Explanations are necessary. Without them, hunter-gatherers would have trouble learning sophisticated hunting techniques and we would have trouble learning how to program our VCRs (equally terrible threats). Since natural selection tends to make us like things that are good for us, we would expect that being able to explain something would be agreeable. Alison Gopnik’s aptly titled paper “Explanation as Orgasm” makes this point very well. On the other hand, explanations can be disquieting: some might remember their first confrontations with psychology and neuroscience (“I did that because of my unconscious drives / PFC / short term memory limits?!?”) as being something of a distressing experiment. A very nice set of experiments published last year suggests why not all explanations are comforting.


Two explanations for life. Depending on your convictions and knowledge, either can be more or less comforting or discomforting. One thing is sure though: having a beard is necessary to explain life.

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