Occam's Razor

James S. Valliant's picture
Submitted by James S. Valliant on Thu, 2007-12-20 03:22

The value of a timeline.

I don't even see the Mormons, either.

( categories: )

Valliant in the role of Captain Obvious

darren's picture

We are all born, thank goodness, atheists.


We're all born, thank goodness, non-Objectivists.
We're all born, thank goodness, non-Freemasons.
We're all born, thank goodness, non-stand-up-comedians. (Except, perhaps, Mr. Valliant)

Um, so?

Assuming you're even making a point, it's an idiotic one.

speak for yourself James

Burnsy's picture

when you say We are all born, thank goodness, atheists.

You may have been born an atheist but not me.

Occam's Razor

Richard Goode's picture

Of two equivalent theories or explanations, all other things being equal, the simpler one is to be preferred.


Occam the devil gets all the best lines?

l's picture

So Occam's got a new razor out, do they? Must remember to tell Mrs. Lovett the "Good News!" [little blade-runner's humor there, don'cha know...why Gillette me outta tha house anyway, Luv?] And just in time - what with it being Christmas an' all, we were making rather merry, Sir, and running perilously low on the meat pies...

- Sweeney

London SW1

P.S. Sorry to choke this thread into sudden-Depp overtime and away from your faith-bait initiative - call it The Sondheimlich Maneuver, after my forthcoming Ludlumesque nailbiter - but a Burton the hand is, after all, worth 2 'n the Bush...

I didn't want to be a barber anyway. I
wanted to be a lumberjack. Leaping from tree to tree as they float down
the mighty rivers of British Columbia . . . (he is gradually straightening up with a visionary gleam in his eyes) The giant redwood, the larch, the fir, the mighty scots pine. (he
tears off his barber's jacket, to reveal tartan shirt and lumberjack
trousers underneath; as he speaks the lights dim behind him and a choir
of Mounties is heard, faintly in the distance)
The smell of fresh-cut timber! The crash of mighty trees! (moves to stand infront of back-drop of Canadian mountains and forests) With my best girlie by my side ... (a
frail adoring blonde, the heroine of many a mountains film, or perhaps
the rebel maid, rushes to his side and looks adoringly into his eyes)
We'd sing ... sing ... sing...

Mr. Enderby

James S. Valliant's picture

Yes, Occam's Razor is basically an extraction tool, not a means of positive proof.

But, agnosticism is not a position on the existence of God or his nature, but a claim about our ability to know about these things.

In fact, either one actually has a belief in God or he does not. The reasons are a separate matter. For example, someone who hasn't yet heard of the idea of "god" is an atheist. We are all born, thank goodness, atheists.

An agnostic about the very concept of God doesn't really have a belief in "God," and, so, is a kind of atheist. Usually someone not comfortable with calling himself an "atheist," he still lacks any positive belief in God. There are theists who are "agnostic" about the nature of God, saying that we know He's out there, but also that we can't know anything else about Him.

But the two concepts, "theist" and "atheist," like the concepts "on" and "off," exhaust the possibilities here.

But, yes, a more interesting diagram would be one that included the range of metaphysical beliefs, something much broader than the sects of Christianity: idealist, materialist, dualist, with sub-branches -- animist, ancestor worship, polytheist, monotheist (noting how relatively recent a development this last is) -- specifying whether cannibalism, human sacrifice or animal sacrifice is practiced (or their symbolic substitute recognized, like the Crucifixion and Mass) -- noting the periods of persecution, repression, major book and/or people burnings, Inquisitions and Crusades, etc. -- through the course of human history.

This is like a map of the London Underground

Sandi's picture

But it clearly highlights one thing.

Atheists have a clear, defined, direct route. No change of stations.

It is the only path that has met its objective without deviance or compulsion.

As you so eloquently quoted Rand in your Pod cast 5 interview James, "reason and freedom versus faith and force."

Religious faith is deviated with historical force, yet reason remains unaltered.

An interesting diagram,

Mike E's picture

An interesting diagram, however it implies that something that hasn't changed is to be the preferred option. I realise that this is avoiding the "all other things being equal", however the evaluation of this is highly subjective. For anyone whose religion is on one of the lines they could easily imagine that theirs is the one true path with all branches being heretical offshoots.

Since atheism is saying there is no god, any change would be to either acknowledge or accept the existence of a god, in which case it would pretty much destroy the concept of atheism.

Perhaps there is a branch between every religion and atheism that should be labeled agnosticism?

For something that doesn't change, the adjectives that you use to describe it can very much colour the impression you get about it. Describing it as fundamental, old fashioned, etc and it's a very negative view point. Instead describe it as being perfect, transcendent, etc and it implies a very positive perspective.

All of this highlights the issues with trying to prove anything using Occam's razor. It can be a useful tool but it is never a proof. If it is relied on as being a proof then one should take a very careful look at what the writer wishes to prove.

Of Course...

James S. Valliant's picture

Atheism "explains" nothing.

In this respect it is just like Christianity -- but with a lot less complication.

What a magnificent schematic!

Jameson's picture

Thanks, St James. Smiling

Nice one, Reed

Richard Goode's picture

Nice one, Reed.

Atheism explains nothing.

Theism - the theory which posits the existence of God - explains the existence of the Universe itself.

Nihilism explains nothing.

Moral theory - the theory which posits values such as right, wrong, good and evil - explains nothing.

Nice one, James

Richard Goode's picture

Nice one, James.

Now envisage a similar illustration with major branches within moral theory at the top, and major branches within nihilism at the bottom.

At the bottom, Early Nihilism branches into Modern Nihilism.

At the top, Early Moral Theory branches into Divine Command Theory, Natural Law Theory, Virtue Ethics, Utilitarianism, Kantian Deontology, Cultural Relativism, Ethical Egoism, Social Contract Theory, Objectivist Ethics, etc.

So... what does "Atheism"

reed's picture

So... what does "Atheism" explain?

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