Occam and the Fishbowl

When observing various creatures on this earth it soon becomes apparent that some are smarter than others. Some just seem to eat and others are quite complex in their abilities. For instance the fox has the means to foil his enemy through deception and some birds have the inherent ability to lure enemies away from their nest or to fly between the falling droplets of a waterfall. On the other hand some animals are quite dumb by comparison such as certain worms. Honey Bees seem to be very clever insects with the ability to understand certain things about their environment. On a very hot day for instance they will all line up outside of the hive and fan it so that the whole thing doesnít melt. The common dog also has certain abilities and a certain limited understanding in certain situations. Horses, dolphins, crows, and other animals all have limited understanding and are able to form some conclusions based upon that knowledge. Perhaps you have a pet dog. In the morning you leave the house and he waits for you on the porch knowing that you will return. He fully expects you to do that because he has seen you do it and he has concluded based upon this information that you will be coming back home eventually.

Now letís consider fish in a fish bowl. The fish have a certain understanding based upon their acquired knowledge of what goes on in the fish bowl. Every morning they see a few crumbs of food falling on the water. Every so often they see a new toy or rock that has entered into their environment. They may discover new fish that seem to have come from nowhere, or snails that crawl on the glass. They see shadows and light outside their little world and they make many observations within their bowl but they really do not know even half of what is going on outside. Why? There are two reasons:

1. They are limited by their circumstances.
2. They do not have the necessary intelligence to figure it out.

It is only reasonable to conclude that we as humans are in asimilar position to that of the goldfish but at a higher level. We lookoff into space and even explore it to some extent but we are limited byour confinement here. Like the goldfish we are limited by ourcircumstances. Also, it is only logical to assume that we as the highestform of animal also have a limited ability to figure everything out. Think of the variation among people. Some people have no problem with complicated scientific formulas or mechanical equations while others do not seem to grasp them at all. Others have the ability to remember historical events and draw conclusions while some seem to be in the dark as to their significance in the present day. Some are intelligent enough to learn several languages while others struggle with one. This variation of intelligence is simply a fact. Exploring the possibility that there is a God inherently requires that we understand that he, if he exists, is more intelligent than us. The other possibility is that we know more than he does and that conclusion is patently absurd. If one assumes that he knows more than God he has already decided that there is no God. Likewise as we shall see, that conclusion is irrational.

Some people think that they do know what goes on outside of the fish bowl that we will call the earth and that which is within our reach. Our pet dogs must wonder what we are doing at times when they watch us being occupied with things that they do not have the ability to understand, but the atheist does not have that problem because he evidently thinks he has the ability to understand everything. A farmer buries a needle in a haystack and promises his children that he will give five dollars to the first kid that finds it, the atheist answers like the children; "There is no needle in the haystack, we have been looking all day." The father goes out with his magnet and finds the needle but one of the kids says that it was a trick. That is what the fanatical atheist does. He calls all of the evidence for God a trick, or the fabrication of deluded minds. He already knows everything so you cannot convince him regardless of the evidence.

Some will say here that I am painting a picture of the atheist with a broad brush and I am. But I am assuming that the typical atheist bases his conclusion that there is no God on evidence and logic. If that is the case then his conclusions must be based on either a lack of evidence or on his own ability to understand everything that is mysterious to the rest of us. If we admit that we do not know everything then we cannot say that there is no God unless we claim to have explored every square inch of the universe in all of its dimensions as well as the unknown whatever without. A certain Russian cosmonaut once said as he peered out of his space capsule that he didnít see God. In his mind I suppose that was proof that there was no God. I give most atheists more credit than that so I wonder what they have seen or proved that leads them to the same conclusion? Some atheists will argue here that evidence leads them to the conclusion that there is no necessity for a God. Consequently they see the possibility as irrelevant and an added burden to the existing proof that shows our existence and that of the cosmos as very likely without bringing a supernatural being into the picture.

This is known as the Occamís Razor argument and this "razor" is certainly a valid tool that is often used in forming logical conclusions based upon evidence. The idea of brother Occam is that we should not complicate a simple solution with incredible possibilities. We should instead seek the simplest solution to the problem at hand and "shave off" the part that only adds unnecessary complication to the problem. The atheist then is using this principle of the theist Occam to form the conclusion that there is not a God. It would seem that if Occam believed in God (and he did) it would be an unwarranted conclusion to use his principle of problem solving to shave off God from consideration. God was certainly conceived in Occamís time as a very complicated being as he is now. Yet he did not find it necessary to "shave off God" from his own research and rules of logic. Why is this?

Well, I donít know. I never had the opportunity to ask him. I have an idea however. Suppose that we were designing a bridge. We get a lot of input from various salesmen, architects, steel suppliers, engineers and so forth. We decide to use Occamís principals and shave off all of the extraneous "noise" around us by concentrating on a simple design that accounts for the stress, vibration and other various factors that must be considered. We decide not to include any consideration for gravity because the concept is far too complicated for us to comprehend and it seems an added burden to our existing knowledge of engineering. But the bridge we build collapses under its own weight because we did not consider a critical factor. It is not reasonable to "shave" a critical factor from our consideration regardless of the added complication. I think that Occam knew that and intended his ideas to be used with common sense.

The only logical way that we can use brother Occamís razor to shave off God from any consideration is if we know for sure that God does not exist. The atheist is therefore either positive that he does not exist or he is not using logic in shaving God from consideration. If he is sure that God does not exist he is likewise forming an illogical conclusion because he is like the cosmonaut who based his evidence on limited knowledge and observation.

The very definition of God implies knowledge and power far beyond our own. How can it be anything but folly to assume that he is not to be considered in any area of our existence? The atheist is not reasoning correctly regardless of whether or not he is absolutely sure that there is no God. So before we even begin our scientific discussions that follow, the atheist stands on an unreasonable foundation. Regardless of how he may try to divert us by claiming that certain theists are also on shaky ground that does not excuse the direct contradiction to his own assertion that his position is based upon logic. It clearly is not. It can however be a foundation based upon his own personal irrational belief. The scientific arguments in the following chapters are not based upon belief but on an orderly, rational consideration of the facts. But first, while we are on the subject of logic and reason letís look at some more diversions that tend to lead us away from a logical conclusion.


© 2003 by Raymond F. Hendrix. All rights reserved.