Most sciences are developed to be useful for the present and the future. In order to be useful, science defines laws, methods and formula’s. These can be applied in order to make inventions. In some cases, these laws are applied for investigating the past. Since science works very well for development and inventing, the same methods are used for investigating the past.
However, this is not an adequate method. The main reason for it, is that the present can be observed, and the future can be influenced. The past cannot be influenced, nor observed, so that is a big difference that should not be ignored. We must remember at all time that there is only one truth. There is only one history. Therefore, if there are 5 contradicting models that attempt to explain the past, at least 4 of them must be wrong. It may even very well be possible that they are all wrong.
To list some branches of sciences that have a historical component:
- radiometric dating method
- crime investigation
Definition of “truth”
Something is true when it is not false, nor uncertain*. Therefore, finding the truth for anything that has happened in the past, can only be achieved by interpreting the facts (evidence) in the only valid way. In any case where there are two valid interpretations, they can never be both true. In that case, they are both uncertain. It can also never be that all interpretations of a fact are false. In that case, we must acknowledge that we are missing at least one interpretation, including the truth. In any case where we cannot be certain of the interpretation, we must consider it plausible (which is the same as inconclusive).
It is, however, possible to have a preferred interpretation over another. That is the case when one interpretation explains more than its alternative. In that case the first is likely, the other is unlikely. Any case of likeliness however, is irrelevant. A statement of likeliness may be helpful to set up the right experiment to eliminate the wrong one, that’s all. In all cases, either likely or unlikely interpretations are plausible; they must never be considered true, nor false.
The truth is reality at any moment. There is only one truth. So it is not true that everybody has his own truth, because in that case there would be multiple truths.
*Note: Uncertainties only exist because our knowledge is limited. Truth research investigates information that is supposed to describe or display the truth. Whatever we consider true, false or uncertain does not chance what IS true/reality.
The only way of finding the truth for things that have happened in the past, is by eliminating all alternatives with facts, and facts only.
In most cases, we have to investigate scenario’s that cannot be repeated. Therefore, repetition is one of the missing items in historic sciences. That makes truth finding much harder than inventing. Crime investigation is the only historical branch in science that has a lot of elements of repetition. That provides us insight in which methods are useful and which aren’t.
In the medieval times, crime investigation used to have the law “the suspect is guilty, until proven otherwise”. Since this has lead to lots of false convictions, crime investigation made an important turnaround to the law “the suspect is not guilty, until proven otherwise”. All other sciences should learn from this wisdom. Therefor, Geodetective does not use the standard scientific procedure “a hypothesis is valid, until proven wrong”, but “a hypothesis is plausible, until proven true or false.”
The scientific community applies Ockham’s razor. Ockham’s razor is a powerful tool that is applied to remove hypotheses from the system. This should be applied whenever these hypotheses are based on many unreasonable assumptions. However, this tool should be used with extreme care. Psychology may cause Ockham’s razor to be one of the most damaging tools within historical science. That is, any statement of assumptions being unreasonable must be based on facts, and facts only. In reality, most considerations of assumption validness contain assumptions itself. In any case where a hypothesis or interpretation is removed by Ockham’s razor based on assumptions (no matter how small), there is a risk of making a mistake: the truth could have been removed. Assumptions may not, in any case, be risked to rule over the truth. In reality, this happens often.
When there has been an invalid Ockham’s razor cut of, it may be very hard to detect. The interpretation that has become the “chosen truth” will be investigated thoroughly. It will lead to an instant interpretation of any evidence to match the reference frame of that “chosen truth”. Any evidence that contradicts it will be overlooked or reasoned away. Scientists may not be aware that they do that. It is a psychological effect that is called “cognitive dissonance reduction“. This will eventually lead to a snowball effect, as these chosen assumptions influence funding, education, tolerance and the common belief.
Circular reasoning occurs when an assumption becomes evidence for itself. It does not make an assumption invalid, nor valid. It only makes the assumption plausible. Circular reasoning may cause the investigator to think his assumption is true or likely. This is a psychological error. Circular reasoning can be useful though: if the circular reasoning causes the assumption to falsify itself, the assumption must be considered false. Therefor, circular reasoning can be used to define if an assumption is either plausible, or false.
Witnesses and testimony
A witness provides testimony. In any case where there is a witness, it adds data to the knowledge. In all cases, testimony is evidence. However, how this evidence should be interpreted should always be investigated. It is both invalid to consider testimony true or false without testing it. We can be sure the testimony exists. Therefor, the witness had to have a reason to testify. This is either true or false. In case where it is false, the cause can be either deliberate (lie) or by mistake (error).
