Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2010

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Carol Cleland

Second Advisor

Bradley Monton

Third Advisor

Robert Rupert


Philosophical analysis of scientific practice, methodology and theory has primarily focused on the classical experimental sciences, while little work has been done on other areas of science. Recently, philosophers have begun to address issues pertaining to scientific areas that do not fit the framework of the classical experimental sciences. This paper will address issues in the historical natural sciences and the historical aspects of earth science in particular. The historical claims made within the earth sciences face different methodological challenges, which require different forms of explanation and epistemic justification than those in the classical experimental sciences. A description of the methodology in the historical natural sciences will be addressed in light of a case study in the field of geochemistry. Epistemic asymmetries between the historical natural sciences and classical experimental science will be addressed and it will be shown that the unique claims made in the historical natural sciences require forms of justification that are inherently different than classical experimental science.