The as to ensure that the knowledge gained

The scenario presented to us in the above claim describes how
varying opinions on a particular subject are needed to gain ‘robust’ knowledge.
To successfully discuss this claim, we must first ask ourselves what
constitutes ‘robust’ knowledge. The word ‘robust’ is defined as something that
is, “able to withstand or overcome intellectual challenges or adversity”.
Therefore, for knowledge to be classified as robust, it must be able to handle
any criticism or dispute towards its validity so that it can be applied to our
everyday dealings1.  However, does the gain of robust knowledge rely
on both debate and consensus in all areas of knowledge? On one hand, the more
empirical and rational areas of knowledge, such as the Natural Sciences, relies
heavily on the use of peer review and criticism of knowledge claims so as to
ensure that the knowledge gained from that research is valid. However, research
conducted in the various disciplines included in the Natural Science becomes a
‘fact’ only after scientists have arrived at some kind of agreement regarding
its validity. In this case, agreement and disagreement are both necessary to
ensure the claims made by those who conducted the research are justifiable and
reputable. At the same time, we must also look at the areas of knowledge
present on the other side of the spectrum in which interpretation and
imagination reign over how knowledge is gained. In the Arts, consensus and disagreement
are two terms that are nearly unheard of when it comes to gaining knowledge as
people base their analyses of art on their own experiences, interpretation, and imagination. These ways of gaining
knowledge are completely unique to each person so consensus and disagreement
regarding an art form are ultimately unnecessary
as no interpretation is a classified as a wrong one. In addition, because no
interpretation of art can be regarded as invalid, it is difficult to name any
knowledge gained from art as ‘robust’ as the knowledge gained is somewhat
impervious to criticism. Therefore, robust knowledge relies on consensus and
disagreement, but only in certain areas of knowledge. By analyzing how
reputable knowledge is pursued in the Natural Sciences and the Arts, and exploring
the role of debate throughout this essay, we will gain a better understanding
of what really is required in the gain of ‘robust’ knowledge and when consensus
and disagreement are in fact both needed to gain knowledge.

When analyzing the how knowledge is gained in the Natural Sciences,
there are quite a few questions regarding knowledge that we must ask ourselves.
Firstly, how do both consensus and
disagreement contribute to the gain of robust knowledge? Most data and
knowledge found in the Natural Sciences is based on theories. Before theories become officially legitimate, data,
observations, and investigations must be repeated so that the scientific
community knows that the experiment yields consistent and reproducible results.
Not only does conflicting claims regarding the experiment result in judgment and criticism (leading to improvements
in the experiment or the scientific community as a whole) but it also leads to
a deeper recognition of the presented issue. For a theory to be built and gain
credibility so that it can eventually become a source of robust knowledge and
be used in everyday life, the theory is forced to evolve. When presented with a
new theory, the scientific community shares experiments, observations,
feedback, and interprets the data in many distinct ways and varied settings so
as to check the validity of the knowledge claimed in the theory. There are many
examples throughout history in which peer review and feedback on theories have led to the robust knowledge that is now
used daily. For example, the theory of spontaneous
generation has been around for hundreds of years. According to the original
theory hypothesized by Aristotle, leaving pieces of bread and cheese wrapped in
rags and left in a corner resulted in mice being found in the rags after
several weeks.2
Many people believed that the theory made clear by this experiment was correct
as it explained why maggots could be found on rotting meat. However, through
doubt from the scientific community and repeated experiments (bacterial growth
on broth by Louis Pasteur), the theory of spontaneous generation was once again
put into question. Because of the disagreements regarding this knowledge claim,
more effort and thought was put in to better developing this theory and its applications.
Had some form of debate over past theories regarding spontaneous generation not
occurred, today’s knowledge on the subject, and on many other scientific
theories, would not be where it is. This example of theory building in the
Natural Sciences clearly displays the benefits of both questioning a claim so
that robust knowledge can eventually be gained.

