Monday, February 18, 2013
Inexplicable, or Just Unexplained?
“Anything that is easily explained isn’t really worth explaining.” – me.
I shouldn’t have to explain that, should I? But I will anyway. Or, rather, I will use it as a launching pad for today.
It is funny how people are willing to jump so quickly from “unexplained” to “inexplicable” (now, there’s a weirdly irregular word). Yet my not having an explanation for something – and here I emphasise my not having an explanation – is hardly evidence that something is inexplicable. I may watch a magician perform a trick; I have no explanation for what he or she did; I am fascinated, even slightly in awe. But I don’t pass from that state to thinking that it is inexplicable. I don’t assume that it’s, er… magic. The same is true of many things in the realm of science. The same is even true in many day to day events. I can’t explain why the sock that I looked for so thoroughly in the drawer, is suddenly there on top, right before my eyes. I am unlikely, however, to resort to explaining this in terms of that mischievous sock demon that likes to mess with my mind. I happen to know that he became bored and moved onto higher technology. He now moves files around on my computer.
People often complain about human arrogance. How arrogant to think that we could explain everything! Actually, however, the arrogance is on the other foot – or perhaps I am getting that mixed up with socks. Anyway, it would be extraordinarily arrogant were I to assume that, because I could not explain something, it was, therefore, inherently inexplicable. I may just be stupid. I am almost certainly lacking some necessary information.
Of course, the other thing that people often mean when they say that something is inexplicable, is that it is perfectly explicable. What they really mean is that they can explain it in terms of some kind of supernatural intervention. Really, though, that is just the lazy path. I don’t know why this occurred, so it must be something, you know, like magical? Like, you know, God or somethin’? This is, in the end, a pretty radical (and arrogant) claim. It needs rather more justification than: “I can’t explain it, therefore it must be…”
I prefer to take the humbler approach. Yes, I can’t presently explain why my sock suddenly appeared precisely where I had looked ten times previously. I think, though, that this may be because I lack some information, something that has to do with the vagaries of human (and perhaps especially, male) perception. It is unexplained-ness that drives science; and God, demons and magic are just the lazy shortcut that stands in the way.