Historical Sciences

All science uses evidence to test hypotheses, but not all science is concerned with experimentation. Hypotheses that are repeatedly confirmed by evidence eventually become theories in science. This is true for both the Experimental Sciences and the Historical Sciences.

Experimental sciences

  • Focus on the “traditional” form of scientific methodology

    • Controlled experiments in which variables can be manipulated

      • Control and experimental variables are used to identify cause of results

    • Repeatability of results

      • An experimental result is viewed as confirmed when it is repeated by other researchers

    • Hypothetico-deductive model

      • Evidence is gathered to falsify a hypothesis

      • Evidence that does not contradict idea, corroborates and supports hypothesis

  • e.g. Molecular biology, Materials science, Particle physics

**Evolutionary Biology can be an experimental and historical science

Historical sciences

  • Focus on unique, one-time events in time

    • Emphasis on contingency (Gould, 1989)

      • One event or group gives rise to another event or group

      • Small changes in beginning stages may produce dramatically different results

      • e.g. Gould asked the question "What would be conserved if 'The Tape [of Life] were played twice'?

    • These contingent events are not repeatable

      • Taxonomic groups only arise once

      • The env't may produce convergence, but not the same group

    • Historical sciences are interested in patterns of long-term change

  • e.g. Paleontology, Cosmology, Archaeology

Above: From de Santis 2021