Main Occams Razor Discussion

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02:32:14 PM Aug 29th 2014
edited by
I condend that this line:

"Occam's Razor suggests believing the theory with the fewest underlying premises (the aforementioned "not multiplied beyond necessity")."

should be changed to this:

"Occam's Razor suggests believing the theory with the fewest [i]unverified[/i] underlying premises (the aforementioned "not multiplied beyond necessity")."

The major pitfall many conspiracy theorists fall into is that it's easy to come up with an explanation that requires fewer total premises, even if more of those premises will be based on presumption rather than fact.
12:52:57 AM Aug 30th 2014
Just for reference, we don't use HTML markup, it's ''unverified''. I am thinking no; the original version didn't encompass that qualifier.
03:48:02 AM Jan 10th 2014
Is this comic strip here an example of Occam's Razor?.
04:07:10 AM Jan 10th 2014
Nope, sorry.
04:40:58 AM Jan 10th 2014
What is that comic strip an example of? Here's something similar from Phineas and Ferb:

Candace: I figured you guys were up to something. The tires, the pipes, I see what those were for, but what was with the pineapple? Phineas: Oh, that was for Ferb. He was hungry.

It's funny because Candace thought that the pineapple would be related to building the huge water slide at London. She was thinking too hard. Instead Ferb used the pineapple to eat it. What is the trope called?
07:35:47 AM Jan 10th 2014
Not everything is a trope.
06:53:04 AM Nov 7th 2013
"Occam's Razor is the bane of Conspiracy Theorists"

No, to me the Conspiracy Theory answer is usually the simpler one.
07:15:48 AM Nov 7th 2013
That's nice.
08:07:54 AM Nov 30th 2013
On the other hand enemas of conspiracy Theorize constantly telling us we have a simplistic world view. They can't even make up their minds.

It all depends on how to describe things whihc s simpler really, which makes the whole theory useless. Even the Ancient Aliens example used on the main page could be describe different to switch whihc one sounds simpler.
12:14:37 AM Sep 28th 2011
i have a question, and forgive me if i'm not quite grasping the concept, but wouldn't the use of this rule EVERYWHERE mean that we'd be effectively stunted? for example, there was a point where people treated those who claimed to see Mountain Gorilla's the same way we usually treat people who claim to see bigfoot, and the same can be said with Ball Lightening. Sure, in hindsight, science proves their existence now, but at the time it was a pretty accepted fact that it was bogus.

This might come from personal experience, but when people employ this, usually in regards to Cryptids (animals that are thought to exist but can't be confirmed, like Bigfoot or others), Aliens or other acts of Paranormal. when they employ Occams Razor, its always in light of the fact they have no real evidence, and their explanation goes like this:

"We either assume that A) Bigfoot exists despite no physical evidence, or B) The Person faked the video.

and its always that; that the person is lying, or has some kind of mental disease, or is just being hoaxed themselves. again, this seems wrong to me, no one would adopt a form a logic that would stunt discovery, but from what i can gather, its being employed correctly. Can anyone offer any insight here?
12:44:02 AM Sep 28th 2011
The difference is that the existence of mountain gorilla's and ball lightning eventually has been proven.

Bigfoot, the Yeti and Aliens are still suspiciously lacking proof.
09:01:55 AM Sep 28th 2011
That isn't quite what i was asking, and you're mindset is what bothers me. Yes all of the things i said are lacking "Proof". But what they are not lacking is "Evidence". There are numerous Eye-Witness testimonies, Videos and Pictures (That can't be proved to be fake). Now, i understand if you want more physical proof, thats fine, i do too, but the fact that Occams Razor is widely accepted and employed makes it extremely hard for people to take the evidence we do have seriously, typically marking it off as Hoaxes, Lies, or Mental disease, simply because we know those exist, and we don't know if Bigfoot/Aliens/whatever. Its effectively stunting discovery, usually by making the extremely arrogant assumption that we seem to know everything in the world.

Don't get me wrong, Occams Razor should still be employed in situations like murder investigations, conspiracy theories and whatnot, but when it comes to scientific discovery it seems to run contrary to the form of logic that needs to happen. Again, the actual question was does it stunt scientific discovery or am i simply misunderstanding it.
12:47:41 PM Oct 4th 2011
edited by LordGro
No, I don't think Occam's Razor stunts scientific discovery.

The Catholic Church and conservative scholars rejected the thesis of Copernicus and Galileo that the Earth was moving round the Sun rather than the other way round, even though the Copernicus-Galileo (heliocentric) model could explain the movements of the planets far better than the traditional geocentric model. Instead, the old-style astronomers developed an "improved" geocentric model that ascribed extremely complicated courses to the planets (but kept the Earth in the center).

Occam's Razor would have clearly favored the heliocentric model from the beginning. What stinted discovery was the refusal to use it.

As to so-called "cryptids", they are indeed lacking in evidence. Sure, there are a lot of hearsay stories, shaky videos and blurry photographs that in many cases cannot be proven to be fakes, hoaxes or just simply something else entirely (like, a well-known species mistaken for a cryptid). But they also cannot be proven to be real.

I know, reading a lot of Loch Ness Monster "witness stories" in a row may make it feel like there was a tremendous amount of data; but when you look at it level-headed you'll find that the lack of tangible and solid evidence is rather striking. One would expect such a large, striking creature to make somewhat more impact and leave some tangible traces. But it doesn't, and that's fishy.

If you want a species acknowledged as existing by science, then the weight to prove this species' existence is on you. It's not science's job to prove that a species which lacks proof of existence is non-existent.

