When something is unknown, does Occam's Razor always take over?

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by garbonzo, Jul 25, 2013.

  1. Tenver Registered Member

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    I think Occam's Razor is useful as line of thought because the Universe is probably rather effective (perhaps as effective as it can be?). Why would it be effective? Not sure, maybe God (in some form)? If a thing is as effective as it can be by some laws of operation then anything else but the necessary parts is superfluous and thus flushed away by its ineffectiveness.

    For those familiar with Danish cartoonist (among other things) Storm P. then that is a good example of ineffectiveness... the Universe would probably not look like that for reasons I would not be able to answer. We, ourselves, and things around just seem to rather effective in some ways. Perhaps that is a guiding point to the Universe also being effective, and if we are to assume a supreme creation then perhaps it is as effective as it can be.
     
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  3. Layman Totally Internally Reflected Valued Senior Member

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    So then do you think it would be a good idea to test if quantum mechanics can be better described by Newtonian mechanics because of Occam's Razor? Or better yet we could test if physics actually behaves more like it did in Greek Philosophy, where objects just want to be in a desired state.
     
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  5. Tenver Registered Member

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    I'm not very sure about what quantum mechanics or Greek philosophy contain, but leaving out necessary parts out is not taking things to be as effective as they can, that just is to assume wrongly about something. It would be to assume unnecessary parts if one were to assume that the Sun is made up up many small suns that work buy a stringent clock-work type of mechanics and has very complex rules for its behavior, but still shows pretty similar appearance to humans. That would be to assume things that would be ineffective for the operation of a sun as it has been defined by astronomy (however it has).

    Or if one were to ask oneself how a store has gotten parts to its stock, then one could assume that it drove the simplest, most effective path or that they drove the most complex, most ineffective path. (f.ex. if you go from point A to B, which way around the globe do you go?).
     
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  7. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    You could. Your conclusion would then be "no, Newtonian mechanics cannot describe quantum mechanics." And thus you would need a different theory.
     
  8. Layman Totally Internally Reflected Valued Senior Member

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    Or you could just flip a coin, at least then you would have a 50% chance of starting out with the right answer.
     
  9. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    ?? That's not how science works.
     
  10. Layman Totally Internally Reflected Valued Senior Member

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    Wouldn't a 50% chance of being correct about what path to take then be better than using a method that could possibly have a 0% chance?
     
  11. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    Nope. You are making a false assumption.
     
  12. Layman Totally Internally Reflected Valued Senior Member

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    So then give an example where Occam's Razor would have a higher chance of success of being correct in modern science. So far I don't think I have seen one, and I think this is the second example so far in this thread where it would have had a 0% success rate, the other would be the example of finding the correct equation for a line.
     
  13. river Valued Senior Member

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    Complexity and Simplicity go hand in hand and in no particular order , I could have just easily said Simplicity and Complexity it makes no difference to the understanding of anything

    So Occam's razor is an incomplete theory in its understanding of anything really
     
  14. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    You observe an airplane crash. You postulate two possibilities:

    1) Pilot error
    2) An evil madman fired a missile to destroy the aircraft, and all the evidence of that missile launch has been covered up via a big conspiracy.

    They are not equally likely. Option 1) is simpler and thus more likely to be correct.
     
  15. Layman Totally Internally Reflected Valued Senior Member

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    3 ) The autopilot malfunctioned from electrical interference

    If the crash was actually caused by case number three, you would have still had a 0% chance of being correct only given case 1 and 2. Although I have never had any home electronic device malfunction because I received a phone call, and they don't have nearly the same amount of shielding for this as they do in the electronics in airplanes.
     
  16. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    Some dialogue is going on in a thread I started about the paranormal.
    Can this theory be applied to something like that?
    (It was mentioned in the thread I started, but thought I'd ask here)

    Can we only use Occam's Razor for tangible truths and that would exclude the supernatural and paranormal?

    Edit to add...with the supernatural, it probably wouldn't be a good theory to use because faith is often subjective in nature. How can you prove scientifically, what you believe in terms of faith?

    But...

    There are tangible ways to test and prove in a scientific way, paranormal activity.

