Theory of Knowledge Topic ( IB ESS Subject Guide)
TOK Aspect
Systems and Model
1. How does a systems approach compare to the reductionist approach of conventional science?
2. How does methodology compare between these two approaches?
3. What are the benefits of using an approach that is common to other disciplines such as economics and sociology?
1. How does the role of instrumentation circumvent the limitations of perception?
2. Can environmental investigations and measurements be as precise or reliable as those in the physical sciences?
3. Why is this, and how does this affect the validity of the knowledge? Applying similarly rigorous standards as are used in physics, for example, would leave environmentalists with very little they could claim as knowledge. But, by insisting on high degrees of objectivity, would we miss out on a useful understanding of the environment?
  1. Is a pragmatic or correspondence test of truth most appropriate in this subject area?
Population, Carrying capacity and Resource Use
1. What do the models of “natural capital/income” and the “ecological footprint” add to the earlier concepts of “resources” and “carrying capacity”?
2. Is one model any more objective than the other? Is this a good thing?
3. With regard to the terms used, how does the language affect our understanding of the concepts?
4. Is there any limit of growth exist in a place or economy?
5. “Ecological footprint” conjures an image of environmental threat from any growing population, whereas “carrying capacity” focuses on the maximum number that a population can reach.
1. Do other organisms have a right to moral consideration? How is this justified?
2. Do panda bears have a greater right than lichens?
3. What about the rights of “pest” or pathogenic organisms?
4. To what extent are these arguments based upon emotion and to what extent upon reason? And how does this affect their validity?
Pollution Management
  1. Is pollution a tragedy of the common?
  2. How both deontological and utilitarian approaches to ethics address issues of pollution?
  3. Is a system of rules, or appealing to the general good, the most effective way forward?
  4. Those that do not pollute are doubly penalized—they suffer the pollution, and yet gain no benefit from polluting the resource themselves.
Issues of Global Warming
1. If the scientific community has access to such certainty of Global warming, how can it be as publicly divided as it has been in this case?
2. What effect does a highly sensitive political context have on objectivity?
3. Can politicians exploit the ambiguity of conclusions coming from the scientific community to their own ends?
4. Is global warming fake or real?
Environmental Value System
  1. Is faith more important than scientific research to imbibe environmental value?
  2. Is ecological law dictating human morality?