Keep it simple, this is a mantra so short and appealing that we end up thinking it must be always true. Unfortunately it is not. However, once we understand what the simplest solution means in creative writing, we can really step up our writing style.
What is Occam’s razor, and why the simplest solution?
In short, Occam’s razor is a principle stating that, among competing hypotheses, the simplest one should be preferred.
However, this is just a tool, and like any tool it’s far from perfect.
In fact, the preference it accords to the simplest solutions is such not because these have been proved to be always the correct ones—not at all. Rather, Occam’s razor gives preference to the simplest solutions because they are the more easily testable.
The fact they often are also the correct ones is just a nice bonus.
For example, just think of the stars we see in the sky at night, think of the way they seem to move.
One theory could claim all the stars are moving around us, and the Earth is still.
Another theory could instead claim that it is the earth that revolves around its axis and the stars only seem to move as a result.
Of course, without any additional element it could be quite difficult to discover which object is actually moving and how.
But as soon as we use a telescope and can observe other planets revolving around their axis, Occam’s razor can be used to give preference to the simplest solution.
In fact, while with the first hypothesis we should have the earth standing still at the center of the universe and all the other planets revolving instead on their axis (two assumptions), with the second hypothesis we only need the earth doing what all other planets do (one assumption).
Please do bear in mind this is an extremely simplified example. In any case, enough of
bad astronomy for today. Continue reading