Wednesday, October 04, 2006

History vs. Science

Okay, during the History presentations in our class, a huge debate was started based on the comment that Historians face the same issues as Scientists. It was thought that History is the same as Science, in many ways. I want to know what all of you out there think. What are the similarities, if any, between the two, and why does it matter in terms of sense perception? Please feel free to argue if the two relate in any way at all.

7 comments:

devin said...

I think they are quite different: historians observe and analyze data that cannot be altered and is only known about if recovered, whereas scientists deal with things right in front of them that they can observe in real-time, if you will, and make always shifting observations about these living things interacting with each other.
This applies only to most of science, excluding geology/paleontology/anthropology/etc. that do deal with relatively the same things as historians, but it still sets science significantly apart from history.
And even those sciences that deal with ancient events/occurences have to use the environment today and what we know from studing these living ecosystems to accurately interpret the data recovered as well as know the environment the organism or rock was present in when it lived, whereas historians only need work with the environment surrounding their subject in the past, not needing to look at the present.
So, although they share a few similarities, I believe they are two very different fields, and shouldn't be viewed as "the same" in any sense of the word.

Vvyynn said...

Alright, their not the same, however by your definition Devin, they do sound similar. History is also constatnly changing, for as time goes on we recover new documents, we shun old points of view and take on new ones, and we shed the prejudices that used to exist. Thus, Historians also must analyse something that is constatnly changing: History.

Thats the best I can do right now, I'll probably be a lot more fervent tonight.

hbomb said...

This is my first rodeo with blogging, so I thought I'd respond to the latest post. Not having the opportunity to be part of the science/history debate, I would like to uderscore--in my opinion--the operative word in Devin's response: "interpretation." According to Devin, "historians observe and analyze data that cannot be altered"; however, to what degree does that data, in fact, get altered based on the various interpretations of that data? Similarly, scientists also interpret the same data in various ways. As such, it would seem, at least insofar as interpretation goes--as both disciplines rely on interpretation--that similarities between the two different disciplines do exist. I think Vvyynn makes a good point when writing that "History is also constatnly changing, for as time goes on we recover new documents, we shun old points of view and take on new ones, and we shed the prejudices that used to exist."

Sara Chisesi said...

I think the key difference between history and science is that a scientific experiment can be recreated whereas history can only be experienced once. Whenever we write a lab write up in biology an important piece is having a clear procedure that other people can use to recreate your experiment and hopefully gain the same results- this sets science apart from time, it is not necessarily something done in the past or present but something that can be recreated all the time. History is confined to the past. It can never be recreated and it can only be experienced once. I think that the limitations this places on history really separate it from science in that we can only rely on what others experienced in the past instead of something that can be tested and recreated in the present.

car said...

I think that they are very different. Historians can only observe data about history that other people have collected. They don't get to choose what they want to observe. Where as scientists can choose what they want to observe and run the experiments the exact way that they want to. Historians are left at the mercy of what people in the past thought was an important perception of the event. Historians can't really use many sense perceptions unless they are looking at photographs of events which only works for more recent events. Scientists can see first hand what is happening when they run an experiment. Although both do rely on perception the kind of perception that can be used is very different. However, I think that they are related in that scientists often base their current experiments off of ones done in the past which means they become historians for a time. They must rely on the observations and results taken by others.

Vvyynn said...

Woah Woah Woah, hold on there lassie. You're saying that Historians can't interpret their own data, or "choose their data"? This isn't correct. Historians have a bias like Scientists have a bias, and both are trying to prove themselves right. Thus, Historians chose which sources read, which ones to use, etc. At the same time, there is nothing stopping either from making up data. The scientist moves a decimal point, the hisotrian moves a few hundred people killed.

No, I am going to disagree: I think that History and Science are very much the same.

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