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December 15, 2011 / itsnobody

What is Ockham’s razor?

Different authors have different interpretations and explanations of what “entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem” or “entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity” means.  It’s time that someone clears up the confusion surrounding what Ockham’s razor is.

Many people simply have the wrong definition or concept of what Ockham’s razor is. Wrong, incorrect flawed definitions of Ockham’s razor exist all over the internet.

Ockham’s razor DOES NOT mean:
“the simplest explanation is most likely true”
“choose a simpler hypothesis over a more complex hypothesis”
“only what the simplest explanation shows must be true”
“a complex hypothesis is most likely false”

Here’s my definition of Ockham’s razor:
“the conclusion drawn from making the least possible amount of assumptions”

Of course my definition of “making the least possible amount of assumptions” that I independently reasoned out is vastly superior to basically every other definition of Ockham’s razor given. But now that atheists have taken over everything  all that matters to people in modern times is just things like authority and incredulity rather than what’s actually valid and true.

Using my definition it’s very easy to clear up all misconceptions about Ockham’s razor.

Ockham’s razor doesn’t say to choose a “simpler” hypothesis over a more complex one. What someone personally feels is a “simpler explanation” is subjective. Ockham’s razor simply says that all that we can assume to be true is what is drawn from making the least possible amount of assumptions.

Making the least possible amount of assumptions we may conclude that a seemingly complex hypothesis is true or that a seemingly simple hypothesis is false. It doesn’t have anything to do with what seems complex or seems simple.

Take for instance this example – the many-worlds interpretation. The many-worlds interpretation may be true, but right now making the least possible amount of assumptions we cannot assume that it is true. If observational evidence arises that directly shows the many-worlds interpretation to be true then making the least possible amount of assumptions we would be able to conclude that the many-worlds interpretation is true.

Using the vastly inferior definition of Ockham’s razor of  “select the hypothesis that seems like the simplest explanation” Ockham’s razor would just be a form of an argument from personal incredulity, and an illogical argument.

These arguments would be arguments from personal incredulity:
“This hypothesis seems simple so it is more likely”
“This hypothesis seems complex so it is less likely”

With the inferior definition of Ockham’s razor you just use incredulity to determine which hypothesis to select. Using my vastly superior definition of Ockham’s razor you would objectively determine the conclusion by making the least possible amount of assumptions. Perhaps I should call this version of Ockham’s razor itsnobody’s Ockham to avoid confusion. 

Let’s look at another other common example, General Relativity:

Using the inferior definition of Ockham’s razor you would conclude:
“Newtonian physics seems much simpler than General Relativity so it is more likely or should be chosen”

Using my superior definition of Ockham’s razor (making the least possible amount of assumptions) you would conclude:
“Newtonian physics is an extremely accurate model in certain conditions”
“The truth of Newtonian physics is unknown outside of the conditions that it has been tested in”
“General Relativity is an extremely accurate model in certain conditions”
“The scientific method makes no claims regarding the truth of any empirically untestable claim”

With my definition of Ockham’s razor assuming that Newtonian physics is accurate in all untested conditions would be an extra assumption and violate Ockham’s razor. So Ockham’s razor doesn’t favor Newtonian physics with my definition. Ockham’s razor with my definition favors the model that is more accurate not the model that “seems simple”.

It’s just like I said before what seems simple is subjective. Someone can say that General Relativity gravity seems simpler to them than Newtonian gravity and someone else can say the opposite, it’s purely subjective.

On the other hand the conclusion drawn from making the least possible amount assumptions (that General Relativity is a more accurate model than Newtonian physics) is entirely objective.

There could be more accurate models than General Relativity that exist, assuming that GR is accurate in all untested conditions would also be an extra assumption and violate Ockham’s razor.

Assuming that science makes claims about anything empirically untestable would violate Ockham’s razor in my definition so it would never be possible for Ockham’s razor to be wrong or produce any error even once with my version of Ockham’s razor.

What a shame that so many people misunderstand Ockham’s razor.

In conclusion:
– What seems like “the simplest explanation” is subjective and comes from incredulity
– The conclusion drawn from making the least possible amount of assumptions is completely objective
– My definition of Ockham’s razor does not rely upon incredulity or anything subjective

If society moves towards my superior definition of Ockham’s razor of “making the least possible amount of assumptions” it would be very easy to avoid confusion, errors, and misconceptions.

