I’m sure most you have at least heard of Occam’s Razor. Which, in case you’re a bit unclear, is the maxim principle of methodological reductionism. It states that all other things being equal, the simplest explanation is the best. Terrence Mckenna had a nice way of putting it: hypothesis should not be multiplied unneccissarily.

keep it simple stupid.

or is that keep it simple and stupid? Because you know, I have no problem with the simplicity. When it FITS.

I have another principle, or maybe, I have a name for another principle: we’ll call it Occam’s Pillow. It’s the corallary to Occam’s Razor, when applied by carefully media conditioned and complacent populations.

The wording of Occam’s Pillow is thus: When formulating explanations, exclude any that make you feel uncomfortable.

After all, at one point the idea that the earth revolved around the sun was pretty unsettling, or that humans evolved from monkeys. The simplest explanation to both of these was god, and that was sufficent to make everyone feel comfortable again for awhile.

You see, the simplest theory method only works, when you can allow yourself to think about what really explains the evidence.

Back in the day, the simplest explanation to everything was that God did it. It was god’s will. And in some sense that is true. It’s not a wrong theory. It is the simplest. But it excludes a lot of detail that might make someone uncomfortable. We like to see things from far away, if they might potentially unsettle us. Occam’s razor can be used to eliminate a lot of complexity from the picture, that you need to have to understand what you’re looking at, and more importantly, how it relates to you.

It’s the desire for closure, and Mckenna liked to talk about this towards the end of his life a lot. Probably the result of using and discarding a lot of bizzarre theories. The mind deeply desires closure, to close off a line of inquiry, to eliminate uncertainty and go back to whatever robotic behavior you were doing before someone opened the can of worms on you.

Gotama spoke about this. His doctrine after all was wakefullness. And he said that without suffering, there is no impetus to awaken to our surroundings. Closure is unconsciousness.

So the pillow principle can be reformulated thus : use the simplest explanation that will let you go back to sleep. Because, until we are honest about this, about this need to sleep, about the need to close our minds, there can never be anything like a true expanation to anything in this world.

There are a lot of ‘simplest’ explanations out there these days.

” There are a lot of sexual predators out there who like to use satanic motifs to cover their activities”

How exactly does that ‘cover’ anything?

“There are a lot of crazy people who think they’re seeing satanic( substititue alien, Cia, bilderberg, chemtrail etc. ) activity”
“There are a lot of crazy people out there, period”

According to statistics I’ve seen, the criteria for mental illness has been revised so many times, that upwards of 98% of us fit the criteria for institutionalisation on some pretext or another. So are we simply a society of insane people or what?

” It’s a disinformation campaign to distract investigators from the real issues”

Oh yeah? and what exactly are those issues then?

” It’s people trying to get attention”

That’s a pretty immense amount of effort to get some attention. Some guys would just do some backyard wrestling tapes.

” If something like that were going on, we’d have caught them by now”

Sorta like you would’ve caught that Osama guy, right?

” Science doesn’t allow for that/has disproved that/has come up with a perfectly reasonable explanation for that”

People who say things like this aren’t scientists anymore. They’re priests of orthodoxy. Science doesn’t work that way.

” It’s a massive hoax of some kind. We have no interest in investigating at this time”

Thanks for your help. I’ll keep you in mind when shit hits the fan.

” That person has an ulterior agenda for saying what they’re saying ”

Sorta like you have an ulterior agenda for saying that?

” It was a lone nut ”

Considering how well organised these lone nuts are, it sure seems like there’s a school for lone nuts somewhere.

and my favorite:

” People like that don’t exist”

I guess that means you’ve never met one.

Or that you are one.

