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Old 26th February 2021, 06:31 PM   #1
Thor 2
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Explanations That Aren't.

I often find myself annoyed by some that, when questioned about some technical issue, will just throw an impressive sounding line at you, and think they have provided an explanation. I think that the reasoning ability of some folk is so shallow or wanting, that they are quite comfortable with the thought, they have wrapped something up, with some technical sounding crap.
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Old 26th February 2021, 06:56 PM   #2
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"It's for your safety".
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Old 26th February 2021, 07:46 PM   #3
Thor 2
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Originally Posted by casebro View Post
"It's for your safety".

Yes that is certainly a common phrase, but when I ask just how it is making me safe the explanation is not forthcoming.
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Old 26th February 2021, 09:02 PM   #4
Gord_in_Toronto
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Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
Yes that is certainly a common phrase, but when I ask just how it is making me safe the explanation is not forthcoming.
"You'll understand when you get older."
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Old 26th February 2021, 09:08 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
Yes that is certainly a common phrase, but when I ask just how it is making me safe the explanation is not forthcoming.
That's because most people get offended when the response is,
ď Because you look like the person who tend to say, ďHold my beer. Iíve seen this on tv.Ē.Ē
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Old 26th February 2021, 09:58 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
I often find myself annoyed by some that, when questioned about some technical issue, will just throw an impressive sounding line at you, and think they have provided an explanation. I think that the reasoning ability of some folk is so shallow or wanting, that they are quite comfortable with the thought, they have wrapped something up, with some technical sounding crap.
If I had to give complete technical details to every little thing, I'd never get any work done. Maybe some people just want to give you a technical summary and get back to something important. You're always welcome to look it up yourself and figure out what it means, if you're curious order you think you can do their job better.
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Old 26th February 2021, 10:20 PM   #7
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Old 26th February 2021, 10:59 PM   #8
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One of the fashionable ones we hear all the time on the news these days is "it has a lot of moving parts." Which seems to mean, usually, that most of it is either unfathomable or bull, and can't actually be explained at all.
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Old 26th February 2021, 11:14 PM   #9
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Just so stories like how the leopard got its spots that are untestable and multiply entities in a way that makes William of Occam sad.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just-so_story

Answers that are tautological. Classic example I read on this topic was in answer to why opium made you sleepy - because it has a somnolent nature. Pretty sure the source is Paracelsus but can’t find a reference online.

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Old 27th February 2021, 03:42 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
I often find myself annoyed by some that, when questioned about some technical issue, will just throw an impressive sounding line at you, and think they have provided an explanation. I think that the reasoning ability of some folk is so shallow or wanting, that they are quite comfortable with the thought, they have wrapped something up, with some technical sounding crap.
1 - That's how it was explained to them.

2 - They know the technical explanation but don't think you have the technical background needed to understand it

3 - They don't have the time to go through the technical explanation even if they think you could understand it.

4 - They're arrogant.

Pick any one or any combination.
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Last edited by Lplus; 27th February 2021 at 03:44 AM.
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Old 27th February 2021, 04:16 AM   #11
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Regarding any aspect of the functioning of any computerized device: "Because it was programmed that way."

Well, that rules out "it's behaving like that because it's achieved independent sentience and is now defying its own programming," so, thanks.
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Old 27th February 2021, 04:27 AM   #12
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When neural networks were the Next Big Thing twentysomething years ago, every pop-science explanation of how they work would reach a point where the explanation just ran into the sand. My wife and I called it the "...and then they learn" moment. There appeared to be a gulf between explanations we could understand but which didn't explain and explanations which might have explained but we couldn't follow the maths.
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Old 27th February 2021, 04:41 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
I often find myself annoyed by some that, when questioned about some technical issue, will just throw an impressive sounding line at you, and think they have provided an explanation. I think that the reasoning ability of some folk is so shallow or wanting, that they are quite comfortable with the thought, they have wrapped something up, with some technical sounding crap.
Tides go in, tides go out. You can't explain it!
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"Evolution and Ethics" T.H. Huxley (1893)
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Old 27th February 2021, 05:10 AM   #14
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Richard Feynman had an interesting take on this issue:

https://fs.blog/2012/01/richard-feyn...why-questions/

Quote:
Of course, it’s an excellent question. But the problem, you see, when you ask why something happens, how does a person answer why something happens? For example, Aunt Minnie is in the hospital. Why? Because she went out, slipped on the ice, and broke her hip. That satisfies people. It satisfies, but it wouldn’t satisfy someone who came from another planet and knew nothing about why when you break your hip do you go to the hospital. How do you get to the hospital when the hip is broken? Well, because her husband, seeing that her hip was broken, called the hospital up and sent somebody to get her. All that is understood by people. And when you explain a why, you have to be in some framework that you allow something to be true. Otherwise, you’re perpetually asking why. Why did the husband call up the hospital? Because the husband is interested in his wife’s welfare. Not always, some husbands aren’t interested in their wives’ welfare when they’re drunk, and they’re angry.

