Explanation in science

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Causal explanations
«Facts are reliable, but readers of facts will inevitably and legitimately differ about causal explanations.»
— Henry Power[1]

Explanation in science is a description of the unknown in terms of the known.[2] When an explanation is so supple that it can explain any behavior, it is difficult to test it experimentally, much less use it as a catalyst for scientific discovery.[3] Explanation in science, and anywhere else, if it is to avoid an infinite regress, always lead to certain things that are regarded as ultimate.[4] Claude Perrrault remarked that the main aim of science was to explain effects as best one could. However, as there may possibly be different causes capable of producing the same effect, it is hard to achieve agreed-upon explanation even for a single phenomenon. The French expression "le moins mal qu'il est possible"[note 1] conveying this pessimism occurs already in Claude's Perrault's 1680 Essais de physique.[1]


  1. ca. The least wrong is what is possible.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Rhoda Rappaport (1997). When Geologists Where Historians, 1665-1750. Cornell University Press, 62–3. ISBN 978-0801-433863. 
  2. Alex Williams, John Hartnett (2005). Dismantling the Big Bang. Green Forest, AR, USA: Master Books, 346. ISBN 978-0-89051-437-5. 
  3. Philip Skell (August 29, 2005). Why Do We Invoke Darwin?. The Scientist. Retrieved on June 13, 2013.
  4. John C. Lennox (2009). God's undertaker. Has science buried God?. Oxford, England: Lion Hudson, 186. ISBN 978-0-7459-5371-7. 

See also