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Doing Science in the Past

The comparative method of historical science helps to explain Haiti’s poverty
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HISTORY IS NOT OFTEN THOUGHT OF AS A SCIENCE, but it can be if it uses the “comparative method.” Jared Diamond, professor of geography at the University of California, Los Angeles, and James A. Robinson, professor of government at Harvard University, employ the method effectively in the new book they have co-edited, Natural Experiments of History. (Order the lecture on DVD. Jared Diamond lectured, based on this book, as part of the Skeptics Society’s Distinguished Lecture Series at Caltech.) In a timely study comparing Haiti with the Dominican Republic, for example, Diamond demonstrates that although both countries inhabit the same island, Hispaniola, because of geopolitical differences one ended up dirt poor while the other flourished. (continue reading…)

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