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Description vs. Explanation in the Explanatory Scientific Method

Description tells about the phenomenon; explanation shows the mechanism that is theorized to underlies it.


on 2 October 2012

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Transcript of Description vs. Explanation in the Explanatory Scientific Method

Description: a report of what is observed.

For example:
An apple falls from a tree.
It falls at an accelerating rate
Its descent is described by such-and-such equation But what mechanism underlies this phenomenon? Description Explanation A movie of what is not observed, but that is proposed to produce the observed phenomenon in a way that is conceivable. For example:
The earth is connected to the apple by an invisible lasso that pulls on it
An invisible man walks over to the apple and pulls it downward with his hand An explanation could also
be called a type of description,
though it is not a description
of the observed phenomenon,
but rather the unobserved
phenomena that supposedly
underly the observed one.

In this way, as explanations
(theories) become accepted,
science can move forward
by taking the accepted
explanations as given and
proposing mechanisms that
underly *them*, and so on. Watch this for more details on the explanatory scientific method as a whole. A POSTERIORI A PRIORI Basically, descriptions are a posteriori and explanations (theories) are a priori. To make a "theory" that is all a posteriori is merely to tell us something we already know, but in a fancier package.

Examples of a posteriori "explanations":
Some field lines moved the iron filings.
The planet's gravity well attracts the spaceship.
A force repelled the magnet

Notice that none of these actors are conceivable mechanistically. We cannot imagine field lines as physical objects, or how they mechanically move iron. These are just fancier descriptions of what we already observe. http://mises.org/Community/forums/t/27143.aspx Discussion on this topic continues here (link is clickable):
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