As they can either be rectified by filling

As a public speaker, I have
been exposed to several debates throughout my life. I have learned that every
debate has to involve both consensus and disagreement in order to reach a
conclusion that is widely accepted and resistant to criticism. The knowledge
produced as a result of both these elements is therefore said to be ‘robust’, which
can be defined as ‘full’ or ‘strong’ knowledge. The above prescribed title suggests
that robust knowledge cannot be obtained without consensus or disagreement as
they serve as driving forces for fundamental changes in underlying assumptions.
It further expresses that without disagreements, the questioning of theories
will not take place, leading to stagnant knowledge, and that consensus, which
can be defined as an agreement within a discipline, leads to an acceptance of
knowledge. This statement therefore emphasizes on the importance of both consensus
and disagreement in the production of robust knowledge. However, the ideals of
this claim can manifest itself in different ways upon different AOKs like
History and Natural Sciences.

In History, historians utilize
primary and secondary sources, along with imagination, reason,
and emotion to arrive at narratives, which are their own perspectives of
historical events. An opportunity for other historians to reject or verify
these narratives arises when this personal knowledge becomes shared knowledge,
therefore leading to disagreement or consensus. When considering several historical
narratives, are disagreement and consensus amongst them necessary? When
individual narratives are opened up to scrutiny, they can either be rectified by
filling up gaps in the theories using other narratives (disagreement), or can
resolve disagreement and prove other narratives wrong (consensus). Both of these
scenarios lead to the production of strong, robust knowledge. Therefore, it can
be claimed that it is crucial to involve both disagreement and consensus in
History through conflicting accounts in order to reach an accurate conclusion
that is as close to actuality as possible. Diverging perspectives on one
particular historical event enables historians to broaden their horizons and
use reason in order to establish links between these perspectives,
therefore arriving at a consensus, and producing robust knowledge. For example,
it was initially inferred from several first hand accounts that the Soviet
Union planned to invade Israel only after Israel refused to cease fighting
during the Six-Day War.1
However, other conflicting sources such as telegrams, interviews, and other
archived accounts that disagreed with the initial accounts, led historians
Isabella Ginor and Gideon Remez2
to establish a consensus with other historians and come to the conclusion that
it was the Soviet Union that instigated the Six-Day War, and that they had an
elaborate plan to destroy Israel’s nuclear capability.3
The truth of the events that took place decades ago was finally uncovered due
to the involvement of both disagreement and consensus. Without analysing these
deviating accounts and evidences, it would have been impossible for the
historians to arrive at an understanding of the Six-Day War.

However, in some other cases,
individual narratives can be widely accepted without any form of disagreement,
and a consensus can be immediately reached, thus producing robust knowledge. Therefore,
it can also be argued that in circumstances when historical events are
conclusive and unambiguous, they do not require disagreement, although consensus
is necessary. The plausibility of several historical events has been
determined based on evidences that do not oppose or contradict one another.
Similar accounts are therefore substantial, and there is no need for
disagreement. For example, Historical accounts from the fourteenth century,
such as the claims of contemporary chroniclers, and local surveys,4
were taken as evidence for the existence of the Black Death, that claimed the
lives of about 75 million people.5
Although more research was carried out on this phenomenal historical event, its
plausibility was never questioned due to the fact that solid evidence, which
included the bacteria that caused the plague, confirmed existing knowledge. In
this case, historians have relied upon the coherence theory of truth in
order to arrive at a consensus. Again, reason and imagination have
played major roles hin determining the existence of this historical event, as evidences
that suggested the same ideals were used. This has helped historians establish
a consensus that suggests that the Black Death was a disease that altered

In the Natural Sciences,
scientists rely upon direct observation to come up with a hypothesis and
perform an experiment, a process called the scientific method. When this
personal knowledge becomes shared knowledge, other scientists often replicate
these experiments and rely on the correspondence theory to verify the
results. Are disagreement and consensus in the scientific method imperative
for scientific advancement? Through the scientific method, sense perception
is used to observe and test hypotheses about observed phenomena. The results
obtained by different scientists can lead to disagreements about scientfic
theories, which can either be proven wrong or prove another thoery wrong. Not
unlike History, both these scenarios lead to a strengthening of knowledge,
therefore producing robust knowledge. It can therefore be claimed that both disagreement
and consensus are necessary in order to induce scientific advancement. Without
disagreement, scientific theories cannot be imrovised upon, and will have to
remain stagnant, thus hindering the production of robust knowledge. For example,
the Phlogiston theory was a theory proposed by Becher in 1669. It is a former
theory of combustion which hypothesized that any substance that was burnt would
give out a substance called ‘terra pinguis’. It was a hypothetical
theory that was not supported by further evidence or theories. However, a
consensus was immediately reached, and it was widely accepted throughout the
world, even leading to further knowledge based on the Phlogiston theory, when Stahl
renamed the substance. Confirmation bias played an important role in
this scientific theory, as other scientists reached a consensus without any
sort of disagreement as it aligned with their beliefs. However, several pieces
of evidence, such as experiments conducted by Lavoisier, disproved this theory
when he determined that there was no gain in mass, and therefore no release of
‘phlogiston’. He involved disagreement, which led to him replacing the
preceding theory with a new theory. Lavoisier conducted his experiments with
the help of several varying sources, and consulted the works of scientists such
as Joseph Priestly, to arrive at a conclusion6,
which also suggests a consensus between these two scientists. Intuition
is an important aspect of Lavoisier’s findings as his theory was based on the
intuitive notions that ‘heat molecules flow’, and therefore was widely
If Lavoisier hadn’t superseded this hypothetical theory with the aid of
conflicting evidence, the world would have still depended on this theory, and
this would have further resulted in several inaccurate theories based on the
Phlogiston theory. Both disagreement and consensus are therefore vital for the
production of robust scientific knowledge.

