Good vs. Bad Explanation

My comments on David Deutsch The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World

18.05.2012 21:10:

>Explaining that an idea is a bad explanation is a substantive criticism of that idea.

First the last statement is just an exercise in rhetoric to demonstrate your intellectual superiority.

Second, have you explained why my explanation was bad and your good one?

I listen to Beginning of Infinity but David Deutsch just states there that what he does not like is a bad explanation without further discussions. It does not look like as a skeptical inquiry, exactly as your reply to my explanation.

19.05.2012 12:26:

>Do you think that an argument to the effect that a particular idea is a bad explanation is a criticism of that idea?

I would say so. Good vs. bad, better vs. worse, good guys fighting evil, these are associations arising in my mind when I hear “good explanation.”

19.05.2012 13:02:

The answer on where in the book there are just statements about bad explanations.

I listen to the audio book and I might have missed important points but emotionally I would say that this has happened many times in the book.

You are right though that I must be specific. I will document below several points now, say at the emotional level. To give more a rational answer I have to listen to your book again.

1) How to distinguish a good explanation from a bad one?

It seems that there was no a description of an objective scientific procedure how to solve this problem.

My feeling is that at the end as usually, each will claim that his/her explanation is good one and the rest is composed of bad explanations. In this respect, I would say “good vs. bad” raises emotions. In my view, “my hypothesis vs. other’s hypothesis” would be more neutral.

2) Static vs. dynamic society

It seems that your desire for a dynamic society (especially the term “good explanation” in this context) would justify the elimination of Indians in the USA.

Or if we take Avatar by Cameron, the fight against Na’vi is then completely the right one, as the Universe does not need static societies.

3) Born of modern science as a fight against religion

This contradicts to historical facts. According to Prof Maarten Hoenen, an expert in middle ages, science and theology were rather like a brother and a sister.

Moreover, according to Collingwood (An Essay in Metaphysics), absolute presuppositions employed in modern science are quite similar to those in Christianity. Monotheism was replaced by inexorable laws and trinity helped to believe that human mind can understand these inexorable laws.

20.05.2012 12:18:

>I can explain why I think an idea is hard to vary, but nothing can be proved or justified as explained in Chapter 1 of BoI. Do you have a criticism of that position?

Then it seems to me that at that end, we are in a situation when I say that I like this and you say that you like that. This is quite a common situation and provided we both tolerate the differences in opinion, I have nothing against.

> Why do demands for unambiguous definitions and proofs apply to the positions in BoI, but not to your positions?

I would not say that I demand. I just express my concern of “good vs. bad” in Beginning of Infinity. I personally do not say that my explanation is good, I just express what I feel. Others can agree or disagree. In the latter case, I do not state that their explanation is bad.

I believe that good and bad is important in moral. When we discuss a scientific explanation, “good vs. bad” disturbs me.

If to speak about the book Beginning of Infinity in general, it disturbs me a lot for example that the statement “Problem is soluble” is so often repeated. It reminds me a marketing campaign. By the way, ANSYS has adopted recently a nice slogan that a product is a promise

Every product is a promise: to be functional and reliable; to perform better than other designs on the market. ANSYS can help you meet the promises you make.”

Probably they have read Beginning of Infinity. To speak seriously, I would prefer that scientific authors describe their findings in a neutral way.

Now, to answer your question directly. If Beginning of Infinity cannot answer questions unambiguously, then I do not understand why it was necessary to employ so much pathos in the book.

This is another logic in Beginning of Infinity that I find strange. In Dark Ages there was a bad philosophy. Then came a philosophy that helped to develop a modern science but this philosophy in some respect is even worse. In my view, something here is wrong.


Discussion of Deutsch’s book in Russian