Sunday, September 11, 2011

Fuckem's Razor


Occam’s Razor, in Newton’s formulation, says that ”We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances.” Put more directly, this means that when trying to understand things, the simplest explanation is usually the right one. Occam’s Razor is credited to 14th century logician and Franciscan friar William of Ockham.

Fuckem’s Razor, on the other hand, derives from the teachings of another Medieval monk, Robert of Fuckham, and it posits roughly the opposite of Occam’s Razor. To wit, when confronted with a problem, the most complicated and obscure explanation is probably correct. At the very least, all conceivable factors must be debated, on an equal footing, regardless of their plausibility or how much evidence supports them.

I’m sure this is all fairly confusing, so let me illustrate with a couple of examples. Say you’re in your house, it’s hot as hell and the place is collapsing around your head as you try and make out what’s going on. Occam’s Razor would note the flames leaping into the sky, the clouds of choking smoke and distant scream of approaching sirens in suggesting that your house is on fire. Fuckem’s Razor, on the other hand, obliges the objective observer to consider all the possibilities. Since scientists have not been able to conclusively rule out the possibility of either alien life or the existence of parallel dimensions, we must, in the interests of intellectual rigor, admit to the extreme likelihood that your house is under attack by bug people from the 18th Dimension.

Brilliant. From now on, when presented with yet more evasive hairsplitting from agnostics (especially those who get overcome with the vapors due to the impudence of those New Atheists), I'm just going to mutter "Fuckem's Razor" to myself and crack up giggling.


  1. Coincidentally, I was about to bring OR up in a discussion I was having in another comment section (yes, I've been seeing other blogs again) about free will. I really can't see any use for the concept and the argument seems to be "We must have free will because we really, really feel like its real!". OR cuts arguments like that down by returning the burden of proof to its rightful place: with the positive claim. Some commenters seem to be saying they believe in free will because it hasn't been proven not to be real. What do you think?

  2. Yeah, that was a good post. As for me, I've read books like Daniel Dennett's Elbow Room: On the Varieties of Free Will Worth Wanting, but I've never been terribly interested in the issue. We obviously make choices to a greater or lesser degree, and some of the factors that limit our ability to formulate choices and act upon them are amenable to adjustment to a greater or lesser degree. I don't have a detailed answer beyond that.

  3. I assign free will to the catagory "things based on a grain of truth but indefensibly overstated".
    Coincidentally, my house was attacked by bug people from the 18th dimension, but they cleverly planned the attack to coincide with hurricane Ike.