Methodological and epistemic differences between historical science and experimental science

Philosophy of Science 69 (3):447-451 (2002)
Experimental research is commonly held up as the paradigm of "good" science. Although experiment plays many roles in science, its classical role is testing hypotheses in controlled laboratory settings. Historical science (which includes work in geology, biology, and astronomy, as well as paleontology and archaeology) is sometimes held to be inferior on the grounds that its hypothesis cannot be tested by controlled laboratory experiments. Using contemporary examples from diverse scientific disciplines, this paper explores differences in practice between historical and experimental research vis-à-vis the testing of hypotheses. It rejects the claim that historical research is epistemically inferior. For as I argue, scientists engage in two very different patterns of evidential reasoning and, although there is overlap, one pattern predominates in historical research and the other pattern predominates in classical experimental research. I show that these different patterns of reasoning are grounded in an objective and remarkably pervasive time asymmetry of nature.
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DOI 10.1086/342455
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Alan C. Love & Gary L. Lugar (2013). Dimensions of Integration in Interdisciplinary Explanations of the Origin of Evolutionary Novelty. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (4):537-550.
Ben Jeffares (2008). Testing Times: Regularities in the Historical Sciences. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 39 (4):469-475.

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