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BaalChatzaf

On explanation

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What is an explanation?   Explanation has several  meanings.

1. Explanation is the set of causes producing  a given effect.  We ask  why (in the sense of how)  did such and such happen.

2. Explanation is a reason for some action.  This could  be either a purpose for the action (some end is attained by the action)  or it could mean a cause of the action. Why did Jack fall from the roof?  One answer is  his support was removed or disappeared and he fell under gravitational interaction.  Another explanation:  Jack was pushed from the roof and yet another  Jack jumped from the roof. 

So when we query for explanations we should distinguish between querying for means or cause on the one hand,  and purposes, ends or goals on the other. 

Scientific explanations are almost always  queries for cause or means.  They answer the how question. What happened to produce the effect that needs an explanation.  This invites an efficient cause (in the Aristotelian sense)  a material cause  or a formal cause  but hardly ever a teleological cause.  In the physical sciences it is generally assumed that nature, as such, has no purposes. But this is not as simple as it looks.  One of the principles of physics is the principle of "least action".  Leibniz believed it was God who ordained that Nature behaved in the most economical way.   The interesting thing is that finding the values of a Lagrangian that produce  zero marginal change (a characteristic of maxima and minima)  produce the correct laws of motions and change  mathematically.  So a theologically inclined physicist can say Nature obeys God's command to work in the most economical fashion  which is an "explanation"  pregnant teleology.   Nature does such and such in order to minimize action or maximize efficiency.  Scientists sometime use the locution:  "Nature conserves momentum, angular momentum and energy in interactions".  It is as if Nature wants to prevent losses or un-caused gains and that is a teleological statement.  Fortunately the teleological mode of expression can be replaced without loss of predictive power by a statement of efficient, formal  or material cause.  Teleology can be  dispensed with.  Even so,   scientists in their private moments sometimes attribute  purpose to nature's actions. 

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20 hours ago, Peter said:

Proof is different.

Indeed, Peter.

Reality proves itself.

Bloated bloviating self aggrandizing intellectual theories are powerless to alter reality...

...because reality is greater than ourselves.

Greg

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On 6/5/2017 at 3:47 PM, Peter said:

I suppose an explanation is to manipulate our image in another's eyes. Proof is different.

Not really.  A genuine explanation answers a genuine "how"  question. 

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An old X Files tonight had Scully wondering about the beginning of the Universe. She said the Big Bang was violent. I wonder. Wouldn't it be violent just if living entities were involved? Otherwise a big explosion is a big explosion but it is not violent.

Agent Taylor

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On ‎6‎/‎6‎/‎2017 at 7:58 PM, Peter said:

An old X Files tonight had Scully wondering about the beginning of the Universe. She said the Big Bang was violent. I wonder. Wouldn't it be violent just if living entities were involved? Otherwise a big explosion is a big explosion but it is not violent.

Agent Taylor

Yes.

Violence requires a human to experience it . Minus that it's just amoral energy and matter.

Greg

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