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Example research essay topic: Western Hemisphere Peace Conference - 1,409 words

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In the never-ending human quest of knowledge and truth, there is one certainty which serves as the foundation for all intellectual growth and progress. This certainty is that in life, and therefore in the intellectual outpourings of mankind, there lies a certain degree of bias. Although one who professes to be conscious of this bias attempts to remove it, this can never be done. The reason is very simple. Any new knowledge gained by an individual is gained usually through logical proof of a fact.

The logical proof must follow certain steps in order for it to be considered true, and these steps are definitely pre-established by the society in which this man lives. The society makes these basic rules and pre-assumptions for the logical proof to follow because the people within society are the ones who must accept the conclusions of the proof. The problem arises in this situation when the society and the man who proves a "fact" to the society becomes completely oblivious to any assumptions, especially those that are incorrect, and use them to "prove their fact. " Although one at first asks how anyone can have a wrong assumption, then prove a fact based upon this assumption, it really is quite simple, and people have been doing it for hundreds of years. For example, in the world view of geography during the 1300 's and 1400 's, there was a basic assumption made about the shape of the earth. Most people at that time thought that the earth was a flat area, and had an end to it. Understandably, these people could only see as far as the horizon, so they made this assumption.

Although modern geographers have proven that the earth is indeed round instead of flat, this did not stop earlier societies from subscribing to the flat earth theory. From this basic assumption, these people went on to develop theories telling what would happen to those unfortunate souls who reached the "end" of the earth. Those who dared to venture into the unknown territory were sure to fall clear off the face of the planet, never to be heard from again. In fact, the explorer credited for discovering the New World, Christopher Columbus, did not have many followers or believers. Many people who heard of his dream to sail around the earth thought that this man was mad, and was headed for certain death. Columbus looked at the societal paradigms used as the foundation to their beliefs and disregarded them totally.

Had he lived by the basic assumptions which his society unconsciously subscribed to, Europeans would not have settled in the western hemisphere in the 1500 's, and many early societies may not have developed. Although these people were comfortable with the idea that Columbus would fall off the face of the earth, they did not understand that their paradigm was shaped by an incorrect assumption. Had they known this, then more people would have identified and questioned this assumption, then disproved it as Columbus had done. However, since the culture did not even identify, much less analyze and question this assumption, they continued to live their lives oblivious to the existence of the western hemisphere.

The existence of inadvertent basic assumptions in the lives of humans is also apparent when one examines the natural sciences. In the relatively modern field of quantum physics, new facts are being proven constantly which not only change the knowledge which scientists have about our universe, but also the paradigm under which they conduct their research as well. Take for example Max Planck's theory of blackbody radiation, developed in 1900. He discovered that when analyzing the wavelengths and intensity of radiation emitted by a blackbody, many of the classical theories used to explain these particle's behavior were incorrect. His theories, which explained the behavior of light as photons or quanta instead of separate particles, lead to the current acceptance by physicists that light can behave as both a particle and a wave, hence its current reputation of having a "wave-particle duality nature. " Planck, through his investigations of light, proved that the classical physicists were assuming that light did not have a dual nature in their experiments and conclusions. Once he disproved this basic assumption, forever changing a scientific paradigm, he was able to prove that the scientists had unknowingly used their assumption to incorrectly calculate the intensity of blackbody radiation emission of shorter wavelengths.

Basic assumptions used to analyze economics are also usually overlooked inadvertently. Imbedded within any economic system is a society's political system. In fact, the two go hand in hand, and one serves as a foundation for the other. The assumptions that one makes when analyzing the economy often lie in the nature of the society's political structure, and many of these assumptions are simply "given, " and paid no attention. For example, the English political philosopher John Locke, known to many as the founder of modern political philosophy, was an advocate of the right to own private property as a Natural Right of Man. This Natural Right is a direct foundation of the economic system known as Capitalism.

However, in many cases, when anyone discusses capitalistic economies, common terms discussed are words such as "profit margin, "factors of production, " and "competition" rather than "private property" and "Natural Rights. " A capitalist system simply cannot exist without private property rights being allotted to man, yet this basic assumption is often overlooked and taken as a given. Another area of knowledge in which biases and assumptions are often overlooked is in the area of history. It has been said that "History is the creation of the historian, " and when one considers that assumptions imbedded within history today, it becomes clear why history is a discipline is defined in this manner. Most people agree that as a historian gets more advanced in his search for the truth, he often has to use his own judgment when ranking the reliability of evidence that he has analyzed. He must apply various standards of reliability to decide whether a document or source of information is accurate and reliable. Unwillingly however, the historian also inputs his own assumptions and biases into his work.

Let us suppose, for example, that a German contemporary historian is writing the history of the events of the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. Most likely, this historian will be biased toward his people when telling his version of the events at the Peace Conference. Since many Germans felt like they had been destroyed at the peace table unfairly by the French, this historian will most likely write history according to this bias. He will most likely unconsciously assume that the French are very vindictive and vengeful, and portray them this way in his history. These assumptions are probably not done on purpose, but seem like they are impossible to avoid given the adversarial circumstances at the time between the two countries. It is also very probable that this historian may not even be aware of what he was assuming.

These assumptions probably were formed by popular public opinion and were almost impossible to avoid. Yet another field of study where assumptions are made unconsciously and unavoidable is mathematics. Math is a very logical and axiom-driven discipline, but assumptions are made. Many times, in geometric proofs, students often use given theorems and postulates to solve the given proof. A postulate used in a proof is an assumption and has never been itself proven. These assumptions are not known for sure, yet they are accepted as true by the math student.

Often, this problem is totally unavoidable because the existing proven theorems will not solve the problem, so the student must use the next best alternative, which is an assumption. In almost all areas of life, humans are surrounded by assumptions. Sometimes, humans are surrounded by these assumptions so much that they grow accustomed to them, and just as fish are used to the water in which they live, humans pay no attention to their assumptions. These are such a regular part of the humans life that they tend to use them often and forget that they are indeed assumptions instead of truth.

Humans become oblivious to the inaccuracies which are imbedded within assumptions, and just as fish accept that water is a normal, necessary part of life, and accept these assumptions and their inaccuracies as normal, necessary parts of their life as well.


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Research essay sample on Western Hemisphere Peace Conference

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