That's just the start.
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Old 27th February 2021, 06:05 AM   #15
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Aaaaaah, NHS managers then...
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Old 27th February 2021, 06:05 AM   #16
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"Its so for a reason" - commonly seen on speed limits in the UK. "It's 40 for a reason". "We're asking you to stay indoors for a reason". Drives me insane. You bother to tell me there is a reason but you can't be bothered (or can't) give me the reasoning?
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Old 27th February 2021, 06:26 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by Gord_in_Toronto View Post
"You'll understand when you get older."
or

"Because."

Originally Posted by hecd2 View Post
"Its so for a reason" - commonly seen on speed limits in the UK. "It's 40 for a reason". "We're asking you to stay indoors for a reason". Drives me insane. You bother to tell me there is a reason but you can't be bothered (or can't) give me the reasoning?
"Everything happens for a reason."

Usually to imply that there is a lesson to be learned, rather than attributing it to cause and effect.

Originally Posted by The Great Zaganza View Post
"It's always been like this."
"I meant to do that."
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Old 27th February 2021, 07:31 AM   #18
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It is what it is.
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Old 27th February 2021, 07:36 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by Myriad View Post
Regarding any aspect of the functioning of any computerized device: "Because it was programmed that way."

Well, that rules out "it's behaving like that because it's achieved independent sentience and is now defying its own programming," so, thanks.
When this "computer thing" was getting started I read a paper in the Journal of the ACMWP (around 1966 ISTR) about what was the possibly first program written for university course assignment. One of the advantages stated was that university administration could tell students that "the computer had done it" and thus they could make no course changes. I even thought at the time, "This will not turn out well".
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Last edited by Gord_in_Toronto; 27th February 2021 at 07:37 AM. Reason: gramma
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Old 27th February 2021, 08:45 AM   #20
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“God did it.”
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Old 27th February 2021, 08:54 AM   #21
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"The (insert religious text of your choice) said so"
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Old 27th February 2021, 08:56 AM   #22
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The original post was rather abstract, so examples are helpful. Most of the examples that have been given within this thread support the original poster's annoyance. When I read that post, however, this was the first example that popped into my mind:
Q: Is the normal Moore space conjecture true?
A: Depends on your set theory.
Rather than dismissing that one-line answer as "technical sounding crap" that sounds impressive but offers no further explanation, I believe that particular answer would be an apt answer to that particular question. Its appropriateness has a lot to do with the sort of person who would ask the question. If the questioner were to follow up by asking for a more detailed explanation, that explanation would sound something like these lines quoted from Wikipedia:
Originally Posted by Wikipedia
...the axiom of constructibility implies that locally compact, normal Moore spaces are metrizable....under the Continuum hypothesis (CH) and also under Martin's Axiom and not CH, there are several examples of non-metrizable normal Moore spaces. Nyikos proved that, under the so-called PMEA (Product Measure Extension Axiom), which needs a large cardinal, all normal Moore spaces are metrizable.
It seems to me that the more complete explanation would make sense only to someone who had understood the simpler one-line answer and wanted to learn more details.

The more complete explanation would be wasted on someone who was actively trying to avoid learning such details, as often happens in these fora and occasionally in real life. As an example of that, consider this very nice explanation offered by hecd2 in one of this subforum's ongoing threads. I don't mean to suggest hecd2's explanation was completely wasted, because I'm sure it made sense to many of those who have been following that thread, but hecd2's explanation didn't mean much to the person to whom it was addressed.

Last edited by W.D.Clinger; 27th February 2021 at 09:05 AM. Reason: added text in gray
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Old 27th February 2021, 10:13 AM   #23
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I think the explanation for the OP's annoyance comes down to basic human psychology.
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Old 27th February 2021, 02:25 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Lplus View Post
1 - That's how it was explained to them.

