StoryRhyme After Dark: Occam's Razor

Attributed to the 14th century English logician and Franciscan friar William of Ockham (Ockham was the village in where he was born), Occam's (or Ockham's) razor states that "Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily,” or, that the simplest answer is most often the correct answer.

William used his principle to justify many conclusions, including the statement that "God's existence cannot be deduced by reason alone...”

Many scientists have adopted Occam's Razor. Isaac Newton stated: "We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances."

Stephen Hawking in A Brief History of Time writes "We could still imagine that there is a set of laws that determines events completely for some supernatural being, who could observe the present state of the universe without disturbing it. However, such models of the universe are not of much interest to us mortals. It seems better to employ the principle known as Occam's razor and cut out all the features of the theory that cannot be observed."


If you enjoy this short story, be sure to visit our Harry Buschman Library for more tales of whimsy and wisdom.

Occam's Razor
By Harry Buschman

I counted up my bankroll and it came to $1.63. Shorty did the same and his came to $2.40. We did the math and as near as we could figure it came to $4.03. We looked at each other a long time and finally Shorty said, "The sign in the window said $149.50."

"Long way to go," I mumbled philosophically.

"There's gotta be a short cut," Shorty said firmly.

The way it all started is that me and Shorty were boyhood buddies and we decided that we were tight enough that we could share a bicycle. I'd have it a week, then Shorty – I mean having a bicycle half the time is better than not having a bicycle at all. But even when we pooled all our money together it came to $4.03. We were short... Damn short.

Times were tough. Shorty's father wasn't working and mine was on half time. We knew we'd never get the money from home, and even if we raised prices on the work we did in the neighborhood we'd never get near $149.50. I carried old one-legged lady Schroeder's bundles from the grocer for her once a week. She'd give me a quarter, and I didn't see how I could tell her the price was now fifty cents. Deposit bottles were a nickel and newspapers were ten cents for a hundred pounds; those were the facts of life; we couldn't change them.

Just when we gave up all hope of buying the beautiful new Schwinn 10-speed bicycle in the store window, Shorty came up with a great idea. He said we should play the lottery! A man he knew had won $87,000 in the Power Ball Lottery just two weeks ago. "We could buy 4 tickets at a dollar each, or buy a ticket a week for four weeks. What do you think?" Shorty was a whiz at math.

It sounded more promising to me than waiting until we saved up the $149.50. "We'd be too old to ride a bicycle if we waited," I said.

So that's what we did. We went down to Margolis's candy store and plunked down two quarters, four dimes and two nickels and told old man Margolis we wanted one Power Ball Lottery ticket.

Margolis told us to get out; "You gotta be eighteen to play the Power Ball, he said.” Then he called us back and said, "Tell ya what I'll do. Gimme the money and I'll play it for you. If you win I'll take a third."

The ramifications were too much for us to contemplate... A partner... Hmm! ... but we really didn't trust old man Margolis, so we went to Father Molloy in St. Theresa's and asked him if he'd do it for nothing. Surprisingly he said yes.

For the next four weeks Father Molloy played the Power Ball Lottery for us and lost all four times.

That’s the main reason I don't go to church any more.

(c) 2011 Harry Buschman


HTML Comment Box is loading comments...