The Argument from Parsimony

Introduction

The argument from parsimony is as follows

P1. If something is not needed to explain anything then it probably does not exist
P2. We can explain everything without the need to invoke God
C. Therefore, God probably does not exist

Analysis

P1 is obviously false, a non sequitur and an argument from ignorance. An explanation which doesn’t need a specific causal entity is not necessarily the best explanation. It is possible to completely unreasonably explain things away. For example it is possible to explain away a lifetime of experiences of a real person by claiming they were only hallucinations and also events that the person supposedly caused can be explained through invisible entities. 

So in an attempt to rescue the argument we can strengthen it to the following:

P1. If something is not the best explanation of anything then it probably does not exist
P2. God is not the best explanation of anything

C. Therefore, God probably does not exist

But again this argument is flawed due to our limits in understanding. For example, years ago protons were not the best explanation of anything so was it probable that they didn’t exist? Even if something is not the best explanation of anything, it in no way follows that the thing probably does not exist. 

So again to rescue the argument from parsimony we can strengthen it to the following:

P1. If something is not the best explanation for anything then we have no good reason to think it exists 

P2. God is not the best explanation for anything 

C. Therefore, we have no good reason to think that God exists. 

P2 is obviously a controversial premise and to be successful carries a burden of proof to show that God is not the best explanation for anything.

Conclusion

The traditional argument from parsimony is a non sequitur and simply doesn’t follow. Strengthened versions can only prove less and rest on a controversial premise to show that God is not the best explanation for anything at all. For the strengthened argument from parsimony to be successful, the counter arguments proposed above do not need to be shown to be right, they need to be shown to be wrong.