Humans always raise questions to know.
When we are gaining knowledge, we have either confidence or doubt based on the amount of our prior knowledge. In the area of natural science, scientists can control the environment of their experiment and go through many trials and errors with fixing controlled environment to reach clearer conclusion with confidence. History, on the other hand, is the area of knowledge about the past events. As past events cannot be repeated, historians have limited access to the primary source that links possible answer to their historical inquiry. Also, all of the primary sources does not show what historians exactly want to increase confidence. Throughout the process of producing knowledge in two AoKs, how does confidence and doubt in knowledge affect knowledge production? More scientific knowledge can be referred to wider horizons for scientists due to more new concrete scientific knowledge, while more historical knowledge can be the increased accessibility to sources to answer their inquiry and more historical interpretations. Then, my essay shall analyze this knowledge question to explore what relationship does confidence and doubt have with scientific and historical knowledge production. More knowledge in natural science is not more likely to enhance one’s confidence of scientific knowledge in universal scale.
The reason is that as we are gaining knowledge, our scope of paradigm in science gets wider, which thrives our inquiries and doubts about things that we could not think about before. The main goal for scientists is to find the universal understanding of nature. When there are many experiments that support the hypothesis, result will be used as the new perspective to find further knowledge to achieve full universal understanding of nature. In astrophysics, Kepler’s law is fundamental in the solar system, which proved the elliptical motion of planets around the sun.
When mathematicians calculated Neptune’s orbital motion, it did not follow the Kepler’s law. Lowell hypothesized that there should be a giant planet that pulls the Neptune away from the Sun, which was called as “Planet X.” When NASA sent a spaceship, scientists found a planet called Pluto, which was significantly smaller than how it should be to contradict the orbital motion of Neptune. Also, further than Pluto was just many icy objects, which cannot be “Planet X.” While they were trying to have confidence in knowledge about the solar system, further experiments and observations undermined the astrophysicists’ confidence about Kepler’s Law. Even though there was more scientific knowledge gained about Neptune and Pluto from observation, the confidence of universal understanding of solar system still did not enhance. As scientific law is defined as scientific knowledge that cannot be wrong, scientists couldn’t say no object alters Neptune’s motion, which did not follow Kepler’s law. Thus, scientists could not enhance their confidence in solar system where giant planet should exist.
On the other hand, more knowledge in natural science will likely increase the confidence of accepting new scientific knowledge because more knowledge in specific theory will be likely to develop into scientific law, which implies systemization of scientific knowledge. In natural science, there are three common terms in natural science; hypothesis, theory, and laws in respect to reliability from people. For example, hypothesis is simply the reasonable guess that can be disproven any time while scientific laws are being universal, which must never be wrong.
When scientists started to get into the new paradigm of physics in atomic level, Bohr came out with quantum theory, which others did not believe in. When scientists researched on photoelectric effect, which was physics in atomic level of photons and electrons, repeated experiments transformed from theory to be a law. When they have used the classical physics to explain, the experimental results did not correlate with classical theory. However, the results did correlate with the predictions made by quantum theory. So, this new scientific law enhanced the one’s confidence in quantum theory, which led to being called as quantum physics itself. In natural science, there won’t always be evidence to prove their hypothesis.
If we think about astrophysics, for example, we still do not know the end of universe and how does only Neptune does not follow Kepler’s law. However, we have to go through this process of losing confidence and try to find the new knowledge, which can lead to wider universal horizon. Also, more doubt can even lead to next step to the questioning process and find the new piece of the puzzle that fit in to gain universal knowledge. This is just how quantum physics started with a long process of questioning and doubting from scientist then treated as one of the fundamental components in modern science. Thus, this quantum physics led to further technological development such as semiconductor in our computer or structures of atoms. More knowledge in history, which can be referred as abundance of primary source and historical interpretations, can undermine one’s confidence of accepting historical knowledge because the majority of the primary sources do not necessarily answer the historical questions. In the process of finding sources, there is no guarantee that all the evidence will support the one specific historical interpretation. So, if there are more primary sources, it can not only lead to increasing certainty but also increase the possibility to find the evidence to the contrary.
Thus, history can be varied on different perspective and evidence that historians can access to. For example, there was a deadly influenza pandemic called “1918 flu pandemic” in Spain. When historians found the origin of this flu as American troops, people had faith in historians’ interpretation.
In 2014, however, a historian stated that newly unearthed records confirmed that Chinese labors in the army might have been the source of the pandemic. He found primary source that respiratory illness that struck northern China in 1917 was identified a year later by Chinese health officials as identical to the Spanish flu. New evidences from Chinese health report proved that more historical knowledge could even overturn previous historical interpretation. Thus, one’s confidence in origin of Spanish Flu was undermined.
So, there is no guarantee that more abundance of evidence will only support the initial historical interpretation. On the contrary, more historical knowledge will be more likely to increase one’s confidence in history because the more abundant number of primary sources can increase the possibility of having more balanced interpretation. More knowledge in history is equivalent to easier accessibility to primary sources, which are additional evidence to support their claim. Historians have different interpretations and use different ways of knowing towards the same sources. To write the balanced history for the society, it is important to exclude biased emotion towards that past event. However, most historians are not free from not doing this because all of the humans have ways of knowing that cannot be neglected when they are receiving the knowledge. Some historians possibly use their emotion or faith in own country to write the history.
If there are more historical interpretations, it widens our perspective. For example, Eurocentrism is a historical perspective that Europe was the cradle of world civilization. Johannes Gutenberg was cited as the inventor of the printing press. However, there were arguments from China and Korea that Europe is not a first place which invented printing press. Nearly 600 years before Gutenberg, Chinese monks already invented the block printing.
Its discovery of block printing showed how Europe was not only cradle of civilization and other countries like China and Korea took a huge burden. Thus, people could have seen narrow-minded historical interpretation about the Eurocentrism and increased the one’s confidence of knowledge about the true cradle of civilization. As numerous numbers of the sources itself cannot answer the history directly, historians make historical interpretations. Also, we could not go back to the past to get what historians want to achieve. According to claim and counterclaim of history, more sources often not only can overturn historical interpretation but also possible to make balanced historical knowledge.
The core in quality of history is not to find the answer with many quantities of sources and interpretations but to find the balanced interpretation with diverse sources. Balanced interpretation will enhance one’s confidence in history with reason from persuasive arguments. Also, we have to consider the reliability of sources to increase in confidence. More doubts in historical interpretations due to many numbers would lead to giving confusion to people about which one is needed to be used. So, some questions come out for further investigation about history; “what role should empathy play in a historians’ work?” or “What common fallacies arise in studying history?”, or “how reliable is eye-witness testimony as a primary source?” In conclusion, knowledge is created by the knower with the purpose of forming a satisfactory framework upon which to base their lives.
Scientists seek to gain the universal understanding of nature and historians seek to answer historical inquiries to share with others. In natural science, one’s confidence in scientific knowledge leads to new knowledge as scientific law at the end of knowledge production. Scientists with doubts might come up with questions about the nature to make wider paradigm to get closer to the universal understanding of nature. And, historical knowledge with confidence will be used as material to make a further historical interpretation in new knowledge production. On the other hand, doubts in historical knowledge can lead to making many historical interpretations as there is not much confidence in the primary source. But, it will also provide more diverse interpretation to make the balanced historical interpretation to us.