Tuesday, 9 November 2010

The Chairman's Conjecture

I’m reading David Deutsche’s wonderful book ‘The Fabric of Reality’ - for the umpteenth time (yes, I’m autistic). Reading about parallel universes always sends me off into Wiki-land to research some obscure aspect of quantum physics and my latest foray led me to Crabtree’s Bludgeon – a foil to Occam’s much overused (and much misunderstood) razor.

Crabtree’s Bludgeon states that: "No set of mutually inconsistent observations can exist for which some human intellect cannot conceive a coherent explanation, however complicated." I would posit that religion is eminently familiar with Crabtree’s Bludgeon, in fact using it to excess - which is a tad ironic when you consider William of Occam was a Franciscan friar.

Occasionally Hay will accuse me of being particularly verbose in written communications; I respond with The Chairman’s Conjecture, a variant of Crabtree’s Bludgeon which states: “Why use one word when ten will do adequately?”

It’s official – George W Bush has categorically stated that warterboarding saves British lives. Given the number of traffic deaths each year in the UK, I hear that the police will now set up motorway waterboarding booths and select random drivers to be waterboarded. It has been estimated that this will save hundreds of lives every year on UK roads.

The NHS may also start trials of waterboarding in hospitals - again to prevent unnecessary deaths.


  1. Crabtree's Bludgeon sees far more use in science, since inconsistent observations are generated constantly by competing theoretical apparatus. Next to this, no religious tradition is barely a contender - even classical Creationists only have to wield the Bludgeon ones or twice... once they've dismissed evolutionary theories once, they're done with it. The committed empiricist has no such get-out clause!

    As for "parallel universes" i.e. possible worlds - well, well, well, you *are* a true believer in metaphysically untestable entities after all! Perhaps your problems with traditional untestable metaphysics are merely disagreements over which such entities we should be permitted to believe in. >:)

    Take care!

  2. Chris: Read Deutsch on Popper. He suggests untestable theories have their place when there is no other viable explanation (at that time). It's a pragmatic approach. However, untestable theories cannot be used dogmatically and should only be stop-gaps.

    If untestable theories obey Occam's Razor when alternatives multiply postulates, then they should be preferred - all things being equal.

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