Against Occam


At this point I fear that I could lose many of the few readers who have read this far because what I am asking you to consider seems just too preposterous. But hold on for just a while longer. Before we get into more specifics, let me address some general objections.

First, it might seem that we are violating Occam's Razor. The complexity of the world of extra dimensions is necessarily overwhelming. As complex as some of our familiar structures are, such as galaxies or living organisms, the structures possible, and probably real, in higher dimensional space are orders of magnitude more complex. Roger Penrose,, dismisses the idea of extra dimensions by saying in The Road to Reality, p. 882, "...this suggestion of a higher dimensionality for spacetime has, at this stage in our deliberations, a status no more compelling than that of a 'cute idea'—which the original Kaluza-Klein suggestion certainly was." Penrose describes his objection at length with the basic idea being that higher dimensional spacetime is just too complex to be believable or comprehensible.

But I beg to differ in spite of my enormous respect for Sir Roger. Occam's Razor applies to multiple theories which make equally accurate predictions of phenomena. That is, if you have two or more theories, each of which predicts as much and as accurately as each of the others, Occam advises choosing the simplest of the theories. And, I agree that that is good advice.

The problem with applying Occam to our questions, however, is that there is no such multiplicity of theories. In fact, there are no theories that explain the mental phenomena we have talked about. It is my belief that it is possible to devise a theory based on higher dimensionality of spacetime that can and will explain the features of the mental world. That is exactly what my objective is in these musings.

In addition to the lack of competing theories, there is a second reason for hesitating in applying Occam. That is that with our benefit of hindsight, we can see that in the development of better and better scientific theories, the trend has been toward much greater complexity and not toward simplicity. Just think of the complexity of modern particle theory, with its many particles in the zoo of the Standard Model, with their enigmatic quantum behavior compared with older models, say of just four elements (earth, air, fire, and water), or even the hundred or so "elements" of the periodic table. Particle theory has evolved to be not only much more predictive, but also much more complex. I don't think we should expect anything different in the cosmic case where we need theories to explain and predict a much wider range of phenomena than simply those of the physical world.

In addition to Occam, another general objection is Popper's dictum that a theory, in order to be acceptable, must be falsifiable. Actually he said that in order to be "scientific"...and that will give us the opening we will need to disregard it.

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