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Parsimony, or the "principle of parsimony", is a method for selecting between equally valid hypotheses based on the complexity of each. Using the principle of parsimony the simplest hypothesis, or the one with the fewest free parameters, will be preferred over more complex hypotheses if other selection criteria are equal between them.

Parsimony and God

Scientific and tangible evidence for the existence of God is either weak and non-compelling, or completely non-existent (depending on how much credit you give to personal experience, or holy texts). Therefore, with the existence and non-existence of God as hypotheses being on roughly equal footing with respect to the complete lack of physical evidence, the principle of parsimony may be applied to them. Theistic scholars sometimes pre-assume the existence of God because of this principle. This is based on the idea that God's existence and its omnipotence creates a simple solution of the origin of the universe and life in comparison to the far more complex conjectures involved in cosmology.

Rationalists and atheistic scholars generally reject this conclusion on the basis that God, whatever it is, must be more complex than the universe itself in order to create and control it in an omnipotent manner. God must hold within it the information contained within the universe in addition to its past, future and potential states, and, on top of all of this, information about "how to be God". This results in an incredibly complex hypothesis to pre-assume, and should therefore be rejected on the grounds of parsimony.

Use in literature and oratory

The term parsimony is also used in literature (in narratives, extended commentary and speeches). For many artists and critics such as Seneca and Kurt Vonnegut for whom the best form of writing is minimalist, avoiding repetition, cutting trivial details and unimportant characters. Or in other terms, cutting to the chase and and getting to the point. Writers like Ayn Rand and orators like Hitler were completely unfamiliar with literary parsimony. Religious texts seem to seriously disagree with literary parsimony where the more repetitive mantras, banal details, extended family trees and text so bloated you need tissue paper to publish it in a pocket sized book.

See also