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Real-world issues about human sciences

Issues about human sciences

These real-world issues about human sciences will help you to explore knowledge questions, analyse the latest events and issues related to this AOK, and apply TOK terms, ideas, and concepts to authentic situations.

You can also use these issues as discussion points within lessons, examples to support your essay arguments, and case studies to show how TOK manifests in world around us in your exhibition commentary.

Real-world issues on the nature and scope of the human sciences

  • These issues on the human sciences relate to Big Question 1, our first BQ unit for TOK
  • They also link to the nature and scope of this AOK, part of the IB’s knowledge framework
  • Use the Exploration Points document below to unpack the media sources and link them to the TOK course (available to members of the site)
  • Members can also use our Investigating Issues resource to look at related stories, and widen their understanding of how TOK manifests in the world around us

A Big Think article, arguing that far from being a discipline that is ‘useless’, philosophy has never been needed more than now.

Wired and Big Think articles look at predictions about human society, one made by Yuval Noah Harari, author of ‘Sapiens’, and the other made by an MIT computer in 1973.

This Forbes article questions whether a country’s GDP is the most helpful indicator of its health and prosperity, arguing that ‘well-being’ is a better way of judging how well a country is progressing.

An FT article, featuring the ideas of Julia Galef, which assesses the problems with assuming that people make rational decisions.

Psychology has faced problems over the last few years linked to the problems associated with it when it comes to replicating findings by academics. This FiveThirtyEight article considers whether the field has emerged stronger as a result.

This detailed Vox article examines the claims of a connection between smartphone use and mental health amongst teenagers.

Real-world issues on the relationship between the human sciences and values

  • These issues on human sciences relate to Big Question 2, our second BQ unit for TOK
  • They also link to the human sciences and ethics, part of the IB’s knowledge framework
  • Use the Exploration Points document below to unpack the media sources and link them to the TOK course (available to members of the site)
  • Members can also use our Investigating Issues resource to look at related stories, and widen their understanding of how TOK manifests in the world around us

A Guardian article, focusing on a forensic psychiatrist, and her thoughts on the role of ‘radical empathy’ in order to understand the human condition.

Two Vox articles (here and here) that look at the issue of mass shootings in the US, and the evidence that gun control could help to reduce it.

This is a Vox interview with Patricia Churchland, a ‘neurophilosopher’ who specialises in how biological evolution impacted on our intuitive ability to distinguish right from wrong.

A BBC article, examining ‘cancel culture’, via various examples of prominent people being banned from social media platforms.

A Big Think video, looking at the importance of ‘long term thinking’ in order to safeguard civilization.

Project Syndicate article, by the philosopher Peter Singer on the ethics of Covid-19 vaccine priorities. 

Real-world issues on the communication of ideas in the human sciences

  • These issues on the human sciences relate to Big Question 3, our third BQ unit for TOK
  • They also link to methods, tools, and practices, part of the IB’s knowledge framework
  • Use the Exploration Points document below to unpack the media sources and link them to the TOK course (available to members of the site)
  • Members can also use our Investigating Issues resource to look at related stories, and widen their understanding of how TOK manifests in the world around us

An FT article, presenting a series of interactive maps that show different scenarios related to global warming, and which parts of the world will become unlivable.

An Atlantic article, exploring the way in which the debate over police reform is essentially an argument about which words to use (and not use). 

This Big Think article looks at the way in which so many people confuse correlation and causation, giving a range of examples to illustrate the scale of the problem. See the full video here.

An Aeon article, arguing that we should get rid of the terms ‘mind’ and ‘mental’.

A BBC video, looking at how phrenology became such a popular and influential pseudoscience.

This Big Think article deconstructs how maps are used to show the migration of people, and how their language and designs are often loaded with meaning.

