Sonntag, 2. September 2007

Crabtree's Bludgeon

While researching a bit on the web I've stumbled over Crabtree's Bludgeon, a term I didn't hear about before. Those of you who either have some philosophical background or work in the field of software development will however have heard of Occam's Razor which is a principle attributed to the english logician and Franciscan friar William of Ockham. For those who do not know what I am talking about, Occams Razor is often paraphrased as "All things being equal, the simplest solution tends to be the right one"

Crabtree's bludgeon on the other hand is a foil to that principle and may be expressed in the following way: "No set of mutually inconsistent observations can exist for which some human intellect cannot conceive a coherent explanation, however complicated." Joseph Crabtree, in contrast to William of Ockham, was not a monk. Instead he never even existed as he was a fictious poet, originally thought up by Sir James Sutherland.

Despite his non-existence, I believe Crabtree (or Sutherland, whichever you prefer) has some valid points in his sarcastic theory. This need to come up with an explanation - however weird it may be - can frequently be observed in scientific and religious circles. While some of these explanations are more than pure guesswork and a lot of thought has gone into them, not all of them admit the theoretical nature of their musings. For example theoretical physics admits it by default (thus the name of this particularly elusive field of science). Others don't, like for example Young Earth Creationism.... those make me cringe...

I think it's important to retain a minimum level of skepticism towards such explanations, however nice they may sound. Telling yourself that "I don't know!" is probably a good thing to do. Some questions can not be answered in a way that leaves no doubt, since they define our very nature as human beings.

Religion may provide answers to some people (and I don't really blame them for seeking answers that make them happy, as long as they accept different beliefs and opinions) for me it doesn't. For others, science is their religion, and I don't blame them either. However we should still keep in mind that science is not foolproof either, and many scientific discoveries have turned out to be wrong after a few centuries.

Following either of these two paths blindy is not advisable. Sometimes it helps when you actually take a look yourself and start thinking. Although that's kinda hard for theoretical physics :)

Keine Kommentare: