Cliodynamics originates fromClio, the Greek muse of history. Despite a common misconception, the cliodynamics approach is not to argue by analogy with past events. This is an incorrect way of learning lessons from history – the historical record is very rich and varied, so finding historical examples to support almost any argument is easy.
Instead, the adherents of cliodynamics treat historical record just as, say, evolutionary biologists treat the palaeontological record. Theories are constructed and based on general principles and tested empirically with comprehensive databases. In short, we use the standard scientific method that worked so well in physics, biology, and many social sciences.
My colleague Herbert Gintis compares cliodynamics to aviation. You cannot predict when a plane will crash, but you can study the black box data to determine the causes of crash and figure out how to fix them.
You certainly don’t fly an aeroplane that has known problems. Similarly, you don’t put additional stresses on the social system that is already in fragile equilibrium; rather you should try to fix the underlying causes.
Clearly our knowledge about why states collapse and civil wars break out is nowhere near the state of aeroplane design. But recently we’ve made a lot of progress.
Cliodynamics: can science decode the laws of history?.
reminds me of a bit of Big History…
I do think History follows certain laws, mimetic laws, if you will….
Filing this under the hope that I will soon turn to exploring historical cycles, etc…
It’s called Big History. It is about connecting the dots from the Big Bang until today. Ed posted this on Facebook sometime this week. Thought I’d share. Looks real, real interesting, in a panentheistic kind of way:
As humans, we are inherently interested in understanding our origins. Every culture has creation myths that try to explain how the world and its inhabitants came to be. With the rise of science, especially in the last several centuries, we are now in a much better position to appreciate and understand where we came from. It is a fascinating story that takes us from the beginning of the universe to recent times. To understand the major events and patterns of our origins gives us a much better appreciation of our place in the world today. The story of our origins is multi-layered, essentially a long series of origins, each building on the ones that came before it.
This website project, FROM THE BIG BANG TO THE WORLD WIDE WEB™, has been developed by us (Kathy Schick and Nicholas Toth) as a critical component of a long-range and multifaceted project to promote science education and large-scale evolutionary thinking. We are the founders and co-directors of THE STONE AGE INSTITUTE® (www.stoneageinstitute.org), a federally-approved non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to human origins research and science education, and are both Professors of Anthropology and Cognitive Science at Indiana University, Bloomington, as well as founders and co-directors of Indiana University’s Center for Research into the Anthropological Foundations of Technology (CRAFT). We are also Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
Although our primary research focus over the past three decades has been on the origins and development of human technology during the course of human evolution, we also have a keen interest in physics (we own a first edition of Max Planck’s 1897 book Thermodynamik, which established the foundations of quantum mechanics), astronomy and planetary science (we collect meteorites, which have been exhibited in the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis), geology, biology, palaeontology, archaeology, and history. We have assembled a personal library of several hundred books on a wide range of topics regarding Deep Time (sometimes called “Big History”), and subscribe to a number of professional journals (including Science and Nature) to keep up with the current state of knowledge in a range of scientific fields.
the Stone Age Institute – From the Big Bang to the World Wide Web – About This Project.