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Occam's razor

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Occam's razor tells us a simple explanation with few assumptions is more likely to be true. Something could have happened in several different ways. Then a way with few guesses is more likely to be correct than a way with many guesses. Of course if a complex explanation works better than a simple explanation we take the complex explanation seriously.

Example

One or more trees fell down during a storm. Which is more likely?

  1. The storm blew the trees over.
  2. A low flying Alien spacecraft knocked them down and afterwards the Space aliens used their superior technology to eliminate all other traces of their visit.

Both could theoretically happen, still we have no evidence:

  1. That aliens visit the earth
  2. That their craft can fly successfully in stormy weather
  3. That they knock trees down
  4. That they remove evidence of their visits.

Which explanation do we choose?

  1. The space alien explanation involves three improbable assumptions and one (that superior aliens technology can cope with storms) where we can't assess the probability.
  2. We know that heavy wind sometimes blows trees over.

The first explanation needs several unlikely assumptions all to be true so it's most likely the wrong answer. Occam's razor suggests that the wind blew the trees down. That's the simplest answer and therefore most likely the right one.[1]

2nd example

Below is a quote from the Internet Infidels website.

Nowadays when people refer to Occam's Razor, they often express it more generally, for example as "Take the simplest solution."

The relevance to atheism is that we can look at two possible explanations for what we see around us:

  • There is an incredibly intricate and complex universe out there, which came into being as a result of natural processes.
  • There is an incredibly intricate and complex universe out there, and there is also a God who created the universe. Clearly this God must be of non-zero complexity.

Given that both explanations fit the facts, Occam's Razor might suggest that we should take the simpler of the two--solution number one.[2]

Hanlon's razor

Hanlon's razor is yet another example of Occam's razor. it simply tells us we shouldn't assume bad intent in another person when an honest mistake can explain what happened.

  1. Assuming bad intent requires complex assumptions about another person's motivation.
  2. We all know we ourselves and other people continually make mistakes.
  3. Therefore the assumption that another person made an honest mistake is frequently the simplest assumption. [3] [4]

References

  1. Occam's razor
  2. What is Occam's Razor?
  3. Hanlon's Razor
  4. Hanlon's razor

External links

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