    I don't recall who brought Occam's Razor up in the thread, but thought I would explore the idea here.
     
  17. river Valued Senior Member

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    No

    We can use OR for the paranormal as well
     
  18. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    Oh, this is good news.
    The thread I started has a lot of "competing theories," if you will that seem harder to believe than accepting in a paranormal occurrence.
    I'm going to bring it up again in the thread and see what the thoughts are to those involved in the discussion.
    Thanks!

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  19. Stoniphi obscurely fossiliferous Valued Senior Member

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    I love how these discussion rapidly digress into complete dissolution.

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    IMHO, Occam's Razor - in its contemporary interpretation (the simplest explanation is the most likely explanation)- is a concise and succinct tool for solving practical situations.

    You have a problem/event/situation develop and you wonder WTF caused it.

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    You make a short list of all of the possible reasons/solutions starting at the top with the least complex explanation. You then seriously consider that possible explanation as best possible. If something arises that indicates that is not the reason, you move on to number 2. If not, then you accept that the simplest explanation is the most likely and go on with your life.

    While you may be wrong and something else may be the actual explanation, if there is no evidence to support that (it is highly unlikely) then you are pulling stuff from out...the air.
     
  20. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    I don't see then how it could work if one is attempting to prove the paranormal. In thinking it through, "proving" the paranormal seems to entail removing or ruling out atmospheric interference, natural causes, etc...(if we look at documentaries let's say, relating to possible paranormal activity)

    Ruling out such things is not evidence alone in and of itself, that something "else" exists. One is still left with the task of providing evidence of whatever he/she is trying to prove.
     
  21. Grumpy Curmudgeon of Lucidity Valued Senior Member

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    Stoniphi

    Well put.

    It could also be said/added that one shouldn't assume anything not in evidence. And if what you do have evidence for is sufficient to explain an event or process , don't add additional things to it.

    A recent example is the aircraft flown into the Twin Towers. We knew that fanatics were trying to strike at the US, the same group had already bombed one building in 1993. It is a simple step from there to the hijackings and suicide bombings using aircraft. Such attacks are very hard to stop, you are unlikely to stop anyone willing to die in the attack, that's just a fact of life. So the explanation for what everyone saw happen that day is 19 suicide attackers from a radical form of religious nutjobbery.

    But you have a whole industry grown up around harebrained conspiracy "theories". Occam's Razor would tell you that the simple, evidenced, scientific and logical explanations of that day's various events is the correct one. Some of those conspiracy nuts deny the planes ever existed(or were missiles, remote control or military planes), the buildings were set on fire with special effects and blown down with demolition charges.

    Like I said, it's a general rule of logic, not a hard and fast rule.

    Grumpy

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  22. wellwisher Banned Banned

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    The simplest explanation renders an analysis accessible to the widest audience. As explanations get more and more complex fewer and fewer people can follow the analysis. Simplicity is better for open discussion and allows the widest range of audience input. Complexity narrows down the acceptable input to a few, who then dictate how all should think. If this small group screws up, like global warming, you will get dogma with nobody besides themselves allowed to set the record straight. With simplicity input can come from a variety of places, including laymen.

    Complexity is the secret handshake or secret password that will help prevent entry, so a few elite can lord over the masses. Simplicity is more of an open door policy, which allows everyone to enter the cocktail party, with new ideas coming from the mouths of babes. The experts lose track of the forest because of the trees.
     
  23. Stryder Keeper of "good" ideas. Valued Senior Member

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    In a true world environment should a crash occur, the area would be contained, all debris would be numbered, positions noted and collected to be taken to a hangar to be painstakingly pieced together, the blackbox(es) analysed and survivors questioned (also witnesses with a lesser degree of accuracy taken into account) [inter-departmental cooperation might identify any posted threats, potential threats or targets on the flight etc].

    While it might have the simple "Assumption" from Occam's Razor, only after a thorough investigation would the act event be deduced. (Nothing would be assumed or ruled out until enough evidence was able to make a conclusive result)

    The point is that evidence collection requires being "non-biased" as to what might or might not have occurred, it's very easy to let bias sway reasoning.
     

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