Real-world issues on human sciences, perspectives, and context

  • These issues on human sciences relate to Big Question 4, our fourth BQ unit for TOK
  • They also link to perspectives & context, part of the IB’s knowledge framework
  • Use the Exploration Points document below to unpack the media sources and link them to the TOK course (available to members of the site)
  • Members can also use our Investigating Issues resource to look at related stories, and widen their understanding of how TOK manifests in the world around us

An Aeon essay, looking at six different narratives of the nature and effect of globalization.

An Aeon article looking in detail about the way in which urban ethnographers can sometimes undermine the ethnic inequalities which they seek to improve.

Conversation article, which explores the fact that the vast majority of what we know about human psychology and behavior comes from sample groups that are highly exclusive.

A BBC article, reporting on the UK government’s decision to stop ‘unconscious bias training’, because it “does not achieve its intended aims”.

An Aeon article looking at how the concept of ‘race’ is a relatively modern one.

This Atlantic article examines the work of Arielle Baskin-Sommers, a Yale researcher, who spent time investigating prisoners with psychopathic tendencies in a maximum-security prison in Connecticut.

Real-world issues on the creation of new ideas in the human sciences

  • These issues on human sciences relate to Big Question 5, our fifth BQ units for TOK
  • They also link to perspectives & context related to this AOK, part of the IB’s knowledge framework
  • Use the Exploration Points document below to unpack the media sources and link them to the TOK course (available to members of the site)
  • Members can also use our Investigating Issues resource to look at related stories, and widen their understanding of how TOK manifests in the world around us

New Humanist article, considering the way in which the ‘nature’ side of the long running behavioural debate has recently asserted itself and, in the opinion of many psychologists and experts, is more important in determining how we develop as human beings.

Questions are being asked about the way the Stanford Prison experiment was carried out. These articles considers the details, as well as asking about the implications of the conclusions being wrong. Sources: VoxBig Think, and The New York Times.

This detailed and challenging Aeon article examines the reasons why many people feel that economics needs a ‘revolution’ in terms of how it pursues knowledge, comparing that to the way in which physics changed completely with the discovery of quantum theory at the beginning of the 20th century.

Real-world issues on becoming a discerning knower about the human sciences

  • These issues on human sciences relate to Big Question 6, our final BQ unit for TOK
  • They also link to methods, tools, and practices of this AOK, part of the IB’s knowledge framework
  • Use the Exploration Points document below to unpack the media sources and link them to the TOK course (available to members of the site)
  • Members can also use our Investigating Issues resource to look at related stories, and widen their understanding of how TOK manifests in the world around us

A Conversation article, arguing that the exposure of a faked study shows the strength, not the flaws, of behavioural science.

An Independent article, reporting on how two hoaxers persuaded four ‘royal experts’ to comment on the Meghan Markle/Oprah Winfrey interview – before they’d actually seen the interview.

A New Statesman article, weighing up the pros and cons of the Goldwater Rule when it comes to analysing electoral contests.

An FT article, looking at the importance of protecting ‘truth tellers’ in society, and facing up to facts about the world. 

A Vox video, looking at the ‘hypnotism craze’ that began in Paris in the late 19th century.

A FiveThirtyEight article, looking at how proof is insufficient for people who have already made up their mind about an issue or idea.

Explore related events and issues

Investigating Issues offers you a completely new way to plan and teach TOK. The resource gathers together over 120 major global issues, provides a collection of media sources to explore each one, and suggests ways to link them to the different elements of the TOK course and to the 12 key concepts.

Unpack these issues & link them to TOK

Our sixty-six Exploration Point documents (updated every month) help you delve deeper into TOK via media sources, unpacking ideas, guidance on the key concepts, and other tips. HERE is an example of a EP document (for history & perspectives) – join us to gain access to the other sixty-five!

Subscribe to the TOK newsletter

Our TOK newsletter helps you explore the most important events and issues going on today, and fully grasp how TOK concepts manifest in the real world. Read a recent edition here, subscribe to the free version here, and gain access to the premium version by joining theoryofknowledge.net.