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However, there comes a point where constantly disagreeing with a certain claim will get researchers nowhere,
as they will never be able to find a definitive answer to the original claim.
In this case, there must eventually be some kind of agreement on certain theories
and equations so that researchers, and the scientific community as a whole, can
use those theories as stepping stones so as to move forward and improve their own
findings. In this case, we must ask ourselves when consensus is beneficial to
gaining knowledge. In the Natural Sciences, theories about how the world works often
arise out of theories that have already become laws. After all, how would
scientists have figured out how to create nuclear weapons without Einstein’s special
relativity equation (E = m)?
How would biologists have been able to question the behaviour and function of
DNA without Euler’s formula for polyhedra (F – E + V = 2)? These equations are
now widely accepted throughout the scientific community and used in all types
of research. Without consensus on these specific equations, scientists would
still be stuck at square one, without a clue on how to move forward in their
respective fields. Consensus regarding these equations is what has let
scientists build on knowledge in their disciplines and refine their
understanding of how the world works. Therefore, consensus is critical to
defining a starting point when it comes to performing scientific research so
that knowledge regarding the subject can be achieved. Without any kind of
consensus, how can anyone researching in the Natural Sciences, or any empirical
field, hope to gain or discover any viable knowledge?

On the contrary, in some areas of knowledge, the gain of robust
knowledge does not require both disagreement and consensus for it to be
considered valid. In the Arts, knowledge gained by the work is incredibly
subjective to every person as art is made with the purpose of being interpreted
in many different ways. However, even if there are opposing views or opinions
on the knowledge gained from a piece of art, that disagreement does not nullify
either knowledge claim as the work can be interpreted in any way the viewer
wishes. If a group of people was looking
at Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night, for example, some of them might interpret the
work as a symbol of mortality and death. Others might connect the work to their
own life experiences and leave with a totally different interpretation of the piece.
However, regardless of the knowledge the person acquired after viewing the
artwork, every piece of knowledge gained can be considered robust as its root
are found in the subjective, personal parts of the person’s mind. The knowledge
can, therefore, withstand intellectual criticism as every person’s
interpretation differs in some way from others. Why criticize someone’s interpretation when your own is different from
everyone else’s too? Therefore, in areas of knowledge based off of imagination
and creativity, having both disagreement and consensus are not essential to gaining
viable and robust knowledge. Art is not meant to portray only one message, it
is meant to prompt the viewer’s imagination so that they can derive their own
meaning from the work. Unlike its empirical counterparts, the more subjective
areas of knowledge prove that the opposite of the claim stated above is true.
Art and similar areas of knowledge demonstrate how, no matter the number of people who agree with the knowledge, the quality, and validity of the knowledge does not change.

In conclusion, are both disagreement and consensus explicitly
required to obtain robust and reputable knowledge? As demonstrated by the
Natural Sciences, this claim is correct in its statement regarding the
acquiring of knowledge. Consensus on a certain piece of knowledge is pertinent
to ensuring that future researchers have something to base their own research
off of and use as a stepping stone when exploring the world around them.
However, as society evolves, so do the world’s theories, meaning that they must
also change in order to keep up with the constantly changing world. The only
way to ensure evolution is by questioning, debating, and disagreeing with past knowledge so as to obtain more valid
and reproducible knowledge in the future. Without both consensus and
disagreement in the empirical areas of knowledge, we would not comprehend nearly
as much about the world as we do today. Contrarily, unlike the Natural
Sciences, Art is an area of knowledge that derives knowledge solely based on
the subjective mind of the viewer. Therefore, every interpretation is different
and still correct. Both agreement and debate are not required when acquiring
knowledge regarding forms of art as knowledge was not intended to be gained in
that manner. Therefore, to answer the initially
posed question, “does the gain of robust knowledge rely on both debate and
consensus in all areas of knowledge?” the acquiring of robust knowledge depends
on the area of knowledge. Only when a distinction is made between which areas
of knowledge require consensus and disagreement will real knowledge be gained.