The Instigator
Daktoria
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
Lizard
Con (against)
Winning
18 Points

Occam's Razor Exploits Goodwill

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 5 votes the winner is...
Lizard
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/16/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,525 times Debate No: 31361
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (8)
Votes (5)

 

Daktoria

Pro

This is a simple argument that explains the problem with tolerating Occam's Razor in debate. For those unfamiliar, Occam's Razor is the idea that among plausible explanations, the simplest one should be chosen:

http://math.ucr.edu...
http://science.howstuffworks.com...
http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be...

The problem with Occam's Razor is it allows people to claim possibilities as sufficient reason for why conditions exist. For example, let us say we have a group of red marbles. Two arguments are provided for why those marbles are red:

One, they're red because they're round (and hard). After all, all marbles are round (and hard). The common characteristic suggests a connection between one characteristic and the other.

Two, they're red because of the optic nature of light. When analyzing the behavior of wavelengths and frequencies reflecting off surfaces, radiating throughout media (air), and refracting through eyeballs, it yields the impression of "red".

Occam's razor would suggest that the first argument should be accepted before the second. Why? The second argument is complex and requires lots of investigation.

If two scientists are investigating the nature of "red", a scientist who identifies with the first explanation will be able to exploit a scientist who identifies with the second explanation. That is the first scientist isn't actually analyzing the situation at hand, but rather is simply synthesizing characteristics together to find a plausible explanation. The second scientist, however, is discovering the real nature of "red".

Furthermore, let us say both scientists are in a life-threatening situation, and they need to figure out how the color "red" actually exists in order to save themselves. For example, maybe they need to build a mechanism that yields a red laser in order to sign for help or cut through some material. In turn, the first scientist will be satisfied with the reckless explanation and trying to build something round (and hard) that has no mechanical value at all. The second scientist will be satisfied with a thorough explanation and trying to build something that reflects, radiates, and refracts in an appropriately mechanical manner.

Ultimately, the first scientist has been lazy whereas the second scientist has been goodwilling. That is the first scientist has gotten away from being committed to the project because someone else was more committed.

Furthermore, if the situation of needing a red laser was only life-threatening to the second scientist, but the first scientist would be OK (or could possibly benefit), then the first scientist would be alleviated from thoroughly investigating the nature of "red".
Lizard

Con

Let's get a few things straight about Occam's razor. Occam's razor is defined as "is a principle of parsimony, economy, or succinctness used in logic and problem-solving. It states that among competing hypotheses, the one that makes the fewest assumptions should be selected." [1]. So for example if I walk into a china shop and see all the glass is broken and I also see a bull standing in the middle of the shop, the most reasonable assumption is that the bull broke all the glass. If someone comes by and says "No, it's more likely that a bunch of aliens came in and shot all the plates", Occam's razor says we should reject that hypothesis because it requires much more assumptions, like aliens existing, aliens visiting Earth, and aliens having a motive to break plates.

Occam's razor isn't meant to be proof of anything, it's just a method of coming to the most probable conclusion with limited information. This is why Occam's razor is is valuable.

Pro gives two argument for why we would see red marbles as red, which go like this.
"One, they're red because they're round (and hard). After all, all marbles are round (and hard). The common characteristic suggests a connection between one characteristic and the other.

Two, they're red because of the optic nature of light. When analyzing the behavior of wavelengths and frequencies reflecting off surfaces, radiating throughout media (air), and refracting through eyeballs, it yields the impression of "red"."

Pro says that Occam's razor says the first argument should be accepted over the second because it is simpler. Firstly, both argument give the same conclusion, so Occam's razor doesn't play a part in this. Occam's razor only comes into play when we're talking about different conclusions. otherwise, we have nothing to compare. Secondly, Occam's razor doesn't care which argument is more simple, only which one makes the least assumptions. For example, God vs. evolution. Evolution is a much more complicated answer than God because it involves complex genetic structures making small changes over billions of years, but since there's more hard evidence for evolution than God, Occam's razor favors evolution. It's about the number of assumptions, not the complexity.

To conclude, Pro doesn't really get what Occam's razor is. Occam's razor is a valuable logical tool for coming up with the most likely conclusion with limited information, that's all.

