Good Explanations Are Acts of Creativity
Naval: There’s a phrase you’ll hear Brett and I use over and over again: “good explanations.” Good explanations are Deutsch’s improvement upon the scientific method.
At the same time, it’s beyond science. It’s not just true in science but in all of life. We navigate our way through life, and we do it successfully by creating good explanations. If you take away nothing else, try and understand what a good explanation is.
A good explanation, first and foremost, is testable or falsifiable. You can run an experiment in the real world to see if it’s true or not. Even stepping back from that, it’s a creative explanation. It looks at something that’s going on in the real world and says, “This is why it’s happening.” It is a creative leap that says, “This is the underlying explanation for how the thing works.”
For example, when I’m watching a sunset with my young kids, I ask them: “Is the sun going somewhere? Is it moving? Or is it that maybe we’re moving, and we’re moving in such a way that it looks like the sun is setting?” Which is the proper explanation?
Looking at it naively, you would think the sun is hurtling across the sky and going around the Earth. But that’s not the only explanation. There’s a completely creative explanation that seems to fly in the face of the obvious observation of the sun’s movement but could also fit the facts—but it requires some creativity. That explanation is that the Earth is rotating.
Good explanations don’t have to be obvious. They’re not derived from just looking at what happened in the past. Rather, they are testable. There are experiments we can run to figure out if it’s the sun that is going around the earth or if it’s the Earth turning.