Why 2


and desire... ...There
are no explanations
in science.
- C. van Fraassen



Have you ever thought about the way your car works? The inner works of the engine, how does the fuel make it work, how does combustion lead to movement and is then passed to the wheels? If you have, what are you going to answer an 8-year-old kid when he asks: “Why does the car move?” Are you going to start explaining high school physics, mechanics, chemistry of combustion and the concept of friction? Or are you just going to say: “Well, the car eats up gas, and that makes the engine move the wheels.” Granted, the latter doesn’t explain much about what a car is. But it answers the ...

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scientific explanation. Both are very easily seen in our example. The first is, when is something explained? Some argue that we should not explain a phenomenon unless we have the full, unifying, true-to-the-last-miniscule-detail explanation, which will also cover all the cases which correspond to our case, cases similar to our case, or distant variants of our case. In short, what they want is a theory of everything, which in itself is a noble goal, but is hardy achievable. Let’s face it, everything in our universe is connected in one way or another, or through one another, to everything else in it. A man bears definite connection to, for instance, “gas giant” type of planets. A reason for that could be, for example, that both share some mutual chemical elements. Does that mean that same theory should apply to prediction of man’s movement as to a gas giant movement? As ridiculous as it sounds, this type of proposition often arises in science, though not as ...

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no doubt, but according to van Fraassen, virtually any explanation can be put into the “Why-P [as opposed to X]” form, for which the answer, Q, follows. Though slightly awkward at first, this proposition, when thought about, makes a very good point. Consider the initial example with a car. A question such as “how does the car work?” can be broken down to question such as “why does the car move [and not stay]?”; “why does the car emit rumbling noise [and is not silent or emitting other types of noise]?” ; “why does the car require gas [and does not require anything else, or requires nothing at all] ?”, and so on and so forth. ...

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Added: 12/21/2003 05:16:40 AM
Category: Miscellaneous
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