Saturday, 10 September 2016

The Metaphorical Event

"The Event would seem quite reasonable, if you grew up with it. In a couple of generations they'd probably think of it as a myth, and way down the road some professional pain in the ass would 'prove' that it was a metaphor and hadn't happened at all." (SM Stirling, Against The Tide Of Years, p. 43)

But, if the Event is unexplained and unrepeated, then what else can academics do but "prove" that it never happened? We explain an event by demonstrating that it instantiates a law. We explain a law by demonstrating that it instantiates a more general law. We cannot explain but must simply accept the most general laws. Either every event instantiates a law or most do. If a few do not, then those few are inexplicable. And, if they are reported but never repeated, then how can we verify that they even occurred?

For science and technology to work, most events must be law-governed but there is no need to insist that all are. We continue to seek, and often to find, explanations. At any time, there are (as yet) unexplained phenomena.

1 comment:

  1. Kaor, Paul!

    In principle, I agree with what you said here. It reminded me of what Poul Anderson said about the "lawfulness" of the universe in "Delenda Est" and IS THERE LIFE ON OTHER WORLDS?

    But, I don't think Jared Cofflin had that in mind. He was sure some academic "pain in the ass" fifty years later would "prove" had not arrived somehow from the future. Rather, he would claim the town of Nantucket, its residents, and the more advanced technology they had was somehow older than the world of Tukulti-Ninurta of Assyria, Shagrakti-Shuriash of Babylon, Ramesses II of Egypt, etc. Which only begs the question, of course, of why those other nations did not ALREADY have the technology Nantucket arrived with.