The Chocolate Teapot analogy

You are standing in a bar and a couple of guys nearby get into a heated argument. The first says that there is a chocolate teapot in orbit around Jupiter; The second equally violently asserts that it is impossible.  They debate the issue from all sides – why chocolate instead of something more substantial, who put it there, how long could it last etc etc, but in the end there can be no proof that will settle the question because the orbit of Jupiter is so large that it will never be possible to check all of it for the existence of a chocolate teapot!

The question you now need to address is, in the absence of proof either for or against the existence of a chocolate teapot in orbit around Jupiter, which are you going to choose to believe? In this case I guess it is a bit of a no brainer….

Clearly this is just a more extreme version of a dilemma that we face all the time when choosing between different hypotheses for which there is insufficient evidence to reach a final conclusion.  The normal scientific approach is to explore a ‘simple’ solution in preference to the more complex.  And in this case it is clearly simpler to assume that the chocolate teapot does not exist because of the complexity of the world view that its existence would imply. Occam’s razor is “the law of parsimony, economy or succinctness. It is a principle urging one to select from among competing hypotheses that which makes the fewest assumptions.”