Simplicity – Why Ken’s Wrong

Simplicity is almost an object of worship for Ken Wheeler. Find out why his insistence that “Mother Nature is a hippy chick” confuses simplicity with being simplistic.

Simplicity plays a surprisingly significant role in the philosophy of science. As a rule, if we have to choose between two explanations for a phenomenon, scholars agree that the simplest explanation that covers all the facts is the better one.

This is a time-honoured principle dating back at least to Aristotle and probably even earlier. Aristotle famously said, “We may assume the superiority ceteris paribus of the demonstration which derives from fewer postulates or hypotheses.”

Probably the most famous proponent of this dictum was William of Ockham. He argued that, “Entities are not to be multiplied without necessity.” We call this precept Occam’s Razor because it reminds us to cut out any redundant ideas when we work to explain an observation.

“Nature is Pleased with Simplicity” – Newton

More modern philosophers concurred. Isaac Newton believed that, “Nature is pleased with simplicity, and affects not the pomp of superfluous causes.” In general, the simplest explanation is the preferred answer to questions about natural law.

Kentucky Ken pushes hard for this concept. As he puts it, “Mother Nature is a hippy chick with dreadlocks, hairy armpits, a hemp skirt, and muddy feet.”

Borrowing ideas from the ancient philosopher Plotinus and the perennialists, the Angry Photographer subscribes to the principle of oneness, the view that everything in the universe is ultimately a single entity. There may be many emanations from the One, but in essence, they are all mere modalities of one unified cosmos.

Most Philosophers Have Rejected Oneness

Most philosophers have rejected the idea of oneness over the centuries. Aristotle was a pluralist rather then a monist about his famous categories, denying that there is any higher category or unity beyond things like substance, quantity and quality. 

Or, as Bertrand Russell put it, “I share the common-sense belief that there are many separate things; I do not regard the apparent multiplicity of the world as consisting merely in phases and unreal divisions of a single indivisible Reality.”

Russell’s Cambridge colleague G.E. Moore explained that oneness, “is inconsistent with something that appears to be an evident datum of experience, namely, that there is a plurality of things. We shall assume that a plurality of material things exists.”

Right About Simplicity For the Wrong Reasons

So, as on other subjects, the YouTuber behind Theoria Apophasis is right about the simplicity principle, but for the wrong reasons. We should prefer the simplest explanation that covers all the facts, but that isn’t a license to adopt a simplistic, melting-pot worldview of arbitrary unity.

Ken Wheeler’s insistence on oneness leads him to assume without evidence that there is only one force of nature. According to him, gravity, electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force, and the weak nuclear force are all merely modalities of one essential entity – the ether. The YouTuber Planarwalk debunks his ether claims here.

As readers will have realized, this argument contains an ironic paradox. To reconcile what scientists have shown are four distinct forces into one, the Angry Photographer is forced to resort to arguing for the existence of the ether – a disproven, superfluous entity, while demanding simplicity.

Resorts to Superfluous Entity While Demanding Simplicity

As we’ve explained in detail under Field Theory – Why Ken’s Wrong, Michelson and Morley found that the luminiferous ether does not exist in 1887. This has been confirmed dozens of times up to the present day by other scientists using more sophisticated instruments and methods.

So, in the name of simplicity, the creator of Theoria Apophasis insists on adding a disproven concept to established scientific models that already provide full explanations of natural forces. How does this align with his infatuation with his simple-minded hippy chick?

One might expect this self-declared virtuoso of facts, logic and wisdom to be at least somewhat troubled by this blatant, fundamental contradiction in his metaphysics. If he is, he never lets on.

“His Mind is Made Up, Don’t Confuse Him with Facts”

On one level, we have to admire Ken Wheeler. It takes hubris to argue for the existence of a disproven and unnecessary entity in the name of simplicity. As the old saying goes, “His mind is made up, don’t confuse him with facts.”

Philosopher Alan Baker explains how Einstein correctly applied the simplicity principle to address Michelson and Morley’s findings. “Einstein’s development of Special Relativity—and its impact on the hypothesis of the existence of the electromagnetic ether—is one of the episodes most often cited (by both philosophers and scientists) as an example of Occam’s Razor in action.

The ether is by hypothesis a fixed medium and reference frame for the propagation of light (and other electromagnetic waves). The Special Theory of Relativity includes the radical postulate that the speed of a light ray through a vacuum is constant relative to an observer no matter what the state of motion of the observer. Given this assumption, the notion of a universal reference frame is incoherent. Hence Special Relativity implies that the ether does not exist.”

“Special Relativity Implies the Ether Does Not Exist”

If the Angry Photographer genuinely valued simple and elegant explanations for natural phenomena, he’d eagerly accept that there’s no such thing as the ether. Like Einstein, he’d take that reality into account and seek explanations that didn’t reify a falsified concept to account for phenomena.

The Theoria Apophasis producer expresses a particular disdain for Einstein. He rejects the Theory of Relativity, not to mention Quantum Mechanics, as unduly complex, counterintuitive and illogical.

Unlike Ken Wheeler, Einstein properly embraced the principle of simplicity. As he put it, “The grand aim of all science is to cover the greatest possible number of empirical facts by logical deductions from the smallest possible number of hypotheses or axioms.”

Evades Equations “Mother Nature Doesn’t Use a Calculator”

The genius of Einstein was to explain space, time, matter and gravity in just ten equations. The Angry Photographer dismisses Einstein as a “woolly-haired crackpot” while evading questions about Einstein’s Field Equations with the phrase “Mother Nature doesn’t use a calculator.”

It appears that the Theoria Apophasis creator is reluctant to critique the Field Equations because he doesn’t understand them. Even so, he feels qualified to dismiss them out of hand as “ludicrous.”

Refutes His Own Argument by Adding Superfluous Concepts

The Angry Photographer refutes his own argument by adding superfluous concepts such as the ether, the dielectric and counter space to established scientific models. He does this solely to rationalize his obsession with oneness, which he has derived from motivated reasoning rather than his cherished facts, logic and wisdom.

Ken Wheeler hasn’t learned to distinguish between simplicity and being simplistic. Only a simpleton could peddle such convoluted notions as explanations for the world around us while spouting “simplicity is divinity.” And yet, he persists.

Ken’s Evidence
Mother Nature’s Primer – Simplicity is Divinity
Metaphysics – Why Ken’s Wrong
Magnetism – Why Ken’s Wrong
Gravity – Why Ken’s Wrong

Published by David Morton Rintoul

I'm a freelance writer and commercial blogger delivering content services to selective business to business marketing clients. I have extensive experience in content creation, technical writing and training, working as a consultant and later in management roles with many of Canada's most successful organizations. Specialties: Content Marketing, Social Media, Technical Writing, Training and Development

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