Sometimes the government wishes to hide things from the citizens. The military in particular knows that people will assume that if two theories can explain the facts equally well, the one with the simplest theory would be assumed.

That's where Occam's Milspec Razor comes in. This device is used to apply a simpler explanation for something than the truth. As an example, let us analyze the Roswell, New Mexico "alien landing" scenario.

We know that something crashed out there. Word spread about weird alien devices. Perhaps this was the truth, perhaps it was an experimental aircraft that they wanted to hide. By applying Occam's Razor, they came up with these two items:

  1. A secret experimental aircraft flown by the military crashed.

  2. A real UFO crashed there.

Now, Occam's Razor says that the first item is the most likely explanation. But what if they employed Occam's Milspec Razor to release a simpler explanation? "It was only a large weather balloon, folks.". Now the list becomes:

  1. A large weather balloon crashed.

  2. A secret experimental aircraft flown by the military crashed.

  3. A real UFO crashed there.

The possibility exists that it really was a balloon. Applying Occam's Razor makes it more likely that it's what really happened, in a logical sense.

I know of two separate incidents from my military days where Occam's Milspec Razor was applied, and the people made the assumption that the most likely (but false) item was correct. It is scary how some folks can blind the masses from the truth, and one reason why I dislike ex-Senator Alan Cranston.


To StrawberryFrog: Yes, this is based on deliberate misinformation, and is not a flaw in Occam's Razor, as you noted. It is a deliberate attempt to deceive by creating a false set of data. Occam's is an excellent logic tool for full and open information.

To Kamamer: Yup, I did not set up the complete details of the Roswell incident because it was secondary. I do recall, however, seeing a newspaper headline with the Air Force claiming it was nothing but a weather balloon. As you noted, it was for illustration only.

This only works because information is delibrately withheld.

In the example above, if a journalist were to have evidence that the thing that crashed was made of metal and had noisy engines, then the official weather balloon theory would no longer be the simplest one that fits the facts, and we should then assume a military cover-up of a craft of terestrial origin.

Though this is an amusing concept, it is not a systematic flaw in Occam's razor as it applies to most situations. I guess it also shows that you should be prepared to abandon assumptions that were made on limited information.

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