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A fake explanation is anything which sounds like an explanation, or is offered as an explanation, but which does not offer any further understanding even if it might be true.
- "Because God did it" is one example commonly used in religion-based arguments.
- The question-and-answer pair "What makes it go? Energy!", found in an elementary school science textbook, was derided by the late Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman as being utterly useless as an explanation.
- Phlogiston was a hypothetical substance contained within certain materials and whose release was believed to explain processes such as combustion and the rusting of metals, which are now understood as oxidation. [W]
- Luminiferous aether was a hypothetical medium believed to be necessary for the transmission of electromagnetic energy. It was proved nonexistent by the Michelson-Morley experiment in 1887. [W]
- Elan vital was a hypothetical substance which infused living matter and caused it to move as consciously directed, as well as being necessary for evolution. [W]
- 2007-08-20 Fake Explanations by Eliezer Yudkowsky
- 2007-08-25 Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions by Eliezer Yudkowsky