- Chuck Jones writes:
Thanks for articulating something that bothers me much better than I
been able to. Lost sources are not a hypothesis (this also bothers me),
repeat myself, Luke refers to "many accounts." They add nothing onerous
Occam's Razor, and in fact ignoring Lk's reference as an ingredietn
working toward solutions is bad methodology.
Your diplomatic phrase "authorial creativity" is often, it seems to me,
euphamism for chinese-acrobat-contortion explanations of unaddressed
describe not what Lk did in other places, not what his usual tendencies
not what he said about how he wrote his book, not what one would expect
author to do, but rather what he *had to have done* in order for theory
I like Einstein's quote that an explanation should be as simple as
but no simpler. To me, a hypothesis that credibly addresses 95% of the
passages is more effective than one that addresses 70%. I'll take
over "simpler" any day.
Let me expand a little on what Bob wrote. The idea that "simple is
better", let's call it the "parsimony principle" is not limited to
Occam's razor. I'll try to give an example in a moment. But first,
regarding lost sources, Luke tells us that there were "many accounts".
Besides taking him on his word here, we have other indications from
other authors of lost Christian documents. All in all, it seems quite
probable other documents existed. However, when looking for synoptic
problem "solutions", we are talking about *specific* possible lost
documents. It's not a question of whether various accounts existed, it
is a question involving the existence of a specific document, and
whether or not Luke used it as a source.
(For the record, I favor a theory that involves a saying source, but
with some differences when compared to general scholarship on the
Now, for "simpler is better" -
Suppose we have the following data points.
Let's only consider two hypotheses, along with the possibility that both
Hypothesis A) Y=X+1
Hypothesis B) Y=X+1 except when X is divisible by 5, then Y=X
We will judge one hypothesis or the other "better" if it has a higher
probability of predicting future results. Or rather than "future" which
does not apply to our synoptic problem, we could say that "the better
hypothesis has a higher probability of correctly describing what we
presently can *not* know directly, based on what we do know directly"
In our above example, we can note that hypothesis B does more accurately
describe our existing dataset. It is right 7 out of 7 times. Hypothesis
A is wrong once. It only gets 6/7. Hypothesis A is simpler. But
hypothesis B is better at describing the existing data. "B" can not be
eliminated by Occam's razor. Never-the-less, the "parsimony principle"
here, does indeed lead to the conclusion that hypothesis A is better.
Consider - when x = 10, what would you bet that y was, if you had to
bet, 10, or 11? I would bet 11. Hypothesis A is more likely to correctly
describe what we can not now directly observe (what happens when x=10).
If I make a calculation here using Bayesian statistical ideas, and some
simplifying assumptions, I get that hypothesis A has about a 71% chance
of being correct, that when x=10, y will = 11.
So, in this example, the more complex hypothesis, even though it is not
strictly susceptible to Occam's razor, is probably a less useful
predictor (or a less correct description of objective reality, if I make
a philosophical leap), than the simpler hypothesis.
Obviously if future observations tended to confirm hypothesis B, it
would become the better hypothesis, in spite of its added complexity.
But as it stands, A is better.
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