2 - They know the technical explanation but don't think you have the technical background needed to understand it

3 - They don't have the time to go through the technical explanation even if they think you could understand it.

4 - They're arrogant.

Pick any one or any combination.
5 - They're ignorant or stupid or a combination of the two.

6 - They're comfortable in not knowing themselves but want to give you the impression of being knowledgable.
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Old 27th February 2021, 02:31 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by Mojo View Post
ďGod did it.Ē

Yep that's a good one.

On a slightly different note, I have been told, very seriously at that, that it's a Yin and Yang thing. So no further elaboration is necessary.
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Old 27th February 2021, 03:36 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
I often find myself annoyed by some that, when questioned about some technical issue, will just throw an impressive sounding line at you, and think they have provided an explanation. I think that the reasoning ability of some folk is so shallow or wanting, that they are quite comfortable with the thought, they have wrapped something up, with some technical sounding crap.
What I find annoying is when someone asks me a technical question, then as soon I start to answer it their eyes glaze over and I can tell they don't understand a word I am saying. They asked a technical question so they should have expected a technical answer!

Originally Posted by hecd2
"Its so for a reason" - commonly seen on speed limits in the UK. "It's 40 for a reason". "We're asking you to stay indoors for a reason". Drives me insane. You bother to tell me there is a reason but you can't be bothered (or can't) give me the reasoning?
I know your type - if we give you the reason you just argue about it. But what difference would it make? So the answer is, you don't need a reason to comply.
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Old 27th February 2021, 03:48 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by Roger Ramjets View Post
I know your type - if we give you the reason you just argue about it. But what difference would it make? So the answer is, you don't need a reason to comply.
:-). In that case just put up the 40 sign, donít bleat on about reasons.
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Old 27th February 2021, 06:45 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by Myriad View Post
I think the explanation for the OP's annoyance comes down to basic human psychology.

Yes indeed you have it in one Myriad.

That is precisely the kind of explanation that isn't really an explanation. Just throw in the term "basic human psychology" and walk away - whistling if you like.
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Old 27th February 2021, 07:01 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
Yes indeed you have it in one Myriad.

That is precisely the kind of explanation that isn't really an explanation. Just throw in the term "basic human psychology" and walk away - whistling if you like.
Nobody bothers with useful explanations to the people who come at us with this kind of attitude.

Case in point: I don't bother to explain the details of software development tools to the software developers I support, even when I know those details better than they do. I give them a basic summary, and judge them by how well they are able to derive their answer from my keywords.

So.

What non-explanation were you given, that prompted this thread?

Maybe someone was calling out your ignorance. Maybe someone didn't realize you weren't their expected audience. Either way, the thread kind of reads as an example of the problem. In as much as you don't really explain what you want.
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Old 27th February 2021, 09:09 PM   #30
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Old 27th February 2021, 09:38 PM   #31
Thor 2
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Nobody bothers with useful explanations to the people who come at us with this kind of attitude.

Case in point: I don't bother to explain the details of software development tools to the software developers I support, even when I know those details better than they do. I give them a basic summary, and judge them by how well they are able to derive their answer from my keywords.

So.

What non-explanation were you given, that prompted this thread?

Maybe someone was calling out your ignorance. Maybe someone didn't realize you weren't their expected audience. Either way, the thread kind of reads as an example of the problem. In as much as you don't really explain what you want.

Well it would seem others here seem to have an inkling of what I am about.

Nice conciliatory approach too imply I am ignorant by the way.

Try researching how trees manage to pump water from their roots to their leaves, and you will get lots of nonsense and impressive sounding terms, but no clear explanation. Well not an explanation that will satisfy someone with a rudimentary knowledge of physics anyway.
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Old 27th February 2021, 10:20 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by Myriad View Post
Regarding any aspect of the functioning of any computerized device: "Because it was programmed that way."

