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29 What is Occam's Razor? (Atheism FAQ)




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This article is from the Atheism FAQ, by mathew meta@pobox.com with numerous contributions by others.

29 What is Occam's Razor? (Atheism FAQ)

"People keep talking about Occam's Razor. What is it?"

William of Occam formulated a principle which has become known as
Occam's Razor. In its original form, it said "Do not multiply entities
unnecessarily." That is, if you can explain something without
supposing the existence of some entity, then do so.

Nowadays when people refer to Occam's Razor, they often express it
more generally, for example as "Take the simplest solution".

The relevance to atheism is that we can look at two possible
explanations for what we see around us:

* There is an incredibly intricate and complex universe out there,
which came into being as a result of natural processes.
* There is an incredibly intricate and complex universe out there,
and there is also a God who created the universe. Clearly this God
must be of non-zero complexity.

Given that both explanations fit the facts, Occam's Razor might
suggest that we should take the simpler of the two -- solution number
one. Unfortunately, some argue that there is a third even more simple
solution:

* There isn't an incredibly intricate and complex universe out
there. We just imagine that there is.

This third option leads us logically towards solipsism, which many
people find unacceptable.

 

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