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An explanation is a set of statements constructed to describe a set of facts which clarifies the causes, context, and consequences of those facts.

The requirement that an explanation actually clarify the phenomenon under consideration is an important one: simply stated, an explanation of a given phenomenon must be based on better understood phenomena, not less understood ones. An explanation based on known phenomena usually allows for it to be tested and potentially falsified.


God as an explanation

The lack of a clear human comprehension of God, including his nature, attributes and existence, is why God is not a sound explanation of anything. For example, to explain the origin of human beings with the account in Genesis is to assume many entities and occurrences that are poorly understood, cannot be investigated further and provides no testable predictions. A non-predictive explanation is irrelevant to human existence. On the other hand, biology and evolution is relatively well understood and provides an explanation that can make future predictions. Because an explanation is predictive, it is also potentially useful.

God as an explanation also suffers from infinite regress because the explanation is more mysterious than the original phenomena and therefore requires a further explanation. This is the basis for the ultimate 747 gambit.

If God is an acceptable explanation for any phenomena, then so is Thor, fairies and the Easter bunny.

"How does saying “God did it” explain any of these things? How does “God did it” offer a solution to any of the problems that philosophers and scientists are working on? When you’re confronted with a difficult problem, you can’t just say “Well, I guess it was magic.” That doesn’t solve anything! [1]"

"God is a too palpably clumsy answer; an answer which shows a lack of delicacy towards us thinkers—fundamentally, even a crude prohibition to us: you shall not think!"

Friedrich Nietzsche
"One question was “Why is phosphorus trichloride (PhCl3) polar?” The answer, given by a student who appears devout but too lazy to study for a chemistry exam, was “Because God made it that way.” Presumably, the answer was marked wrong. But just why was it wrong? If “Because God made it that way” is wrong on a chemistry exam, why should it be an acceptable answer to ANY empirical question? [2]"

Tautological explanations

Some explanations simply restate the problem they try to explain. Such explanations are not meaningfully helpful.

"opium induces sleep by virtue of its soporific power"

Since they are examples of circular reasoning, they may be valid but not necessarily sound explanations.

Principle of sufficient reason

Main Article: Principle of sufficient reason

It is often assumed that everything has an explanation, at least in principle. However, this is only an assertion and is not easy to demonstrate. It is possible that brute facts exist that have no explanation.

See also


  1. [1]
  2. [2]
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