Occam’s Razor: Fail

Recap what Occam’s Razor is by reading my previous blog post on this principle.


The principle has habitually failed to live up to it’s promise as a guide for choosing the right scientific path. Here’s why.

“A Viking looks up at the sky. The dark gray clouds, the thunder and lightning is a sure sign of heavy rain coming. It is also the sure sign of Thor’s anger. We have angered the God of the skies. Or, it is the sure sign of complex physical processes represented with unfathomably complex weather mathematics at play.”

“The universe was created by an all-powerful being that decided to experience. Or, it was created by an incredible fine-tuning of six numbers for what what we have no explanation, allowing for life to evolve in a near impossible improbability with physical processes so complex we cannot see any end to it’s complexity.”

Occam’s Razor tells us to choose the simplest explanation with the fewest assumptions. And before you think that Thor is an improbable assumption, then realize he would be but one assumption as compared to a huge amount of assumptions at play in our current physical models of the weather and the universe at large.

Applying the “scientific” principle of Occam’s Razor, we should perhaps have stayed with the Gods.

Science, Ockham’s Razor & God

I just read an article in “Philosophy Now” with this title. The article is definitely worth a read as it tackles common misapplications of Ockham’s Razor.


To fill you in on this principle, let’s quote WhatIs.com:

Ockham’s razor (also spelled Occam’s razor, pronounced AHK-uhmz RAY-zuhr) is the idea that, in trying to understand something, getting unnecessary information out of the way is the fastest way to the truth or to the best explanation. William of Ockham (1285-1349), English theologian and philosopher, spent his life developing a philosophy that reconciled religious belief with demonstratable, generally experienced truth, mainly by separating the two. Where earlier philosophers attempted to justify God’s existence with rational proof, Ockham declared religious belief to be incapable of such proof and a matter of faith. He rejected the notions preserved from Classical times of the independent existence of qualities such as truth, hardness, and durability and said these ideas had value only as descriptions of particular objects and were really characteristics of human cognition.

Ockham was noted for his insistence on paying close attention to language as a tool for thinking and on observation as a tool for testing reality. His thinking and writing is considered to have laid the groundwork for modern scientific inquiry.

Ockham’s insistence on the use of parsimony (we might call it minimalism) in thought resulted in some later writer’s invention of the term, Ockham’s razor. Among his statements (translated from his Latin) are: “Plurality is not to be assumed without necessity” and “What can be done with fewer [assumptions] is done in vain with more.” One consequence of this methodology is the idea that the simplest or most obvious explanation of several competing ones is the one that should be preferred until it is proven wrong.

The article in “Philosophy Now” tackles the logical boundaries of this principle. When it can be used and when it can not be used. I won’t reiterate the article here, only expand upon it – and in a way that doesn’t require reading the article to get my point. Here goes:

One common atheist line of reasoning is that since science is successfully explaining more and more of existence, the need for God becomes less and less. And by applying Ockham’s Razor, we might as well erase the need for a God altogether. This is a theme common among New Atheist authors such authors as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris.

This logic is wrong. And it is easily proven through simple mathematics:

If you have one value decreasing as a result of another increasing, you cannot simply assume that if the increasing value gets arbitrarily high, the other will eventually become zero. Even if the increasing value becomes infinite, there is no reason to think that the decreasing value becomes zero.

Consider this simple equation:

f(x) = \frac{1}{x}

As “x” approaches infinity, the result, “f(x)” approaches zero. But it will never become zero. Because if you were to equate 1/∞ with zero, you would get the obvious absurdity that ∞/∞ is also zero:

\frac{\infty}{\infty} = \infty * \frac{1}{\infty} = \infty * 0 = 0

..which obviously is absurd. Informally, such uses of Ockham’s Razor comes under the heading of the “hasty generalization” fallacy.

One thing that works remarkably well in Scientology…

… the suspension of shit.

Most people are able to curtail their issues if they are motivated to do so.

You can suppress your compulsions, suspend your anger, curtail your depression and put your mental anguish on hold… if you know there is a solution up the road. Just keep walking a bit further and it will get handled. Just a mile up the road. Across that Bridge. Over on the other side. A bit further. Almost there. Just hold on for a tad longer. Etc.

I have met scores of Scientologists who have had this going, and remarkably well – for years. They have this big issue in life that they want to have handled. And they believe Scientology can handle it. They start out on the Communication course, and while they get good gains on the exercises, that pressing issue is not gone. They do the Grades. Excellent gains, but the problem remains. They become Clear. Issue still there. They embark upon the OT levels. Cool gains, but that mental burden, while thoroughly covered by hope of some future resolution, is still there. Nagging.


