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Wondrous TruthsThe Improbable Triumph of Modern Science$
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J.D. Trout

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199385072

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199385072.001.0001

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Good Theories, Lucky Hunches

Good Theories, Lucky Hunches

(p.113) 5 Good Theories, Lucky Hunches
Wondrous Truths

J.D. Trout

Oxford University Press

Some true explanations are too complicated for humans to cultivate understanding. This statement may seem unforgiving of human frailty and normal limitation, but it certainly isn’t unfamiliar. We think nothing of making the same claim about “lesser” species. Bees can’t appreciate the true explanation for their nectar-locating abilities. Spiders can’t explain the strength of their own silk, and they can’t understand the true explanation even if you took the time to explain it. The limitations are utterly analogous in the case of humans. Only the most extreme species exceptionalist would invite someone to conclude that humans are without such limitations. A good explanation is an accurate one, whether there is ever a moment when we understand it. But by following its causal deliverances, we may push science along the right track, even without a sense of understanding.

Keywords:   explanation, understanding, limitations, abilities, human frailty

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