, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Occam’s razor, or Ockham’s razor, is a line of reasoning which uses succinctness and simplicity, employing the least assumptions to arrive at the most probable hypothesis that fits the available evidence. In other words, given two equally plausible explanations for a given phenomenon, the one making the fewest assumptions is more likely correct. Its foundation rests on two guiding principle to cut through falsehoods and pseudoscience reasoning:

  1. The Principle of Plurality – Plurality should not be posited without necessity
  2. The Principle of Parsimony – It is pointless to do with more what is done with less

In the search for truth, this tool of reasoning has been used throughout history by scientists and philosophers in the creation of models and theories, by detectives in solving crimes, and by objective researchers in debunking convoluted conspiracy theories. Occam’s razor is embodied by the probability theory which says that “all assumptions introduce possibilities for error and if an assumption does not improve the accuracy of a theory, its only effect is to increase the probability that the overall theory is wrong.” It is a heuristic method to guide scientists in the development of theoretical models. In the case of anthropogenic climate change, it can be applied to show how those who are skeptical about AGW are forced to weave a much more tangled web in order to explain things:

The serious, mainstream science view goes like this:

  1. The greenhouse effect is real. Without it, average surface temperatures would be -15C, not +15C
  2. CO2 is a greenhouse gas
  3. CO2 levels have increased by 41% since pre-industrial times
  4. A 100% increase will cause a 1.2C rise in earth surface temperatures
  5. This rise will in turn cause a 3C (+/- 1.5C) rise in surface temperature.
    Explanatory video on this point here
  6. Any rise above 2C must be avoided

Reasonably simple, given the vast complexity of our planet’s climatic system, and in fact the handful of serious climate scientists on the “sceptic” side agree with points 1-4.

Now here is the climate “sceptic’s” case:

  1. The earth is not warming
  2. If it is warming, it is due to the sun
  3. The warming is due to some kind of natural variation
  4. It’s going to get cooler soon
  5. CO2 is too tiny to make a difference
  6. CO2 will make a difference but there’s nothing we can do about it
  7. We can afford to wait another 10-50 years to see if it is going to get hot then do something about it then
  8. It is going to warm but only a bit
  9. CO2 is good for us
  10. Cloud cover will extend in a warmer planet and cool us down (No it will not)
  11. All models are always wrong
  12. Some models show that the climate will not warm much
  13. It is all a conspiracy by climatologists, Greens, the nuclear industry and the UN
  14. It cannot be happening because it would mean that fossil energy would become unprofitable
  15. It is cold outside today
  16. Heat cannot get into the ocean
  17. And so on
  18. And so forth

What the above shows is that there is an endless complexity to the arguments brought by the “sceptics”, many of them self-contradictory.

They are not trying to present a coherent picture of reality, which is the aim of science. They are merely producing a stream of counter statements. I have been impressed recently that when I try to discuss the one point where agreement exists with a delayer, they rapidly change the subject to find disagreement.

In fact, their case often boils down to a mirror image of the case for man-made global warming. If we say white, they just say black.

I predict therefore that soon “sceptic” blogs will be quoting William of Occam as evidence for the truth of their case.

Another cock-eyed conspiracy theory is chemtrails which astronomer Bob Berman deconstructs using the logic of Occam’s razor:

Some folks regard contrails suspiciously. Apparently, many don’t know what they are. Several websites call the lines chemtrails, and think that the US military is deliberately spraying a substance upon the population.

This is silly for a number of reasons. First, if you’ve ever watched crop dusting you know that chemicals must be released very close to the ground. Released on high, they’d dissipate with the wind and take forever to get down; the concentration on the folks below would be zero. Second, my commercial pilot friends (along with the controllers at the FAA) would all have to go along with the plot, since they’d see the process happening. I’m a pilot and airplane owner myself: It’s NOT happening. Third, what would be the purpose? Some say mind control. But are people acting differently lately? Others say it’s to sow disease. But why would anyone want to do this? Who would go along with it? Finally, some say “chemtrails” are a government project to combat global warming. Nice, but then why should such a laudable effort be kept secret? Other web-based “explanations” involve even wackier stuff like electromagnetic rays.

