This is an example of a “real life situation”. In David Attenborough’s “Life” TV series, Japanese macaques (snow monkeys) are shown seeking warmth in thermal springs. But only the “highest ranking” females and infants from the right family are allowed into the warm water by the male in charge of the entrance. Reminiscent of a members only club, macaque society is divided by the “haves” and “have not’s”.
Imposing our human interpretation on animal behaviours, we might seek an explanation for why they don’t share access to the pool with each other? Factors might include the reinforcement of group membership and identity, the need for personal space in the physical limits of the pool, or the notion of a “lower class” macaque.
This example could be connected to our inability to share resources with each other. Is the unequal distribution of the world’s resources a result of an innate animal need to believe in “others” as separate and distinct from ourselves? An implication might be that in order to be “in” and belong to a group, there are others who are necessarily excluded. But on what ethical basis can a hierarchy and inequality in society be justified? Is it reasonable for the macaques to behave as they do and should we know better than them? With 99% of our DNA shared with them, observing them might provoke a hard look at ourselves.
Summary: How do I apply TOK to a real life situation?
- Choose a topic or real life situation; any example from life will do. E.g. Japanese Macaques
- Relevant question. (Any ordinary question)E.g. Why do they have a divided society?
- Knowledge question. (Re-formulate question(s) with TOK concepts and vocabulary) E.g. In what ways do explanations in the natural sciences compare with explanations in the human sciences?
- Analyse the knowledge question.