[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next]

Re:Neanderthal Man

Aug 24, 1997 10:56 AM
by Bart Lidofsky


> > Bart:
> >
> > But if another interpretation matches the physical evidence,
> > while another contradicts the physical evidence, shouldn't we use
> > Occam's Razor, and use the one that matches the physical evidence
> > until proven otherwise?>>
> That said, I have never felt, from the first day I learned of it,
> the magical persuasion of Occam's Razor. I see people from here
> to Tibet quote it as if it were self-evident. For those whose
> history of science is shaky, this scientist Occam in the late
> middle ages suggested that when solving puzzles in physical
> nature one should always postulate the fewest hypothetical causes
> necessary to explain the phenomenon. Why postulate that hundreds
> of angels drag the planets in orbit around the Sun, when simple
> gravity will explain it?
> Why I find this utterly uncompelling and not at all self-evident
> is that I have no reason to believe that Nature always takes what
> looks to US as the simplest, most direct route. I fully believe
> that there are THOUSANDS of variables and forces and laws that
> we, as yet, have NO KNOWLEDGE of, so I see no reason to prohibit
> ourselves from investigating hundreds of competing theories.
> When scientists last century were trying to figure out how the
> Sun emits heat and light, Occam's razor suggested to them to
> postulate as few unknowns as possible, and so they decided the
> Sun was combusting with oxygen, literally "on fire." After the
> discovery of atomic forces, Occam's razor suggested not to look
> for any theories besides fusion of hydrogen into helium. Still
> however the Sun exhibits characteristics that are not explained
> by simple fusion reactions. So how many theories will we go
> through, how many hypoethical entities (forces) must we propose
> to solve the riddle of the Sun?

Sorry for quoting so much, but that was in case someone who had
not been reading this discussion came in. BTW, I will not answer
further messages for a week or so; I am being called out of town,
so it won't be me ignoring you.

In any case, the problem is that Occam's Razor is widely
misinterpreted. It is not a magic rule, it is an eminently
practical rule. It does not say, as many people think (and I am
not including you) that "the simplest explanation is always the
true one". The exact quote, I believe (this is from memory) is
"Do not unnecessarily multiply entities". There are an infinite
number of hypotheses for any given phenomenon. Fro those
unscientifically trained, a hypothesis is a possible explanation
for an unexplained phenomenon, with the proviso that it does not
allow anything that had previously been explained to become
unexplained. In any case, when a scientifically minded person
sees an unexplained phenomenon, s/he first comes up with a
hypothesis, then designs an experiment that will test the
hypothesis. The experiment should eliminate as many extraneous
factors as possible.

The major use of Occam's Razor is in the realization that, given
a choice of hypotheses, we should test the easiest to test ones
first, and only if they fail should we test the more difficult
ones to test. This guarantees a maximum number of hypotheses are
examined. It also gives us an easy way of determining what our
working theory will be, until proven otherwise.

There is an infinite number of ways to interpret The Secret
Doctrine. What I am suggesting is that we should interpret it in
the light of our current knowledge, until proven otherwise.
Certainly, if we wish to have an influence on the rest of the
world, we have to join the rest of the world.

> While Occam's Razor was effective in eliminating the useless
> theological encumbrances of the middle ages, with angels imagined
> responsible for every physical act, or special dispensations of
> God, Occam's Razor is no guarantee, or even a productive guide,
> in getting finally the RIGHT answer. If there is one at all.

It's about as productive a guide as you are going to find,

> > Why do you say, "of course the PINEAL GLAND"? That implies that
> > there is such compelling evidence that there is no question.
> > What is this compelling evidence?>
> You misunderstand. I was directly quoting HPB in the S.D. and
> she wrote "of course the pineal gland." I have no idea, outside
> of HPB, where the third eye might have gone or what gland it may
> or may not have become. I find HPB's suggestion interesting but
> by no means self-evident.

And, I have found that while the Mahatmas may have known the
secrets of the universe, they did not know the terminology of
19th century science, having to get it from other sources (which
would explain, for example, the ridiculousness they wrote about
potential energy; it is clear from the reading that whatever they
are describing, it is NOT potential energy. Most likely Sinnet
used the wrong words).

> HPB states frequently in the S.D. that monads do not "develop."
> They are perfect from the beginning, and merely move as witnesses
> through various forms. I see no reason to even suspect that HPB
> is talking about monads in the passage, when from context we can
> see it is about the development of RACES. Monads do not grow,
> change, or develop in HPB's writing--although the FORMS they
> overshadow do.

Sorry; atmas, manas, whatever. My Sanskrit is weak. Whatever it
is in the human spirit that evolves.

[Back to Top]

Theosophy World: Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application