Occam's “Razor” is the stated principle that, all things being equal, the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. This principle cuts away, or slices and leaves aside, a host of potentially competing conclusions or arguments, leaving the simplest and most likely conclusion in place.
Yesterday morning I was driving two of my girls to school and Macy decided to take the front seat. She had science-y questions for me. She was wondering about the difference between “theory” and “fact”. She didn’t like that some things that she thought were fact were considered theory. She’s a bright kid and for the purposes of this blog, I will say that the theory she was talking about was Relativity as the one she asked about is slightly more controversial. It should be noted that she has no problem accepting things you might learn on Sunday all the while acknowledging scientific principles. Good girl.
In discussing “fact” versus “theory” she came up with an example: “My butt is warm, therefore my seat warmer is on. That’s a fact, right?”
“Maybe, maybe not.” I told her. “Are there any other reasons your butt could be warm?”
“I guess,” she answered. She thought about it for a moment. “My dress could be on fire.” She thought for a minute longer, “Or I could have the flu and I caught it in my butt.”
I suppose not everything that comes out of her mouth is brilliant, but her responses did fit the parameters of the question. She began to try to prove her hypothesis using her version of the scientific method. She began patting the back of her dress and then looking at her hands, for ashes, I assume.
“Nope, not on fire.”
“Well, how are you going to know about the flu? Your butt could still be sick.” I answered.
“I could wait until tomorrow to see if the rest of me gets sick.”
“That seems like a long time to find out if your seat warmer was on.” I poked at her.
She sat quietly. We drove another five minutes. I went from wondering what was going though her head to dwelling on all of the things dancing through mine. By the time we pulled into the parking lot of the school I was already knee deep on what the rest of my day looked like.
“I’ve got it.” She burst out.
“You’ve got what, sweetheart?” I said startled by her ‘eureka’ moment.
“It’s Occam’s Razor.” She blurted. “The light for my seat is lit up. It’s probably the answer. It’s Occam’s Razor.”
I’m a dork, as it happens, and I had explained Occam’s Razor, but not to her, and not recently. I remember talking to my eldest, Avery, about it years ago. I asked if she learned about it in school, nope, from Mommy, nope, a friend, nope. She wasn’t sure how she knew it.
She asked if she was right. I told her that she was.
She asked what was wrong. I must have looked confused. I was, confused and proud.
Okay, so Macy, there is a lesson here. Daddy was confused because of how smart you are. How does an eight-year-old girl know how to apply a problem-solving principal that she heard about years ago and apply it correctly? Hell, how does she remember the name? How did her older sister explain it in a way that she could remember it?
The lesson here is one that you will have to live with forever. Daddy doesn’t want to hear “I can’t do it” when it applies to homework ever again. You can. The three of you are incredibly bright and you can do anything you put those oversized noodles to. You are too smart to let yourself be held up by your own doubts. I know a little something about that. Mommy hates it. But truth be told, nothing in life will hold you back more than the space between your ears. That little voice in your head will be full of “no ways” and “forget its”. Ignore it, mostly. Don’t let it tell you that you can’t be what you want to be, but maybe give it a listen when it tells you that you can jump that ditch.