1. http://en.wikipedia.org...'s_razor
Debate Round No. 1
Daktoria

Pro

First, it's not clear that Con understands what a "conclusion" is. Conclusions are the results of events, not the causes. Occam's Razor deals with explaining causes. "Comparing conclusions" has nothing to do with what's going on. The distinction between simplicity and less assumptions is semantic as well. Simplicity is defined according to the quantity of elements which explain a hypothesis: http://plato.stanford.edu...

Second, I agree that Occam's razor is about coming to probable conclusions with limited information. My point with the two scientists is the second scientist was more committed to uncovering information that the first. The first lazily got off the hook from investigating the origin of the color red. Instead, the first simply retracted among limited information from appearances rather than looking for what counts to really understand what's going on.

Furthermore, Occam's razor does not provide a reliable benchmark for justifying an appropriate tradeoff between simplicity and explanatory power. The first scientist was content with the simplicity and explanatory power at hand given limited information. The second scientist was not. However, both scientists benefited from the second scientist's additional effort. That's not fair, and is effectively slavery whether in terms of a life-threatening scenario or profit.

Lastly, to use Con's counterexample, Occam's razor could be used to justify believing in God instead of evolution because of the simplicity of God. Likewise, it's possible that evolution's discovery was so delayed because of people taking Occam's razor as an excuse to refrain from investigating it. Had people not been obsessed with limited information and tradeoffs between simplicity versus explanatory power, they would have driven towards investigating evolution instead of simply being content with intelligent design. The suffering endured by people in society due to believing in intelligent design before evolution could have been averted.
Lizard

Con

I know what a conclusion is, but I don't think my opponent does. You can conclusion on what the cause of an even was. For example, concluding that a bull busted up the china shop. The difference between simplicity and less assumptions is NOT semantics as I showed last round. You can have a complicated answer that's not based on many assumptions and you can have a simple answer that's entirely an assumption (evolution and God). The distinction is important because Occam's razor has to do with assumptions and not simplicity, but this is a common mistake.

"Because Occam's razor is sometimes called the principle of simplicity some creationists have argued that Occam's razor can be used to support creationism over evolution. After all, having God create everything is much simpler than evolution, which is a very complex mechanism. But Occam's razor does not say that the more simple a hypothesis, the better. If it did, Occam's would be dull razor for a dim populace indeed." [1]

Therefore, since my opponent has misunderstood Occam's razor, his example doesn't work. He has two methods of coming to the same conclusion, so Occam's razor really isn't a factor here. Occam's razor would say trust the method that involves the least amount of assumptions, but since both methods here give the same conclusion there's no point in applying Occam's razor to either. In short, Occam's razor does not exploit goodwill (which my opponent hasn't really defined yet). To the contrary, it promotes critical thinking of the methods we use to derive conclusions.

1. http://skepdic.com...
Debate Round No. 2
Daktoria

Pro

To be clear, it's rather disappointing that my opponent didn't even consider the link cited over the quantitative definition of "simplicity" in scientific explanations. Con also fails to understand the difference between a cause and effect with regards to explanations versus conclusions. One doesn't conclude a cause. Conclusions happen at the end. Causes happen at the beginning, so one literally externalizes a cause to a future plain of time. Causes explain effects.

To be fair, my opponent might be confusing timelines in this instance between investigated events (such as a bull running through a china shop) and an investigator's own existence. Yes, an investigator's own existence concludes over an understanding of events, but that understanding of events is an explanation.

My opponent also completely failed to respond to what was said before about the "tradeoff between simplicity and explanatory power". I was hoping this tradeoff would be responded to in order to clarify any discrepancies in the final round. It hasn't been, and by no wonder, Con persists in making arguments over creationism when in fact, I've agreed over creationism's invalidity.

The problem is now, there will be no time available to refute discrepancies over simplicity versus explanatory power. I hope voters can see how that shows poor conduct.

Also, it's disappointing that my opponent can't recognize the exploitation of goodwill which took place in the two scientist scenario originally described in discovering the nature of the color red. The second scientist had to commit additional time, energy, and attention to the project because of the first scientist's laziness from using Occam's razor. The first scientist was content with a simple solution that lacked explanatory power. The second scientist was not. Had the second scientist not investigated thing deeper, nothing would have been achieved.
Lizard

Con

My opponent is pretty much only saying that I ignored his arguments. I didn't ignore anything, in fact I've spent all my time in this debate explaining that pro doesn't seem to know what Occam's razor is and when you look at what Occam's razor actually says, pro's argument doesn't make any sense. There's no "trade off" if you use the real Occam's razor for the purpose it's meant to be used for.

