Forum logo What is Occam’s Razor and how does it apply to the Earhart Search?

Occam’s Razor states: “Non sunt multiplicanda entia praeter necessitatem” meaning “entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity” or “the simplest explanation which accounts for all of the facts is most probably correct.” This basic principle has been adopted by many without understanding the context of the statement.

The repetition of the common paraphrase of the statement that Medieval Scholastics called “the Razor” is both ahistorical and unjustified. The faulty paraphrase unfortunately is much better known than the context is, which has lead to all kinds of errors that William of Ockham would have found baffling.

The context was Scholastic theology, the attempt to reconcile Scriptural revelation with rational knowledge such as Aristotle’s discoveries. What Ockham proposed was a methodology, not an all-purpose reality test. Ockham proposed a methodology that posited a rational agenda for investigation, not a substitute for it.

The misunderstood core of the Razor is that what Ockham really proposed was: if there is a universe of possible causes or explanations, as a matter of efficient methodology, it made sense to investigate by other means the most simple first, NOT because it was more likely to be true, but because it would be easier to disprove!

Let me repeat that. Ockham NEVER posited that a simple explanation was more likely to be correct. He posited that it would be easier to analyze. Really.

AND, when you realize that the kinds of things that were actively under discussion, such as the nature of the Real Presence in the consecrated Eucharist, were usually otherworldly in the extreme, the paraphrase of the Razor is doubly a canard.

Because the context is so far off, I will not make any effort to try to apply the real core of Ockham’s Razor to the situation at hand, that is, where Earhart ended up, because I sincerely believe that it is not an appropriate methodological tool.

FAQ by John Marks

About TIGHAR Join TIGHAR TIGHAR Projects TIGHAR Publications Contract Services


Copyright 2021 by TIGHAR, a non-profit foundation. No portion of the TIGHAR Website may be reproduced by xerographic, photographic, digital or any other means for any purpose. No portion of the TIGHAR Website may be stored in a retrieval system, copied, transmitted or transferred in any form or by any means, whether electronic, mechanical, digital, photographic, magnetic or otherwise, for any purpose without the express, written permission of TIGHAR. All rights reserved.

Contact us at:  •   Phone: 610.467.1937   •   JOIN NOW