, it must be false; or because I lack evidence to refute a belief, it must be true. For example, 'I believe UFOs don't exist, because no one has proved otherwise' or 'There is no physical evidence to prove God exists. Therefore, God doesn't exist.'

The Big Question: Should assertions about paranormal phenomena be dismissed without evidence?

Stephen Law
Stephen Law

TOK Play 2

Look at this before you start debating...

Click on the image and you'll get to the website of Stephen Law who recently published a book called 'Believing Bullshit: How not to get sucked into an intellectual black hole', Prometheus Books, New York, 2012, 271p. Law specialises in the Philosophy of Religion and has recently presented something he calls 'The Evil God Challenge' which offers a compelling argument against belief in the traditional Christian concpetion of God.

Read the version of Chapter 2 of the book (whatever else, it'll help you with Q2 of the November 2012 TOK Essay List), before going on to the second TOK debate.

TOK Debate #2 - TOK about the big question of the day...

This debate is loosely based around Q2 of the November 2012 TOK Essay Titles about Conan-Doyle's issue with theories and evidence/data.

The Big Question: Is it more rational to believe in Young Earth Creationism or Evolution Theory?

Creationism and Evolution on Amazon

Look up Amazon for resources on the subjects relating to the debate...

Ray Kurzweil and the technological revolution
Ray Kurzweil and the technological revolution

TOK Play 1

Look at this before you start debating...

Click on the picture to go to a short article and video entitled, 'Ray Kurzweil: The Six Epochs of Technology Evolution'. There's a brief profile of Ray Kurzweil, an interesting innovator in the field of Articial Intelligence (AI), followed by a brief discussion of the development of technology in recent years.

After watching the video, go onto the first TOK Debate to debate an issue relating to the video.

TOK Debate #1 - TOK about the big question of the day...

This debate is loosely based on the May 2012 ToK Essay Question 8 about how far religious faith counts as knowledge.

The Big Question: Is technological knowledge more important than religious knowledge?

Technology and Religion on Amazon

Look up Amazon for resources on the subjects relating to the debate...

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    • toktutor profile image
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      toktutor 5 years ago

      Dear Serenia, Lovely to hear from you. You're proposing the argument from design and some might argue against your suggestion that evolution teaches that complex human/animal behaviour happens by 'accident'. Firstly, can you identify the potential problems in the design argument for the existence of God and secondly, reflect on the point that while evolutionary theory acknowledges that the universe may have come into exisence by accident, the PROCESS of evolution itself isn't always random...

    • toktutor profile image
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      toktutor 5 years ago

      @nephthys lm: Strange! My experience of te space inside a churche has been wonderful - calming, reflective, stilling - but this is, of course, when there have been few people in their and not in the middle of a mass (though I have to say I did go to one particularly good Catholic service where the priest sopke Latin and didn't face the congregation). Having said that, your point about ideas and their impact on our world is a good one - BIG problems occur when ideas are enforced on us or are coercively presented. How do we guard against this?

    • nephthys lm profile image

      nephthys lm 5 years ago

      @toktutor: I like to find things out for myself- so there is no universal truth controlling everything for me. But some religions do control pretty much everything in your mind, which some people like- it's that nice, firm, steadfast hold on your own little reality that stops you going loco. Some religions have so many followers that they have an almost cohersive way to them- I call it the 'sweigh'. Sometimes, when you go into a church you can actually feel it, which is why I spend very little time in churches. A strong idea warps reality... so in actuality it is controlling peoples minds and the way they observe things, their actions and reactions.

    • toktutor profile image
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      toktutor 5 years ago

      @golgonooza: golgonooza, you make a really lucid point about the human need for belief frameworks to give a sense of order and meaning to our disparate experiences and the apparent randomness of our world. And the argument that the very recent science-technology creed is 'based on the centrality of matter and its divisibility' reminds us Wordsworth's Romantic criticism that 'Our meddling intellect/Mis-shapes the beautious forms of things:/We murder to dissect'. We don't want to simplify the emotion-reason distinction implied by the debate question we posed, but there are two things that your observations point to: first, how do we balance the qualitatively different ways of thinking (Wordsworth might say 'imaginative' and 'critical' as Einstein said after him) involved in creating a religious and scientific-technological framework? And second, how do we prevent each belief-framework from being abused by those who want to control people for nothing more than power and profit? There's always an ethical dimension to these questions...

    • profile image

      golgonooza 5 years ago

      @toktutor: Interesting question. Clearly the nature of religious thinking is to bind together all thoughts into a framework. The word religion from the latin 'religio' meaning 'to bind' ( the same root for ligature and ligament) points to this function of religious thinking. It is a deep human desire I think, to fit all of our beliefs into a cohesive coherent scheme. And it is what makes religious thinking able to, as you say, control the minds of people, by making the framework absolute and hierarchical, with an elite who know how to manipulate it. Take for instance the high priests in ancient Egypt who wielded absolute power, even over kings through their knowledge and control of the framework. There are two things to say though. Firstly, this kind of control, while religious in terms of being an overall frame, can be gained through a combination of spiritual and scientific knowledge. Take the Egyptian priests. It was only through their intimate and precise astronomical, engineering, mathematical and geographical knowledge that they were able to exert such control over the minds of the people - thus 'religious' thinking is not limited to what Islam or Christianity do for example, it happens anywhere that a whole system of thought is adhered to and used to bring people together. As such it is probably indispensable to humanity. We all have a belief framework, even scientists. Only in modern times do people think they can not have one. The twentieth century experiment in trying to throw out 'religious' thinking only resulted in similar systems of thought filling the void - 'isms' such as marxism, fascism, etc. They also bound people together with frameworks of control. In fact it is clear that the last three hundred years have been remarkable for the rise to prominence of the belief system of science-technology, whose goal is manipulation and control over the natural world, and whose creed is based on the centrality of matter and its divisibility and thus knowability. In its progress maybe we will have not only conquered outer nature, but also inner nature as such prophets of progress like Kurzweil clearly perceive. So I would not generally agree that the problem of mind-control lies only in the domain of religion.

    • toktutor profile image
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      toktutor 5 years ago

      Mr Livermore, A very subtle distinction between 'thinking with' and 'thinking about' in relation to the idea of 'truth'. Would you agree that one of the problems of religious thinking is that it can often promote a 'truth' which enables you to control not only your environment, but the minds of people?

    • toktutor profile image
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      toktutor 5 years ago

      Paty, A really insightful point and it's great to see that you've also expressed a counter-claim. Good luck, if you're attempting this Q!