However, there also several
scientific theories that didn’t undergo improvisations, and therefore didn’t have
to involve disagreement. Therefore, it can also be argued that it is not
vital for disagreements to be involved for any scientific theory to be widely
accepted, although consensus is definitely required. Scientists are usually
aware of the limitations within the theories that they propose, and therefore
do not give the opportunity for disagreement to arise. Heisenberg’s Uncertainty
Principle is something that I have learnt as a part of my IB Chemistry HL
course. This theory is an excellent example of a scientific theory that didn’t
involve disagreement much as it did consensus. Heisenberg postulated that it is
impossible to simultaneoulsy know, with a high level of precision, two
properies of an electron, for instance, its position or momentum. Niels Bohr
further explained this theory by observations that indicated an electron’s
wave-particle duality.8
The consensus reached between these scientists have led to the development of a
theory that is widely accepted even a century later, as evidenced by me
learning the same theory as a student in the 21st Century. Again, the
development of these theories are based on intuition. The intuition
of these scientists have led them to believe that their observations will
confirm preceding theories, rather than disagree with them.

In the case of both History
and Natural Sciences, both disagreement and consensus play a vital role in the
production of robust knowledge. Although there were a few instances where
disagreement wasn’t as crucial as consensus, a majority of scientific theories
and historical narratives are a result of both these fundamental elements.

However, robust knowledge can
be acquired in History even without considering disagreement as they are events
that are resolute, and in some cases, do require only a small number of similar
accounts or perspectives. Natural Sciences, on the other hand, constitute of theories
that are subjective to changes. According to Karl Popper’s theory of falsification,
a scientific theory isn’t really a scientific theory unless it can be
It is therefore crucial to look at several conflicting pieces of evidence before
arriving at a consensus.

To sum up, it is clearly
evident that it is a far more superior choice to first consider disagreement
before reaching a consensus, in the case of both AOKs. The implications of this
conclusion are particularly cogent in times of ‘alternative facts’10.
It can be implied that there is a need to maintain academic research
funding regardless of the results of research, and to support the independence
of academic research bodies.

Margaret Heffernan once said:
information is fantastic, open networks are essential. But the truth won’t set
us free until we develop the skills and the habit and the talent and the moral
courage to use it.” 11We
should therefore dare to disagree for change, as change is what drives the
world to move forward.

Count: 1599 words)



1 V, Marc. “10 Controversial Alternative Views Of Historical
Events.” Listverse, 11 Mar. 2014,
Date Accessed: 11th November 2017

2 Ginor, Isabella, and Gideon Remez. Foxbats Over Dimona: The
Soviets’ Nuclear Gamble in the Six-Day War. Yale University Press, 2008.
Date Accessed: 11th November 2017

3 V, Marc. “10 Mind-Blowing Wars That Nearly Happened.” Listverse,
6 Feb. 2014, Date
Accessed: 11th November 2017

4 “The Black Death: the historians’ view.” History Extra,
BBC History Magazine, 8 Jan. 2016, Date
Accessed: 11th November 2017

5 “History of Black Death.”, Date Accessed: 11th
November 2017

6 “Phlogiston theory.” Phlogiston theory – Oxford Reference,
16 June 2017, Date
Accessed: 11th November 2017

7 Haskell, Robert E. Transfer of Learning: Cognition,
Instruction, and Reasoning. Academic Press, 2001. Date Accessed: 11th
November 2017

8 Silverman, Jacob. “10 Scientific Laws and Theories You Really
Should Know.” HowStuffWorks Science, HowStuffWorks, 14 Mar. 2016,
Date Accessed: 16th January 2018

9, Date Accessed:
22nd January 2018

10 “Alternative facts.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation,
22 Jan. 2018, Date Accessed: 22nd
January 2018

11 Heffernan, Margaret. “Dare to disagree.” Margaret
Heffernan: Dare to disagree | TED Talk, Date
Accessed: 11th November 2017