"If the records say silk was used, and examination reveals silk-like material, then I'm happy to except that silk was used to whip arrows ("if it looks like a duck, and sounds like a duck...")"
That is fine up to a point, there are many species of ducks and to keep the avian metaphor going, one swallow does not make a summer. Silk may well have been used, that does not mean it was used universally, just that we have a good idea that it was in at least two instances, that logic applies to all things of course.
We as reenactors are very keen to hang our coats on one or two 'definites', these then become absolutes and standards, something that we should be wary about.
"and examination reveals silk-like material,"
but that is important, it was a visual examination, that is not enough to make definitive statements, that should not be simply accepted as fact, hence the query about conservation analysis. What if this turned out to be a totally new material that looked like silk and was not, we would be missing out on a very important piece of new information, not saying that it is, but you get the point that more information is better and should be sought for than simply being satisfied at some.
"Just having an intellectual notion of the components of the system doesn't give any feel for what it's like to actually shoot a warbow. Try shooting a Tudor military arrow over 220 yards and you'll begin to see what was important to the military archer - how your body has to move, what the bow feels like as it is drawn, what features are important in the design of the arrow, etc. Many of these are physical or emotional qualities that can't be captured in words or numbers."
why does only or seem to apply to a Tudor warbow, why does it not apply to all archery, surely they are adaptations and variations on themes, the main theme being sending an arrow into something over a given distance? Not all of us have shot warbows or war arrows, but then when anyone is learning to shoot, they do not start with the heaviest bows, the principles remain the same (for each bow type).
I would also like to offer a well known historical archery contradiction to your comment, Ascham (Toxophilus), he intellectualised and philosophised about archery, he was not specifically talking about warbows either, just archery, he was as keen to get across how important the body and mind set were as well as the materials, in words.
"It's like cooking: knowing all the ingredients of a recipe and their proportion doesn't really give you an idea of what the dish is actually like to eat - what it tastes like, what components affect the flavour most, what the texture is, etc. You can only get a real feel for a recipe once you've cooked it and experimented with it."
Agreed, especially as you have used a historical cooking analogy, but, from personal experience, the experiment in cooking proves very little, given that people are prone to cook in their own way using basic principles, ie they tend to individualise things like that and all outcomes will be to some extent correct, that can't be the same with something like archery, which has more finites, few of which relate to personal taste.
But we are veering away from the key issue, that there is lots of guesswork still associated with archery, we are very reliant on limited archaeology and experimentation.