Say hello to my little friend: Occams Razor versus “the conspiracy”

See conspiracy, use Occam's Razor

What do creationism, climate change denial, vaccine denial and AIDS denial have in common?

Apart from their opposition to the scientific consensus on the variety of their topics, much of their worldview could be described as conspiratorial. Even when claiming they are not “conspiracy theorists”, the movements basic premise is that scientists are deliberately misleading the world on climate change in collusion with the UN, IPCC, international finance and various governments and political parties.

With some people no amount of evidence or reasoning will persuade them from believing there is a conspiracy by “warmists” to panic and alarm the world into accepting climate change. However, it is very likely that many people either sitting on the fence or only half-heartedly subscribing to the idea of a conspiracy because they “heard someone say it” or “read about it in the paper”. These are the individuals whose intellect you want to engage.

But how do you do that? Introduce them to Occam’s Razor.

Occam’s Razor: how to counter the “It’s a conspiracy!” argument

Occam’s Razor is a general principle applied in the sciences. It is attributed to William of Ockham, an English logician and theologian writing in the 13th century. Famously, he declared:

Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem

Or to translate:

Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily

I put the Latin original in there because, well, it’s sound cool (say it out loud in a deep, magisterial voice). Simply put it means do not multiply your explanations, as the simplest one is usually the most correct. Occam’s Razor is used as a “rule of thumb” in the development of theories in science.

Occam’s Razor is a great tool for discounting conspiracy theories, especially the ones promoted by the denial movement. Let’s give it a go.

The claim put forward by the deniers goes along these lines:

Climate change is a fraudulent science whose finding are manufactured by scientists in order to facilitate the creation of a world communist government. The means to to establish this “new world order” is via a new tax. It is supported by the UN, IPCC, world governments, scientists, mainstream media and green activist. They have been doing this since the end of the cold war.

Phew!

So how does one Occam’s Razor apply to the claims of the denail movement?

Firstly consider the the multiple agendas and diverse political views of the every global government in the world. The governments in the US, Europe, China, India, Russia the UK and Australia (and pretty much the rest of the world) would need to agree.

Scientists, who are normally fiercely competitive would need to put aside their professional rivalries in order to create false data. The UN and IPCC would then need to act as coordinating agents.

Secondly, how is the plan implemented? Surely there would be disagreement as to how to implement the ‘da conspiracy”? Why would it be necessary to even create such global government?

And so on… every piece of the conspiracy puzzle requires a separate, and often contradictory rationale. In order to account for the actions of the IPCC, we need to consider the actions fo the US government. Then we need to consider the actions of scientists, and so on.

We are multiplying explanations beyond necessity.

Any mature adult who has worked in government or business knows trying to establish common goals in a single division or team is an incredible challenge. But to do this on a global scale?

No, the simplest explanation happens to be the one that is true.

Climate change is real.

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9 thoughts on “Say hello to my little friend: Occams Razor versus “the conspiracy”

  1. Ola! Watchingthedeniers,
    In addition to your post I was wondering, I posted an entry with my cell number on blogger, and have since removed my cell number from the blog entry. Problem is, my number still comes up frm the search engines. Pls help:(
    Thx.

  2. [...] the Q-ball by combining essential tidbits from earlier enlightened philosophies. I employed Occam’s Razor, which as applied to food preparation can be interpreted as the “You don’t have to cook [...]

  3. adelady says:

    splurf

    puture = FUTURE

  4. adelady says:

    ” You might end up saying something like “Has the Earth warmed and cooled in the past?” and then asking “will it warm and cool again in the future?”

    Yes Jack. All you need to do is substitue a few words for past or puture, try these.

    ” -in the history of human civilisation-” or
    ” -since agriculture became possible-” or
    ” -since there were more than a couple of hundred thousand humans on the planet-”

    We all know that the planet was perfectly fine before us and will be perfectly fine when we’re gone.

    If you’re saying that our foolhardy squandering of earth’s resources is the usual way for species to drive themselves to extinction, that’s a different argument.

  5. Jack Francis says:

    Is everyone with a skeptical impulse towards consensus climate science necessarily a conspiracy theorist? I think you might do well to apply Occam’s razor to the theories of man-made global warming, sorry, climate change. You might end up saying something like “Has the Earth warmed and cooled in the past?” and then asking “will it warm and cool again in the future?” and then you’ll have arrived at the simplest theory with the least assumptions.

    I don’t think most skeptics believe there is some grand conspiracy going on where those involved in climate science are engaged in outright deception.. I think we just think that they are bad scientists who try and defend their flimsy theories by claiming consensus. Grant money and media attention is not a conspiracy, it’s just fueling an unfortunate fire.

  6. sailrick says:

    The most logical explanation is the well documented disinformation campaign of the fossil fuel industry ( I believe at least five books now have covered this) and other vested interests,
    unlike the imaginative and absurd conspiracy theories of the skeptics, which are based on pure conjecture.

    I have been using just this sort of argument, listing the motives attributed to the supposed climate science hoax. Scientists from 120 countries, who have been doing this research for decades, are scamming you to (take your pick) take away your SUV, raise your taxes, bring on one world government (they don’t seem to be sure if its communist, socialist or fascist), increase the size of govt., sell you green products, make the IPCC scientists and Al Gore rich, get more grant money for research, etc.
    Then I say, “and they call the scientists alarmists”.

    Its so obvious that its the “skeptics” who have the religous belief that they accuse “warmers” of having. We should make it clear who “drank the koolaid” , as they like to say.

    I think rational, on the fence people would understand that.

  7. Nescio says:

    Of course, you are thinking of rational people interested in a reasonable debate. Then “the simplest explanation is probably the right one” sounds as good advise. The anti-science-crowd however suffers from a delusional disorder ( http://contusio-cordis.blogspot.com/2010/03/delusional-disorder-part-ii.html ) and is inherently incapable of such a reasonable debate.

    • Mike says:

      You’ve got a point, however it’s the much greater numbers of individuals who are not so familiar with the debate, and *may* be open to listening to arguments. Believe it or not, I have some faith a reasonable percentage of people will try to listen to both sides of the arguments.

      When we just throw science at them, their eyes glaze over. It becomes a shouting match over statistics, data and what constitutes research.

      “The easiest solution is most often the right one” might be good meme to throw out there.

      BTW, like the articles on delusional disorders and anti-science movements on you blog.

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