Acta Biotheoretica 64 (3):241-262 (2016)

Authors
Michaelis Michael
University of New South Wales
Abstract
Changes in the methodology of the historical sciences make them more vulnerable to unjustifiable speculations being passed off as scientific results. The integrity of historical science is in peril due the way speculative and often unexamined causal assumptions are being used to generate data and underpin the identification of correlations in such data. A step toward a solution is to distinguish between plausible and speculative assumptions that facilitate the inference from measured and observed data to causal claims. One way to do that is by comparing these assumptions against a well-attested set of aspects of causation, such as the so-called “Bradford Hill Criteria”. The BHC do not provide a test for causation or necessary and sufficient conditions for causation but do indicate grounds for further investigation. By revising the BHC to reflect the needs and focus of historical sciences, it will be possible to assess the cogency of methods of investigation. These will be the Historical Sciences Bradford Hill Criteria. An application to one area in historical science is used to demonstrate the effectiveness of the HSBHC, namely biogeography. Four methods are assessed in order to show how the HSBHC can be used to examine the assumptions between our data and the causal biogeographical processes we infer.
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DOI 10.1007/s10441-016-9282-3
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