A Scientific Question? Part 8

There are four different possible kinds of questions, in relation to the categories of “scientific questions” and “historical questions” (prior to doing an analysis of these concepts):
X.S…..H
1. T…..T
2. T…..F
3. F…..T
4. F…..F

(1) both scientific and historical
(2) scientific but not historical
(3) not scientific but historical
(4) not scientific and not historical

I am going to make a few plausible assumptions about what sorts of questions exist:

(a) There are some scientific questions.
(b) There are some historical questions.
(c) There are some questions that are niether scientific nor historical (such as moral questions, e.g. “Is it always wrong to to tell a lie?”).

Based on these assumptions there are five logical possibilities for the distribution of questions in relation to the four categories of questions.

Zero categories/regions have instances.
This possibility is ruled out by the assumptions above.

One category/region has instances.
This possibility is ruled out by the assumptions above.

Two categories/regions have instances.
There is only one possible distribution of questions of this sort, given the above assumptions.

Three categories/regions have instances.
There are three possible distributions of questions of this sort, given the above assumptions. One of these possible distributions corresponds to a NOMA (non-overlapping magisteria) type of view about the relationship of science to history:



Four Categories/Regions have an instance.
There is just one possible distribution of questions of this sort:

About Bradley Bowen
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08967595781013844031 Browning

    In Dawkins' version of that Venn diagram, the circle of "history" is completely contained within the circle of "science," as long as you understand that the science circle is the set of questions that science can answer in principle, if not in practice. In other words, there is no such thing as an historical question that science cannot answer in principle.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Response to Browning:

    Dawkins' view would be represented the second diagram of the three diagrams in the section on "Three Categories/regions have instances".

    It implies that there are some scientific questions that are not historical, and that there are some scientific questions that are historical, and that all historical questions are scientific.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Here is an example of a question that (I think) could be answered/resolved either by historical evidence or by scientific evidence:

    Question: Was there a full solar eclipse on August 1, 2008?
    Answer: Yes.

    Historical Evidence (mostly):
    http://www.williams.edu/Astronomy/eclipse/eclipse2008/2008total/ScienceMag.pdf

    Scientific Evidence (mostly):
    http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEpubs/20080801/section1.html

    The scientific evidence, meaning the various calculations used to predict the eclipse, are grounded in careful observations and measurements of solar eclipses in the past (and various other astronomical observations related to the sun). This means that the formulas and values used in the calculation are gounded in what appears to be historical evidence.

    What this suggests to me is that scientists who are trying to figure out some phenomenon, will use whatever evidence they can find that is helpful, and sometimes that evidence will be historical, especially when we are talking about phenomena that cannot be reproduced in a laboratory, and phenomena that occur over time spans of decades or centuries rather than over days, hours, or minutes.


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