Ockham’s razor… can it cut everything? – recycled
Yet another post of mine, which was actually read by some faculty member from the place I worked! Google can a bane… sometimes. 😛
I was reading about some stuff for my tutoring sessions and I came across a principle known popularly as ” Ockham’s Razor”. Intrigued, I started digging deeper. This was a medieval principle used by 14th century English logician and Franciscan friar, William of Ockham that forms the basis of methodological reductionism and he was known to use it so frequently that his name stuck to it. William wrote, in Latin, Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate, which translates literally into English as “Plurality should not be posited without necessity”. In the layman language it is stated as ,”Of two competing theories or explanations, all other things being equal, the simpler one is to be preferred.”Now, this principle of simplicity, has a bigger consequence. This Methodological reductionism is the basis of scientific research. Any problem in Science is dealt by this reductionist principle. Meaning, given a problem, it is reduced in to a cluster of simpler problems and the accumulated solutions for the simpler problems gives the over all solution to the problem itself. This might look logical for the thinking minds. After all, we have been known to make advancement in science for all time.
But then I remembered the arguments rendered by my teacher around 3 years ago. I was not aware of the name of this principle, but was very familiar with the reductionist approach. Let’s consider this Universe. People have racked their brains over finding answers to the many questions posed by the space around us. And believe me, they use the reductionist approach to solve the origin of the Universe.
So the question is, ” What if the Universe is irreducibly complex at its present state?”. Meaning, if the present state of the universe is the simplest state it can be in, the reductionist approach will fail miserably. And another question will be, “What if the Universe was meant to be infinitely complex?”. Then whatever reduction we make, a solution will never be formed.
My opinion on this topic: There are things that escape human comprehension… things that are subtle enough to dazzle the most brilliant scientist and shield its truth from us.
To me, Ockham’s razor loses its sharpness when the subtle and the gross meet.