Sunday, June 10, 2007

Standards of Explanation

While reporting of events identifies what happened where, to something or someone, explanations tackle why an event happened. Because of this, standards for explanations are different than for accurate reporting of events.

An explanation typically defines a set of things that have observable characteristics that everyone can agree to. The explanation also defines a set of interactions between the things based on their characteristics (usually as a group of rules) as functions of space and time, since “events” are defined in terms of these two variables. Having done all this, the explanation then shows how the set of things and interactions generate the observed event to a level of detail at least as great as the best available descriptions of the event.

Explanations are most useful if they can reliably be generalized to a large number of events, including events that have not been observed (but may be). To be generalized to ALL events, they must use the fundamental interactions and characteristics of the Universe (in addition to space and time).

Because human experience is always changing, with more events and more detail observed, explanations must change as well. The most successful explanations are those that require minimal change to deal with new information.

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