I see what you mean and I can agree with your reasoning with regard to a physics experiment. I never really worried too much about what I couldn't see. That's what fascinates me about people who live their lives in such a way that everything has to pertain to the five senses and nothing outside that philosophy is of importance. I've just never understood the big deal behind empiricism as a life shaping philosophy.<quoted text>
This is no more than would be required for many other physical effects.
An interesting thing happened in particle physics recently. A team of well-respected physicists at an international lab reported that they measured neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light. This was a remarkable claim! Much of the basis of physics in the 20th century was based on special relativity which said that such travel was impossible.
Now, of course when such a measurement is found, the *first* thing you suspect is some sort of measurement error. Were the devices calibrated correctly? Were the neutrinos generated when they thought? Were they measuring the distances correctly? Were their clocks accurate enough for this measurement? And it *was* a very delicate measurement with quite a number of pitfalls that are not obvious to non-physicsts (among such the fact that the source of neutrinos and the detectors are both in a rotating frame of reference).
But these physicists could not find anything wrong with their measurements. So they published their results. I should say that even they did not believe the results. Why not? Because there has been a *huge* amount of evidence for special relativity over the last century and the observed violations would probably (not certainly) have been detected earlier. But perhaps neutrinos were different.
By the way, this is a good example of how biases do NOT determine observations. Nobody expected these results. Everyone expected them to be wrong. Yet, they could find no *reason* to discount them, so they were presented to the larger community for comment and review. This is how science is done.
After a very long procedure, it was found that some wiring added a few nanoseconds to some measurements, and that was enough to invalidate their results. When the experiment was run again (necessary!), the neutrinos were found to respect the light barrier.
Now, in this, the measurements were 'beyond a reasonable doubt'. After all, well-respected scientists were unable to find anything wrong with them for *months* of thinking. But the results were *wrong*. So, yes, at *least* we want 'beyond a reasonable doubt' if not much more *if* we see the possibility of having to rewrite some central laws of physics.
Now with regard to historic claims and empirical evidence, we have archeology to bridge that gap. As the timeline gets longer between the event and the archeological discovery, we need a methodology to determine what is the most likely scenario, and even then we have to understand that the ravages of time and nature are going to work against us. All historians understand that dynamic. That's where those ten tests of reliability come into play. Documents don't survive carbon dating. So we do need a scientific method to determine reliability. No historian approaches the subject with absolute objectivity. It's impossible and dishonest to say otherwise. that's why the ten tests exist. They can (if done correctly) neutralize the bias of a document's author, and they can also neutralize the bias of the historical researcher to the maximum extent possible. That's why I swear by them.