Ockham’s Razor Cuts Through to the Truth

Posted on March 26, 2010 By

It is time to apply a logic so as to cut through the layers of garbage in order to reach the truth.  “Ockham’s Razor” (named for the 14th century English logician and theologian William of Ockham) is a logical premise which says that a simple explanation is more likely to be true than a complex one.  Applied to the God debate, this premise would say that the belief (theism or atheism) which has to do the least amount of explaining away is the most likely to be true. But let’s take a little intermission from the God debate and witness Ockham’s Razor applied to a hypothetical situation so as to see how it works:

Imagine that I am arrested by the police because I am caught standing in an alley with a gun in my hand directly above a man who is lying on the ground bleeding from an apparent bullet wound.  Consider the following dialogue to see how a police detective would use Ockham’s Razor to get to the truth.

Detective:  “Well, Scott, would you to confess to the crime of which you are accused?”

Me:  “No, I didn’t do it.”

Detective:  “But we have overwhelming evidence that you did.”

Me: “Like what?”

Detective:  “Like the fact that the victim says that you are the one who shot him.”

Me: “Detective, I would like to present a theory to explain that. It may be that the victim is suffering from hallucinations induced by psychotropic compounds in some contaminated food that he consumed.  These psychotropic compounds could be the result of fungal growth that occurred in the food during storage.”

Detective:  “How about the fact that you were observed holding the gun which our ballistics team has linked to the bullet removed from the victim?”

Me: “I have a theory for that.  It may be that certain metallurgical flaws in the trigger mechanism, coupled with high ambient temperature and humidity conditions, caused the trigger mechanism to fail…thereby causing an involuntary discharge of the weapon.  If not that, then my alternate theory is that there was a contamination of the gunpowder during the manufacturing process which, coupled with the high ambient temperature and humidity conditions, caused the gunpowder to have certain self-igniting properties.  This allowed for an ignition of the gunpowder without a squeeze of the trigger.”

Detective:  “But you at least admit to pointing the gun at the victim?”

Me:  “No. I was pointing the gun at the ground when I had a muscle spasm in my arm which was probably induced by an allergic reaction to some pain medication that I took.  This muscle spasm caused my arm to involuntarily point the gun at the victim.  Unfortunately, the involuntary discharge of the weapon occurred simultaneously with this muscle spasm.”

Detective:  “Scott, just give it up and confess.  I’m not stupid.”

Me: “But Detective, these are solid scientific theories that I am presenting to you.  Are you against science?  We can’t just give up and say ‘Scott did it.’”

At this point, as you can imagine, the detective is probably cutting through the garbage theoretical abstractions that I am giving him in order to arrive at the simplest, and therefore, most likely explanation:  I deliberately shot the man.

Because it is the explanation that requires the least amount of elaborate explaining away, it is the explanation most likely to be true.

And, applied to the God debate, we can see the enormous amount of elaborate explaining away that atheists must resort to in order to support their views.  Below is a partial laundry list:

1)  In Has Anyone Met God and Returned to Tell About It?  I detail how 3 decades of research have cited an encounter with God to be a common thread of thousands of Near-Death experiences.  Atheists try to explain this away by citing hallucinations caused by chemical and electrical activity in the dying brain…even though some of these experiences have been demonstrated to have occurred after complete cessation of brain activity.  Further, atheists fail to explain why these experiences share so many remarkable similarities.  Two hallucinations are rarely alike…even if both are experienced by the same person.

2) In Is There A God?: (What is the chance that our world is the result of chance?) I bring to light the extreme amount of fine tuning that was necessary for a life-supporting universe to emerge.  Atheists try to explain this away by saying that there are (as many as) 10 to the 500th power universes, and that ours the universe that just happened to get this fine tuning right.  But as the Oxford University philosopher (and former atheist) Antony Flew humorously remarks, this is like a schoolboy who changes his story from “the dog ate my homework,” to “a pack of dogs ate my homework.”  Multiple universes do nothing to explain away the extreme fine tuning of our universe.  More universes require more explanation.

3) In Why Life Could Not Have Emerged Without God, I describe how atheists have resorted to such explanations as intervention from space aliens to explain away the origin of life from non-living matter.

4) In God Is Real…Why Modern Physics Has Discredited Atheism and The Ultimate Cart-Before-the-Horse I detail how theism is strongly supported by modern physics and how materialism (or “naturalism”), in which atheism is rooted, has been completely discredited by modern physics.  But this has not stopped certain atheists physicists from concocting something-from-nothing theories based upon a universe emerging by itself from nothing as a result of the laws of physics, as I detail in Who Is Playing Make-Believe? (Atheists or Theists).  Noticeably, these theories fail to mention where the laws of physics came from.

5) In Doesn’t Evolution Prove the Biblical Account of Creation to Be False?  and Is There a God? (What Is the Chance That Our World is the Result of Chance?) I describe the remarkable and stunning similarity between the biblical and scientific accounts of creation.  Gerald Schroeder, who has the unique qualifications of being both a biblical scholar and a physicist formerly on staff at MIT provides a detailed commentary in a video attached to the former of these two essays.  The video in this post is VERY HIGHLY recommended.  According to Schroeder, the only atheist counter-explanation that he has heard is that these similarities are a coincidence.  And notably, Schroeder’s work demonstrates that author of the biblical account of creation clearly understood the relativity of time thousands of years before Einstein.

6) In Why Do I Have to Believe in God to be Good? I ask the question of where human moral beliefs come from.  I also demonstrate that the complicated naturalist / evolutionary explanations for human morality are doomed to fail from the outset.

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