MEMBER LOGIN CONTACT US

Real-world issues about natural sciences

Issues about natural sciences

These real-world issues about natural 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 natural sciences

  • These issues on the natural 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 Wired article, looking at the challenges for scientists of taking on the Omnicron variant of Covid-19.

A Big Think article, which considers whether we rely on scientific conclusions even when they cannot be proven.

This is an animated BBC interview with astrophysicist Adam Becker, who covers many key concepts that interest us in TOK (such as induction and falsification) in an attempt to demonstrate how science works.

An FT article, considering the difficulties of linking extreme weather to climate change, in the wake of the fires and floods that have recently affected countries around the world.

A BBC video, considering why the emergence of new facts about the world strengthens rather than undermines science.

A Discovery Magazine article on the nature of the scientific method, and how it shaped the development of science.

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

  • These issues on natural sciences relate to Big Question 2, our second BQ unit for TOK
  • They also link to the natural 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

Salon article, looking at the ethics of using volunteers to help develop a vaccine for Covid-19.

Telegraph article, which looks at the way the Natural History Museum is reevaluating its exhibitions on Charles Darwin in the context of the Black Lives Matter protests.  

This is one of the biggest stories in science (and, indeed, ethics) over the last few years – the news that a Chinese researcher has made the world’s first genome-edited babies, who were born during November. Explore it via the New York Times or The Atlantic or Nature.

A Guardian article, considering the life and work of the wonderful Jane Goodall, who has just won the Templeton Prize.

BBC podcast, asking the question, is science morally neutral? It discusses whether there should be ethical limits on scientific research – and who should decide these.

In this short Big Think video, Dr. Michio Kaku discusses the distinctive purposes of science and religion, and how there are two Gods – one ‘personal’, and one related to the order and harmony of the universe.

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

  • These issues on the natural 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

A Wired article, looking at the need for a “flawless PR strategy” when it comes to the rolling out of the Covid-19 vaccine.

An Atlantic article, arguing that the labelling of an entire geological epoch as the ‘Anthropocene’ is invalid.

A Guardian podcast, looking at how we define life, and distinguish between animate and inanimate entities.

This Guardian article explores the popularity of the ‘miracle gel’ Somaderm, which users claim can improve your mood, help with weight loss, make you sleep better, reduce wrinkles, thicken hair and enhance libido. There is no clinical evidence for any of these effects.

This is an extract in FiveThirtyEight from Christie Aschwanden’s new book, “Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery.” It looks at how ‘real’ science, and science used by advertisers, are often two very different things.

A Vox article, looking at often dangerous, and always insulting, treatments to ‘cure’ autism.

It seems straightforward to define what a ‘tree’ is. But as this Atlantic article points out, scientists have not definitively decided on what that definition should be. This throws into question how we use language to classify and characterise living (and non-living) entities.

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

  • These issues on natural 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

A Discovery Magazine article, comparing modern-day anti-vaxxers to those from the near and distant past.

This Guardian interview with Katharine Hayhoe discusses the nature of scientific knowledge, and why people are skeptical of the work of climate scientists.

Vox article, exploring how the alcohol industry recently gave the US government money to prove moderate drinking is safe within a scientific study.

A Big Think article, looking at the different worldviews of Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr, how this led to different concepts of quantum mechanics, and why this is still relevant today.

A Washington Post article, assessing the role of nationalism when it comes to our choice of Covid vaccine.

A Scientific American article, asserting that smart people are vulnerable to putting ‘tribe before truth’ when it comes to understanding the world.

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

  • These issues on natural sciences relate to Big Question 5, our fifth BQ units 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

A Conversation article, thinking about How the United Nations’ new ‘open science framework’ could speed up the pace of scientific discovery.

An FT article, looking at what the pandemic reveals about the potential of science when funds are available for it.

A Wired article, exploring how a new approach to gathering data may fundamentally change the way we understand and deal with climate change.

A Vox article, looking at the nature of telescopes, and how they enable us both travel through space and time.

An Vox article, which considers how the Nobel Prize has a negative impact on the production of new scientific knowledge.

An Aeon essay, considering the role of imagination in producing scientific knowledge, and why it is often overlooked.

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

  • These issues on natural sciences relate to Big Question 6, our final 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

A Massive article, looking at the implications of understanding that “life on earth is complex and irreducible”.

Vox article about how and why a vaccine researcher is waging war on the anti-vaccine movement.

An Atlantic article, which argues that despite the problems associated with predictions and prognostications during the last year, we should still put our trust in ‘experts’.

This Aeon essay by Massimo Pigliucci looks at Richard Feynman’s belief that truth in physics is something that correlates to elegance and beauty.

A TED talk, which debunks certain myths about ‘detoxing’ our bodies, in contrast to the real science about what will rid your body of harmful substances.

A Guardian interview with Professor Avi Loeb, who discusses his open-minded approach to the possibility of extraterrestrial life.

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.