Monday, December 12, 2005

More on Inference and Explanation

Suppose my car won't start. Is there an acceptable explanation which explains how the car fails to start that does not also predict that the car will not start?

For example, I would predict that, if the fuel line were cut, the engine would not start. So, a cut fuel line sounds like an explanation, whether it is probable or not.

However, I cannot accept that my car will not start because "roses are red." Roses are indeed red, and their redness is perfectly consistent with my car not starting. However, the redness of roses does not predict that my car won't start.

Nor would I accept the "explanation" that an undetectable gremlin prevented the engine from starting. The undetectability of gremlins (and their unpredictable nature) renders the gremlin just another word for "ignorance of cause."

So, a plausible explanation is a picture of a cause and effect relationship. If the proposed cause is unknowable, or does not predict the effect, then you don't have an explanation.

Therefore, any valid explanation of a phenomenon must predict that phenomenon from knowable facts (i.e., from chemistry, physics, etc.).

To claim that there is no physical theory that explains a physical phenomenon is to claim that there is no explanation of that phenomenon at all.

3 comments:

Peg said...

Interesting enough as I see and believe it to be, you are correct! To believe the phenomen (sp) happened by chance is to say that there is no valid reason. Therefore it didn't happen!!
But in all reality, since we do know the incident did indeed happen with no valid explanation, it is truly a miracle!! :-0}

Merry Christmas Doc and you ARE always in my prayers and I do believe they are softening the rough edges! ;-0}

Doctor Logic said...

Hi Peg,

If a phenomenon happens, it happens by definition. If there's no reason for it, that cannot mean it didn't happen.

As you might expect, the conclusion of my analysis is that God is just a universal gremlin, so God's existence can't explain anything (unknowable causes, lack of prediction, and all that). :)

Merry Christmas Doc and you ARE always in my prayers and I do believe they are softening the rough edges!

I wish you a happy Newtonmas, Peg!

Thanks for stopping by.

Peg said...

Interesting enough also, I do not believe that Jesus was born on the given December 25 as is celebrated.
Looking at the "clues" surrounding His birth would in actuality have placed him in spring/summer months.
But, Christians have celebrated this time frame for a good many years and therefore Dec. 25 has been recognized as Jesus's birth.
As for Newton, I have not a problem allowing him to celebrate his natural birthday on December 25 as is also celebrated by several people some of whom I know intimately.
I just find it rather humorous to put the "mas" at the end, considering the definition. Rather ironic, don't you think? ;-0}