Unsupervised Thinking
a podcast about neuroscience, artificial intelligence and science more broadly

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Episode 36: What is an Explanation? - Part 1

As scientists, we throw around words like "explanation" a lot. We assume explaining stuff is part of what we're doing when we make and synthesize discoveries. But what does it actually take for something to be an explanation? Can a theory or model be successful without truly being one? How do these questions play out in computational neuroscience specifically? We bring in philosopher-neuroscientist David Barack to tackle this big topic. In part one of the conversation, David describes the historical trajectory of the concept of "explanation" in philosophy. We then take some time to try to define computational neuroscience, and discuss "computational chauvinism": the (extremist) view that the mind could be understood and explained independently of the brain. We end this first half of the conversation by defining the "3M" model of explanation and giving our initial reactions to it.

We read:
Explanation and description in computational neuroscience
(which was a recommendation from this Twitter thread on the philosophy of mathematical modeling)

Previous episodes that may be of interest:
Episode 8: Neuroscience vs. Psychology
Episode 13: The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics
Episode 21: Understanding fMRI

To listen to (or download) this episode, (right) click here

UPDATE: Part 2 is now posted here

As always, our jazzy theme music "Quirky Dog" is courtesy of Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) 

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