It is a mistake to equate empiricism with the claim that everything has to pertain to the five senses, at least if you take that strictly.<quoted text>
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.
For example, empiricism has been used to demonstrate the existence of many things that are beyond our senses: radio, ultra-violet rays, neutrons, neutrinos, ultra-sound, various types of radioactivity, etc. Our eyes can detect only a very small part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Our ears have a larger range in terms of octaves, but dogs can hear much higher sounds than we can.
With that said, the *starting* point is the five senses. From those, we can learn how to detect things we cannot see or hear.
I missed where you enumerated the ten tests. And yes, archeology can add to the data to consider. By not having the inherent biases of an author, it allows a bit more objectivity, but we still have the biases of the archeologist. The latter tend to be cultural and unintentional, but they still exist, just like the biases of the historians. There is now, at least, a tendency to attempt to point out such biases and learn how to minimize them in professional work.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.
The links I *did* see were OK as starting points, but they also tend to ignore the context by which we obtain ancient writings. Unless they are written in rock (which has its own set of cautions), ancient writings have been written and re-written by scribes over centuries. We can often even relate the different documents by looking at the errors the scribes made and how they were transmitted to later manuscripts. We can often follow how interpretations have changed over time because of the types of errors that scribes have made.
I would also challenge your assertions about the reliability of oral traditions. While they can be much more reliable than many think, they are definitely less so than written records. The most reliable ones use rhyme in some way as a memory check, but even that allows for large changes over time. It also takes a fairly large collection of people devoted to memorization to maintain reliability over time. And, finally, the subject has to be one that the memory specialists think is interesting enough to *be* memorized. And such considerations change over time. This leads to a situation where oral tradition is more reliable than a simple game of telephone, but much less reliable than written records, which are also not perfect as transmitted over centuries.
And, once again, we always have the issue of whether the stories in the writings are believable to begin with. For example, do we really think that the god Pan lead Julius Ceasar across the Rubicon?