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So, what the hell is Occam’s Panda?

Obviously, “Occam’s Panda” is theĀ  name of this blog. But it’s also my shorthand for the manner of thinking that leads people to develop conspiracy theories.

The name is obviously a play on Occam’s razor, which in its most simple form posits that the simplest or most parsimonious explanation for something is likely to be the correct one. Clearly, it’s not an iron-clad rule, but it’s a handy heuristic. If my car gets a flat tire, it’s pretty likely that I ran over something sharp and punctured the tire. It’s a lot less likely (though not impossible) that there was a hobo on the sidewalk throwing darts at passing cars and he happened to puncture my tire. It’s even less likely that a minuscule wormhole formed directly inside my inner tube and rapidly sucked the air from my tire into the vacuum of space.

Maybe these more complicated reasons are actually correct, but it’s pretty unlikely. So when I get out of my car and try to figure out what caused my flat, I’m going to look for a nail in the tread before I start checking for dart-tossing hobos or wormholes. Of course, if I see a dart-tossing hobo on the side of the road or smell a wormhole (I presume this is the proper method of checking for intra-tire wormholes), then those may become the most parsimonious explanations, even if they’re not the simplest, and I should probably look into them more deeply.

Occam’s razor cuts away extraneous and overly complicated explanations, leaving the simplest. Occam’s panda is basically the polar opposite. It’s a manner of thinking that prefers complicated explanations over simple explanations. Unlike the simple, sharp blade that cuts away unnecessary hypotheses like so much dead hair, Occam’s panda is hugely complicated and quite furry. Anything you throw at it will stick, and it will just grow more and more complicated and convoluted.

That is how I view conspiracy theories. They’re rejections of simple explanations in favor of ridiculously complicated theories. Of course, just like Occam’s razor by itself can’t prove anything, Occam’s panda by itself doesn’t disprove anything. Some conspiracy theories may be right. But most fold like a house of cards under the weight of their own complexity (and because they’re simply wrong).

So, there you have it. In addition to being a catchy name for a blog (in my opinion, anyway), “Occam’s panda” is simply shorthand for a way of thinking that prizes extremely complicated answers over simple and parsimonious ones.

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