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

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Episode 37: What is an Explanation? - Part 2

In part two of our conversation on what counts as an explanation in science, we pickup with special guest David Barack giving his thoughts on the "model–mechanism–mapping" criteria for explanation. This leads us into a lengthy discussion on explanatory versus phenomenological (or "descriptive") models. We ask if there truly is a distinction between these model classes or if a sufficiently good description will end up being explanatory. We illustrate these points with examples such as the Nernst equation, the Hodgkin-Huxley model of the action potential, and multiple uses of Difference of Gaussians in neuroscience. Throughout, we ask such burning questions as: can a model be explanatory if the people who made it thought it wasn't? are diagrams explanations? and, is gravity descriptive or mechanistic?

Listen to Part One first!

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

And David mentioned: Craver's Explaining the Brain

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

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

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