A zoologist can only study creatures of which (s)he has tangible evidence — at least some bones, footprints, or whatever. "Crypto" means "hidden" and a "cryptid" is supposedly a "hidden species". As in "there's no unambiguous, tangible evidence". But such a "hidden" species cannot be studied. Without something to study, there is no science. In other words, "cryptozoology" is a nonsense word. What people that call themselves "cryptozoologists" usually do is some kind of primitive, naive ethnology: Collecting folk tales, legends and urban myths and interpreting them as "scientific data".

It's somewhat of a digression, but most self-called "cryptozoologists" either are not aware that dragons, monsters, sea-serpents and beast-men are mythological creatures found in folk legends and fairy tales all over the world, alongside with dwarfs and fairies, or are inclined to count such legends and folk tales as "scientific evidence".

As to "why would eye witnesses lie to us?", there are two reasons:
  • A wacky sense of humor and joy in fooling gullible people with tall tales
  • Getting some attention and standing in the limelight for some time.

'Nuff said.
12:30:22 AM Oct 29th 2011
Its funny, actually, right before i intended to respond to this i saw that this is part of a series on Logical Fallacies, presumably because people who use it often employ wrongly.

I never asked "Why would Eye Witnesses Lie to Us", that was something you asked, and indeed it does have an easy answer.

However, i said, "the fact that Occam's Razor is widely accepted and employed makes it extremely hard for people to take the evidence we do have seriously, typically marking it off as Hoaxes, Lies, or Mental disease"

The assumption of falsehood does indeed stunt discovery. and it makes people look like dicks.

So, now, if i may quote you,

"'Nuff said."

03:39:43 PM Nov 20th 2011
Occam's Razor is not the general "assumption of falsehood" of anything. And people are not dicks because they dismiss "cryptozoology" as a pseudoscience.
01:37:20 PM Nov 21st 2011
No, it is a pretty big dick move. if i said, for example, i said i saw bigfoot. Under Occam's Razor, if its used improperly (as i now know) i am essentially told that i'm being hoaxed, part of a hoax, outright lying because i'm an asshole, or lying because i'm a nutbag. to tell someone that their lying or hallucinating without any real evidence to back that up? Extremely dick move. Again, though, this discussion is unnecessary; i have my answer. people who use it wrongly are making a logical fallacy that would, in certain rare circumstances, stunt scientific discovery.
05:44:49 AM Dec 13th 2011
I don't know if it will make a difference to you, but I probably should have been more nuanced on the topic of "eyewitness evidence":

Itís not at all necessary to assume that a witness is a liar, hallucinating, confabulating ("a nutbag"), or victim of a hoax.

Itís much more likely that someone who thought he saw Bigfoot or the Yeti actually saw a perfectly ďusualĒ, known animal; or possibly a human, without realizing it, and without a hoax of any kind involved.

Most people are not trained in observation and few people have a natural talent for it. They make errors.

And there is nothing condescending in that. Itís just how the human brain works. Itís actually the norm. Just as itís perfectly normal that two (or any number, really) witnesses that watched a traffic accident describe it differently; often way differently.

To come back to Occam's Razor: You got to factor in all data you have. It's not very likely that some unknown primate species has remained scientifically undiscovered in North America for so long. If Bigfoot was real, there should be a lot more evidence, and a lot more people should agree that he/it exists.

So as long as you have nothing to offer but an eyewitness account, Occam's Razor suggests that Bigfoot doesn't exist, and that you made an error in observation.

Yes, many animal species existed in a state of "undiscoveredness" before they were described and classified. For example, the Gorilla. There were tales of Gorillas (or ďPongosĒ, as they were at some time called), and what did they say? That the Gorilla is as a living devil that attacks and kills humans at sight, except human woman whom he kidnaps and rapes.

Yes, there are indeed Gorillas, but when they were scientifically observed, it turned out they tend to avoid humans, eat only plants, and are no terrible monsters after all. Hearsay stories were right that the Gorilla existed; most of them were completely wrong in describing his behavior. Hearsay stories are not such a great source of evidence after all.

Besides, the existence of the Gorilla was never explicitly doubted by science, and Occam's Razor has never suggested that it doesn't exist, because the African rain forests were sufficiently unknown (for European scientists, that is) until some 80 or 100 years ago, so that the existence of "unclassified" large mammals there was by no means out of the question. And indeed the Gorilla has long since been described and classified by scientists. For some reason, the same didn't happen with the Bigfoot, which is supposed to live in a more accessible region than the African rain forest.
12:50:36 AM Jun 13th 2011
Another point that should, perhaps, be made:

Rather bluntly, it should also be noted that "simplest" here means "the theory with the fewest assumptions," not "the theory that's easiest for an idiot to grasp when stated concisely."
03:45:44 AM Jan 27th 2011
Why doesn't Occam's Razor have an example section? It seems like something that would have many.
03:21:27 PM Mar 8th 2011
Forget that, I'd like to see a Laconic page!
04:21:29 AM Jan 2nd 2011
Is it fair to say that Occams Razor is merely an expression of a preferance for simplicity rather than a hard and fast rule.
12:52:56 AM Jun 13th 2011
Occam's Razor is what's called a heuristic. In other words, it's a general rule that's not always correct but works well enough to be the default assumption and saves a great deal of time and energy relative to the approaches that would, in principle, produce always correct results.

So we use them until it starts to look like they're not working right.
10:27:57 AM Aug 3rd 2010
Does anyone else think that the '"Sound", "Valid", and "True"' section would make more sense being on the main You Fail Logic Forever page than here? It's a point that is important to understanding logic in general and isn't specifically connected to Occam's Razor.
03:39:05 PM Aug 3rd 2010
No, but only because it would clutter the page. Looks like I made a goof and failed to split off Sound/Valid/True right at the end. Error fixed.
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