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

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

  1. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Less likely. Most aircraft crashes are caused by pilot error, and you'd have to postulate a failure that 1) caused the autopilot to fail and 2) simultaneously removed control from the pilot. This is more improbable than simple pilot error, thus Occam's Razor suggests that the simplest explanation (i.e. pilot error) is the correct one.

    Looking at the last dozen or so aircraft crashes, the Occam's Razor assumption has been right about 80% of the time.

    And if it was caused by 1) (the most common cause) you'd have a 0% chance of being right. Since that option is correct about 80% of the time, you in actuality have about a 20% chance of being right.

    The shielding in aircraft is actually better.
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  3. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Exactly. Occam's Razor is a terrible tool for determining what really happened. It is merely a good tool for determining what LIKELY happened. By concentrating on the most likely possibilities, then proving or disproving them, time can be saved compared to assuming that everything (pilot error, madman with missile, alien attack) are equally likely.
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  5. JJM Registered Senior Member

    NO. The answer must always be measurable or else it's only rhetorical. It's not the simplest answer, because sometimes the truth has many roads and pathways, at times abridged with tangents. Measurement is the only truth.
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  7. Stoniphi obscurely fossiliferous Valued Senior Member

    You appear to deny Occam's Razor because it advises simplicity? Please explain this.....a bit more simply, if you would be so kind.

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  8. garbonzo Registered Senior Member

    We can observe death but not what happens after death. It is unknown. Laplace would be when someone wants to assert something, not when there's nothing to assert.
  9. PartyBoy Registered Member

    When something is unknown I dont really think about it. I just wait till someone comes by and makes it simple for me. Missing the words to communicate the logical pathway in a scattered event I would always ascribe the simplest set of events first then focusing on which events in the path are less likely or more complex.
  10. Cyperium I'm always me Valued Senior Member

    We were basically dead before we were alive so life after death isn't actually a oxymoron. I wonder why you would think that it is so impossible with life after death seeing that it has happened once already. I see it as unscientific to say that something that has happened once can't happen again, perhaps even a extraordinary claim which requires extraordinary evidence as something seems to be needed to hinder it from happening again?

    We know that there is a possibility for living. How can that possibility be taken away?

    I doubt that he meant that you should treat them with contempt, to not have respect for someone doesn't allow anyone to be a uptight bastard...I would loose the respect I have for someone if that is the manner that they behave by.
  11. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Maybe semantics, but surely to be dead we must have first been alive. Before we were alive we did not exist as anything other than a possibility, so we could not have been dead.
    Death and pre-life may have the individual in the same state, but that does not mean everyone in that state (or non-state, depending on how you view it) is therefore dead.
    After all, all men are humans, but not all humans are men.
  12. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    No we weren't. We had no trace of existence. There was a sperm and an ovum which would some day combine to create us, but until that moment they were not a person. There was most definitely no you before you were conceived, so you most definitely were not alive (or dead!) at any time during those billions of years.

    Now ten or fifteen minutes after the event we identify as "death" occurs, your synapses have degraded irreversibly, so from your own perspective the most important part of "you" is gone: your consciousness and other cognitive processes.

    But the people who knew you will retain their memories of you. Things that you've created (stories, buildings, your children, your posts on SciForums) will continue to exist, at least for a while. The government will retain records of the (now probably completely irrelevant) minutiae of your life for generations. So it's not completely wrong to say "Cyperium is still alive because he lives on in our hearts and minds, in the wisdom he imparted to us, in the stories he told that we still pass around, in his grandchildren who are in the Senate and the Fortune 500, in that ugly barn he built behind his house for his goats, and on the government's databases."

    This is only a metaphor for life, but even so it clearly has no analog in the millennia before you lived. You were not dead then; the concept of "you" did not exist.

    As such, it serves as a good reminder that the actual biological you will not exist after your synapses degrade irreversibly. If someone asks you, "What will it be like for you in the year 2200," the correct answer is, "It will be exactly like it was for me in 1800. I wasn't there, and I won't be there."

    People who are frightened of what they will experience after death should be soothed by comparing it to what they experienced before conception: absolutely nothing.

    No it hasn't. You're playing semantic parlor games with us. We were not "dead" before we were alive. We were nothing.

    And as the Linguistics Moderator I shall point out that it is unscientific to say that we were dead before we were born. I'm curious to find out if you've ever actually encountered that assertion in formal writing where words are chosen carefully. I very much doubt it.

    We "know" no such thing. Sorry to burst your bubble. This is a textbook example of how sloppy language can cause trouble.

