Uncertainty Day

The topic for today was uncertainty. It included various teachers coming to talk to us about the role of uncertainty in their subject.

Firstly we had Mr Hatton and he talked about uncertainty in translation. We discussed how you can in some languages such as Russian; you can get different meanings depending on where you stress a word. Later, we looked at Homer’s The Iliad and the meaning of punctuation in an extract. This talk was very interesting for me as I only studied Latin till 3rd form and found what we talked about both new and interesting. It also related to what many of us are doing in our IB English work with works of translation and the uncertainty of whether you can ever have an accurate translation of something.

Next we had the talk about uncertainty in art by Mr Deller and Mr Whiteley. Mr Deller began talking about how Art unlike other subjects is riddled with uncertainty. We discussed the various attributes of art, including how it is static (unlike film), topical and has a range of formal qualities. Later we talked about the development of art over the years. I have always felt like I could never relate to art because of the subjective nature of the subject but today I learnt about how a part of analysing art is the reader’s response to it.

Dr Atwell and Mr Callas were involved in a debate about the uncertainty in the theories of evolution. We talked about Darwin and Dawkins. Dr Atwell’s views on evolution and Christianity added controversy to the debate which left everyone wondering who was correct. I found it interesting that according to the bible the world has existed for 7-10,000 years but some scientists it is around a few billion. Who is correct?

Dr Keane talked about how uncertainty is present in history. We began deliberating about the nature of facts and sources. With aid of her thesis and an extract about the Boston Massacre we analysed how uncertainty in history can be helpful. It can give us other people’s views.

Mr O’Boyle talked about how contrary to popular opinion, uncertainty does exist in maths. He used Gödel’s theory to support his point. This led into a discussion about improvable truths that was supported by a short lesson in algebra.

With Dr Herbert we talked about the ‘Age of uncertainty’. He explained how there was a shift in society after the Victorian era from structure to disorder and certainty to uncertainty. We looked at philosophers and their work and how it changed during this time. It was interesting to learn more about how everyone seemed to be dissatisfied with life and the conventions of the past.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the day. It served as a gelling agent for TOK in all the subjects and allowed us to make links between them. It was very insightful and I hope we have another one in the future with even more subjects.