So, even if we do accept the popular rationalisations, we’re a society full of insane people, some of whom perform awfull crimes for no particular reason, with however, a shocking degree of coordination and frequency, which must explain why the authorites are powerless to control all these aimless crazy people. And none of us can be trusted to participate in the discourse about what is real because we all have ulterior agendas, except for the orthodox scientists, who are the only sane people on earth. Religion is okay as long as we don’t treat any of that stuff as a functional reality right here. And since it’s all a disinformation campaign anyway, we might as well let the bankers and corporate executives, and particularly the politicians, who are the only other sane people on earth, get on with what they’re doing, because they’re just hardworking public servants with no ulterior agendas, not like the insane people who continue to vote them in, in some miraculous display of blind luck. And it’s a good thing that there no deeper agendas whatsoever in this world because,
DA-amn we can barely handle the shit in front of us.

and NONE of us embody the terrifying, the magnificent, the supernatural, the unexpected, the heroic, or the villianous.

Just lunatics running the asylum. Good thing we’ve got no sharp objects in here…


9 thoughts on “Crawling along the Edge of a Straight Razor

  1. If I may take the liberty of reformulating your thoughts about Occam’s Razor vs. Occam’s Pillow, I’d like to cast them in a slightly more “scientific” framework. I think these principles are related to two concepts in statistics, model identifiability and goodness-of-fit. When constructing a statistical model, it is undesirable to have an overly complex model, particularly one for which the data at hand cannot distinguish between two sets of unknown parameters (solutions). On the other hand, a model which is too simple may not fit the data well (or well enough). The principle that resolves the conflict between these two ideas is that of “parsimony”, which, like Occam’s Razor, directs one to select the simplest model that fits the data. However, in practice there is often a middle range of options from which it can be quite tricky to choose a simple model that fits. To overcome that problem, statisticians are moving towards using predictive power as an important criterion. Simply stated, the best model is the one that leads to the smallest prediction error.

    I dunno if I’m actually adding anything here or just trying to show everybody how smart I am. But let’s work on a very simple example that fits the culture of this blog and its relatives, and see if it helps elucidate anything. Select from the following four models:

    Model 1: Our politicians and business leaders are kindly servants who are looking after our interests and taking care of us.

    Model 2: Our politicians and business leaders are evil narcissistic bastards who are selling us out and using every possible technology to limit our freedoms and steal our resources.

    Model 3: Our politicians and business leaders are evil narcissistic bastards who are selling us out and using every possible technology to limit our freedoms and steal our resources, including occult practices and secret black op mind control technology.

    Model 4: Our politicians and business leaders evil alien shape-shifting reptilians who are selling us out and using every possible technology to limit our freedoms and steal our resources, including occult practices and secret black op mind control technology.

    Clearly, Model 1 does not fit the data. I would argue that Model 3 and Model 4 are indistinguishable from the data at hand, which would lead us to reject Model 4. The question, then, is whether Model 2 or Model 3 is the “best” one. And, to use the principle of predictive power, I would argue that the one that provides more precise predictions of future events is the one that should be adopted.

    I’ll let someone else take it from here…

  2. Actually, I think I’ll finish my thought started in the previous comment.

    Let’s imagine we have not read Jeff Wells’ last post on Pontchatoula. Model 3 would lead us to predict that the investigation will procede apace, and that the weird, anomolous satanic aspects of the case will be factored in as evidence along with everything else. Model 4 would lead us to predict a coverup. Now, after reading the post, which model should we adopt?

    Let’s do an experiment. Using Models 3 and 4, issue two different predictions based on Jeff Wells’ more recent post (especially since it looks like the Plame leak did come from Karl Rove). Then let’s wait and see what really happens…

  3. I think you might be confusing your model 4 with model 3 or something like that, cause there’s no reptoids in that story.

    but yes, nicely done. I think I’ll follow the example and formulate some models that fit the evidence, with a few premises added that seem imprortant…

  4. this reminds me of schizotypal personality disorder, which tim brought to light a while back. i mean they’ve been gradually sealing off the exits for a while… and now they just happen to have this “new” mental illness which is characterized by “odd beliefs” in the “supernatural” and suspicion that mental health professionals are “agents of social control”? …and now they’re trying to make requisite mental health screenings in schools, for EVERYONE?… so all the kids who show any kind of creative potential or ability to think for themselves or GOD FORBID, have healthy IMAGINATIONS (!!!!!!!) can IMMEDIATELY be put on horse tranquilizers. that way they won’t have to worry about monitoring the lunatic fringe anymore. there won’t BE a lunatic fringe if everyone stops thinking as soon as they reach the 3rd grade.

