A good explanation can not be modified or molded to fit when new information contradicts it. It predicts situations that are both known and unknown. The domain of it’s meaning and applicability is not yours to specify.
Contrast that to a bad explanation—like a myth of winter caused by Persophone visiting Hades—which can be altered to fit new observations while resulting in the same prediction. It has no error correcting mechanisms and the myth can always be constrained or expanded to apply to any situation.
- The Beginning of Infinity shows why good explanations are important to progress and why their reach is limitless
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The process of seeking out good explanations is error correcting. It is tolerant of dissent with a healthy dose of skepticism and distrust of authority. It means that explanations are rejected when they are contradicted by better explanations.
A popular view of the environment, “Spaceship Earth”, is that the planet provides just the right biosphere to support human life. That is misleading because humans are actually ill suited to living in most places. Take for example living in New York—you would freeze to death come winter if not for shelter, clothing, access to clean water, and food. This is technology that humans created to transform inhospitable environments into systems that support human life.
A parochial error happens when you falsely believe that something in your narrow view of the world applies more broadly than it does. For example, thinking the seasons everywhere around the earth in the same way as your home town because that’s what you personally experience.