The Power of Ockham’s Razor
Ockham’s Razor is a simple concept. Essentially, it says that when two explanations have equal amount of explaining power, it is best to take the simpler explanation over the more complex one. I have discussed it in passing within previous articles, but I really believe that this concept deserves a post of its own. This is because Ockham’s Razor is an extremely valuable concept in debating theists, who like to rationalize away the problems with their belief system, and really tip a debate with two seemingly viable explanations for an event in favor of the atheist. When used properly, this logical tool literally cuts through the bull that I often see Christian apologists and other theists try to peddle.
I recently had a conversation with someone over the problem of evil, and why bad things happen in our world. My explanation is simple: Bad things happen because God is not in control of the universe. There is no evidence this being exists, and the state of the universe seems incompatible with this being’s core characteristics. An omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent being cannot exist because such a deity could have made the universe without evil; it would know that this universe would lead to evil, and an omnibenevolent being would seek to minimize evil. Since evil exists, this model of God cannot exist.
The theist, on the other hand, tried to give his Bible based explanation. He mentioned the flood of Noah and how God flooded the earth once and won’t again. He mentioned how God allows evil to happen in the universe, and won’t intervene until the end times, and then cites “free will” as an excuse as to why evil happens. I ask for evidence that God exists, and they give me the runaround there too, coming up with tons of ad hoc explanations for why God is not there. There are many things wrong with this theory. First of all, to go off of my above paragraph, God could have created a universe without any evil, and it almost seems like God wanted evil to happen and that it is part of his design. DarkMatter2525 made a very humorous (but NSFW) video about this here, which talks about how this universe seems designed around “sin” existing in the world if it was designed at all, and how it literally would not work without it.
Second, it does not make sense for God to give us free will if he would punish us for using it. To cite yet another video discussing this fact, check out this one by NonStampCollector, which discusses how irrational it is to give people a choice, if we are just going to punish them and disapprove of their decisions for using it. Third, his entire theory assumes that these end times will happen, which is unlikely since we have been waiting for two thousand years now. Fourth, no evidence is presented in favor of this position; the theist just assumes God exists and that the Bible is authoritative for no apparent reason.
Let’s be honest, the list of everything wrong with his ideas can go on and on and on. However, for every idea I debunk, it is possible for the theist to keep coming up with new fantastical explanations that rationalize away these concerns, making one’s ideas increasingly complex and unwieldy as they contort themselves into theological pretzels. Eventually, the theist will get to the point where he has a seemingly coherent worldview in which they have explained away all of the problems. Next will come tries to claim a level of parity with the atheistic worldview, despite not presenting any actual evidence. While the lack of evidence should be enough to dismiss their ideas outright, the theist will attempt to rationalize this away too, creating more and more quagmires for atheists to get bogged down in, including reversing the burden of proof or attempting to trap an atheist into a hypothetical in which he must accept, for the sake of argument that God exists.
If we grant the idea that we are discussing hypotheticals where evidence is not paramount, because God can neither be proved nor disproved, Ockham’s Razor becomes an incredibly useful alternate tool for settling the debate. With this concept, we can ask which explanation is simpler and a better fit for the evidence: the simple one that says God does not exist, explaining things adequately, elegantly, and scientifically, or the one that says God exists, but then goes into thousands of pages of rationalizations and explanations that attempt to reconcile all of the bizarre conclusions that this assertion has with reality in order to make it seem like it has the same footing with the other theory? Obviously, the simpler theory is preferable.
Now, there is one caveat to this razor that is often misused by theists. In discussions of creationism vs evolution, I have heard people claim that creationism is a simpler theory, therefore it makes more sense than evolution. This would be true, if both claims were equal. However, as we know, evolution is a well supported theory with mountains of evidence in its favor encompassing just about every field of science, and therefore, given the differential in evidence between the complex theory and the simpler theory, the more complex theory is generally superior since it is better supported. The reason Ockham’s Razor works in the problem of evil case is that it requires tons of explanations and rationalizations just to acquire even a semblance of parity with the theory that God does not exist.
That being said, I really believe that when push comes to shove, Ockham’s Razor is one of the strongest tools an atheist has at their disposal in debating with theists. This is because no matter how irrational the theistic perspective is, they have tendencies to just keep piling on complex explanation on top of complex explanation until they get a perfectly consistent worldview. However, in doing so, they make their belief systems so convoluted and unwieldy that there is no reason to believe them anyway, especially when many of their assertions lack proper evidence any way. Here, Ockham’s Razor comes in and tips the scales well in favor of the atheist, because the atheistic explanation for the universe and the phenomena within is generally simpler, and avoids complexity unless the evidence warrants it.
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