Parsimony

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Parsimony, or the "principle of parsimony", is a method for selecting between equally valid hypotheses based on the complexity of each. Using the principle of parsimony the simplest hypothesis, or the one with the fewest free parameters, will be preferred over more complex hypotheses if other selection criteria are equal between them. For example if there is an empty cookie package sitting on the counter with no cookies, the idea that someone living there simply ate the last one and didn't dispose of it is a preferable theory to one where an intruder broke into the house, ate the last cookie, danced the macarena and then left the house. This is an example used to discount silly or overwrought theories however in principle it can be used in more serious cases when weighing between two rational or scientific theories. It should be noted that parsimony is a tool for selecting or discarding theories but does not count as proof or evidence to back-up a theory.

Parsimony and God[edit]

Scientific and tangible evidence for the existence of God is either weak and non-compelling, or completely non-existent (depending on how much credit you give to personal experience, or holy texts). Therefore, with the existence and non-existence of God as hypotheses being on roughly equal footing with respect to the complete lack of physical evidence, the principle of parsimony may be applied to them. Theistic scholars sometimes pre-assume the existence of God because of this principle. This is based on the idea that God's existence and its omnipotence creates a simple solution of the origin of the universe and life in comparison to the far more complex conjectures involved in cosmology.

Rationalists and atheistic scholars generally reject this conclusion on the basis that God, whatever it is, must be more complex than the universe itself in order to create and control it in an omnipotent manner. God must hold within it the information contained within the universe in addition to its past, future and potential states, and, on top of all of this, information about "how to be God". This results in an incredibly complex hypothesis to pre-assume, and should therefore be rejected on the grounds of parsimony.

Use in literature and oratory[edit]

The term parsimony is also used in grammar and literature (in narratives, extended commentary and speeches) where it is preferable to be scarce with words and get to the point. For many artists and critics such as Seneca and Kurt Vonnegut for whom the best form of writing is minimalist, avoiding repetition, cutting trivial details and unimportant characters. Writers like Ayn Rand and orators like Hitler were completely unfamiliar with literary parsimony and could speak/write for hours/pages about the same thing. Religious texts are usually the antithesis of parsimony such as the Bible or Quran where repetition and needlessly descriptive and verbose passages are the norm.

See also[edit]