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The Problem with Occam's Razor

By Wertbag ~  

 Occam's Razor is a problem-solving technique where it is suggested that in the majority of cases the solution with the least elements, or basically the simplest solution is more likely to be correct. Whenever we are looking for the simplest explanation for an event, in all cases a mundane cause is more likely than a miraculous one. A miracle by its very definition is a one-off magical event that cannot be repeated, this has to be a more complex answer due to requiring a whole range of additional elements to be included, from other dimensions to supernatural beings, immortals, things outside of space and time, things that's existence is counter to everything we know of the physical universe. In all cases, if a mundane explanation can be given that is plausible, then it by default is more likely than a supernatural cause.

The first problem this raises for the bible is that the simplest answer is that the book is man-made and is largely telling mythical stories. We have thousands of examples of mythical writings, countless stories from around the world that Christians will agree are not historical events, so with that in mind categorizing the bible in the same group is the simplest answer. If we look at ancient writings of historical events, we will generally label mundane events as plausible, while supernatural events and creatures make the writings less plausible. A story of Caesar invading Gaul is quite plausible, but if the story says he did it while flying on the back of a red dragon, instantly the writing is doubted by all historians and scholars. We do not dismiss it out of hand, but the evidence that dragons, trolls, elves and pixies don't exist is not disputed by the majority of the world, so when a book like the bible tells us of giants, fire breathing creatures, Nephilim, demons and angels, we should be equally skeptical of such claims.

Even just the suggestion that the books are false, that some or perhaps all of the authors were either lying or incorrect, has to be considered a mundane answer more likely than they are divinely inspired.

While "God did it" sounds simple, due to the numerous elements that statements brings with it, it must be viewed in its entirety as an incredibly complex answer. In fact, we would have to consider "Alien's did it" as more plausible, due to that answer having less elements to add, with alien's being a distinct possibility due to the size of the universe and as Arthur C Clark's famous saying goes "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic". Alien's raising Jesus from the dead with technology we can't comprehend, is more likely than an invisible, immortal, all-powerful super being using magic to circumvent the laws of physics.

There are many bible stories for which there are mundane answers suggested for them. For example, it was suggested the town of Sodom was built into a volcanic crater, a freshwater catchment area. The volcano erupted, spewing "fire and brimstone" upon the people, with few survivors. One survivor known as Lot, carved a statue to his wife out of basalt. The people being unaware of why such things occur, put the blame on God's wrath and the story is born.

Another was the walls of Jericho, where the army marched around the city making a lot of noise, covering up the work of the sapper's underground who were undermining the city walls. Once the sappers had completed their work, the general was able to blow his horn as a signal and the temporary wooden supports put in place were all yanked out at the same time, resulting in the collapse and easy storming of the city. The troops, who had no idea of the sapper's work, just see the horn blown and the walls come down and look to attribute that to magic.

Or perhaps Noah's flood was only a local flood that has undergone embellishment, or maybe it is a retelling of earlier myths, such as the Epic of Gilgamesh, reworked to fit with the religious and cultural group telling the story. There were certainly many massive floods throughout human history, from the end of the ice age to the various land bridges collapsing, or even just a 1 in a thousand-year storm or regional flood. Perhaps an earthquake rapidly changed a rivers course or a natural dam burst. There are many possibilities for causes of flood myths and local floods to be written about, and these all overcome the issues of collecting animals, returning them to their habitats, inbreeding for survival and the care of exotic animals and their specific diet and climate requirements that the biblical global flood story introduces. A local flood and an Ark which only had to handle the local domesticated animals is a lot more plausible and is now believed by some Christian churches.

Perhaps Elijah didn't cause a pair of bears to tear 42 children to pieces in a single bloody event, but a pair of bears had begun hunting people within the area, and it was over the course of months or even years that the body count climbed to 42 before the beasts were finally hunted down and the horror ceased. Why were the bears so bloodthirsty? Must have been that prophet that came through and cursed the kids for being rude, the killings started at the same time, and hence a legend is born.

Originally posted in the Reasons for Disbelief thread on Ex-Christian.Net