Insights: The Newsletter of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship

Article Title

Dulling Occam's Razor


John W. Welch


William of Occam, Occam's Razor, rule of logic, simple is best


William of Occam, an important medieval philosopher, became famous for using a rule of logic that has become a fundamental building block of modern scientific analysis. In one of its more popular formulations, this principle, known as Occam's Razor, considers it axiomatic that the simplest possible solution is the best solution. In many cases, this approach is reasonable. For example, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line (on a Euclidean plane), and a simple computer program takes less memory and therefore runs faster than a more sophisticated one. In other cases, however, Occam's Razor does not seem to apply. This is particularly true in the arts, humanities, and religion.