Science and Creationism

Kirk Fitzhugh kfitzhug at NHM.ORG
Thu Apr 4 11:26:13 CST 2002


At 04:14 PM 4/2/02 -0500, John Grehan wrote:

>The 'usual' meaning of the term experimentation I understood was that of
>physical manipulation to test theoretical propositions. Cladistic
>biogeography does not carry out experiments in this sense, but perhaps
>there is another sense that would come under the concept of experimentation
>referred to by the Academy that would be applicable to cladistic and even
>other forms of biogeography (in which case I would certainly withdraw my
>assertion).

While it is true that all fields of historical science do not have the
luxury of "experimental" testing of hypotheses, testing does nonetheless
take place by way of deducing specific consequences that one can
investigate under the assumption that the causal events hypothesized were
the case. Experimentation sets up causal conditions in the present and the
researcher projects what effects will occur pending the ability of his/her
theory to account for those conditions. Historians can only project into
the future what might be found in the way of evidence that discounts one
causal event in lieu of some other causal event. The differences between
the historian and experimenter are matters of temporal scale and ability to
manipulate.

Some very nice accounts of this can be found in the following works by Karl
Popper:

The Poverty of Historicism, pp. 105 to the end.

The Open Society and Its Enemies, Vol. II, pp. 259-280, and footnote #7 for
chapter 25.

Objective Knowledge, pp. 347-361.

Enjoy!
Kirk

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FELIX QUI POTUIT RERUM COGNOSCERE CAUSAS.

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Kirk Fitzhugh, Ph.D.
Associate Curator of Polychaetes
Research & Collections Branch
Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History
900 Exposition Blvd
Los Angeles CA 90007
Phone:   213-763-3233
FAX:     213-746-2999
e-mail:  kfitzhug at nhm.org
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