“How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?” ~ Sherlock Holmes
If there is not enough evidence to come to a conclusion of what is the truth, start by removing the possibilities that cannot be true. If you hack away these impossible answers one by one, you will ultimately end up with the truth. This method is highly useful in a multiple-choice type exam, where you cross off the false answers until only one remains (or take an educational guess from whatever remains). In medicine, a process of elimination can be used to narrow down a differential diagnosis, or to reach a diagnosis of exclusion – that is, a diagnosis that cannot be proven to be true but seems to be the only one that fits since all other diagnoses do not.
Occam’s razor is a philosophical concept that dictates that all other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best. It is useful in many situations, especially the sciences, where it allows one to find an answer without being distracted by the numerous variables.
In medicine, Occam’s razor is extremely useful in differential diagnosis where a doctor may easily prioritise the possible diagnoses and save precious time. Dr Greg House in House MD shows demonstrates just this.
In physics, models showing movement of objects for calculation of force required ignores real factors such as friction or centrifugal force to simplify the situation, showing only the forces being observed. This type of modelling is used in many subjects, where only factors being observed are taken into consideration to find a correlation, or some form of desired truth.
Although some may suggest that this method does not give the “truth” as vital information may be cut out in the process, it can also be argued that one cannot see the truth unless the “distractions” are removed. This is the fundamental basis of the Occam’s razor, where complexities are “shaved” away until truth is left. A quote by the musician Daniel Jacobs, “The truth of simplicity is camouflaged by the complexity of lies just as a tangle of lies will mask the simplicity of truth,” also supports this idea.