I recently was in a discussion with a Christian who attempted to use Occam's Razor to say that God was a logical explanation for the universe because it was the simplest of all the possibilities. My understanding of Occam's Razor was that it says not to make any unnecessary assumptions. The universe appears to operate fine without that assumption, as LaPlace once said.
My question is this, has anyone else encountered this misunderstanding of Occam's Razor? Also, what is your best explanation of Occam's Razor?
This seems a fairly complex topic, and I will need to look into it more, but I'd just like to point out it seems from Wikipedia to have to do with competing theories, and religion ≠ theory.
"What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence." - Christopher Hitchen's 'Hitchen's Razor'
That's a brilliant principle to live by. I'm going to start using Hitchens' Razor.
The understanding that is often shown to me about Occam's Razor has to do with competing explanations of an event. Christians like to assert (in my experience) that you need to explain the origin of the universe, and it's much "simpler" to assume there was a God who did it, rather than to assume it happened on it's own. My point is merely that no assumption needs be made at all, according to Occam's razor, while the Christian will assert their claim too, under the umbrella of a misunderstood Occam's Razor.
I know the Faithful see God as the beautiful, elegant, simple explanation, but that doesn't mean He gets a pass on the Occam's Razor test. As unlikely as the spontaneous appearance of time and space might seem, it's still a simpler explanation than the spontaneous appearance of an omniscient, omnipotent supreme being capable of planning, designing and creating a universe. Handing the universe's origin over to a deity means we then need an origin for that deity. Occam would not be impressed.
I've never been a fan of Occam's Razor. People confuse it for a proof, when in fact all it says is that the simplest explanation is more likely to be true. Not that the simplest explanation is true.
Also, on God being the simplest explanation. Well it depends on how you define God. But one characteristic that seems to be almost universal (at least with the Abrahamic religions) is that he is omnipotent. But it doesn't require an all powerful being to create a universe. So by their own logic it is more likely that someone non-godlike created the universe.