Occam’s Razor and the Pyramids of Egypt — Is there a link?

BreakingModern — It can cut deep, Occam’s Razor. The problem is that few people seemed to be armed with it.

Let me explain: I wrote “Out Of Place In Time And Space,” available through Amazon and better bookstores. It deals with topics like mad scientists who were millennia ahead of their time, and that pesky religious painting in a museum in France, painted in 1460, where the Christ Child is depicted as playing with a pull-string flying toy helicopter.

As the author, I ended up being interviewed on more than 50 radio shows, many of them with a live call-in segment. Invariably, callers wanted to talk about the pyramids of Egypt. Surely, the callers said, they could only have been built with the help of extraterrestrials.

The book doesn’t cover pyramids, but the callers didn’t care — they could not contain their obsession. I gave logic-based answers — and felt like I was popping balloons at a child’s birthday party. To distance myself from the pain I was causing, I explained that I was only applying Occam’s Razor. Only the ones who had read the book knew what that was.

So let’s talk about the Razor, and then apply it to the extraterrestrial pyramid-builder conundrum.

Uncle Occam Sez…

Occam’s Razor is derived (loosely) from the writings of medieval philosopher William of Ockham (c. 1287–1347), who wrote something to the effect that, “Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem.”

  • Literal translation: “Entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity.”
  • Loose translation: “The hypothesis requiring the fewest assumptions is the best.”
  • Instant analysis: “Any explanation or argument, no matter how reality-challenged, can be propped up if the arguer is allowed to invoke an unlimited succession of tailor-made assumptions. Therefore, all things being equal, the best explanation is the simplest explanation.”
  • Ultimate meaning: “Cut the crap.”

Pyramid Non-Scheme

Now, let’s apply Occam’s Razor to the existence of the pyramids. If we assume that extraterrestrials were involved we have to make at least the following assumptions:

  • There are benevolent extraterrestrials who are ready and able to intervene in human affairs.
  • For unknown reasons those beings wanted to ensure the construction of at least one pyramid-shaped pile of quarried stones in Egypt.
  • They felt compelled to obscure their involvement, and let everyone assume the pile was the tomb of a pharaoh.
  • They remain uninterested in humanity’s subsequent monumental constructions, such as the Hoover Dam or the Interstate Highway System.

Taking the no-extraterrestrials argument, we need make only one assumption:

  • Our ancestors knew how to pile up rocks.

The callers would hurriedly counter with another argument: That the pyramids were too precise to have been built with ancient technology. Each side of the Pyramid of Cheops is 756 feet long, and the four sides are built to an accuracy of about two inches.

Uncle Occam might point out that if we assume extraterrestrial involvement, we must additionally assume those beings were quite sloppy. The figures imply that the seams of the pyramid would not have been watertight. Yet we know the Egyptians did build ships and barges that were clearly watertight. So, with this edifice, they actually did not bother to be as precise as their technology would have allowed.

(In the shipyard where I worked in my extreme youth, somewhat after the Pharaonic era, they were using taut string for many measurements, and what we built did float. I assume the Ancient Egyptians also had string and knew how to use it.)

But … but … Watergate?

But now comes the painful admission: The simplest explanation is not always the correct one. Uncle Occam can lead you in the wrong direction. Complicated, unlikely explanations can be correct.

A good example would be the Watergate scandal. When a team was caught breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters in 1972, Uncle Occam might have concluded that President Nixon had nothing to do with it. Nixon was a shoo-in for the pending re-election, so sponsoring such a high-risk stunt was irrational. Assuming that Nixon, a sitting president, had rational motivations would not have seemed like an excessive assumption. Alas, it was.

Likewise, if there are extraterrestrials whose agenda mandated that they help build the pyramids, so be it.

But, personally, I think there are plenty of things in history harder to explain than pyramid construction — even harder to explain than Watergate. Read the book and see. (Better yet, buy 10 copies for your friends.)

For BMod, I’m .

First/Featured image credit: By kallerna (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Second image credit: By self-created (Moscarlop) (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Third image credit: Carol M. Highsmith [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Lamont Wood

Author: Lamont Wood

Based in San Antonio, Texas, Lamont Wood is a senior editor at aNewDomain.net. He’s been covering tech trade and mainstream publications for almost three decades now, and he’s a household name in Hong Kong and China. His tech reporting has appeared in innumerable tech journals, including the original BYTE (est. 1975). Follow @LAMONTwood on Twitter.

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