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Re: Planet X: TUNGUSKA as Example

"P. Edward Murray" wrote:
> Why not try Occam's razor? The simplest explanation is usually the best.

Occam's razor is a philosophical principal to guide one's thinking about
a problem, but it is not a physical force of nature.  The simplest
explanation of natural phenomenon is preferred because it is both easier
for us to deal with and experience has shown that it is easy to delude
oneself into an overly complex explanation.

Unfortunately for us, nature is not *required* to be simple, nor are any
explanations, and as a good example I offer up Quantum Mechanics.  Not
only is it lacking in simplicity, some of its features are downright

Don't confuse logical thinking with requirements.  Also, by making this
posting you are inherently making a qualitative judgment (complexity),
and in doing so using bias to rationalize a decision process.

> Why can't it just have been a meteor or comet that exploded a few miles
> above the ground?  That's what the current thinking is and I believe
> it fits the bill better than anything else.

There are a number of explanations I have read for the event:

1) it was an exploding meteor
2) it was the exploding engine of an interstellar spacecraft being
   piloted by extraterrestrials.
3) it was a monumentally large natural gas explosion.

Now these are radically different explanations. To correctly apply
Occam's razor, first you have to have a "Simplicity Metric", in other
words, if you compare option 1 to option 2 or option 2 to 3, there has
to be a reason *why* an exploding meteor is a SIMPLER explanation than
an out-of-control APU on a UFO. Simply stating that "IT IS" is not
logic, it is a faith based belief system: I believe it is simpler,
therefore it is.

One metric for complexity is to compare explanations to other known
events.  If there are high degrees of similarity and the other known
events have a well understood explanation, than it is simpler to group
the phenomenon into the already accepted explanation.  This metric
requires that the event in question is not unique, so fails for
genuinely new phenomenon.

Another metric for complexity is the number of assumptions one has to
make in order to make the argument.  All arguments start with axioms,
i.e. assumptions about this or that.  These cannot be proven,
particularly in mathematics, courtesy of Kurt's famous "completeness
theorem".  To prove them, you need to step up to a "higher plane", and
look down, but this new plane has its own axioms which require yet
another higher plane.  Etc.

A third metric for complexity is the number of steps required to support
the explanation and the observation that each step has a tendency to
either increase entropy or involve the transport of energy (i.e. you are
not violating the second law of thermodynamics).

The first explanation: "exploding meteor" can be supported because there
are many examples of meteors of all kinds, exploding and non-exploding. 
A flaw in this explanation is that one is required to explain how a
sufficiently large meteor caused such damage, with a specific and
unusual pattern of damage, without a fire, without leaving any debris
(i.e. a great big lump of iron on the ground), and without leaving a
Great Big Crater (of which there are many examples, like Meteor Crater
in Arizona USA).

How can you use Occam's razor to explain away the inconsistencies in the
above?  What assumptions are you making?  What are you comparing this

The second explanation requires that you assume the existence of
extraterrestrial intelligent beings, and that interstellar travel does
not violate the laws of physics.  We have rockets, and our problems with
the massive engines on them are well known, the Challenger explosion
being a particularly glaring example.  It is not inconceivable that a
foreign spacecraft would run into problems and blow up.  Any spacecraft
capable of traversing interstellar distances clearly has a large energy
supply.  This explanation requires (in addition to some assumptions)
that one again, explain away the lack of evidence of a foreign object,
the blast pattern, and lack of 
fire.  (It wasn't just the initial fireball that destroyed Hiroshima and
Nagasaki, it was the resulting fire-storm.)

How do you use Occam's razor to compare the complexity of the two above
explanations?  After all, the above has many examples on Star Trek:
"Scotty, we need more power! Cap'n, I'm givin' her all she's got!  If I
push her any harder the engines will blow for sure! (KaBlooie)." 
(Seriously, how can you PROVE that this second explanation is "simpler"
than the first?  Or more complex?  Have you considered both explanations
to a sufficient depth of completeness such that they have no holes?) 
How could you explain that a civilization with a technology sufficiently
advanced to travel interstellar distances would not (out of pure
self-interest) have a keen interest in and comparable technology for

The third explanation has analogues in the lake in Africa that keeps
belching CO2 periodically and killing every oxygen dependent living
thing within miles of the lake. (This is well documented and a current
fear for people living within a short distance of the lake).  We also
routinely mine for gas for energy purposes, and not all of this gas
comes from "caves".  This explanation resolves the damage pattern (air
blast), the lack of fire (no oxygen), lack of debris (because it all
burned up) and the absence of a  crater.  We have all probably seen the
results of a gas explosion in an apartment building or other structure
on "Film! At 11:00! On Eyewitness News!".  The destruction is total and
highly characteristic.  The problem with this explanation is that it
requires that you come up with a source of methane and a reason for a
sudden release.  However, neither problem is without analogue elsewhere
in human experience.

How do you use Occam's razor to discount the above explanation?  Use
evidence, not assumptions.  Use reason and explanation, not dogma or a
simple regurgitation of what was presented to you in the third week of
that college class.  How do you compare the complexity of the above
explanation to either explanations one or two?  Really, I'm serious, I
am really asking.

A careful analysis will show that none of the above arguments are
*completely* supportable by the known facts and measurements.  I would
be willing to bet that it will also show that the "methane explosion"
theory supports the "simplest explanation" criteria, when you analyze
*all* of the facts.


The bottom line is that you are not making an argument, you are making a
statement.  The statement reflects an internal bias and suite of
assumptions, not reasoned consideration of facts.  If you are going to
use Occam's razor carelessly, you are going to cut yourself like a
pimple faced teenager shaving for the first time.

> Ed

P.S. for extra credit, use Occam's razor to explain how you, Ed, accept
the reality of the electron even though you personally have never seen
one and can only indirectly measure its presence. Show why a blind
acceptance of the material you have been taught throughout your
educational career provides a simple explanation.  Explain how the
observed particle / wave duality of the electron supports Occam's
simplicity principal.
The Small Kahuna