One of the marvels that I can see in each creature and organism in nature is what they can do for the compact things that they are. A fly can do so much, for the small machine that it is. It can walk, fly, feed, reproduce, sense, orientate and search. Much of this ability and efficiency in nature can be attributed to parsimony. Parsimony finds the most direct and all inclusive pathway through any maze or complication. It involves doing or seeing more with less (leads to wisdom and understanding), or making the most of what you have (launches you towards your full potential). It is like the common ground that all creatures accept or evolve towards, because it will provide the most solid foundation from which to grow, and the smartest connection to diversity and possibility. Its keenest development will lead to such efficiency and compactness of organisation, that harmony within wildness becomes possible.
In science, parsimony is most often accepted as the natural arbitrator between two competing theories. The principle is also called Occam's razor or Ockham's razor. If two theories explain the same thing, then the one involving fewest steps and assumptions will most likely work best. It is an attempt to conserve assumptions and avoid needless complication. The most compact arrangement is likely to be best. This principle does not always prove truth, probably because it is hard always to know what it is that you are assuming when making the comparisons! But it is a useful rule of thumb that most often does turn out right and helps to crystalise the mind. Parsimony can settle the account in two ways. If there is a maze within a defined arena, then parsimony will choose the best fit within those confines. Similarly, if there are no confines, then the principle of parsimony should seek the largest number and breadth of things that a tree of understanding can explain, in fewest steps, than another. Therefore, a belief in God would seem to explain a lot, but an understanding of evolution and wildness can explain as much, and also accept the fact that no God has actually been found hiding out there amongst the heavens.
The importance of parsimony is also recognised in the field of taxonomy and phylogenetics (cladistics). Parsimony is the best bloodhound tracker for selecting the pathway of evolution through the species, and determining species relationships. There are computer programs such as PAUP and PHYLIP that can take a maze of species and their lists of characters, to produce a tree-like diagram (cladogram) of evolution by finding the most parsimonious route. Each new branch in the tree arises due to some new and distinguishing characteristic shared by the clade. This approach has shown that birds evolved from dinosaurs, that the koala and wombat share a clade, and that the elephant and rhinoceros were not really so related. Due to the successes of phylogenetics, a similar approach is being used to sort the wealth of DNA sequences now being produced, and the history of language.
Parsimony has also been used by Dr Beetle to produce a cladogram for the learning of emotions and attitudes in humans. The root or ancestral 'species' is the interaction desire, and the various learnt derivatives will branch when a block or rebuttal is experienced by the human towards their preceding desire or emotion. Some of the characters that would help to separate the species would be - does the emotion have an equivalent in wild animals, in domesticated or trapped animals, is there a clear expression associated, mean age and range when the emotions and attitudes appear in children - there must be others. The direction the branch takes as it arises from the tree will be determined by the characteristics and severity of the block, the confines of the mind within which the tree must grow, and the shape and direction of the preceding growth.
Parsimony should also be given more of a say in the field of instincts and other neural pathway developments. Why inherit an instinct if it can be learnt during the natural attunement that occurs between an animal and its niche? Committing resources to the extra step of inheritance is less parsimonious than accepting what is obvious through attunement from the niche (see my instinct pages). It is interesting that the things that turns the interaction desire on most, are the various achievements of parsimony (understanding, insight, music, reward, poetry, spirituality). The particular instincts and habits to be learnt will be guided or framed within physical attributes and social constraints and teachings, to give individual personalities. It should be possible to produce a cladogram for the production of democrats, republicans, greenies, religions, cultures, evolutionary psychologists, Dr Beetles, snobs, realists etc. The reason everyone thinks the way they do will be logical according to the rules of parsimony, if you understand all the parameters (the ecology, the environment, and the adaptational inputs). Everyone has a reason for the way they are.
Parsimony helps you to cut through the myths and delusions. It makes you more able to cope because you can do more with less. It is a pathway to wildness and naturalness. (Posted January 2004)