Tag Archives: Occam’s Razor

Applying Ockham’s Razor Correctly

imagesMost atheists I’ve debated have been fond of referencing Ockham’s Razor.

For those not already familiar with it, Ockham’s Razor (sometimes spelled “Occam’s”) is the position that we not “multiply entities unnecessarily”. That is, we shouldn’t propose two or three different things to explain something when one will do the trick.

It is often claimed that God is an “unnecessary entity”, and that Ockham’s Razor is, therefore a reason to reject belief in God. For this reason, and because it helps to undergird science, it is one of the few metaphysical principles that even the most anti-metaphysical materialist is loathe to abandon.

Which is why I think it is so significant that a real belief in the principle leads to theism.

This because the concept of God explains so many things: moral truth, the origin of the universe, the existence of contingent objects, the intelligibility of the universe, the existence of consciousness, etc. Materialism, on the other hand, has a great deal of trouble explaining any of them, and tends instead to refer to them as brute facts.

But what is a brute fact, if not another entity? There are, therefore, a great many more inexplicable things under materialist philosophy than under theism.

Nor do the responses to this help. Materialists often claim that God isn’t an explanation because it’s a simple appeal to “God did it”. This is only true, however, if one refuses to learn any more about the specific nature of God. Otherwise, it is very much an advance of knowledge.

But, if the first response is untrue, the second is off-topic. It is also very common for materialist to claim that they have accepted not having answers to things. Whether or this is commendable as a personal trait, it is not a response to the argument. Rather, it is simply the admission that materialism has no unified explanation for these things, and is therefore less parsimonious.

And, therefore, it should be rejected by anyone who accepts Ockham’s Razor.

The only real alternative, I think, is to simply reject Ockham’s Razor. However, this would be to reject the materialist’s central argument against belief in God: that it is a an unnecessary add-on.

Of course, I don’t accept this last. But the point is that neither does the person who rejects Ockham’s Razor.