Historical Reconstruction: Gaining Epistemic Access to the Deep Past
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Philosophy and Theory in Biology, ISSN: 1949-0739, Vol: 3, Issue: 20170609, Page: 1-19
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We discuss the scientific task of historical reconstruction and the problem of epistemic access. We argue that strong epistemic support for historical claims consists in the consilience of multiple independent lines of evidence, and analyze the impact hypothesis for the End-Cretaceous mass extinction to illustrate the accrual of epistemic support. Although there are elements of the impact hypothesis that enjoy strong epistemic support, the general conditions for this are strict, and help to clarify the difficulties associated with reconstructing the deep past.