The Science of History (Or Vice Versa)
Education is a journey. It involves various interconnecting paths, where each must be traveled to unblock obstacles or setbacks on others. Being subjects of study, these paths range from common sense to collegiate calculus. True education encompasses evaluation of viewpoints and material from every area. Because all disciplines hold tremendous value in both a rounded education and life, the study of history is as important to a scientist as the study of science is to a historian to allow for richer experiences.
History is the study of all recorded events. Each happening, whether ubiquitously known or heard of by few, contributes to who we are as a human race today. Likewise, science is the study of how everything works, including life itself. As Mae Jemison stated, arts and science “are manifestations of the same thing,” rather than separate practices. Without its complement, both history and science would hold less value; according to Aristotle, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” which absolutely applies to history and science.
History is metaphorically scientific in that it is said to repeat itself, just as any knowledgeable scientist would repeat an experiment to check for consistency (and hopefully improved results!). One event leads to another, which leads to another, then back to the first. It’s formulaic. For example, in chemistry, sodium and water react, creating sodium hydroxide and hydrogen gas, which explodes. Similarly, “reactants” of actions, laws, feelings, and decisions often combine, leading to war. The science of history is traceable, predictable, and is ultimately one big experiment, better known as life.
On the other hand, science is as much a history as history is a science. In order to fully grasp any piece of science, one must also understand the implications of that theory or experiment, such as its discovery or past uses. The most common image of science is a chemist mixing a solution. Essentially, this consists of a series of smaller measures that lead up to a larger, more noticeable event. By definition, science explains how things work. We may look to history to predict the future, but more fittingly, we study it to understand why our cultures are the way they are. Physics delves into matter and energy—what everything is made up of and how it functions. Well, history is made up of the tiniest particles, and it functions sometimes according to plan, sometimes in an unexpected way, like many an experiment does. Though their approaches are different, science and history both explain how we, a global community, ended up where we are today.
In the worlds of history and science, one simply cannot exist without the other, allowing for deeper experiences as a whole. In fact, they are essentially the same discipline in different contexts. Both could easily be considered the study of life—history is centered on how life obtained its current image while science focuses on how life functions. Historians and scientists are coworkers; they must work together to fully complete their jobs.