It’s impossible for Ockham’s razor to ever be inaccurate or produce any error using the definition I provided.

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6 Comments

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  1. Anonymous / Dec 24 2015 4:30 pm

    Itsnobody, your mistake is that you believe Occam’s Razor is a definitive tool for deciding what is most likely to be truth. I fully agree that the term “simple” is vague, and this makes the popular interpretation of Occam’s Razor somewhat impractical. But you cannot just count necessary assumptions. First of all, you can’t really do this. Both sides of the Newtonian vs. General Relativity gravity argument require the assumption that gravity applies to pregnant siamese cats born in Uruguay on the third Tuesday of an even month the same way it does to other objects. That, along with a countless pile of other assumptions, has to be weighed into the calculation with your model. This is simply ridiculous.

    The correct interpretation of Occam’s Razor gives these assumptions little weight (the weight of an assumption is the amount of complexity it adds to a possibility that requires it), while other more meaningful ones, such as “gravity is an attractive force between all masses” have to be given much more weight. Admittedly, the weight of an assumption is largely subjective, but no one ever said Occam’s Razor was an indomitable, flawless tool for calculating probabilities. Even it has its drawbacks.

  2. Anonymous / May 21 2012 7:43 am

    Way to go! just reading what this jesus freak writes almost makes my blood boil!

  3. Sugarcane / Jan 25 2012 11:32 am

    your belief in God fails at your definition of Occam’s razor (which you spell incorrectly every single time) – your belief is entirely made up of assumptions and not one shred of evidence.

    Also, your definition is actually incomplete. Occam’s razor is “a principle that generally recommends that, from among competing hypotheses, selecting the one that makes the fewest new assumptions usually provides the correct one, and that the simplest explanation will be the most plausible until evidence is presented to prove it false.”

    It’s basically saying that the simplest explanation is the one we’re naturally inclined to take, until it is proven false.

    So, let’s have a look at start of the universe:

    1) The universe came from nothing
    2) The universe was created by a judgmental God who exerts a supernatural influence on the natural world, governing everything within.

    If you were to follow Occam’s razor, as you clearly love to, you would have to chose option 1 and not 2. Answer 2 makes all manner of assumptions:

    • that there is a god
    • that he is omnipotent
    • that he can influence the natural world
    • that he is capable of creating the universe

    Answer 1 makes only 1 assumption:

    • there was nothing before the universe.

    The only logical choice is option 1 as it makes the least assumptions. It also leaves the door open for a proper answer to be found, whereas the second closes off the line of inquiry as it presents the answer.

    • itsnobody / Feb 23 2012 5:20 am

      lol, what an idiot.

      Spelled incorrectly? There are two ways to spell it, Occam’s razor or Ockham’s razor, I wonder how you missed that since you’re so good at copying. I strongly prefer the “Ockham” spelling.

      So where did you get your definition of Ockham’s razor from? Wikipedia? Many different authors define Ockham’s razor differently. In philosophy authors often give their own definitions of things so quoting different authors’ definitions is basically irrelevant especially with something like Ockham’s razor.

      In this article I gave my definition and interpretation of Ockham’s razor and explained how it was vastly superior to basically every other definition of Ockham’s razor given. So the way Wikipedia editors personally interpret Ockham’s razor is irrelevant.

      With your copy-and-pasted Wikipedia definition how do you objectively measure which explanation is the simplest?

      Also assuming something to be true until proven false is just an argument from ignorance.

      Let’s have a look at your laughable arguments:
      1) Your definition of God is just a straw man, nearly all Theists use to be naturalists up until relatively recently. Even during Einstein’s time no one was arguing about “the supernatural vs. the natural”. This whole supernatural vs. natural war seems to have been conjured up by atheists in order to push Theists away from science. See my article https://itsnobody.wordpress.com/2011/11/21/no-such-thing-as-the-supernatural/

      2) Through Ockham’s razor making the least possible amount of assumptions we would conclude that science makes no claims regarding the existence or non-existence of God since God is an empirically untestable hypothesis.

