Graham’s Razor (AKA Gabrielson’s Razor)


I originally penned my twist on Occam’s Razor five years ago, in a sci-fi novel that has not been released yet, and I’ll spare you the details, but lately I’ve been finding just how true it is, or rather how needed it is, as Occam’s options of “stupid or malicious” are making way too many folks feel good about themselves for calling political foes in particular stupid rather than evil–and then there are the folks who note stupidity often doesn’t explain someone’s political views, and therefore feel justified in their assumption anyone with views that oppose theirs are malicious and deliberately causing harm.

This is simply not true. Yes, we do have to watch out for deceitful, corrupt wolves who seek power in order to use it maliciously, but they can worm their way into nigh any political movement, religious group, etc–including your own. I like to hope most humans aren’t one of those monsters, whatever their walk of life, and the popular assumption today that someone with opposing views is either malicious or stupid is simply not helpful. It’s not creating peace and understanding. And, more importantly for Christians like myself, it is not showing the love of Christ to the world, nor have I seen it persuading anyone to accept Christ and/or the ways of Christ’s kingdom.

So let’s understand, for the most part, differing worldviews explain people’s behavior better than deliberate malice or stupidity. Mind the deliberate; someone’s actions may well be evil within the context of your world view, but you won’t encounter many real-life Saturday morning cartoon villains who are deliberately evil. It takes wisdom from God for us to know how to speak the truth in love, respectfully, rather than hurling the truth at someone without any consideration for how things look from their view and how our truth will be simply insulting, rude, hateful accusations that shut down communication and any hope of reaching that person.

Some will still be uncertain about my claim that it is not true that only stupidity could possibly explain someone disagreeing with your carefully thought out, highly intelligent views. So let’s pretend we’re talking about math here. Surely there is only one right answer, and you know you’ve done your math correctly, all your colleagues say so. The mathematicians at your rival college who got a different solution to the problem must be stupid.

No, not necessarily. They could be doing their math using a different order of operations. Now, in math, there is one and only one correct order of operations–one order in which to solve complex problems with many additions, subtractions, multiplications, divisions, etc. One of these two colleges does have the wrong answer, no matter how sure both are that their own order of operations and solutions are correct.

The same way, God’s Truth, the ways of the Kingdom of God, are the only truth, only his “order of operations” for dealing with life’s problems will give solutions that truly work in the world God created. If we use any man-made “order of operations” that differs from God’s, it doesn’t matter how smart we are. It doesn’t matter how intelligent we are. We’ll get a wrong answer. It can be fun for a season, but pursuing wrong answers ends in death. That we can be sure of. But let’s remember, most of the time, that a bad end is not purposely being sought. The person plowing toward it is usually smart and usually truly wants to better the world. They have done their calculations and are sure this is the way to good things. They simply are misled by a inaccurate worldview.

I can’t say what is the most effective way to show them that is the case and prove to them what God’s solution is and that it is right. However, a good start toward effective dialogue and peaceful relations with our neighbors is respecting that they are smart, well-intentioned people.

Just for fun, we’ll close with this meme:

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true”]Never attribute to malice or stupidity that which is adequately explained by a differing worldview. @andreajgraham[/tweetthis]