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Ockham's Razor could be wrong!


Robittybob1
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I was having a discussion on another forum and this is what someone said:

Arioch "I never said it was irrefutable, just that it disagrees with you. Whether it's refutable or not, postulating something that flies in the face of parsimony, as your idea does here, is not a good sign. In fact it's a sign that you are almost assuredly wrong, because while Ockham's Razor could be wrong, we've never once observed it to be wrong.

 

 

Has the Ockham's Razor never once been observed to be wrong? That would be interesting to know if that is truly the case.

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Has the Ockham's Razor never once been observed to be wrong? That would be interesting to know if that is truly the case.

In the context of science, this philosophy has proven to be good. But please keep in mind this following quote:

 

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.

 

Albert Einstein

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Restating the OP: Among several of hypothesis have observations selected one with at least one more assumption than another hypothesis.

 

I think one has to consider spoken languages are elegant, and may be used to obscure simplicity and inflate lists. Competing hypothesis may not be written with equal skill and purpose.

I think we cannot fully trust an answer to your question,

Edited by EdEarl
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Thanks - I was thinking of removing the thread but since it is being discussed I'll let it stay.

Can you think of a particular case where Ockham's Razor appears to have failed? I could research this myself but it is late here and I'll follow-up on this in the morning.

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Can you think of a particular case where Ockham's Razor appears to have failed?

In the context of building physical theories I cannot really think of a good example. Theories are shown to be 'bad' and rejected due to the predictions not matching nature.

 

When we have two theories that work equally as well Ockham's Razor still might not be easy to apply. For example, is a conceptually simple theory that is hard to calculate with actually better than a conceptually difficult theory that allows for ease with calculations?

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Isn't "unnecessary" the key word?

 

For example, I think Lorentz Ether Theory is exactly equivalent to Special Relativity but adds a completely undetectable and unnecessary (because SR produces the same results without it) ether.

 

You can have an infinite number of such theories: Lorentz Unicorn Theory which posits that invisible pink unicorns manipulate things to produce the same results as SR, and so on. So it seems natural to choose the one that doesn't rely on the Flying Spaghetti Monster intervening in a way we can never detect.

 

If you can suggest that some so far unexplained effect might be explained by adding a new force or medium (and then demonstrate that is the case through experiment) then that new feature is no longer unnecessary and Occam lives to tell the tale.

Edited by Strange
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Could it be said the evolution is the classic example of Occam's razor failing? The easy explanation "God did it". The very complex one evolution was based on "small gains of selective advantage over countless generations".


In the context of building physical theories I cannot really think of a good example. Theories are shown to be 'bad' and rejected due to the predictions not matching nature.

When we have two theories that work equally as well Ockham's Razor still might not be easy to apply. For example, is a conceptually simple theory that is hard to calculate with actually better than a conceptually difficult theory that allows for ease with calculations?

I quite often propose an alternative theory, and commonly it gets shot down because of the claim Ockham's Razor shows that it wouldn't happen that way. I have always felt that was an incorrectly applied use of the principle but the argument always seem to have added weight when that claim is made. It appears a simple way of winning an argument.

But when it was claimed "Ockham's Razor has never failed" well I thought there might be a simple falsification of that, but as Strange has pointed out, if it seems it has failed you can claim the unnecessary complexity was necessary and then Ockham's Razor survives.

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Could it be said the evolution is the classic example of Occam's razor failing? The easy explanation "God did it". The very complex one evolution was based on "small gains of selective advantage over countless generations".

How is an omnipotent god a simpler explanation? It sounds simpler, but that merely masks the inordinate complexities of having a supreme being in the first place. Where did this god come from? Who created it? Also, implicit in all of this is that the explanation needs to actually work.

 

It's like saying "the stork" is a simpler explanation for where babies come from.

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But "God did it" posits the existence of an intifintely powerful and complex being in addition to all of the stuff that is observable, whereas evolution cuts that very complex assumption out and simply leaves you with the basics of observable reality.

