"It's amazing how much 'mature wisdom' resembles being too tired." --Robert Heinlein

The Church of Reality




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Scientific Fundamentalism and Occam's Razor

Occam's Razor is also called the principle of parsimony. These days it is usually interpreted to mean something like "the simpler the explanation, the better" or "don't multiply hypotheses unnecessarily." In any case, Occam's razor is a principle which is frequently used ... by philosophers of science in an effort to establish criteria for choosing from among theories with equal explanatory power. http://skepdic.com/occam.html

Theory "A" is less complex than Theory "B", and they both seem to explain the same observable events. The principle of Occam's Razor tells us to prefer Theory "A" because it is simpler.

But no theory, whether simple or complex, accounts for all phenomena. Equations explaining reality are typically a "best fit", not a "perfect fit", as anybody who has taken a college lab course should know from personal experience. Uncertainty and chaos are fundamental characteristics of the known universe, and the simpler theory is often less explanatory than the more complex theory. For example, Newton's theory of gravity is simpler and easier to understand than Einstein's, but Einstein's theory is a better explanation than Newton's.

By following Occam's razor, philosophers of science are likely to oversimplify their understanding of the known universe, increasing the amount of data which they can not explain. And then, typically, philosophers of science become unduly attached to their oversimplifications, and react skeptically to data which they can not explain.

Anytime you believe something, anytime you identify with a particular explanation, theory, equation, statement, myth, grouping, label, or expectation, you are placing an extra filter between your perceptual systems and the fundamental nature of your reality. Theories are never true, they are merely stories that attempt to explain a selective portion of reality. We create and rely upon theories because they usually work, most of the time, not because they are perfect.

Scientific fundamentalism blinds its adherents in the same way that religious fundamentalism does -- by convincing them that their beliefs are the only correct ones.

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