Christianity and Occam's Razor

I’ve been thinking about Occam’s Razor and how it applies to religion (Christianity in particular). A few people I’ve talked to use this as a reason against God’s existence. It’s more likely, they say, that people made all this up. However, the way I look at it, I think Occam’s Razor actually leans towards religion/Christianity.

What do you guys think?

Why does the Razor lean us more toward God’s existence?

Because it’s a simpler explanation for the universe than multiverse would be? :confused:

By the way, William of Occam was a Franciscan friar, so it is not likely he meant the Razor to be used against God, cutting Him out of the picture, so to speak. ;).

I’d agree with that. (Grin)


The multiverse, some of the most contorted, convoluted B.S. I’ve ever heard. I spent years at the university level spinning out B.S. for grades and grants and I must admit you have to hand it to theoretical physicists who can get people to give them money for writing this stuff. It makes the proverbial arguments about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin seem downright sensible.

Completely agree.

The God Conclusion is the most parsimonious.
To the extent that non-theistic (impersonal) cosmology fails to explain the “WHY” (it can barely even make a sensible attempt at the “how”) it leaves more unanswered questions than biblical monotheism.

Those unanswered why questions are tantamount to loose threads which Occam dislikes.

The difficulty with the theistic view is that it has no explanatory power in terms of the physical universe.

To the question “How did the universe begin?” the atheist answer is ‘We don’t know.’ The theist answer is ‘God created everything’. But this just pushes the question back one step. How did God create everything? And why? Push hard enough at these questions and you reach ‘It’s a mystery’ or ‘We cannot comprehend God’s ways.’ These are non-answers to the atheist.

So are you saying the atheist does not believe in unsolvable mysteries?

Are you saying that if there is a God, we should know as much as God knows?

Genesis, Circa 1400 B.C. “Let there be light.”

Carl Sagan in Cosmos, 1980 A.D.

“Ten or twenty billion years ago, something happened – the Big Bang, the event that began our universe…. In that titanic cosmic explosion, the universe began an expansion which has never ceased…. As space stretched, the matter and energy in the universe expanded with it and rapidly cooled. The radiation of the cosmic fireball, which, then as now, filled the universe, moved through the spectrum – from gamma rays to X-rays to ultraviolet light; through the rainbow colors of the visible spectrum; into the infrared and radio regions. The remnants of that fireball, the cosmic background radiation, emanating from all parts of the sky can be detected by radio telescopes today. In the early universe, space was brilliantly illuminated.”

[quote=Charlemagne III]So are you saying the atheist does not believe in unsolvable mysteries?

No, I’m not.

Good. Then why couldn’t God be another unsolvable mystery for the atheist?

Whereas the atheist tells us there is no God and therefore no mystery about God.

You are asserting that atheists claim that there is no God. This is not necessarily the position of an atheist. Many atheists do not claim there is no God, they just reject the belief that there is a God.

Atheists may or may not believe that it is possible to prove or disprove the existence of God. So they may or may not accept that the claim for the existence of God is an ‘unsolvable mystery’.

My point was that, in the opinion of many atheists, the claim of the existence of God carries with it no explanatory power.

Such a tirelessly and tediously false mantra. :mad:

Atheism carries with it even less explanatory power. :shrug:

Hey Nixbits,


There’s no reason this thread has to be an AvT thing.

I used the term “non-theist (impersonal) cosmology

And I’m sure we can avoid the ‘A’ word if we perhaps think of the Op in terms of personal versus impersonal explanations of the events which biblical theism asserts are contingent upon a personal Being - as opposed to events ‘just happening’ all by themselves.

…and don’t ask why (because only how questions matter in science.)
…and don’t ask who (because random, spontaneous events aren’t owned.)
…and don’t ask when (because singularities are supposed to come as a surprise.)
…and don’t try to find a moral dimension because you can’t get an ought from an is..

Do you agree that humankind is hard-wired for existential angst and that questions about our origins and our ultimate future, if left unanswered, pose a problem for non-theistic worldviews?

I argue that any unified theory of everything must not leave these questions unanswered or else the enigma - the ‘loose threads’ - posed by those unanswered questions won’t pass the Occams Razor test. Why? Because they complicate and confound that which SHOULD provide explanatory power.

God of the Gaps?
Well they aren’t “gaps” if God actually IS the explanation. :slight_smile:

Lion IRC, I agree that at humankind’s current level of intellectual development it’s probably inevitable that some individuals experience angst about the questions of where we came from and what will happen to humankind in the future. But I don’t agree that leaving these questions unanswered is necessarily a problem for a non-theistic world-view. There is nothing wrong with the answer: “We don’t know (yet)”.

I can imagine a ‘unified theory of everything (in the physical world)’ that could explain where we came from, but that could not explain our ultimate future, because the future is, by its nature, indeterminate.

To look for a unified theory of everything (meaning absolutely everything, physical and non-physical) is to assume that such a thing exists. It might not. By only accepting a theory that purports to answer these unanswered questions might be an unjustified selection bias.

As for the ‘God of the Gaps’ idea: they are gaps (in our knowledge) until an explanation is proved. When we understand a natural phenomenon the ‘gap’ disappears. By saying that something is caused by a supernatural entity that we cannot understand is not an explanation, it’s merely moving the gap in our knowledge one step farther away. So a gap remains.

There are some natural phenomenon that we will never be able to explain in natural terms. In that event, a supernatural explanation closes the gap, though naturalists will never be satisfied because, without proof, they have already decided the realm of the supernatural does not exist.

Occam’s Razor makes the argument that given multiple equally plausible explanations the simplest explanation with the fewest assumptions should be chosen.

It doesn’t lean in support of either.

That’s an interesting take.

But why wouldn’t it be fair to assert that the explanation with the fewest plausible explanations might be less convincing than the explanation with a greater number of equally plausible assumptions?

Einstein objected to oversimplified explanations.

In that case you’re not utilizing Occam’s Razor.

Einstein objected to oversimplified explanations.

“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.”

from “On the Method of Theoretical Physics” The Herbert Spencer Lecture, delivered at Oxford (10 June 1933); also published in Philosophy of Science, Vol. 1, No. 2 (April 1934), pp. 163-169., p. 165

Sometimes paraphrased as “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

Also referred to as Einstein’s Razor.

“This may seem very similar to Occam’s razor which advocates the simplest solution. However, it is normally taken to be a warning against too much simplicity. Dubbed ‘Einstein’s razor’, it is used when an appeal to Occam’s razor results in an over-simplified explanation that leads to a false conclusion.”

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