  5. I’ve been thinking that it would be good if we as a blogging community incorporated an attempt at prediction as a way to refine our models. Jeff Wells does a good job with gathering the data (as does Steve Steven Lagavulin for a different angle on the problem), and Tim Boucher has set up a good forum for discussing more theoretical principles. But until now there hasn’t been much of a discussion about how to test the various ideas and models that come up.

    If you want to build the ideas I described in my previous comments into a more general methodology, one way of going about that would be to issue predictions about near-future events, based on various models of reality. Obviously it is impossible to issue completely accurate predictions all the time; but the models whose predictions turn out to be right more often are the ones that should stay in the set of admissible models, and the others can be discarded quickly.

    If I had time to start a blog, maybe I would focus on this angle….

  6. “Just lunatics running the asylum. Good thing we’ve got no sharp objects in here…”

    Speak for yourself. I keep multiple sharp objects and firearms handy at all times. Never know when you’ll run into some lunatics… *grinz*

    “I’ve been thinking that it would be good if we as a blogging community incorporated an attempt at prediction as a way to refine our models.”

    Well, on the afternoon of 9/11, freshly home after fleeing downtown Washington DC on foot and avoiding eye contact with the nervous policemen with submachine guns, I was relaxing (as best one can when gripped with paranoia) with a cold Corona and a loaded 9mm, bullshitting with my friends about the possibilities. I presciently predicted the Beltway Sniper attacks (thought they’d be Islamist tho) and correctly tagged the Pennsylvania crash as a US military shoot-down (Rummie admitted it by accident on CNN recently). I also deduced that the 9/11 attack was ALLOWED to happen, being the perfect event to allow the creation of a total fascist police state by Mr. Bush and company. The lucrative investment opportunities through Halliburton and Carlyle Group were just icing on the cake.

    If I’m right about that last one, and it gets out conclusively, HEADS WILL ROLL. The outrage of the American people will guarantee it.

    Who knew precisely what isn’t important: it’s merely enough that the people with the decision making power stepped aside. And we laid off investigating the Saudis as soon as Bush got into office: he made sure of that with the FBI. What with most of the hijackers being Saudis and all the nice connections between the Bushes, the Taliban, and the Bin Laden family… it’s kind of hard to think that someone in that loop DIDN’T know what was up.

    I think it was all staged, that the three thousand civilians in the Twin Towers were callously sacrificed to harden us up for a planned and premeditated WWIII (or WW-IV, depending on your historian).

    There’s a historical precedent to this kind of sacrifice in recent American History. If one looks at FDR’s letters mentioning Japan just prior to Pearl Harbour and coordinates that with mobilizations of the Pacific fleet, you’d see that he knew that we were going to get hit by the Japanese, and that we set it up so that our older, more obsolete ships were in Pearl (the closest Pacific Fleet US base short of Midway Island) to get hit, while our new carrier fleet was in the less likely target of San Francisco.

    It’s a grab for all the marbles, orchestrated to coincide with Peak Oil so we’d have a strategic advantage over our rivals. When the global oil clock’s run down, they’ll have hydrogen fuel-cell technology ready to roll to market, undercutting the competition and forcing everyone to import first-world conversion kits and invite foriegn investment by energy companies to set up the hydrogen electrolysis plant infrastructure. Boom, Bust, Bang, and finally Bucks.

    I must admit, it’s brilliant. We need hydrogen power for long term sustainability anyway. But don’t be fooled with the environmental window-dressing; it’s all about twisting the world’s arm to guarantee future dominance.

    I vote for Model 3, though the occult practices are more for red herring disguises and the mind control’s a lot simpler (through media manipulation and propaganda) than the brain-microwaving that most tinfoil-hat conspiracy theorists go for.

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