Well, that rules out "it's behaving like that because it's achieved independent sentience and is now defying its own programming,"......
....and "The technical term is an H. MŲbius loop, which can happen in advanced computers with autonomous goal-seeking programs"
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Old 28th February 2021, 07:04 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by casebro View Post
"It's for your safety".
That was all they would tell me when they had me strapped to the bed in ICU, then they gave me more sedation. Then one day retired ICU nurse Case-sis was there when I came out that far. She explained that I was having ICU Psychosis. It's caused by the sleep deprivation inherent in hospital protocols. With that explanation I knew I wasn't really being experimented on by the Nazis. So half of my problems went away with a more thorough explanation. (It might as well have been "It's for the Fatherland". )
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Old 28th February 2021, 07:17 AM   #34
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Casebro points out an interesting issue that I think many people in dominant positions tend to forget, which is that the seeking of information is not a threat.

I've mentioned this before, I think, but in former years I held a number of positions in town government, including being chairman of the Board of Tax Review in a Connecticut town. Our job was to handle complaints about property taxes, and to decide what, if anything needed to be remedied. I have seen how many other towns do this, and it's basically a form of "We're the experts, we'll look into it, and let you know." Since a fairly large majority of such complaints result in no action, people are generally unhappy.

In our town we had a different tradition. We told people everything. They'd come in, we'd show them the information sheets we worked from, and we'd show them the feature-by feature assessment guide on which valuations were based, and we'd invite them to go through the features of their property. We told them how to appeal to a higher board if they felt aggrieved by us. We also rarely lowered assessments, because the assessors had done a pretty good job. Sometimes we raised them a little. But people ended up satisfied, even if they weren't exactly happy, because we had not pretended to be some untouchable elite, and had given them real information.

I think experts often forget this, and assume that if you don't absolutely need the information or if you might not quite understand it, it's wasted, but it's not. The transaction has value even if the information is unwelcome.
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Old 28th February 2021, 09:18 AM   #35
Delvo
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Originally Posted by hecd2 View Post
"Its so for a reason" - commonly seen on speed limits in the UK. "It's 40 for a reason". "We're asking you to stay indoors for a reason". Drives me insane. You bother to tell me there is a reason but you can't be bothered (or can't) give me the reasoning?
Compared to other non-explanations, this one has the advantage of being the most complete and honest answer that can be given by somebody who does not know the details and is willing to admit not knowing. It's an expression of trust that other people who know better reached their conclusions rationally and their judgement can be presumed sound.

For example, if you do a search for images of snipers or watch videos featuring snipers, you'll sometimes find a second person next to the sniper, using some kind of optical device but no rifle. I don't know that person's role. I don't know why the functions of whatever gadget (s)he is using aren't built in to the scope on the rifle, or are but aren't being used by the sniper when that second person is there. But I am sure that the people who made it that way know sniping better than I do and wouldn't do this for no reason. So if I find myself debating somebody who is also an uninformed inexperienced outsider like me but swears that this is a stupid practice that does the sniper or his/her mission no good and everybody who's seriously studied & practiced sniping is just stupid for doing it the way they do, then I'm going to admit that I don't get it either but express confidence that the experts' judgement about this was based on their expertise. (I have a couple of guesses at the answer but they don't matter compared to the principle of "they aren't guessing; they know".)

In fact, I don't believe I've ever heard this expression in any other way but that.

Originally Posted by bruto View Post
Casebro points out an interesting issue that I think many people in dominant positions tend to forget, which is that the seeking of information is not a threat.
When it's not adults outside the profession asking adults within the profession, but children asking parents, I'd throw in not "not a threat" but "not... whatever it is that parents seem to think is going on when they get exasperated by the questions and just tell the kid to quit asking". If the questions keep coming, they're just doing what they're supposed to do, which is try to learn. They aren't doing anything wrong. You are if you try to stop that. And if it seems like not a series of different questions building on previous answers but the same question in too many different forms, then your answers so far have been in adequate.

Of course, parents' answer to any such critique from a non-parent is that a non-parent can't possibly have any clue what (s)he's talking about because having produced a baby also gave them all possible knowledge of how to handle them and not having done so prevents us from knowing anything about it at all (even if they don't remember what it was like to be a kid and I do). But I'm sure they "have reasons" for wanting their kids to stop asking questions.
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Old 28th February 2021, 09:34 AM   #36
hecd2
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Originally Posted by Delvo View Post
Compared to other non-explanations, this one has the advantage of being the most complete and honest answer that can be given by somebody who does not know the details and is willing to admit not knowing. It's an expression of trust that other people who know better reached their conclusions rationally and their judgement can be presumed sound.