    Christians and advocates of the other Abrahamic religions have done quite enough damage to civilization--in fact they literally destroyed two of the only six civilizations that arose independently on this planet: Inca and Olmec/Maya/Aztec. It's perfectly reasonable to tell them to go fuck themselves before they actually launch the three-sided Nuclear Holy War they seem determined to bring about and destroy the remaining ones.

    I have no respect or sympathy for the absurd fairytales of religion and the incredible evil that has been motivated by those fairytales. I am baffled that any rational person can. "Life after death" is merely one if those absurd fairytales.

    I find it fascinating that many of the non-Abrahamic religions ascribe "souls" to non-human animals, allowing them to be judged by the gods and reincarnated and/or allowed into Heaven. But the Christians, Muslims and Jews postulate a Heaven into which only human animals are invited.

    My kind, generous, loyal dog will not be waiting for me in Heaven, but my evil mother will?

    "If dogs don't go to Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went." -- Will Rogers.
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2013
  13. quinnsong Valued Senior Member

    @ Fraggle

    I also wish to go where I can give our very first dog a Collie/English Sheepdog mix a great big hug and tell her how much she will always mean to me. Just thinking of Lady brings tears to my eyes. Sorry about not being on topic, carry on.
  14. Stoniphi obscurely fossiliferous Valued Senior Member

    Well said, Frag.

    I also love my dog very, very much and I share Will Roger's sentiments on that topic.
  15. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    The topic is Occam's Razor: extraordinary assertions must be supported by extraordinary evidence before we are obliged to treat them with respect. I think we're all merely demonstrating this rule by expressing our lack of respect for certain extraordinary assertions that have been presented here, unaccompanied by the required extraordinary evidence.

    So it's all on topic.

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  16. Cyperium I'm always me Valued Senior Member

    It's of course a question of semantics just as you said. A person is never dead subjectively. I used it because there is no difference to the state a person is before or after death, which is nothing. To be dead before being born is a play of words as there really is no difference to the subject (and no before or after either).

    Do we have any trace of existence when we are dead? (except the existence of the dead body, which reasonably can't even be described as "mine" anymore as it has no self).

    Semantically there is a difference between being dead and being nothing, with "dead" meaning having been previously alive. But what meaning does that have to the subject that he has been alive? He is still in exactly the same state as before he was born, which is nothing.

    The only important part that consitutes a "you" if you ask me. The rest is simply marks left.

    Lives on might be a weird use of words if we are taking it scientifically. To live and to be alive isn't simply having the marks that you have been alive (memories, posts on sciforums, etc.). It doesn't mean that a person is actually alive subjectively through them.

    The entire concept of me doesn't exist after I've died either, only fragments.

    Exactly, it was a play of words to call it death since subjectively it is the same state.

    They didn't experience nothing. There is no such thing as experiencing nothing, it is only something that we think we experienced when we try to look back and find "blackness". It isn't actually a experience. What we experienced was the instant we existed and could have any experiences (and there is no time, so it wasn't as if you waited millenias to experience something).

    Which is exactly the same to the subject. It's only for those that lives on that a person is described to be dead instead of nothing. In reality there is no difference, the subject is nothing, which is completely cut-off from the world and time and anything like that, it is nothing at all.

    I'm equating dead with nothing here, as a play of words not as a scientific claim. Dead in linguistic has a definition of previously been alive. Devoid of that there is no difference between dead and nothing, hence there is no actual difference that you have been alive or not, it is the same nothing and doesn't matter to the subject which isn't a part of existence anymore (just as the subject wasn't a part of existence before he was born).

    We don't know that there is a possibility of living? Right here and right now is a possibility of living.

    Having no respect or sympathy for religion doesn't mean that any one person is responsible for all the evil acts done it's name. Hence it is not a reason to treat them with contempt. A christian may lead a perfectly honest and moral life even to your standards, there would be no reason to treat him with contempt.
  17. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Of course it means nothing to the subject. But Homo sapiens is a social species, arguably the most social species that ever existed because we have overlaid our pack-social insinct with reasoning and learning and are now on the verge of becoming one global pack. So it's perfectly fair to consider the attributes of one of us who is no longer alive, from the perspective of the other seven billion of us. Aristotle, Jesus (assuming for the sake of argument that he was a real person), Charlemagne, Genghis Khan, Shakespeare, Lincoln, Einstein, Hitler and Jim Henson changed the course of civilization in measurable ways ("Sesame Street" is given much credit for the increase in literacy and other improvements in life in the Third World), so we have a perfect right to continue claiming them as members of the global pack and speaking of them in the present tense. I daresay every one of them would have been pleased by a glimpse into the future that revealed them as we now see them. Certainly even Genghis Khan and perhaps even Hitler.

