1.9 Occam's Razor

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1.9.1 Occam’s Razor is a scientific principle, also known as the principle of parsimony. It states roughly that when we are faced with multiple possible explanations for the same evidence, the theory that is the most simple is the best to go with. Occam’s Razor is a great tool for doing away with nonsense. This is generally a good principle to follow in life as well but, of course, must be balanced against other reasonable principles.

1.9.2 In general, Occam’s Razor recognizes that the least amount of assumptions we have to make in any given theory, the more solid that theory becomes. A theory which must incorporate all sorts of extraneous and over-complicated explanations in order to explain the data is on much shakier ground than one that elegantly proceeds directly from point A to point B.

1.9.3 In everyday life, we tend to see common disregard for such a principle. In many cases, when a person has gone to great lengths to proclaim some set of statements, or has accepted these claims as a close and personal anchor, they are very slow to change when these claims are proven incorrect, even before their very eyes. The more common response, is for the person to imagine a multitude of "what if’s" in order to "explain" the contradictory information or arguments. When we pay no mind to parsimony, our imaginations are usually creative enough to construct a situation to fit nearly any set of facts in a way that seems to uphold the conclusion we desire. This is why Occam’s Razor is so useful and important in weeding out irrationality in our thinking.

1.9.4 Of course, the balancing act requires that we not oversimplify. Such matters can very easily get into the realm of subjective taste and even scientists can differ on certain interpretations. It is true that many truths about the world may not be very simple, some can actually be quite complex. For this reason, we should not reduce the simplicity of our beliefs so far that certain phenomena and evidence are left inadequately covered. For my purposes in this treatise, it is enough to simply make the reader aware of this principle and point out that we should objectively and fairly consider our beliefs in light of it.

Continue to 1.10 The Second-Hand Principle