Saturday, July 30, 2011

Knowing what we don't know

Ignorance about a topic is an inadequate reason to then assert magic as an explanation. We don't know any more about magic than we do about the unexplained topic. Claiming magic is no different than saying "I don't know". Adding a second unexplained concept to a first doesn't make the first somehow more explained.

You've seen this before ... the principle of parsimony, aka Occam's razor, stating that we should prefer the simpler of two theories unless accepting the more complicated one provides added explanatory power. Since the absence of an explanation, compounded by a concept that also lacks an explanation, doesn't explain either, you can reject magic as an explanation outright.

In our quest for a balanced and realistic world view, we should probably 1) look for explanations when and where they can be found, 2) defer the search for explanations when the cost in time and effort is too high, 3) have the patience, maturity, courage and serenity to accept not knowing, 4) persistently pursue knowledge over a lifetime so that less of the meaningful and interesting questions are left unanswered; 5) never accept magic as an answer, as two unexplained things are always less plausible than one unexplained thing.

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