Occam’s Razor: 2 Ideological Realms With Needed Simplicity
Occam’s razor is a critical thinking shortcut arguing that the simplest explanation should be the preferred explanation. An explanation that requires the fewest hoops and obstacles is the most probable explanation.
This is immediately logically intuitive. We understand that the shortest path between two points is a straight line, and similarly, a theory that offers an explanation with less curves and angles is the better theory.
Now, let’s get out of the weeds with bizarre philosophical talk. Here are 2 intellectual domains where Occam’s razor should be applied.
First, pseudoscience. Humans have always believed in supernatural phenomenon. There is a biological pull to believe in ghosts, magic, and powers outside the realm of testability. Without much care for critical analysis, we could conclude that ghosts and magic are actually quite simple answers to unexplained phenomena. After all, when we hear the stairs creak in the middle of the night what else are we to believe? Something had to cause this and ghosts provide a simple explanation.
This belief demonstrates poor critical thinking skills and is childish. Ghosts are actually not an explanation at all. This view says nothing about how Ghosts operate, and it relies on preconceived social understandings to find support. If you did create a physical theory for how ghosts influence the world, then you would have a litany of questions to answer. Where do ghosts come from? Where do they live? Are they invisible? What is a ghost? What constitutes a ghost? Are ghosts conscious? How can ghosts physically move things if they aren’t made of matter? These are significant hoops and barriers that make the path to explanation winding and curvy… If there is even an explanation at all.
These problems arise with all pseudoscience, that is, views that involve supernatural entities.
We see this fallacy in every human culture, and it is “the God of the gaps” fallacy. We attempt to explain unexplainable phenomena using supernatural forces. How does lightning happen? Zeus. When you don’t have conceptions of warm and cold front and atmospheric pressure, it makes a lot of sense to believe that there’s a God controlling the skies.
Second, conspiracy theories. All conspiracy theories share a commonality. They are extremely convoluted and require significant hurdles to believe. Conspiracies around the moon landing and the Sandy Hook school shooting are obviously untrue, but they are representative of a typical short-circuited way of human thinking. That is, failing to apply Occam’s Razor.
This is most easily understood through “flat-earthers” — people who deny that the Earth is round. If you’ve ever had a discussion with a flat-earther, you’ll critically realize that they are very well-informed on the issue. They are quick on their feet, and they are ready to handle nearly any objection that is thrown their way. So how did people who seem so smart end up so factually deluded?
Similar to people who accept pseudo-science, they are attempting to explain hyper-phenomena that has no other apparent explanation. Flat-earther’s will say “why have we never taken aerial footage of the South pole?” or “why are flight patterns one way when they should reflect a different path.” Clearly, flat-earthers cherry-pick and selectively read. They choose to believe the flight path data and the legitimate existence of a south pole, but they render other evidence inadmissible.
Most importantly though, they fail to recognize that these beliefs bring a host of alternative explanations? Their theory believes in the great scheme of people to hide the true nature of the earth, so as to control the masses. Complete delusion which is brought about by failing to embrace Occam’s razor. The straighter the way, the better the path.
Ultimately, the same problem arises across belief systems. Everyone is attempting to implement Occam’s Razor. Greek mythology, ghosts, conspiracy theories, and other ideological dogmas are an attempt to be the simplest explanation. In reality, most people fail to recognize that embracing these belief systems involve significantly greater explanation. You might explain away a hyper-phenomenon e.g. that a ghost caused the creak on the stairs, but in doing so, you have only taken a few steps on the path. The path needs to be completely illuminated. It must be an actual explanation. Otherwise, it will never meet the ideal intellectual standard of Occam’s razor.