Fake explanation

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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.

Many fake explanations are also curiosity stoppers.


  • "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]



Further Reading