occam’s razor

i just came into the hbd chick command center here, and the light wasn’t working and there was no power getting to my computer from the electrical outlet. so i thought…hmmm, must’ve blown a circuit breaker for some reason (although to be honest i couldn’t imagine why that should’ve been the case).

but that wasn’t the explanation. what had in fact happened was that 1) the light bulb had died AND 2) the power strip that my laptop’s plugged into had failed (long story).

what’re the odds of those two things happening just at the same time? i dunno, but i’m guessing on the high side. it still seems waaay more likely to me that it should’ve been the circuit, even though i know better now.

lessons? sometimes the most parsimonious explanation isn’t the right one. and hands-on investigation is probably a good idea.

sorry for getting all epistemological on you. won’t happen again!



  1. Yes, I was convinced Luke Lea was a Star Wars reference given the geeky nature of HBD, but its the name of two related politicians from Tennessee. I love connecting dots…


  2. This is very much my impression while trying to figure out the relative factors behind average national IQs today and historically (the topic of the book I’m researching and writing). Much as I try to simplify this to the maximum extent possible, I can’t credibly reduce them below 9 – which makes the overall exercise fiendishly complex.


  3. For one, there are formal proofs of Occam’s Razor.

    Second, this demonstrates a key misunderstanding of Occam’s Razor that people commonly have. Occam’s Razor doesn’t say “the simplest hypothesis always,” it says the simplest hypothesis that can explain all the data. Gathering more data can make seemingly elegant hypotheses untenable; this is why we say “further research is needed.”

    This is also known as “Einstein’s Razor”: “It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.” In other words, make your theory as simple as you can, but no simpler.

    This also, by the way, gives rise to “Holmes’s Razor“: “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?” As you have discovered. :)

    Each of these is logically indisputable. Yet you have no idea how many times I get into arguments because someone is conveniently ignoring one or more of these.


  4. Jayman, I have noted that about the popular conception of Occam’s Razor as well, but have a different spin on it. Finding a simple explanation for the data you have in front of you is an intellectual shortcut. Intelligent people use shortcuts like that all the time, and it’s mostly a good thing. We would all waste a lot of time if our instinct were to exhaustively make sure we’ve got all the data (or datter, as we say up here) before proceeding. The Jayman voice of conscience insisting on precision is necessary to prevent people getting lazier and lazier with worse and worse approximations. But judicious use of shortcuts is a good thing.


  5. @Assistant Village Idiot:

    I find that whenever these topics come up (particularly the nature of them), going into key details is always critical to clearing up the matter. In other words, whenever they’re invoked, it’s usually because someone is using them wrong justify some nonsense.

    How’s that for a shortcut? ;)


  6. @jayman – “Second, this demonstrates a key misunderstanding of Occam’s Razor that people commonly have. Occam’s Razor doesn’t say ‘the simplest hypothesis always,’ it says the simplest hypothesis that can explain *all* the data. Gathering more data can make seemingly elegant hypotheses untenable; this is why we say ‘further research is needed.'”

    yup! that’s why i wrote the post. thought it was a cute little example. (^_^)

    btw, i think “holmes’ razor” is probably my favorite. (~_^) i love sherlock! (always have.)


  7. There are some ways to understand ideas and concepts.

    First, we have to objectify them as if they were electronic dispositives or things. We have to give a body to them.

    Second, based on this principle, we must accept that, present many fields of view, and many perspectives depending on where you’re seeing, you get different answers, but they are not self-exclusive, but complementary, as they seek to complete the jigsaw abstract-heads.

    Third, as in every system, every word, idea or concept, present a hierarchy, where the center will move to be its root, such as the Big Bang theory.
    The source of a river is the most important part of it. The source or root of an idea is its most important point. If you change the idea, from the root, you’ll be changing it completely. Like when you have a system of dominoes and the first part is the most important.

    Room to deny determinism of the previous third chance the idea for an unusual system.

    The simplest of answers will only be the best one, if within it, has well summarized the whole complexity that emanate from it.

    However, I believe the best answer is the most balanced. It is the one that best balance all perspectives, since it is the idea-mother. The best answer will tend to be found in the pure concept and not in its later developments.


  8. Did not understand what I wrote?

    Costs to say, I did not understand what you wrote?

    Or Jamaica, people tend to not be very educated ??

    Indeed, the Portuguese – english google translate is sooul bad, or is something more obscure than not understand what I write?

    I forgot that only liberals who are ad homineans. Oops.


  9. “According to Wikiquote, he did.” I admit that I ran out of patience with that site. I know, perhaps he sometimes still thought in German. Could that explain it?


  10. @hbdchick occam’s razor aside I think you what have here is a case of voltage surge – one event that might knock out your power strip and set off the breaker. You need protection against that :)


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