Monday, August 20, 2012
Ever find yourself in the middle of a debate about UFOs or Bigfoot or something cool like that, and the idiot who's stupid enough to have an opposing opinion to yours suddenly gets all smug (you know, the furrowed-eyebrows and pursed-lips routine, with a scoffing noise and a weary head-toggle thrown in for extra smugness) and intones, "Well, according to Occam's Razor..."
Don't you just want to strangle the weaselly little bastard, chop him up into little pieces, and call Winston Wolf to come dispose of him for you?
Wikipedia defines "Occam's Razor" as the principle that "the explanation of any phenomenon should make as few assumptions as possible, eliminating those that make no difference in the observable predictions of the explanatory hypothesis or theory." It sounds like something the Scarecrow would reel off right after he got his brain. Which is why, not long after THE WIZARD OF OZ ends, everybody else in Oz strangles the Scarecrow, chops him up into little pieces, and calls Winston Wolf to come dispose of him for them.
A simpler way of putting it is this: "All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best." Well, that's just great, but it doesn't really explain alien anal probes, now does it?
Of course, Occam's Razor fanatics, whom I will henceforth refer to as "Occheads", think that the simplest solution to stuff like that is that everybody's either lying or they're coo-coo. So instead of smugly intoning "Well, according to Occam's Razor, blah blah blah" they should simply come right out and say "Lying or coo-coo! Lying or coo-coo! BWAAAAK!" and then hop around like parrots while making wing-flapping motions with their hands in their armpits.
Of course, along with "lying or coo-coo" I should probably also add "mistaken." Occheads love to pull the smug routine on people and pronounce them "mistaken" in their insistence that they just saw a flying saucer buzz their house or Bigfoot carry their grandmother off into the woods.
"What you really saw," they'll inform you as though they'd been monitoring your eyeballs through a magic TV screen, "was something totally mundane and ordinary that you stupidly misinterpreted as something else, stupid. And when I say 'stupid' I don't mean to say you're generally stupid, but simply that you're stupid compared to me" and then they'll titter at you. And then you have to punch the Winston Wolf speed-dial again.
Now, I've seen UFOs that I know without a doubt weren't airplanes, temperature inversions, weather balloons, or the planet Venus. I know I'm not lying, and, for the sake of argument, let's assume for the moment that I'm not coo-coo, ha ha, so according to Occam's Razor, I must be mistaken. Except that I'm not. So in this case, the simplest solution to the question of whether or not I saw a UFO fly over my house is that I saw a UFO fly over my house. Case closed, pal! Try to smug that one off.
The trouble is, though, that Occheads can smug anything off. The only thing they can't smug off is something that they actually witness themselves, and they never actually witness anything themselves. It's like on "The X-Files" when an entire fleet of UFOs flies by while Scully's checking her lipstick, and Mulder says, "Scully! Did you see that?" and she says "See what?" and he says "That entire fleet of UFOs!" and she gives him that smug look.
I wonder if people were invoking Occam's Razor back when they insisted that the world was flat? It would certainly be a much simpler solution than all that other complicated, scientific crap that finally came out later on about it being round and revolving around the sun and whatnot. I'm sure some Occhead pulled the old smug routine on some poor astronomer while he was being burned at the stake for heresy, and then hopped around squawking like a parrot. In those days, "mistaken" was replaced with "heresy" and the Occheads called Winston Wolf on you.
Personally, I never even heard of Occam's Razor until I saw the movie CONTACT with Jodie Foster and Matthew McConna-hey. And I'll bet at least 90% of Occheads didn't either because nobody ever invoked "Occam's Razor" to smug me off about anything until after that movie came out. Which makes the whole thing even more infuriating because you just know that most of these Occheads saw the part of the movie where Jodie Foster says "Well, according to Occam's Razor..." to Matthew McConna-hey, and instantly started squawking around like parrots and then running all over the place looking for excuses to smug people off with it. And after that, "Well, according to Occam's Razor" started popping up on message boards all over the Internet like a plague while people who didn't happen to see the movie were scratching their heads and thinking "WTF?"
Also from Wikipedia: "The term razor refers to the act of shaving away unnecessary assumptions to get to the simplest explanation." The trouble with this is that "unnecessary assumptions" sometimes turn out to be true. I once unnecessarily assumed that 8-track tapes would become obsolete, and guess what? They did. I ended up selling about 250 of them to some guy for five bucks, and I don't know what the hell he was going to do with them. Maybe he was one of those people who just can't stand to hear a song that doesn't drag or have a two-minute gap in the middle of it, or maybe he just likes to feed the tapes into the player and listen to it eat them.
Did Occam use a razor to shave away unnecessary beard hair to get to his simplest facial appearance? I don't know--I've never seen a picture of him. I certainly hope he didn't have a beard, because if he did, why? And what if he somehow stepped into a mysterious time warp that transported him to now, and tried to explain what had just happened to him to some Occhead, and got smugged off? "Well, according to Occam's Razor..." they would intone, hopping around squawking like parrots, and he'd be thinking, "WTF?"