This suspension of shit is a real gain in the person’s life. While it is indeed temporary, it is nevertheless real. The person’s life quality can be substantially increased for years. And that is one great thing that Scientology can do for people.

But for this to work, the person must believe that the issue can be solved by Scientology. And for the person to believe, the solution must be at least as complex as the problem he is facing. Brushing the problem off with “just don’t create it” or “learn to not give a flying fuck about it” just won’t cut it – if the person cherish his problem too much. He will need a complex, substantial and “real” solution. Something scientific looking, something complex like Scientology. With steps and levels and processes, procedures, frameworks, methodology and terminology and organizations and graphs and charts, expensive and exclusive, and with lots of neat looking marketing. Yeah, that should cut it.

It’s only when the person completes or quits Scientology – and still have that issue – that the bear wakes up from hibernation and charges ferociously back into his life. This is why some people experience a great loss when they quit Scientology or when they complete the Bridge (to “Total Freedom”).

The flip side of this coin is really that suspending the mental issue with hope of resolution is an abandonment of responsibility. Instead of taking full responsibility for the problem, he assigns the resolution over to “future Scientology”. And then he’s stuck with the issue even though it is suspended.

The denial of facts

Anyone holding a strong belief be can be subject to confirmation bias – the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories.

It can be seen in many discussions on Scientology here on my blog. Scientolgists faced with facts or iron-clad arguments against Scientology will defend their belief even to the point of the ridiculous.

But it takes on a more serious shade when the consequences affects every man, woman and child on this planet. Or more precisely all life on Earth. Climate change deniers continue to hold their beliefs strong in the face of avalanches of facts telling us we must do something Now in order to not wreck our world. When even the possible future President of the most powerful nation on Earth remain among the deniers of science, we could be heading for serious trouble.


An article in The Guardian titled, “How climate science deniers can accept so many ‘impossible things’ all at once” highlights confirmation bias and its siblings, “conspiracist ideation” and “identity-protective cognition”. It’s worth a read. Also to help understand discussions regarding religion or belief.

Overleaf: Finally LaTeX editing online! & my revised CV

Brendan pointed me to Overleaf – an excellent tool to create high quality documents using LaTeX. It boasts automatic rendering of the output, collaborative editing and lots and lots of templates to start from. I’m crazy happy I found this. And I decided to remake my CV/résumé with one of the templates I found there. And here it is: Geir Isene’s CV.


Check out Overleaf. It’s a real treat.


And, if you have any suggestions for improving my CV, please leave a comment.

Scientology ethics: Justifying genocide

Inspired by a discussion under my previous blog post, I came to realize a possible root cause for the unethical behavior of the Church of Scientology and within its ranks.

The unethical conduct of the Church of Scientology is well documented in books, articles and films. The unethical conduct of individual members has also gotten some attention in the media. Scientologists would have personal knowledge of falsifying statistics, embezzlement, undue pressure and duress, disregard of health, sordid treatment of children or other unsavoury acts in the name of “The Greatest Good for the Greatest Number of Dynamics”.

The self-centric world view

The self-centric world view

Let’s take a look at this central concept in L. Ron Hubbard’s “Ethics system”. First we need to understand what the “dynamics” are:

“There could be said to be eight urges (drives, impulses) in life. These we call dynamics. These are motives or motivations. We call them the eight dynamics.

The first dynamic is the urge toward existence as one’s self. Here we have individuality expressed fully. This can be called the self dynamic.

The second dynamic is the urge toward existence as a sexual or bisexual activity. This dynamic actually has two divisions. Second dynamic (a) is the sexual act itself and the second dynamic (b) is the family unit, including the rearing of children. This can be called the sex dynamic.

The third dynamic is the urge toward existence in groups of individuals. Any group or part of an entire class could be considered to be a part of the third dynamic. The school, the society, the town, the nation are each part of the third dynamic, and each one is a third dynamic. This can be called the group dynamic.

The fourth dynamic is the urge toward existence as mankind. Whereas the white race would be considered a third dynamic, all the races would be considered the fourth dynamic. This can be called the mankind dynamic.

The fifth dynamic is the urge toward existence of the animal kingdom. This includes all living things whether vegetable or animal. The fish in the sea, the beasts of the field or of the forest, grass, trees, flowers, or anything directly and intimately motivated by life. This could be called the animal dynamic.

The sixth dynamic is the urge toward existence as the physical universe. The physical universe is composed of matter, energy, space and time. In Scn we take the first letter of each of these words and coin a word, MEST. This can be called the universe dynamic.

