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The following episodes relate to the 'All Articles' Category



Of Arts and Ethics


 

Wooden wheel
I’ll be exploring the relationship between arts and ethics. Is it necessary for art to go against moral and ethical conventions in order to be considered “good” art? Where are the limits to the freedom of expression of art? In this episode I’ll be asking questions, and not give answers!

In this episode, I’ll be exploring the relationship between arts and ethics. Some time ago, I read an interesting news report, one which links the two areas of knowledge Arts and Ethics. It’s about an unusual art exhibition. The artist placed 10 kitchen blenders on a long table. The blenders have sharp rotating knives and are normally used to smash vegetables or fruit. But in this case, each one of the blenders contained a live little gold fish swimming in some water. The visitors of the museum now had the choice of turning on the blenders – or not. The visitor, essentially, became the “rulers of the decision on life and death”, too use the words of the artist. According to news reports, some visitors indeed turned on the blenders, killing the fish, making fish soup. Animal rights activists complained, of course, and the police started to get involved as well.

When I first read about this art exhibition, I had to ask myself several questions.

  • Must art provoke? Is it necessary for good art to provoke emotions and a discussion?
  • Continue reading »

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Is the Word “scientific” Overused?


 

Tropical sunset
In this edition I want to give a little warning. Sometimes the words “science” or “scientific” are used to increase the value of certain claims, even if the use of these terms is not justified.

There are many claims out there that give the appearance of being scientific but they are not. Sometimes claims are shrouded in fancy language and sophisticated vocabulary – very serious sounding stuff. “It’s gotta be true, it sounds so scientific!” The media is full with claims that sound scientific but are not.
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What are Some Problems with Conspiracy Theories?


 

Pigeon
There are several problems with conspiracy theories, which are outlined in this episode.

I want to start this episode with a little example. Imagine that you are walking in the forest and that you see a burning tree. I give you two possible explanations:

  • Somebody dropped a burning cigarette and accidentally set the tree on fire.
  • The government tested a secret weapon, which accidentally set the tree on fire.

Which one of these two explanations is the better one, and why is it better? Many would probably say that the first explanation is the more reasonable one, but why is it more reasonable? The second explanation could be correct as well! Maybe there is a secret weapons program, and we don’t know about it! Could it be that the first explanation, with somebody dropping a burning cigarette, is too “normal” to be true? There just has to be more to it, right?
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TOK Essay FAQ


 

Sea shells
This post addresses several Questions in relation to the TOK Essay.

Disclaimer: The following advice is my personal advice to my students and not approved by the IB (or by anybody else). TOK examiners may have a different opinion on these issues. Use the information at your own risk.

1. Can I use the word “I” in the essay? Can I write the essay in first person?
The TOK essay is a personal essay. Yes, you can use the word “I”, but you do not have to. As a matter of fact, this may even be useful if you give personal examples. Still, do not forget that the TOK essay is a formal essay. Do make sure that the essay uses a formal language nevertheless.

2. Do I have to do research? Do I need a bibliography?
No, research is not required according to the criteria, but it may be helpful. The TOK Essay is not a research essay, it is an argumentative essay. You will not get points for only summarizing other people’s ideas. You get points for analysis and for understanding of these ideas. If you do use quotes or other people’s ideas, then you must give a proper bibliography, of course (as a matter of fact, points will be taken off otherwise).
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On the Purpose of Life


 

Parrot
Viktor Frankl (1905-1997) and the purpose of life.

After a few months of idleness, I think it’s about time to add another short episode. Well, what am I going to talk about today? Today I’d like to talk about the purpose of life. Now, I know that this does not sound like one of the classical Theory of Knowledge topics, but who cares….. Why not do something different for a change. Why this topic?

A few weeks before the end of the school year a student came up to me and asked me, seriously, “What is the purpose of life”? We had a short conversation on the issue and I decided to pick this topic up during the last TOK lesson of the school year. I passed on this question to the rest of the class. Some of them looked back at me with surprised big eyes. In my view, one of the purposes of TOK is to make students ask questions that they normally would not ask, and by the response that I got many of my students really never asked themselves this question before, in that sense I reached my objective.
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On Relativism and Constructivism


 

Breaking waves
In this episode I’m going to explain the differences between the philosophical concepts of relativism and constructivism.

A student recently wrote me an email and asked me about the similarities and differences between relativism and constructivism. I already started to write an email to answer this question when I reconsidered and decided to take this opportunity to make another podcast episode out of it.

Now before I start off, I just want to say that we have to be a bit careful that we are not getting too theoretical about this. And if a “real” expert on this topic discovers some inaccuracies in my explanation, I kindly request some forgiveness….. I have not studied this particular aspect in much detail myself.
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Six Jokes in Seven Minutes


 

Pumpkins
Here is a collection of six (hopefully intelligent) jokes that count to my favorites. I don’t know if you consider them funny or not, in any case they should give you something to think as well.

This time, it is something different! Do you want to listen to a few jokes? Here is a collection of six (hopefully intelligent) jokes that count to my favorites. I don’t know if you consider them funny or not, in any case they should give you something to think as well.

Transcript:

OK, this time I’m going to try out something different, I want to tell you a few jokes. Yes, you heard correctly.

Now there is a small problem to that – I think that these jokes are funny, but maybe you don’t think that they are. Well….. tough luck for me. I any case I can’t year you not laughing, so it is not embarrassing for me if you don’t laugh.
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Newspaper Articles – Does Size Matter?


 

Metal door and key hole
How does the optical appearance of a newspaper article, the size of the headlines, the size of the pictures, influence its perception of its content by the readers? How does the context in which a newspaper article appears influence its perception by the readers?

I like to keep myself informed and I therefore like to read newspapers. Now with the internet being so widespread, I do not buy newspapers anymore, but rather visit my favorite newspapers online. Usually I start out with the computer news to keep myself updated on new products and developments, followed by science (deep in my heart I am a scientist, after all!) and politics and economics. The sports section I usually skip, I have to admit to you that I am not very competent in this particular area of knowledge. But I do read the sports section during the Olympics.
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How Biased are History Books? Are They?


 

Vitamin C under the microscope
Are history books telling us the full story of the past? Can they tell us the full story at all? Why is it that so many history books focus on the “big players”, the kings and rulers, the big events, big politics? What about the “normal” people?

I recently read an interesting poem by the German poet and playwright Berthold Brecht – a poem which got me thinking. You see, this is one of the TOK illnesses, you start to see TOK everywhere, and also in poetry.
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Of Ghost Traps and Wrist Watches


 

Vitamin C under the microscope
Ghost traps are very useful devices – they can be used to catch evil spirits. What? You say that this does not make sense because ghosts do not exist? You say that ghosts are a product of our imagination? Well… do you believe in time? Could it not be that time is a product of our imagination as well?

A few years ago I had the opportunity to visit a cultural exhibition. There were all sorts of interesting exhibits, ranging from art work to the local food… and of course there were also rooms filled with religious objects, handicrafts, clothing etc. I also remember the nice photographs of the landscape that were on display. For the purpose of this episode, the country is of no importance. We were a small group of approximately 10 visitors and we had one tour guide for the museum.
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In so far as a scientific statement speaks about reality, it must be falsifiable; and in so far as it is not falsifiable, it does not speak about reality.

- Karl Popper -