Today I reported for jury duty. In the end I wasn’t picked to serve. “Many are called but few are chosen.” During the preliminaries, the judge emphasized the difference between a civil case, in which the standard of proof is “more probable than not,” and a criminal case, in which the standard is the higher one of “beyond reasonable doubt.”I found myself sitting there wondering which is the better analogy for the level of certainty historians not only seek to achieve, but can reasonably expect to, especially when dealing with matters related to the distant past.
What do you think? Is “beyond reasonable doubt” not only inappropriate in a civil trial, but also unrealistic and/or inappropriate in a historical investigation?