Nothing like the sun – of (macho) theory and parsimony

“…An explanation becomes more parsimonious than another when it uses a smaller number of explanatory variable while explaining at least as much as its opponent. For example, it is more parsimonious to model the solar system as heliocentric than terracentric, because the former uses far simpler mathematics to account for at least as many planetary movements as the latter. We should be far less impressed with the heliocentrist if he had to say: ‘Forget about the outer planets; this theory is more parsimonious because it just looks at the inner ones.’ But contemporary social science often makes use of precisely this kind of argument, using the idea of parsimony as meaning a kind of rough, tough macho theory that concentrates on the big picture and ignores detail.”

P40. of Crouch, C. 2005. Capitalist Diversity and Change: Recombinant Governance and Institutional Entrepreneurs.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.

(link)

 

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