similarities and differences between historical and scientific
An explanation is one which is ‘rooted’ or firmly embedded in psychology and in reality. An explanation is one which should make something vivid to the person inquiring. A young child asking why the sky is blue or why water freezes cannot be satisfied with an answer couched in scientific polysyllables that he does not understand. To be effective, an explanation must be one which is easy to understand. On the other hand, a proper explanation must rest on truth – that is, it must refer to reality. A good explanation is one which fulfils or satisfies the particular need of the inquirer and answers only that.
Let us take for example a priest enquiring about a robbery seeking an explanation from the robber. If he asks: ‘Why did you rob the bank?’, and the robber replied, ‘Because that’s where the money is.’ This explanation, for the priest’s purposes, as per the priest’s question is not an explanation fitting to him. The explanation is supposed to be directed in order to fulfill the moral reasons behind the theft. However, the explanation of the robber is one which will satisfy any practical man: Any Scientific person. This explanation of the robber’s is a scientific explanation looking more towards the practical side of the argument rather than the moral or ethical side of the argument. There is more than one way of explaining, including Common Sense, the Scientific, the Social Scientific and the Historical modes of explanation. This essay will be focusing more on the scientific and historical modes of explanation.
Science is a way of acquiring human knowledge. The three essential aims of science are prediction, control and explanation. However, the greatest of these is scientific explanation. Scientific explanations are nothing but tentative proposals. They are offered in hope of capturing the best outlook on the matter. Scientific explanations however, are subject to evaluation as well as modification. They are valid deductive arguments whose conclusion is the event to be explained. The Scientific mode of explanation is more properly named the nomological-deductive type. It is also known as the DN account. This means that the explanation is deduced from law-like statements (from the Greeknomos= a law). For example, there is the law, or universal hypothesis, that whenever the Earth passes between the Sun and the Moon there is an eclipse of the Moon. Thus any particular eclipse may be explained as an instance of that general law. The general rule that provides the explanation is strengthened if it can be shown to be consistent with a more fundamental law.
Historical explanation is the explanation of certain events which have taken place in reality. A historical explanation, in general terms is the explanation of a circumstance in the context of history. Historical explanations give causes of outcomes in particular cases. They are empirical, but can be altered. These explanations are limited to the past. A useful method for historical explanation is analysis in terms of power. This means assessing the power, or ability to affect the outcome in question, of focal actors and entities, determining their use of that power, and, perhaps, accounting for that use. The first of these depends, in part, methodologically on deductive theory: the power of one entity depends on what others can be expected to do, and theory can help assess that. The second is mostly historical accounting, but may need theory to determine what goals are feasible for actors. In the third, theory such as rational choice may be especially useful when the power-holding actor is an aggregate of individuals.
There are a few ways of knowing through which these explanations, namely scientific and historical explanations can be deciphered: Perception, Reason and emotion.
One example in order o decipher and differentiate both types of explanation is the mystery of one of the most puzzling monuments of the world, the “Stonehenge” present in Great Britain. There have been many theories, posed by many, historians and scientists alike, all from different walks of life. These theories, as expected, happen to be as contrasting to each other as possible. However, all these theories are based on nothing but, one’s perception, reason and emotion.
A person’s perception of different events depends on the state in which his mind is at that particular point of time. Not only this, but also depends on the way the person is brought up in his life, the place, etc. A person who is brought up with one particular set of values will have a different perception from one who has been brought up elsewhere with another set of values. There have been various theories relating the existence of this monument to God and aliens. Some theories even spoke about wizards! However, there have been more relevant theories which justify its existence as an astronomical laboratory, a burial ground, etc.
In this case, a person, who has been brought up with different religious and mythological values inculcated with him, would obviously believe in the existence of God and attempt to justify the existence of the Stonehenge as that of a temple of God. However, an atheist would not do so since he does not believe in the existence of God and wouldn’t think twice before rejecting the idea of the existence of God. This would be the cause of a reason or an emotion.