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Dinosaurs and the Democratic Peace: Paleontological Lessons for Avoiding the Extinction of Theory in Political Science

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Abstract

While Paleontology and Political Science face many of the same difficulties when it comes to the nature of the empirical foundation they must work from, paleontologists have adapted to and dealt with the shortcomings of their data far more effectively than political scientists. Comparing the democratic peace to the meteor impact theory of dinosaur extinction, two of the more prominent lines of research in these two disciplines, reveals that the key difference may be that paleontologists are far better at integrating theory into their day to day conduct of empirical scientific research, most notably through an adaptation of the concept of strong inference to deal with imperfections in the data they must work from. Simple strategies of scientific inquiry that are commonplace in Paleontology are suggested as ways that individual political scientists can more effectively use empirical research to contribute to the quality and conceptual depth of Political Science's debates and enhance the rate and quality of theoretical progress in the discipline.

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