What Occam’s Razor is, and what it isn’t.

Many people misuse and misunderstand what Occam’s Razor really is, and what it is not. A common misconception, based off of a gross misunderstanding of Occam’s Razor, is that the Razor favors “the simplest of arguments over others”, when in reality that is not the case. The Razor is a heuristic used in science and critical thought to weed out the least parsimonious of explanations, in other words, an explanation or argument that has too many unnecessary assumptions in order to make it work is less parsimonious than the explanation or argument that has fewer assumptions to make it work.

And, as explained in a previous entry, Occam’s Razor does indeed have its limits, sometimes the least parsimonious explanation actually turns out to be the correct explanation, and so one must be willing to test one’s assumptions in order to fully uncover the truth in order to improve our understanding.

Occam’s Razor is ultimately why the Ptolemaic system of geocentric astronomy was thrown out in favor of Copernican heliocentrism, because in order to work Ptolemaic geocentrism required too many cumbersome assumptions in order for it to explain the heavens, and when Copernicus introduced his revolutionary model of heliocentrism, which had far fewer assumptions needed in order for his model to accurately explain the heavens versus Ptolemy’s model, the paradigm shifted in favor of Copernicus over Ptolemy.