For example, if you do a search for images of snipers or watch videos featuring snipers, you'll sometimes find a second person next to the sniper, using some kind of optical device but no rifle. I don't know that person's role. I don't know why the functions of whatever gadget (s)he is using aren't built in to the scope on the rifle, or are but aren't being used by the sniper when that second person is there. But I am sure that the people who made it that way know sniping better than I do and wouldn't do this for no reason. So if I find myself debating somebody who is also an uninformed inexperienced outsider like me but swears that this is a stupid practice that does the sniper or his/her mission no good and everybody who's seriously studied & practiced sniping is just stupid for doing it the way they do, then I'm going to admit that I don't get it either but express confidence that the experts' judgement about this was based on their expertise. (I have a couple of guesses at the answer but they don't matter compared to the principle of "they aren't guessing; they know".)

In fact, I don't believe I've ever heard this expression in any other way but that.
But my examples were not like that. They were created by whatever authority it is who is telling me what to do. Presumably they know what the reason is. If they are not willing to tell me the reason, then they shouldn't tell me that there is a reason. Just tell what I have to do.

Presumably they think it's a reinforcement thing: "you might think that this instruction is purely arbitrary and arrived at on a whim, but we assure we have a reason." But at least in my case it's counter-productive because it makes me want to disobey the instruction.

It's also used by mindless apologists. If I seek to discuss the logic or efficacy of a rule, some goody-two-shoes who has no inside insight is bound to pop up and say "you know they are telling you that for reason". Infuriating.
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Old 28th February 2021, 10:12 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by ynot View Post
"It (claimed paranormal ability) doesn't work that way"
c.f. "It (principle in economics) doesn't work that way".

This "explanation" was much in evidence recently during all the GameStop shenanigans. Not that I dipped a toe into the goings-on on Reddit, but the Redditors turned out to populate the comments section of the BBC news site where I first read about it. Anyone who doubted that the shares were going to the moon to stick it to those price-manipulating baddies in Wall Street were very quickly stomped on. Not with any explanation of why their fears were unfounded but simply that, whatever their concern, it didn't work that way.
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Old 1st March 2021, 07:00 PM   #38
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Originally Posted by Delvo View Post
......
For example, if you do a search for images of snipers or watch videos featuring snipers, you'll sometimes find a second person next to the sniper, using some kind of optical device but no rifle. I don't know that person's role. I don't know why the functions of whatever gadget (s)he is using aren't built in to the scope on the rifle, or are but aren't being used by the sniper when that second person is there. But I am sure that the people who made it that way know sniping better than I do and wouldn't do this for no reason. So if I find myself debating somebody who is also an uninformed inexperienced outsider like me but swears that this is a stupid practice that does the sniper or his/her mission no good and everybody who's seriously studied & practiced sniping is just stupid for doing it the way they do, then I'm going to admit that I don't get it either but express confidence that the experts' judgement about this was based on their expertise. (I have a couple of guesses at the answer but they don't matter compared to the principle of "they aren't guessing; they know".)

....
OT: He is called a Spotter. He uses his scope to see "spot" where the bullets hit. The recoil of the rifle jerks the shooter off target, he can't see the bullet strike. If the shot missed left, the sniper shoots farther right with his next shot. The spotter does carry his own weapon for defensive use. The sniper does too, sniper rifles are not so good for close work- too heavy, too slow, wrong sights. The spotter may be equally qualified, they switch off to alleviate fatigue.
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Old 2nd March 2021, 03:42 PM   #39
WhatRoughBeast
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Originally Posted by Sideroxylon View Post
Answers that are tautological. Classic example I read on this topic was in answer to why opium made you sleepy - because it has a somnolent nature. Pretty sure the source is Paracelsus but canít find a reference online.
It's only a tautology if only poppies possess a Somnolent Nature.

If there exists a class of objects which possess a Somnolent Nature, then it can be asserted (and makes sense, although it's not strictly speaking implied) that such a Nature is causal. Then explaining the effects of poppies as an example of a larger force at work is not a tautology,
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Old 2nd March 2021, 07:36 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by WhatRoughBeast View Post
It's only a tautology if only poppies possess a Somnolent Nature.

If there exists a class of objects which possess a Somnolent Nature, then it can be asserted (and makes sense, although it's not strictly speaking implied) that such a Nature is causal. Then explaining the effects of poppies as an example of a larger force at work is not a tautology,
Sorry. I read that as "puppies" and though I was finally approaching understand of this thread.

Never mind.
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