The seventh dynamic is the urge toward existence as or of spirits. Anything spiritual, with or without identity, would come under the heading of the seventh dynamic. This can be called the spiritual dynamic.

The eighth dynamic is the urge toward existence as infinity. This is also identified as the Supreme Being. It is carefully observed here that the science of Scn does not intrude into the dynamic of the Supreme Being. This is called the eighth dynamic because the symbol of infinity “∞” stood upright makes the numeral “8 .” This can be called the infinity or God dynamic.” (Fundamentals of Thought)

Then we need to understand what Hubbard would label the most ethical action or the “optimum solution”:

“the solution which brings the greatest benefit to the greatest number of dynamics.” (Notes on the lectures)

According to Hubbard, the optimum solution in any given situation is determined not by the greatest good for the greatest number of people involved but for the greatest good for the greatest number of dynamics. In one fell swoop he puts every dynamic at equal value. Your first dynamic is equally important as your family. Your family is of equal value as the whole of Mankind. Your school is as important as all life. And God is of the same value as yourself. Right there you can see a serious incompatibility with several major religions.

Most non-scientologist would balk at this and go “Objection your honor!” Most scientologists would buy into this hook, line and sinker. Because it is uttered by L. Ron Hubbard.

Putting the first dynamic on par with your family, your country, Mankind, all of life, the physical universe, all spirituality or God himself makes for a rather egotistical religion. But watch for the scientologists pitch in with comments on this blog post with “but, it’s all about you BEING your dynamics” and other esoterics to justify how this somehow, in some way could possibly be justified as sane. It should make for interesting discussions.

When Hubbard would refer to The Third Dynamic, he wouldn’t normally be talking about your soccer team, your astronomy club or your country. He would refer to Scientology. To him, Scientology was the only real Third Dynamic – on par with Mankind and God. And Scientologists are led to believe that it is so all-pervasive in its goodness that it empowered all the dynamics. This is why we see so many scientologists sacrifice their families and themselves to the greater cause of this “über-third dynamic”.

But without philosophizing too much, let’s simply put this “optimum solution” to test. In determining if some action is beneficial or harmful to a dynamic, we’ll give the action a -100% to +100% impact on that dynamic. A score of -100% would be the destruction of that dynamic, while a +100% would be a maximum positive effect (such as escaping death in gruelling situation). For any minor effect, we will use ±0.1% for convenience. The numbers are rough estimates that I am prepared to defend quite easily. In the examples below, you are in a family of 4, so you are 25% of your 2nd Dynamic.

Action 1D 2D 3D 4D 5D 6D 7D 8D Total effect
1: As a Scientology Executive, should I exploit my work force? +20 +10 +50 -0.1 ~+80% = Yup!
2: Should you protect Scientology by infiltrating the US Government? +10 +5 +50 -0.1 ~+65% = Of course you should.
3: Risk losing your job by reporting non-critical embezlement in the company? -5 -1 +1 ~-5% = Turn the blind eye.
4: You own a whaling company. Should you hunt down and kill all blue whales? +20 +10 +50 -0.1 -1 -0.1 -0.1 ~+79% = Kill-spree!
5: Risking your life (10% chance) to save a stranger from certain death? -10 -2.5 +0.1 +0.1 +0.1 +0.1 +0.1 ~-12.5% = Walk away.
6: Letting half your sailing crew die to save yourself +100 +25 -50 -0.1 -0.1 -0.1 -0.1 ~+75% = Go for it!
7: Letting your whole sailing crew die to save yourself +100 +25 -100 -0.1 -0.1 -0.1 -0.1 ~+25% = Still good. Jump the ship!
8: As a Nazi concentration camp guard, should you kill jews? +100 +25 +0.1 -0.1 -0.1 -0.1 -33 ~+92% = Nothing should stop you😦

Every Nazi could make use of Hubbard’s “optimum solution” to justify genocide.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Scientology ethics is self-centric and egotistical and totally off-balance.

Before someone start objecting that some of my examples are in fact against some law, I should point out that according to Hubbard those laws would simply be contrary to the optimum solution. The laws should be removed or amended to comply with the greatest good for the greatest number of dynamics.

It’s not that I would argue against the concept of the dynamics themselves, but to put them at equal value is nothing short of insane.

We’re not talking about some fringe part of Scientology, like Xenu, the OCA test, David Miscavige beating his staff or false marketing here. We are talking about the very core of Scientology – its very ethics – upon which all of auditing, study and administration hinges. We are looking at Hubbard’s “optimum solution“. In fact I think we are looking at a root cause to much of the evil perpetrated in the name of Scientology.