    But those marks can have immense importance. Why dismiss them?

    The "human sciences" are called "soft sciences" for good reason. This even extends to their vocabulary.

    Sure. When you die you lose control over everything, including what people think and feel about you. Some of those fragments may be so important to them that they dismiss everything else. Only the (admittedly large) community that reads gossip magazines cares what Hillary Clinton's favorite food is. The rest of us are only interested in her impact on history.

    Have you ever sat through a staff meeting?

    Actually any dictionary will list Definition #3 or 4 as "not endowed with life; inanimate, as in 'dead stones'."

    I've lost the chain of reference, but I think I was referring to the possibility of living before conception.

    Anyone who supports an institution bears a tiny but measurable responsibility for the things it does.

    I am vehemently opposed to almost all of the policies and deeds of the U.S. government that are routinely excoriated by foreigners and a large portion of our own population. Yet by maintaining my U.S. citizenship and residence and paying my taxes, I am supporting those policies and deeds in a tiny way. All it takes is for 300 million of us to each support them in a tiny way, and they will have enough support to endure and continue causing grief and even death.

    I concede that Christianity is not a monolith, so the Quakers, as an outstanding example, cannot be blamed for the anti-feminist, homophobic, islamophobic, everything else-phobic attitudes of the larger Christian community. But the Baptists and Catholics can and there are a lot more of them.
  18. river

    Complexity and Simplicity go hand in hand

    The most simple thing I know is the hydrogen atom

    Its complexity is in the understanding of it
  19. Layman Totally Internally Reflected Valued Senior Member

    Oh God, what have I done? As far as I know, I was the first one to come up with this theory or the one that it is based off of. Ironically, I no longer believe that it is true. Occam's Razor would say that theory would most likely be wrong, since it was discovered by a Layman.

    The real problem is that even if someone did find evidence of the supernatural, no real scientist would even care or take it seriously even if it was real evidence. You only believe this way because you have never experienced something supernatural first hand.

    The evidence is overwhelming. We have people flocking to meetings about it once a day every week at multiple locations in every city across the globe. How else could you explain that? Then Occam's Razor would suggest that there actually is evidence for it, otherwise we wouldn't have church's.
  20. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    I think you have to careful what you mean by "evidence". Science is only concerned with explaining objective, repeatable observations, about the physical world. So the only "evidence" accepted by the scientific method of understanding the world has to be physical, objective and repeatable. The subjective experiences that lead people to religious faith, on the other hand, do not fall into this category. That does not, in my opinion, mean they are to be discarded as worthless, just that religion is not justified by a scientific process. (Of course the observation of people flocking to meetings is an objective, repeatable observation and science can have a shot at explaining it in terms of primate behaviour, psychology and so forth.)
  21. Stoniphi obscurely fossiliferous Valued Senior Member

    Uh.....no it would not say that. Please try reading this thread, perhaps you will gain some small understanding of what Occam's Razor actually means. :shrug:
  22. kwhilborn Banned Banned

    It could also be applied in different ways with contrary arguments.

    I could say,

    "Why do the majority of people believe in god?"

    The simplest answer would be ...

    "Because god is real"

    This is a simplified version of what was stated above, but as exchemist said it deals with belief and not facts. I would argue that argument is not as valid with psi explanations as it is with god, and if we applied Occam's Razor to the fact we are getting reasonable above average probabilities all the time, then we would conclude psi is real.
  23. Grumpy Curmudgeon of Lucidity Valued Senior Member


    No, the simplest answer and the one with the most evidence is "Because that's what your parents believed, and what they indoctrinated into you at a very early and impressionable age." Believe it or not, most children born of Christians turn out to be Christians as adults(ditto Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and even Mormons, who'd a thunk it?).

    The actual existence of a god is a much more complicated and so far unevidenced proposition, one that calls into question what we think we know of reality across the board. That a majority BELIEVES it means nothing as to whether it is true or not. The majority of humans who have ever lived thought the world was flat(or a variation thereof), the Catholic church burned Bruno alive for daring to point out that it isn't(and that indeed all celestial objects are in fact oblate spheroids(depending on speed of rotation)), the same church confined Galileo to house arrest and recantation for pointing out that the Earth went around the sun, not the other way round. Do you think the Earth was ever flat? Did the sun orbit the Earth at any time in the past? Did belief in either make it any more so?


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