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Historical science article

This is an interesting article on historical vs. experimental science in the
latest issue of Geology.


Geology: Vol. 29, No. 11, pp. 987?990.
Historical science, experimental science, and the scientific method
Carol E. Cleland
Department of Philosophy and Center for Astrobiology, University of
Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309, USA
Manuscript Received by the Society February 20, 2001
Revised Manuscript Received June 11, 2001
Manuscript Accepted June 28, 2001
 Many scientists believe that there is a uniform, interdisciplinary method
for the practice of good science. The paradigmatic examples, however, are
drawn from classical experimental science. Insofar as historical hypotheses
cannot be tested in controlled laboratory settings, historical research is
sometimes said to be inferior to experimental research. Using examples from
diverse historical disciplines, this paper demonstrates that such claims are
misguided. First, the reputed superiority of experimental research is based
upon accounts of scientific methodology (Baconian inductivism or
falsificationism) that are deeply flawed, both logically and as accounts of
the actual practices of scientists. Second, although there are fundamental
differences in methodology between experimental scientists and historical
scientists, they are keyed to a pervasive feature of nature, a time
asymmetry of causation. As a consequence, the claim that historical science
is methodologically inferior to experimental science cannot be sustained.
Keywords: methodology, induction, history, experimental investigations.

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