Earth and Mind: How Geologists Think and Learn about the Earth
Rediscovering the historical methodology of the earth sciences by analyzing scientific communication styles
Published:January 01, 2006
Jeff Dodick, Shlomo Argamon, 2006. "Rediscovering the historical methodology of the earth sciences by analyzing scientific communication styles", Earth and Mind: How Geologists Think and Learn about the Earth, Cathryn A. Manduca, David W. Mogk
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Despite the still-reigning concept of science proceeding by a monolithic “scientific method,” philosophers and historians of science are increasingly recognizing that the scientific methodologies of the historical sciences (e.g., geology, paleontology) differ fundamentally from those of the experimental sciences (e.g., physics, chemistry). This new understanding promises to aid education, where currently, students are usually limited to the dominant paradigm of the experimental sciences, with little chance to experience the unique retrospective logic of the historical sciences. A clear understanding of these methodological differences and how they are expressed in the practice of the earth sciences is thus essential to developing effective educational curricula that cover the diversity of scientific methods. This chapter reviews the question of historical scientific methodology (focusing on geology), as it has been addressed by historians, philosophers, science educators, and working scientists. We present results of a novel linguistic analysis of scientific texts, which shows that such posited methodological differences are indeed reflected in scientific language use. Characteristic features of historical scientists' language can be directly connected to aspects of historical scientific methodology, as explicated by philosophers and historians of science. This shows that the same methodological concerns are reflected in working scientists' conceptualizations of their discipline. These results give guidance to science educators, in the light of the recent emphasis on teaching language skills, such as “Writing across the Curriculum,” in order to focus on teaching and evaluating language and discourse skills within the methodological conceptual framework of the historical sciences.