He's also muddying up my china-shop example to the point where he's not making sense on that point either. Like I've said, you can conclude on what the cause of an effect is. A conclusion isn't limited to effects.

To conclude, there's no argument here for why Occam's razor exploits good will because 1. Pro never defined "goodwill" and 2. he's not even talking about Occam's razor. Pro says he's disappointed, well I'm disappointed in pro. He never even attempted to work in these two factors, so he has lost the debate.
Debate Round No. 3
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by Speakerfrthedead 3 years ago
Speakerfrthedead
I love this debate!
Posted by toolpot462 4 years ago
toolpot462
I would take likespeace's advice on communicating/organizing your thoughts in writing.
Posted by Daktoria 4 years ago
Daktoria
Less either-or fallacy would be appreciated in the future. TIA
Posted by Daktoria 4 years ago
Daktoria
Are you seriously expecting me to believe people with compatible intuitions won't stand up for one another? You don't need a conscious effort for conspiracy.
Posted by likespeace 4 years ago
likespeace
Daktoria, take your pick--

All four of us voters come from a small neighborhood where we knew Mr. Occam growing up. He brought us Christmas presents when times were hard. You never stood a chance!

- or -

Your arguments weren't as strong as your opponents. You have something to learn, either about Occam's Razor or effectively communicating your thoughts in written form.
Posted by Daktoria 4 years ago
Daktoria
Wiploc ignored my direct citation of Occam's razor and comparison to it.

I'm rather convinced at this point that people are voting just in bias against my position.
Posted by Daktoria 4 years ago
Daktoria
Likespeace also doesn't understand the difference between conclusions and explanations similarly to Lizard. An assumption is something that is used to explain why a conclusion exists. It is not a conclusion. He also takes the justification of why Occam's razor is wrong in saying that it's right. Literally, he admits that scientist one has a simpler formulation which is how Occam's razor is exercised. It's a deliberate contradiction.
Posted by Daktoria 4 years ago
Daktoria
DeFool missed the point of my argument. Goodwill is not about being easy to understand. It's about being easy to investigate. The argument at hand is not about the legitimacy of Occam's razor when used by individuals. It's about the legitimacy of Occam's razor in distributing workloads among groups.
5 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Vote Placed by toolpot462 4 years ago
toolpot462
DaktoriaLizardTied
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Total points awarded:04 
Reasons for voting decision: I'm amazed that Pro didn't concede in the second round. Clearly he didn't comprehend Con's explanation of how he misinterpreted Occam's Razor. Conduct to Con because Pro wrongly accused Con of misconduct.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 4 years ago
RoyLatham
DaktoriaLizardTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro has the burden of proving that Occam's Razor exploits goodwill. He didn't define goodwill and I couldn't deduce a clear meaning of what he intended. Pro seemed to be arguing that Occam's Razor was not a reliable method for determining the truth of the matter, but that doesn't involve "goodwill" and OR doesn't claim to be definitive. Conduct was marginal on both sides. It's best to attack arguments without claiming anything about how opponent reached the argument.
Vote Placed by wiploc 4 years ago
wiploc
DaktoriaLizardTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro didn't understand Occam's razor. Or he made a strawman parody of it because he thought that would be easier to refute. Or else he so failed to communicate his thoughts that it looked like he either didn't understand or straw-manned.
Vote Placed by likespeace 4 years ago
likespeace
DaktoriaLizardTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Sources: Lizard pointed out that Daktoria had not properly stated Occam's Razor. Daktoria's own third source (and Wikipedia) state it as--"one should not make more assumptions than the minimum needed. This principle is often called the principle of parsimony." Arguments: Daktoria's marbles example was problematic on two group: (a) They both had the same conclusion, and thus Occam's razor does not apply. This could have been trivially adressed by Pro with a minor revision of the two statements; (b) More critically, Pro did not show the first case involved fewer assumptions, because he used a simpler and less accurate formulate of the razor. As such, I conclude Daktoria did not show any problems in the real razor nor how the real razor exploits "goodwill".
Vote Placed by DeFool 4 years ago
DeFool
DaktoriaLizardTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Occam's Razor was profoundly misunderstood here by Pro, who misused the concept of "simplest solution" to mean "easiest to understand." His own sourcing negates his incorrect definition. He follows by building onto the incorrect definition, all of which is quickly corrected by Con. This turn (I considered the sourcing to have been turned) wins the arguments score.