Abstract

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.

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