Anyone who has read the Sherlock Holmes series is familiar with the quote, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” Spock even quotes him in one of the Star Trek movies.
What they are both talking about is the layman’s version of Occam’s Razor. I say “layman’s version” because once you start Googling this principle, you quickly discover that it is a great deal more complex and controversial than the Holmes quote would lead you to believe. So much so, in fact, that I almost abandoned this particular blog entry because the topic is a bit overwhelming.
In addition to murder mysteries and pop culture, Occam’s Razor, in one form or another, has been applied to science, biology, medicine and mathematics. This always led me to believe that it had originated in the realm of science. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that William of Ockham was a 14th century Franciscan friar and theologian.
So here we have a man who, 7 centuries ago, wrote a principle that he only meant to apply to miracles and God’s power, who has been very influential over time in the realms of science and popular culture. If you had told Willam of Ockham that on his deathbed in 1347, I’m sure that he would have found that to be improbable in the extreme.