When more witnesses confirm the same, without them being possible to have known from each other, it significantly increases the likeliness of the testimony. In order to make a valid judgement that a testimony is true, it must be eliminated that it is false. In order to make a valid judgement that a testimony is false, it must be eliminated that it is true. In any other case the testimony must be considered plausible.
Supernaturality is difficult to test. It can easily lead to circular reasoning. That counts for both stating (an event of) supernaturality did occur, as for stating (an event of) supernaturality did not occur. In any case where there is a complete lack of testimony, supernaturality should not be considered. However, any clear testimony of supernaturality should be taken seriously. In any case, the amount of suggested supernaturality should be reduced to the minimum. We must accept, however, that any occurrence of supernaturality can lead to unanswered questions or even invalid answers.
Still, it may be possible to even investigate supernaturality. In any case a clear testimony is required. It is probably never possible to investigate the core of the event of supernaturality itself. That is: if it can be investigated, it’s natural. However, the result of the supernaturality can be confirmed. If the testified result is not there, then the testimony is false. If the testified result is confirmed, and it is impossible to make a full natural explanation of what happened, then the testimony must be true.
It may still be possible that the cause is natural. However, this cannot be the case if the testimony does not allow that. For example, it cannot be natural if the witness knows details that he would be unable to know in case of a natural event. In cases like that, supernaturality can be proven.
For example: Sodom and Gomorrah are witnessed to be destroyed. The witnesses (Lot and his daughters) were informed by angels that they should leave the city of Sodom, because the city would be destroyed by God. Abraham confirms that same statement, without being in the same place. When Lot left the city, the city got destroyed by a disaster that included burning material that fell from the sky.
Sodom and Gomorrah are found. It is confirmed that they were destroyed by a disaster where destructive material came from above. That confirms the testimony. So the testimony cannot be not taken seriously. The testimony also tells us that the witness left the city, because he was told that the city would be destroyed by God. Why would he lie about it? He does not have a reason to. How can it be a mistake? It is quite obvious if somebody told him that or not. He even had to run for his life, before the event was noticeable. Could the angels be lying humans? Well, how could they know the event was going to happen if it wasn’t told by God? Why would they warn Lot?
By eliminating all options, the combination of evidence and testimony leads to that we cannot conclude anything else than that the event included some supernaturality.
Facts cannot contradict. Interpretations can. In case a contradiction occurs, both suggested statements must be investigated to search for (hidden) assumptions. Adding assumptions in order to work around contradictions should be avoided. If it is not possible to solve the contradiction, we must accept that both statements are uncertain for an unknown reason. Any hypothesis suggested to solve the problem must be falsifiable.
Credibility and reliability
Credibility and reliability both influence the expected validness of a source of information, but they are very not the same.
A source that has given invalid information must be considered unreliable, whether the invalidness is deliberate or not. If it can be understood why the source is unreliable, it may reveal that some parts of the information are nevertheless reliable. Unreliable is not the same as completely false. An unreliable source cannot be used as support and also not for elimination, for it makes the containing information uncertain. Neither false, nor true.
Credibility is irrelevant. Credibility is based on the reference frame of the person who is being confronted with the information. Credibility is estimated, and therefore assumed. The difference between a verdict “unreliable” and “incredible”, is that “unreliable” should be based on facts, while “incredible” is based on assumptions. A source that is considered incredible should be tested for reliability to confirm if the content is really invalid as expected.
We should always realise that even a reliable source can provide invalid information. A reliable source may require less thouroughly and lower priority of testing than an unreliable source, but it should always be verified in some way to confirm the information is in deed valid when it is used to support a conclusion.
Here is an example to show that credibility is not useful:
- Some people say that there must be a God (or at least supernaturality), because the idea that everything came from nothing is incredible.
- Some people say that everything must have come from nothing, because the idea that everything came from something supernatural is incredible.
Since credibility is based on opinions, not facts, both verdicts can be considered valid. Yet, one of them (and only one of them) must be true. The combination of these statements makes it incredible that anything exists. Yet, we exist. Therefore we can conclude that the truth can be considered incredible. That makes credibility not useful for truth investigation.
“Somehow or other an extraordinary idea has arisen that the disbelievers in miracles consider them coldly and fairly, while believers in miracles accept them only in connection with some dogma. The fact is quite the other way. The believers in miracles accept them (rightly or wrongly) because they have evidence for them. The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) because they have a doctrine against them.”
(Chesterton, Orthodoxy chapter 9.)