 

And that's really the trouble with the way Occam's Razor is generally viewed. It's perhaps better to conceptualize it as being more along the lines of "The theory that requires the fewest assumptions is probably the correct one."

 

"God did it" is only a simpler explanation if you use it as a barrier to stop drilling down into details. But if we're not going to bother to explain how, then I can also just say "Evolution did it. Trust me, the details don't matter" and suddenly that is equally as "simple."

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Could it be said the evolution is the classic example of Occam's razor failing? The easy explanation "God did it". The very complex one evolution was based on "small gains of selective advantage over countless generations".

 

But it is not (just) about simpler (which is subjective). Evolution can be explained by known and well understood mechanisms. Adding something that, therefore, is not needed and for which there is no evidence is unnecessary and thus fails Occam's test.

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How is an omnipotent god a simpler explanation? It sounds simpler, but that merely masks the inordinate complexities of having a supreme being in the first place. Where did this god come from? Who created it? Also, implicit in all of this is that the explanation needs to actually work.

 

It's like saying "the stork" is a simpler explanation for where babies come from.

Well I wonder if in the day Darwin had the claim made against him that his theory of evolution violates Ockham's Razor? It seems as soon as you have a new theory someone makes that claim, OK it doesn't seem prevalent on this forum.

I hope you don't really want answers to all those questions, for they were just thrown in there to make a point weren't they?

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Well I wonder if in the day Darwin had the claim made against him that his theory of evolution violates Ockham's Razor? It seems as soon as you have a new theory someone makes that claim, OK it doesn't seem prevalent on this forum.

I hope you don't really want answers to all those questions, for they were just thrown in there to make a point weren't they?

 

That you are reticent to try and answer them means the point is made, does it not?

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But it is not (just) about simpler (which is subjective). Evolution can be explained by known and well understood mechanisms. Adding something that, therefore, is not needed and for which there is no evidence is unnecessary and thus fails Occam's test.

Is that the position seen from hindsight? When you first propose a new theory that's when the Occam's Razor issue rears up.

Later on as you say when there are "well understood mechanisms" we wouldn't want to go back.

 

That you are reticent to try and answer them means the point is made, does it not?

My main concern was whether it was the right section on the forum to discuss these matters.

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The claim Goddidit is always simpler but in no way violates Ockham’s razor.

I'm not following your logic there, sorry. I said it was evolution that violates Ockham's razor. It is the principle that Ockham's razor is not the arbiter of a theory but just a rule of thumb to be used as a guide, it is not a universal law. There is no crime in violating Ockham's razor.

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It would be a crime to admit jurisprudence into this discussion.

What is the right word then, error, mistake, penalty ???? If you break a universal law what have you done? What are the consequences?

There is no crime in violating Ockham's razor

There is no penalty for violating Ockham's razor

or do you just say "So what Ockham's razor isn't a law any way".

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I'm not following your logic there, sorry. I said it was evolution that violates Ockham's razor. It is the principle that Ockham's razor is not the arbiter of a theory but just a rule of thumb to be used as a guide, it is not a universal law. There is no crime in violating Ockham's razor.

 

 

Care to name a universal law that's not inviolate? And don't give me C, just because it has yet to be disproved.

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Care to name a universal law that's not inviolate? And don't give me C, just because it has yet to be disproved.

We might have to go back and see who asked the first question for we seem to have an Ockham's razor situation involving ever complex questions here.

Maybe we need a thread discussing universal laws. I have heard there are universal laws. The expression isn't used that often lately.

What about the Newton's universal gravitation equation, can that be violated?

 

New thread for Universal Laws http://www.scienceforums.net/topic/93577-are-there-universal-laws-can-you-break-them/

Edited by Robittybob1
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We might have to go back and see who asked the first question for we seem to have an Ockham's razor situation involving ever complex questions here.

 

 

Hhmmm.

 

 

Maybe we need a thread discussing universal laws. I have heard there are universal laws. The expression isn't used that often lately.

What about the Newton's universal gravitation equation, can that be violated?

