Kinds of explanation

Different kinds of explanation may be distinguished by how they project phenomena onto ranges over pairs of opposites.  For example, an explanation may focus on natural laws but acknowledge measurement error or noise as well.  A combination of law and error/noise is one kind of explanation.  Other kinds of explanations combine created and fallen aspects, gradual and catastrophic events, macrocosmic and microcosmic aspects, wave and particle, etc.

Each kind of explanation has its uses and its limits.  Evolutionary explanations combine law and chance to derive whatever is being explained.  This would not be so bad as a limited projection of phenomena onto one of many opposites.  What’s objectionable is the grand claims that are made for no design, no purpose, etc. — these are based on excluding other explanations rather than replacing them.

The world is manifold and multiple kinds of explanation are appropriate.  We need to understand the uses and limits of each kind of explanation.

September 2011