When we study a particular area of knowledge, wetend to get assistance from other similar areas of knowledge to improve on theunderstanding of said area of knowledge but sometimes they can confuse usrather than help us. They depend on empirical knowledge and scientific method. Biologyor chemistry must, for instance, build on the discoveries of physics in orderto move forward because “physics” studies the physical things, the objects thatare about us and are not of our own making. Thus, the research in thesedisciplines, biology and chemistry, attempts to determine the nature of “life”from that which is lifeless and to find the origins of organic matter ininorganic matter or from inorganic matter. These fields of study are”overlapping” and must be overlapping because they rely on reason as a way ofknowing and on the language of mathematics that is used in order to conveytheir “knowledge” or “findings” to others.
Reason and language as WOKsdetermine the methodology that will be used, “the scientific method”, and they decidebeforehand the “how” of the “viewing” of the things that are in advance and howthis “viewing” will be reported. Now the question is to what extent does theproduction of knowledge vary in fields of study of natural sciences?For scientist to beable to study organic matter thoroughly, the will first need to understand theinorganic matter that the organic matter comes from. That is why the study ofphysics is important for the further discoveries of chemistry and biology.For example, inphysics, when we learn about any formula that has been derived from anotherformula we may not know what this derivation is at first but if we rememberwhen we studied math we have already learned this derivation which we can thenapply to our understanding of this physics formula. There have also beeninstances when scientists have allowed their minds to roam and reach beyondtheir immediate research fields and stumble onto their most creative insights. DudleyHerschbach made an important discovery in chemistry shortly after he learned ofa technique in physics called molecular beams. At the end of the 1960s DudleyHerschbach and Yuan Lee began developing methods to carefully study thedynamics of chemical reactions. Beams of molecules with fixed amounts of energywere made to cross one another so that chemical reactions arose where the beamsintersected.
By measuring the movement, mass and energy of the molecules produced,the reactions can be mapped1.Physicists had been using the technique for decades, but Herschbach, a chemist,who hadn’t heard of it earlier, used the technique in his research that fetchedhim the Nobel Prize in 1986. In hindsight, he says, “It seemed so simple andobvious. I don’t think it took a lot of insight as much as naïveté.” Likewisein physics, there is inherently no difference or conflict in theoretical orexperimental knowledge. Although through their own perspectives, theoristsvalue their theories for developing physics and the experimentalists think theydiscover or invent physics through their experiments, experimentalists arebound to understand the theory as much as theorists are compelled to understandthe experiment.However, adopting interdisciplinary approachesto the production of knowledge leads to confusion.
Single discipline focus, isstraight forward, easy to isolate comprehend and analyze and testable. Whenproviding an explanation or reasons or the why and wherefore, interdisciplinaryapproach brings in multiple, entangled dimensions that are difficult to isolateand comprehend. A complex approach packed with too many variables,contingencies, and undefined areas results in only witnessing chaos.
Thedifficulty in identification and recognition blocks us from discerning anddeciphering the knowledge content and thus demotivating us to pursue it any further.For example, in physics, when we are studying aboutparticles we do not need to know an element’s charge, whether it is a cation oran anion, we simply look at their atomic mass numbers whereas in chemistry wedo need to look at them. So if we look at it through the chemistry side of it,it will only confuse us even though it is not needed.The IB Diploma Programis a good real life situation. The subjects in IB have interdisciplinary topicsamong sciences.
In physics, it can have topics about heat conversion, and itcan be seen in Biology as well. Maybe subjects in different sciences will bedifferentiated into different topics in further studiesIn conclusion, adoptinginterdisciplinary approaches can lead to confusion if we do not pay attentionbut it does more good than bad. For instances, students cover topics in moredepth because they are considering the many and varied perspectives from whicha topic can be explored. Interdisciplinary study allows for synthesis of ideasand the synthesis of characteristics from many disciplines. At the same time itaddresses students’ individual differences and helps to develop important,transferable skills.
These skills, such as critical thinking, communication andanalysis are important and continually developing at all stages of life.