 

Bolded mine.

Yes...

Edited by dimreepr
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Hhmmm.

 

Maybe we need a thread discussing universal laws. I have heard there are universal laws. The expression isn't used that often lately.

What about the Newton's universal gravitation equation, can that be violated?

Bolded mine.

Yes...

OK so what were the consequences of breaking that universal law? You didn't give me clues as to when this was broken. Are you talking relativity again? What was your situation that you were thinking of but let's post the answer over in the new thread.

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What is the right word then, error, mistake, penalty ???? If you break a universal law what have you done? What are the consequences?

There is no crime in violating Ockham's razor

There is no penalty for violating Ockham's razor

or do you just say "So what Ockham's razor isn't a law any way".

No crime to use "crime," with the caveat to leave jurisprudence out of it.

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No crime to use "crime," with the caveat to leave jurisprudence out of it.

Based on the following definition of jurisprudence I am happy to leave it out: http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/jurisprudence

 

 

Jurisprudence

From the Latin term juris prudentia, which means "the study, knowledge, or science of law"; in the United States, more broadly associated with the philosophy of law.

Legal philosophy has many branches, with four types being the most common. The most prevalent form of jurisprudence seeks to analyze, explain, classify, and criticize entire bodies of law, ranging from contract to tort to Constitutional Law. Legal encyclopedias, law reviews, and law school textbooks frequently contain this type of jurisprudential scholarship.The second type of jurisprudence compares and contrasts law with other fields of knowledge such as literature, economics, religion, and the social sciences. The purpose of this type of study is to enlighten each field of knowledge by sharing insights that have proven to be important in advancing essential features of the compared discipline.

The third type of jurisprudence raises fundamental questions about the law itself. These questions seek to reveal the historical, moral, and cultural underpinnings of a particular legal concept. The Common Law (1881), written by oliver wendell holmes jr., is a well-known example of this type of jurisprudence. It traces the evolution of civil and criminal responsibility from undeveloped societies where liability for injuries was based on subjective notions of revenge, to modern societies where liability is based on objective notions of reasonableness.

The fourth and fastest-growing body of jurisprudence focuses on even more abstract questions, including, What is law? How does a trial or appellate court judge decide a case? Is a judge similar to a mathematician or a scientist applying autonomous and determinate rules and principles? Or is a judge more like a legislator who simply decides a case in favor of the most politically preferable outcome? Must a judge base a decision only on the written rules and regulations that have been enacted by the government? Or may a judge also be influenced by unwritten principles derived from theology, moral philosophy, and historical practice?

Four schools of jurisprudence have attempted to answer these questions: formalism proposes that law is a science; realism holds that law is just another name for politics; Positivism suggests that law must be confined to the written rules and regulations enacted or recognized by the government; and naturalism maintains that the law must reflect eternal principles of justice and morality that exist independent of governmental recognition.

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Is that the position seen from hindsight? When you first propose a new theory that's when the Occam's Razor issue rears up.

 

No. You can start applying it as soon as you start developing a theory. It is obvious almost immediately if some entity is totally undetectable and make no practical difference, but is just introduced for its supposed "explanatory power". See the recently closed thread (and many like it) trying to present some underlying "mechanism" for relativity. As soon as someone says, "but the math is exactly the same" you know their "extras" are unnecessary entities.

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But "God did it" posits the existence of an infinitely powerful and complex being in addition to all of the stuff that is observable, whereas evolution cuts that very complex assumption out and simply leaves you with the basics of observable reality.

 

And that's really the trouble with the way Occam's Razor is generally viewed. It's perhaps better to conceptualize it as being more along the lines of "The theory that requires the fewest assumptions is probably the correct one."

 

"God did it" is only a simpler explanation if you use it as a barrier to stop drilling down into details. But if we're not going to bother to explain how, then I can also just say "Evolution did it. Trust me, the details don't matter" and suddenly that is equally as "simple."

I didn't mean to ignore your post, sorry. It was in fact a very good and well thought out argument.

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