Occam’s Razor

Put simply, Occam’s Razor is a principle which states that the simplest explanation is usually the right one. To illustrate how this can be applied, let’s look at crop circles. At first glance, Occam’s Razor might lead us to believe that aliens created them for some unknown purpose. After all, that is an “easier” explanation than multiple groups of humans in physically diverse locations across several countries and over many decades perpetuating such a hoax.

The problem with the idea that “aliens did it” is that further investigation can actually lead to the “easier” answer being far more unlikely than the “difficult” one. In order for crop circles to have been created by aliens, we have to first deduce that aliens exist somewhere in the universe. In itself, that’s not too difficult to rationalize. Then those aliens must have developed technology advanced enough to travel to other points in the universe. This is a little harder to fathom, given our current understanding of physics and the realities of traveling around this vast universe. Next, those aliens have to have found our pale blue dot, circling just one of between 200,000,000,000 and 400,000,000,000 stars in our galaxy alone. Finally, we need to assume that these aliens are not interested in or are incapable of contacting us directly and prefer to dabble in creating wheat field artwork. Any single one of these is hard enough to accept; the combination of all makes this explanation completely unreasonable.

Camp Quest Northwest aims to help young people learn how to tell the difference between answers that are too easy, and those that have true explanatory power. Aside from regular fun such as hiking, swimming, and campfire gatherings, we offer non-traditional activities geared towards critical thinking. These include science experiments, philosophy discussions, astronomy, and exercises such as the invisible unicorn challenge, to name a few.

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2 Responses to Occam’s Razor

  1. Chuck Wolber says:

    Nice post Brennon. Sometimes an easy answer is all you have and it can be tempting to run with it. Camp Quest also teachers young people to have the courage to say “I do not know”.

  2. Jim Hudson says:

    Because of natural selection, Occam’s Razor leads one to understand that God is not necessary in developing all living creatures.

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