Hey Scientific Community, Start Showing a Little Humility, Why Don't Ya!?



These are a few examples I use to differentiate between applied history and applied science:

In science, when a theory is disproved or becomes outdated, it's usually discarded.

You might read a footnote about something like polygenesis in an enormous text on genetics but, for all scientific intents and purposes, polygenesis will never see the light of day again and I'd bet every dollar in my bank account that you, a learned man of science, never heard that word before ever, even though it was once considered absolutely cutting edge science (before Origin of the Species consolidated evolution, Types of Mankind advocating separate developmental genetic tracts was the consensus).

To the historian, however, outdated history, outdated science and, really, outdated anything remains a valuable tool because such things provide enormous insight into the forgotten past (in the case of polygenesis, it helps to understand the racist (pseudo)science at the heart of arguments for slavery and segregation weaponized against those who were, at the time, considered abortionist zealots and creationist religious fanatics).

So the historian should never dismiss something that was 'wrong' on the contrary, they often provide the most insight.

History has a different threshold of proof than science.

For instance:

In 1812, multiple accounts from multiple sources unrelated to one another concurred that the Mississippi River flowed backward over an elongated period of time following some huge earthquakes.

For historians, the Mississippi River flowing backwards in 1812 was always evidenced fact. It met every threshold of proof we require to demonstrate it wasn't some hoax or mass exaggeration or trick of the light. By historical standards, it absolutely happened.


Because people believed it happened and made decisions that influenced the world based on the belief that it happened. Which is more what concerns historians than mere geological possibility.

However- before Hurricane Katrina proved it possible in 2005- scientists maintained that it was impossible for the Mississippi River to flow backward.

For a century, leading geologists maintained there was no evidence elsewhere in recorded scientific record where a river that huge with such a powerful flow could backtrack. That was crazy. Never happened on the Amazon or the Nile. And no other accounts from any other time verified it for the Mississippi. By geological thresholds of evidence, it was scientifically impossible. So, according to science, 1812 accounts must have been exaggerated or there must have been some widescale trick of the light that made people think they saw the river reverse course.

To this day, the geological scientists remains skeptical.