Hot Blooded Gluttons: Coherence & Method in Historical Science
Our epistemic access to the past is infamously patchy: not only does historical information degrade and disappear, but bygone eras are often beyond the reach of repeatable experiments. However, historical scientists have been remarkably successful at uncovering and explaining the past. Currie argues that part of this success is explained by the exploitation of dependencies between historical events, entities and processes. For instance, if sauropod dinosaurs were hot blooded, they must have been gluttons; the high energy demands of endothermy restricts sauropod grazing strategies. Understanding such dependencies extends our reach into the past in spite of incomplete data. Currie argues that (1) considerations of coherence plays a role in historical reconstruction; (2) that coherence is evidential - that is, it ought to play such a role; (3) historical methodology cannot be characterized as archetypically relying on one method or another. Historical science is at base opportunistic, 'methodologically omnivorous', and this in part explains its success.