7 Factors for Testing a Historical Hypothesis
The following is an excerpt from William Lane Craig‘s Reasonable Faith, 3rd Edition, p. 233:
“The process of determining which historical reconstruction is the best explanation will involve the historian’s craft, as various factors will have to be weighed. In his book Justifying Historical Descriptions, C. Behan McCullagh lists the factors which historians typically weigh in testing a historical hypothesis:
- The hypothesis, together with other true statements, must imply further statements describing present observable data.
- The hypothesis must have greater explanatory scope (that is, imply a greater variety of observable data) than rival hypotheses.
- The hypothesis must have greater explanatory power (that is, make the observable data more probable) than rival hypotheses.
- The hypothesis must be more plausible (that is, be implied by a greater variety of accepted truths, and its negation implied by fewer accepted truths) than rival hypotheses.
- The hypothesis must be less ad hoc (that is, include fewer new suppositions about the past not already implied by existing knowledge) than rival hypotheses.
- The hypothesis must be disconfirmed by fewer accepted beleifs (that is, when conjoined with accepted truths, imply fewer false statements) than rival hypotheses.
- The hypothesis must so exceed its rivals in fulfilling conditions (2)-(6) that there is little chance of a rival hypothesis, after further investigation, exceeding it in meeting these conditions.”