``Our knowledge is only a collection of scraps and fragments that we put together into a pleasing design, and often the discovery of one new fragment would cause us to alter utterly the whole...

``Our knowledge is only a collection of scraps and fragments that we put together into a pleasing design, and often the discovery of one new fragment would cause us to alter utterly the whole design'' (Morris Bishop). To what extent is this true in history and one other area of knowledge?

This is my chosen tok pic. I have to do History as an area of knowldege and can't seem to find an appropriate real life situation or example to present for history.

Any help would be much appreciated!

Expert Answers
mvcdc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I can probably provide two examples: one concerning the history of racism, the other one  history of science.

First topic:  First of all, this is still probably a 'hot' topic even today; but obviously our aversion to different races (or to someone with a different races compared to us) is obviously not much of an issue if we compare it to days long gone. Racial seggregation is a very critical part of human history -- African American have been treated as slaves, Jews have been killed...all because one race thinks it's superior than the rest. People want to 'purify' the world by ridding it of the other races. You can look into this and ask the question 'What changed?' or a better question would be 'What is changing?' Personally, now, I prefer the second question, as this is still an on-going process. To relate this to your quote, our ancestors had their own fragments -- fragments that led them to believe that their race could be superior to others. But as we develop as a more civilized society, and as we develop different values, we pick up other fragments that help us see the world in a new light -- in the light of unity, probably, as citizens of the earth. The on-going process, then, is one that involves destroying barriers -- cultural, or racial -- and building (note the -ing form; an on-going process) a more united worl (hopefully, the 'new design').

Second topic: There are a lot in this field -- earth as the center of the universe, a concept demolished by Copernicus and Galileo by saying that the earth is actually a body that merely revolves around the sun. Another one would be that an atom is indivisible! This is a very strong idea previously one of the fundamentals of chemistry. And yet, Chadwick, Rutherford, and others uncovered tinier particles - the proton, neutron, and electron. As of today, we know that even the proton and the neutron can be split into even tinier particles. Einstein's theory of relativity also started a revolution -- time and space are relative, as opposed to Newton's absolute picture of time. And probably, one of the most critical developments that altered the entire picture of the universe -- quantum mechanics. Even Einstein didn't want to accept it saying that 'God doesn't play dice with the universe'. It truly broke conventions, and create a new 'design', a new view of the world. Previously, we thought of the universe as deterministic -- following Newton's Laws of Motions -- and truly, the macro-world, our everyday world, obeys those laws of motion. But as we focus on tinier particles, the determinism starts to disappear, and we enter the realm of probability -- the quantum world. Definitely, this was hard to accept for physicists who believed in determinism (e.g. Einstein), but eventually, through discovery and experimentation, a new 'paradigm', so to speak, had to be erected, and a new picture of the world painted. 


To relate all of these to the quote you want to study: every moment in history is a fragment; just as every result in science is one. We put together those fragments to build something -- a picture of the world, or a theory -- things that 'fit' what has been observed, or that suits the fragment that we currently have. However, as we pick more fragments -- as we learn more as a society, or obtain more results from more elaborate experiments, we have to alter, if needed, what has already been created to accomodate what we now have -- and essentially build a new picture.

fatimamasaud | Student

This is perfect! Thank you so so much for your help! Much appreciated ! :D