I take your point Andy, and of course archaeology as a discipline
includes many scientific techniques. But you must admit that in the
*interpretation* at least it is closer to History (and is often working
with evidence more open to interpretation than even that, dependent upon
period). It includes "Art" in at least equal measure, I would say.
Is it more correct then to speak in terms of "hard" and "soft" sciences
(arch being the latter)? Because there's a clear difference I think. You
only have to read an archaeological report versus say, a
palaeontological one. Archaeological stuff tends to be more open to type
3 inference and outright speculation - in order to make some sense of
the hard evidence. Clearly interpretations can be refined, as you say.
But phenomenological approaches for example - not scientific.
Perhaps it's most true to say that archaeology is a science in
principle, but not always in practice?
From: British archaeology discussion list
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Andy Holland
Sent: 18 February 2009 09:37
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [BRITARCH] Tree ring proxies unreliable estimates of global
I'm not wishing to contribute to discussions of Mikes beliefs about
Climate Change but.....
I would like to address one major point. Archaeology IS science.
I am an Archaeological Scientist and I object to the "its not proper
science" sentiment which seems to be common.
Why is it science? Because it uses the scientific principles as its
underlying methodology. More specifically it makes observations,
formulates a hypothesis on the basis of these observations, then
re-assesses the hypothesis in reference to wider or newer data. If the
hypothesis falls then a new/re-worked hypothesis that has a closer fit
to the data is examined and tested etc.
In this way science if evolutionary - hypotheses evolve to fit changing
(and one hopes improving quality) data.
So to answer Mikes question about why archaeologists won't admit they've
been lieing to everyone all this time.... well because they haven't!
What they have been doing is promoting the current hypothesis that is
based on the best view of the data - if that data was flawed due to a
problem with the way it was derived (i.e. if as you suggest Tree rings
etc. are not reliable) then they will re-assess the current hypothesis
once the flaw is proven.
However - Mr Haeseller's comments are NOT science!
Why? Because he is breaking the most important rule of science - He has
decided what the answer should be in advance - You should NEVER
formulate your theory then find the data to fit it and ignore anything
else that contradicts - that's dogma not science.
Mikes other issue is that he has an agenda about climate change and
science should be a-political and his is not, Science is worst served
when the Media, special interests and Politics get hold of it and use it
as a bludgeon to push an agenda.
Worst off all for Mike is that by following this unscientific approach
he does a disservice to his argument and to himself - if his is a
plausible argument it should stand on its own merits and be self evident
to all once pointed out and he undermines his own authority by his
As to whether Mike is correct or not - I have a personal opinion, but
like any scientist I'll look at the data with an open mind and make an
informed hypothesis (which I'm always re-assessing).
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