Logic never placates the truly paranoid, and discussions are rarely satisfying. Those who “believe” WANT to believe, and claim soil tests show that dangerous substances have been found beneath the planes. But again, nothing released from 40,000 feet would ever reach the ground except diluted to zero. And, more to the point, the videos of these supposed “chemtrails” shown on the scare web sites are actually a common type of contrail. The believers claim they’ve only started around 1998 – but I’ve observed those “spreading out” contrails for over 40 years. They’re not new. They’re contrails. No mystery, and nothing sinister here at all.

And yet another imaginative conspiracy, thoroughly debunked by the scientific community, surrounds the terrorist attack of 9/11 in which its die-hard followers believe that elements within the U.S. government planned and executed a controlled demolition of the TWC towers and WTC 7 in order to justify the invasion of Middle East countries and restrict domestic civil liberties. The first obvious question is why would a nefarious group within the government go through the logistical nightmare of crashing airliners into buildings in addition to rigging those buildings beforehand when a massive truck bomb, Timothy McVeigh-style, would have sufficed? Was that elaborate scheme really necessary in order to galvanize the political will to invade a foreign country for oil? And as Noam Chomsky points out in the video below, why implicate nationals from our major ally Saudi Arabia instead of people from the very country the neocons so desperately wanted to invade, Iraq? Perhaps the Bush administration just enjoyed the extra hurdle of fabricating WMD’s because planning and executing such a byzantine maze of deception involving so many people was the best way to keep it all secret and ensure the highest probability of success.

Another article of faith among conspiracy theorists is that the conspiracy would not have to have been very large. In Crossing the Rubicon, Michael Ruppert writes that there didn’t have to be any more than two dozen people with complete foreknowledge of the attacks to orchestrate 9/11, and that they would all be “bound to silence by Draconian secrecy oaths.” But those numbers begin to balloon out of control if all of the people and institutions accused of playing a part in the cover-up are counted. They would have to have included the CIA; the Justice Department; the FAA; NORAD; American and United Airlines; FEMA; Popular Mechanics and other media outlets; state and local law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and New York; the National Institute of Standards and Technology; and, finally and perhaps most prominently, the 9/11 Commission. – link


As more and more people fall off the economic ladder and lose faith in government, their plight will become fertile ground for conspiracy theorists looking to manipulate the anger and desperation of the dispossessed. JFK conspiracists have been around for nearly half a century and I think it’s fair to say that 9/11 conspiracists will have an even longer lifespan, perhaps outliving industrial civilization itself. The maxim of never letting a good crisis go to waste certainly held true for abusive power structures all across the globe after 9/11, but such an atrocity was inevitable due to nearly a century of nurturing and exploiting radical Islamists to serve the interests of the British and American Empires:

…When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in the 1980’s, the West, led by the United States, countered by implementing the “Islam” strategy. The recruiting of Islamic militants from around the world to fight in the “jihad” included the recruitment of Osama bin Laden by Saudi and Pakistani intelligence services. [26]

Ultimately, British strategy manifested or transmogrified into American support for the ‘holy warriors’ against the Soviet invasion. The United States invested massive amounts of armoury, military training and billions of dollars in this enterprise.

Chalmers Johnson defined, ‘blowback’ “as a way of thinking of an individual, a class, a nation or an empire…” when employed in the arena of “international conflicts” this way of thinking, “has a tendency to blow back onto the party releasing it.” [27] The criminal events in New York and Washington almost ten years ago, were partly and clearly a blowback from the “Islam” strategy.

Whereas Britain concocted and propelled the “Islam” option into strategic consideration amongst policy makers during the Cold War period, it was then the United States which was largely seen to “release”, implement and support this policy in Afghanistan in the 1980’s.

In conclusion, it needs to be emphasised that as the provenance of this “Islam” strategy pre-dates the Cold War and even the emergence of the United States as a superpower, there is every reason to believe that it will also outlive a perceived declining United States. We can now see this in Libya where NATO has worked in conjunction with Libyan Islamists to overthrow the Gadhaffi regime. [28]

The inside job of 9/11 was not some fiendishly clever plot by Cheney and a crack team of explosive experts and false flag operatives. It was the net result of decades and decades of colonial rule and the thirst for resources by Western citizens weened on suburban living, gas-guzzling automobiles, fast food, and industrial age values. Much energy and time is wasted on chasing phantom villains, while the real problems pile up around our make-believe world. Looking into history as well as into the mirror might be more productive than a crusade to bring imaginative boogeymen to justice.