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Historical science, experimental science, and the scientific method

Carol E. Cleland
Historical science, experimental science, and the scientific method
Geology (Boulder) (November 2001) 29 (11): 987-990


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.

ISSN: 0091-7613
EISSN: 1943-2682
Serial Title: Geology (Boulder)
Serial Volume: 29
Serial Issue: 11
Title: Historical science, experimental science, and the scientific method
Author(s): Cleland, Carol E.
Affiliation: University of Colorado, Department of Philosophy, Boulder, CO, United States
Pages: 987-990
Published: 200111
Text Language: English
Publisher: Geological Society of America (GSA), Boulder, CO, United States
References: 14
Accession Number: 2001-075850
Categories: Miscellaneous
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2019, American Geosciences Institute. Reference includes data supplied by the Geological Society of America, Boulder, CO, United States
Update Code: 200124
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