Wednesday, January 6, 2016

TOK 1: Day 47 (1/6) - Quantification in the Human Sciences

  • You MUST BE RECORDING CAS REFLECTIONS!  Several of you have no CAS reflections AGAIN for the month of December.  This is essential NOT ONLY for your grade in MY CLASS, but also for your success in the IB Diploma Program.
  • You should be thinking hard about who you would like to act as your Extended Essay Mentor.  Reach out (in writing - send an email!) to the person/people who you are considering to ask them if they feel they would be a good fit.  Arrange to meet with them briefly to discuss your broad ideas and interests for the paper.
  • Begin reading for your EE.  Start with broad background information, and keep an eye out for specific areas that seem ripe for further investigation.  Let your focus arise organically, but START FOCUSING, and KEEP GOOD NOTES - what you have read, where you read it, etc.
  • Find a place to begin your Researcher's Reflection Space.  Ongoing reflection on the process of this essay is important both for the success of the final essay itself and for your ongoing growth as a learner and researcher.

Please take a moment to be sure that your Extended Essay Google Folder contains:
  • Your Topic Development & Rationale Form (which we discussed last class)
  • Your EE Action Plan - the "plan" portion of step 1 should now be completed
  • Any other material relevant to your Extended Essay
Then, share this folder with me:
  • Select folder
  • Right click and choose "Share..." (or click the little button at the top right of the screen that looks like a person with a + mark next to it)
  • Enter my email address (
  • Choose "Can View" (I don't need to edit your documents).
  • Click "Done"

By sharing this folder with me, I can keep up with your progress on longer-term stuff (like the Action Plan) without you always having to turn things in, etc.

Now, I'd like to talk a little bit about the Human Sciences.  To begin with, take a few minutes to read the two experiments discussed in the Atmospheric and Group Pressure handout.  Record your thoughts in this Discussion Guide.

After you have had time to think through the reading on your own, we will discuss, allowing these broad questions to guide our inquiry:

  1. The physical experiment using mercury was carried out in Italy. The psychological experiment involving students was carried out in the USA. Are these results relevant to other places, other countries, other fluids or other humans? Justify your answer.
  2. Humans are assumed to act out of free will. Is this assumption contradicted by the results of the conformity experiment?
  3. Sometimes psychologists are criticized for causing harm to subjects in experiments. Are moral values relevant to Asch’s experiment? Justify your answer. Are moral values relevant to Pascal’s experiment? Can harm done to experimental subjects ever be justified?
  4. Some religious groups do not allow the advances made possible by scientific experiment, such as modern medicine, in daily life. They look to other sources of control and comfort. Why might this be so?

After lunch I will ask you to write. Please copy this question into your TOK Blog and take the first 20 minutes of class to respond to it in writing.
Human sciences, such as psychology, sociology, anthropology, and economics, are sometimes referred to (often as a pejorative) as "soft sciences" in order to contrast them with the "hard" sciences of biology, chemistry, and physics. What is meant by this characterization?  What aspects of these disciplines could be considered "soft" and "hard" respectively?
We will begin our discussion next class with your answers to this prompt and the questions below.

If there's time, we will begin reading Jared Diamond's 1987 Discover Magazine article "Soft sciences are often harder than hard sciences." As we read, record your responses to the questions in this reading guide.

For Homework, please finish reading the article and complete the reading guide.

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