      3) You have subjectively interpreted answer 1 as being “simpler”. Someone can come up with a long list of what “the universe coming from nothing” assumes and then claim that answer 1 assumes much more. It’s just like I said, what someone personally feels is the “simplest explanation” is subjective where as the conclusion drawn from making the least possible amount of assumptions is objective.

      Objectively, making the least possible amount of assumptions we would conclude that science makes no claims regarding the truth of any empirically untestable hypothesis meaning that science makes no claims regarding the existence or non-existence of God.

      Also The Big Bang theory was invented by a Catholic Priest, did you know that? Probably not since atheists intentionally tell lies.

      I feel bad for the atheists, they are always trying so hard in desperation to win against me. I don’t really try much at all and I easily destroy all their arguments.

      • Sugarcane / Feb 23 2012 1:32 pm

        Well done starting out with a childish insult, your imaginary sky-father must be so proud to have you as a dedicated disciple! Especially given how childish he himself is, with all his spiteful and childish vengeance.

        The definition of Occam’s Razor on Wikipedia is the most common interpretation I’ve read in many encyclopedias and in scientific publications – your definition is tailored purely to bolster your argument. Let’s deal with what you say:

        – With your copy-and-pasted Wikipedia definition how do you objectively measure which explanation is the simplest?

        The simplest is the one that requires the least assumptions. This is how any scientist would approach Occam’s Razor. And that is exactly how Occam originally intended it. Purely objective.

        – Also assuming something to be true until proven false is just an argument from ignorance.

        Yet this is the entire basis of your belief in God, and how you’ve been tackling every single subject you’ve dealt with so far. You cannot prove the existence of God, yet you believe it entirely. You are incredibly adept at accusing others of your own mistakes, and that statement proves that perfectly.

        1) Your definition of God is just a straw man, nearly all Theists use to be naturalists up until relatively recently. Even during Einstein’s time no one was arguing about “the supernatural vs. the natural”. This whole supernatural vs. natural war seems to have been conjured up by atheists in order to push Theists away from science.

        No it’s not. The distinction between the natural world and the supernatural world is completely valid and it actually dates back to the Middle Ages – not at all the modern invention you claim it to be:

        http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/supernatural?s=t

        Theists are being pushed away from science because to believe in God you need to ignore masses of scientific research.

        2) Through Ockham’s razor making the least possible amount of assumptions we would conclude that science makes no claims regarding the existence or non-existence of God since God is an empirically untestable hypothesis.

        God is an untestable hypothesis which means that its entirely unscientific and, in all probability, complete fiction. If you cannot test, observe or verify anything, then how can you possibly declare to know that God exists?

        Science has proved that almost everything relating to God in the Bible, such as the utter nonsense in Genesis to be completely fictional. It’s no leap then to figure that the entire concept of God itself is fiction. Afterall, the book that claims his existence is full of lies, so why would the main character be true?

        3) You have subjectively interpreted answer 1 as being “simpler”. Someone can come up with a long list of what “the universe coming from nothing” assumes. It’s just like I said, what someone personally feels to be the “simplest explanation” is subjective where as the conclusion drawn from making the least possible amount of assumptions is objective.

        Not at all, as I explained – the simpler one is the one that makes the least assumptions, which is entirely objective and not at all subjective as you erroneously claim.

        – Also The Big Bang theory was invented by a Catholic Priest, did you know that?

        Yes the theory was postulated by a SCIENTIST who happened to be a believer in your imaginary sky-father. The theory has been developed and expanded by countless other scientists, some believers, many not. What difference does that make, by the way? Do you only give credence to scientific theories by those that believe in God? (which is guaranteed the further you go back in time…)

        There have been many noted scientists over the centuries that believed in your fairytales, because statistically it was incredibly likely back then due to the small number of atheists and the social condemnation vocal atheists encountered. As the years move on, fewer scientists believe in a theistic God as more and more of the natural world is explained.

        In surveys, what you see is at degree level, a good portion of science students believe in God. Then at Masters level you get about half of that, and finally, at PHD level you get as little as 10% believing in your flying spaghetti monster.

        – Probably not since gullible atheists intentionally I feel bad for the atheists, they are always trying so hard in desperation to win against me.

        Sure, if that helps you sleep at night, you keep telling yourself that as you’re praying in vain to a mythical entity that is riddled with contradictions, immorality and vile behaviours and attitudes. Sweet dreams!

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