Straightening Out Skeptics on Ockam’s Razor

The skeptics mantra is “Ockam’s Razor.”  They hold it up in support of the idea of parsimonious evaluation of data–the conventional method of choosing an answer where conclusive evidence is lacking.  I often hear skeptics characterize the Ockam’s razor test as accepting as true whichever is the simpler answer to the question.  In other words, we don’t have enough evidence to tell, actually, so let’s go with the easiest one.  Really?  In real life, this is a bad plan.  Trust me.  See references below on that.

But more to the point, what William of Ockham (1286–1347) actually said was “Among competing hypotheses, the one that makes the fewest assumptions should be selected.”   Not the same as what is usually quoted, is it?  Fewest assumptions, people.

See http://arxiv.org/pdf/cs/9605101.pdf;  http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=645327.649540;  http://www.andrew.cmu.edu/org/cfe/ockam-foundations.html; http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Talk:Occam%27s_razor

I think we can all agree that it’s good to maintain a doubtful frame of mind about stories that seem outlandish, unlikely,  or wild.

WTF:    Marcello Truzzi said “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” or some such thing.    Accompanied by a smug look, probably.    But wait a damn minute, not so fast.

That’s a nice pat answer to claims you don’t care for, but opinions about what is outlandish do not belong in scientific inquiry.    All ideas and theories should require the same proof, and different standards should not apply to ideas or theories based on anyone’s preexisting opinion of those ideas or theories.

Extraordinary proof  for extraordinary claims does not comport with scientific thought.

Skepticism is the proper attitude toward an idea or theory before sufficient proof is had, but must be abandoned after proof is brought forward.  Today, it’s as ridiculous to roll your eyes at the idea that ulcers can be caused by bacteria as it will someday be to sniff primly at the idea that North America harbors at least one great ape.

Bigfoot will someday be listed along with continental drift, plate tectonics, warm blooded dinosaurs, and germ theory count among the ideas once scorned by the science establishment.

Hey, Look Up!

They live in trees a lot of the time.  Little ones in any kinda tree, big ones and all sizes in big, tall trees.  It would be dumb to hang around on the ground when you could be up a big tree with a nice breeze and be safer, see intruders sooner, spot game animals more easily, and be away from dirt, floods, most bugs, and prowling predators, including those pesky little naked people.

Leaves shield your presence, smell nice, are delicious, and make enough white noise to cover up the sound of your clan’s snores and farts.  Better yet, the naked people don’t even look up in a tree if they are roaming around.  IMG_0721

Drawbacks:

Lightning — so don’t go for the very tallest tree around

Falling out — make little baskets and walls to contain those more likely to fall

Being blown out — construct mid-tree wind shelters for those windy days.  A big gust is good for trying to take pictures of them up there, because at that moment they are more interested in holding on than in hiding.

Bigfoot up high weave screens from leafy branches, which is one reason why they are hard to spot.

They also lash branches together and otherwise manipulate the growth of trees to form shelters and shapes.  I have seen a large cottonwood that had a big weblike spiral.  Amazing.  No pictures, sorry.

I also notice that up in trees you often find what I call a window.  There is an opening in the leaf cover.  I think it’s to look out from but mainly to vent the wind through so the tree doesn’t blow over from the force of the wind on the foliage.  The leaves act a bit like a sail, but you don’t want your tree sailing away.

Perches for lookouts or sentries are another feature.  Next to a trunk or sturdy branch look for a small platform with a short rail perhaps, and supporting structures.

Look for trees with bark worn off in spots where they might be climbing up into it.

In snowy weather, look for twigs and debris on the ground beneath an evergreen.

A branch pulled down to the ground serves as cover for those down there, but a larger one sloping up to the big, sturdy climbable branches is a clue as well.

Way up in an old eucalyptus
Way up in an old eucalyptus
Part of the top of the eucalyptus in question
Part of the top of the eucalyptus in question
Bottom of old eucalyptus trunks
Bottom of old eucalyptus trunks

Less conventional information about sasquatch