A good question.
There are a few approaches I can take based on past career. That career
has been half in science and half in IT. The science half has been in
two fields, one palaeoecology and the other forensic science, both
dealing with attempting to reconstruct the past based on whatever
fragmentary materials were available.
The forensic science half deals with two standards of proof: beyond >reasonable doubt for criminal cases and balance of probabilities in
civil cases. When I started out in family history I went on a course so >naturally I asked the lecturer which of these applied. The question was >never answered. Obviously if one were having to give expert opinion in
a legal case the relevant standards would apply with the proviso that
it's up to the tribunal to make an overall judgement, the expert can do
no more than give what evidence is available and their own interpretation.
That leaves me with the general scientists approach for which the
default position should be "I don't know for sure". I can collect
evidence and make whatever interpretation best explains it all. That >becomes my current hypothesis. I have to accept that subsequent
evidence might contradict it in which case I have to examine the
evidence again, possibly reject anything that's misleading and come up
with a revised hypothesis. If further evidence agrees with the
hypothesis then I can regard it as being strengthened. In fact
scientific method demands that I should look for material which has the >potential to contradict the hypothesis.
The forensic science half deals with two standards of proof: beyond reasonable doubt for criminal cases and balance of probabilities in
civil cases. When I started out in family history I went on a course so naturally I asked the lecturer which of these applied. The question was never answered.
In fact scientific method demands that I should look for materialI would say that a good genealogical method does too. For example, if I
which has the potential to contradict the hypothesis.
The IT half of my career has led me to make little use of genealogical packages. ISTM that the lure of a recognised data structure, the tree,
has inveigled developers into using this as the basis of their data
store. As the family tree is a statement of an hypothesis, and one that might have to be replaced, using it as the framework on which to store
the evidence requires too much prejudgement and might make changes of
mind needlessly difficult. I prefer a mixure of RDBMS and spreadsheets
as a means (not ideal but not enough to prod me into developing
something better) for organising data into timelines.
Science always seems to be "so far...".
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