Occam’s Razor Explained

An article written by: Lee Sonogan

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“A theory is the more impressive the greater the simplicity of its premises is, the more different kinds of things it relates, and the more extended its area of applicability.” – Albert Einstein

Occam’s razor (or Ockham’s razor and the Principle of Parsimony) is a problem-solving principle in philosophy. Defining this principle it says simpler solutions are more likely to be correct than complex ones. Sometimes this principle is very wrong because it fails to account for the evidence that Occam’s razor does not apply. But if both explanations of certain situations agree on the evidence then the simpler solution is usually deemed correct. Ockham’s razor has been the key principle of scientific methods and what we call truths for hundreds of years.

The word simple in this principle does not mean the one that it’s easier to explain is correct. It means the one with fewer moving parts, variables in the equation, types of abstract ideas or fewer guesses. Occam’s razor works in most cases and people rely on it in designing experiments and arguments. The simpler identified explanation or solution is more testable compared to complex ones. Keep in mind you should not take it as an absolute rule of logic.

To be sceptical you will use the principle to shave off unlikely assumptions or explanations. While Occam’s razor may be one of the best methods of debunking conspiracy theories it can be used to justify any type of theory such as the existence of god. Simplicity is in the eye of the beholder and oversimplification can lead to misunderstanding or error. For example how some conspiracy theories have been proven correct. Standing back and looking at the bigger picture gives you a more open perspective and avoids the matter of us vs them in what can be observed and held ideologies.

“What is found in biology is mechanisms, mechanisms built with chemical components and that are often modified by other, later, mechanisms added to the earlier ones. While Occam’s razor is a useful tool in the physical sciences, it can be a very dangerous implement in biology.” – Francis Crick

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