WAU - Knowledge Gallery

How History & Science work

Knowledge Gallery

Much of our knowledge of the world around us is derived from science and history. This gallery examines how these disciplines work, their strengths and limitations.

  • The facts in science and history are those things which can be confirmed by repeated observation and experiment. They are governed by the physical laws of the universe;
  • In science observation of the facts leads to ideas about them and so hypotheses are formed to explain them;
  • In history it is not possible to observe the past. Hypotheses are therefore developed from the surviving evidence. In both science and history hypotheses require rigorous and frequent testing to assure their validity;
  • Successful testing of hypotheses leads to the formation of theories which provide building blocks for knowledge;
  • Hypotheses and theories in science and history do not constitute proof and may therefore be revised as additional knowledge becomes available;
  • Unlike history, science only admits material evidence. Many scientists therefore avoid any interpretation of evidence in terms of aesthetics or the metaphysical.
Jurassic rock sequence at Lyme Regis, Dorset

Knowledge gain

Knowledge gain starts with identifying facts and understanding laws that govern them.

Litmus paper showing reaction to acid and alkali.

Knowledge gain in science

Observing facts and behaviour and forming a hypotheses about their meaning.

Trees felled by the Tunguska explosion

Knowledge gain in the historical sciences

Testing hypotheses in history and historical sciences. The Tunguska explosion as a case study.

Distribution of fossil plants and animals across the super-continent.

The building blocks of knowledge

From observation, hypothesis and theory to a model and accepted paradigm - plate tectonics.

Human knee  joint and ligaments

Interpretation in science & the historical sciences: some limitations

Limitations in science and historical science. Influence of materialism and other world-views.