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Friday September 3, 2004: The Problem with Occam's Razor

 

         There are times when science does a terrific job of answering questions about the physical world; there are times when it just falls on its face. I've been thinking the fault lies with the principle of parsimony (more commonly known as Occam's razor), the very foundation of modern scientific inquiry. Technically, Occam's razor is a rule of simplicity (the simpler the explanation, the better). By simplifying hypotheses, reducing the number of factors used to explain or define the problem, one is better able to determine just how much influence individual factors have within complex occurrences. Throw in a couple hundred years of approaching problems with this technique and everyone just naturally ends up conditioned to expect a simple answer to all of life's problems, or at least an explanation that can be explained in linear fashion. 

         Most people are familiar with Occam's razor in the form of all the lovely studies which claim you (meaning the general public) can live longer by drinking red wine with dinner, or green tea with lunch, or eating small quantities of dark chocolate at midnight. Occam's razor is responsible for the studies which show by walking an extra half hour, three to five times per week, or by reducing a certain percentage of fats/carbs/refined foods in your diet, you (meaning the general public) can take off ten pounds before the next swimsuit season begins!! What Occam's razor can't do is tell you why one individual, or one group of people, or humanity in general, gets singled out by the Fickle Finger of Fate (a phrase from the distant past that seems to fit).

            If we could only take all life's problems and reduce them to a few simple life choices, it would be wonderful. How sad that real life never ends up simple, at least not at the physical world. Surprisingly, it does become simple from some of the very highest states of reality. From high enough up, one can watch a plethora of simple and complex cycles as they become interwoven, marvel at how they influence each other in beautiful and quite understandable ways. All the everyday chaos makes sense, and (if you are so inclined) you can follow the patterns outward into all the various options.   

             The problem with viewing a simple reality from the highest level is basically two-fold. First, humanity is generally denied access to those levels. The few experiences I've had were definitely gifts from my inner teachers, and -- I should mention here -- there was a price to be paid first. I don't think people would want to pay that price. If I had known beforehand, I'm not sure I would have continued forward.

            Don't get me wrong -- I'm grateful for the experience. On the other hand, while it may be nice that I can remember how things work from that level, it's not like I can slip back into those states to predict the stock market. Heck, I can't even get back up there to make critical choices in my own life. When it comes to making life's important decisions, I'm stuck like everyone else -- having to fall back on logic, experience, and luck.

             The second part of the problem is that, while it's all simple at high levels, when you bring the information back down to this level, it becomes impossibly complex.  Trying to follow all those strands becomes a bit of a tangle. 

            So, here's where I'm at now with my journal: 1) there is one mystical state of awareness I will never attempt to put to words so that subject is off the table; 2) for the last year, I've been working on a way to explain the awareness state below that one. This is where I have my fingers crossed. In the next year I should use this journal to begin organizing the details of how things fit together -- except that I'm not sure if I'm back to facing Occam's razor. The philosophy of Occam's razor just doesn't work in higher realities; you can't shave away one little segment of reality and say --"there, that explains it all."  

              I came up with a series of models which might help people conceptualize what lies beyond space and time and thought, something that would allow people to 'see' the workings beyond perception.Yet, even explaining the model has stopped me over and over. Where to start, how to organize all the threads -- aurgh!! Why is this so difficult? I'm afraid there is no neat and tidy explanation. I'm afraid mystics don't put words to these levels of reality because it's not meant to be explained. I'm afraid the best I can do is start hitting the subject from lots of different sides and hope when everything's down in the journal, maybe I can go back and organize it.

             It's the stubborn (and the scientific) part of myself that believes mystics need to talk about these states if the rest of the world is to ever move their understanding of awareness and consciousness forward. We need to get more realistic about what parts of reality we should be personally responsible for, when we might point a finger at science and say "Fix it!" and when we have to acknowledge the flow of realities that is inevitable.

              I think I'm crazy for even attempting something like this. 

Posted on Friday, September 3, 2004 at 08:31PM by Registered CommenterThe Skeptical Mystic | CommentsPost a Comment

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