Simplicity and Complexity (bibliography)

by Luke Muehlhauser on March 28, 2010 in Resources

Here is a bibliography of philosophical and scientific literature on the difficult concepts of simplicity and complexity. Much of it is copied and edited from a website on Occam’s razor that apparently no longer exists.

I’ll add PDF links as I go along. If you have any of these, please send them to lukeprog [at] gmail. Also, please recommend relevant articles that I have missed.


Simplicity and Complexity

Ackermann, R. (1960). Simplicity and the Acceptability of Scientific Theories. Dissertation, Michigan State University.

Ackermann, R. (1961). “Inductive Simplicity.” Philosophy of Science 28: 152-161.

Ackermann, R. (1963). “A Neglected Proposal Concerning Simplicity.” Philosophy of Science 30: 228-235.

Ackermann, R. (1963). “Inductive Simplicity in Special Cases.” Synthese 15: 437-444.

Adams, M. M. (1987). “Ockham’s Ontological Program.” William of Ockham: 143-167.

Ariew, R. (1976). Ockham’s Razor: A Historical and Philosophical Analysis of Ockham’s Principle of Parsimony.

Ariew, R. (1977). “Did Ockham Use His Razor?” Franciscan Studies 37: 15-17.

Baker, A. (2001) “Mathematics, Indispensability and Scientific Practice,” Erkenntnis, 55, 85-116.

Baker, A. (2003) “Quantitative Parsimony and Explanation,” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 54, 245-259.

Baker, A. (2004). “Simplicity.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Barker, S. F. (1957). Induction and Hypothesis: A Study of the Logic of Confirmation.

Barker, S. F. (1961). “On Simplicity in Empirical Hypotheses.” Philosophy of Science 28: 162-171.

Barker, S. F. (1961). “The Role of Simplicity in Explanation.” Current Issues in the Philosophy of Science.

Barnes, E. (2000) “Ockham’s Razor and the Anti-Superfluity Principle”, Erkenntnis, 53, 353-74.

Beck, L. W. (1943). “The Principle of Parsimony in Empirical Science.” Journal of Philosophy 40: 617-632.

Bunge, M. (1961). “The Weight of Simplicity in the Construction and Assaying of Scientific Theories.” Philosophy of Science 28: 120-149.

Bunge, M. (1962). “The Complexity of Simplicity.” Philosophy of Science 59: 113-135.

Bunge, M. (1963). The Myth of Simplicity, Problems of Scientific Philosophy.

Burgess, J. (1998) “Occam’s Razor and Scientific Method,” in The Philosophy of Mathematics Today, 195-214.

Campbell, J. (1970). The Masks of God: Creative Mythology.

Caws, P. (1963). “Science, Computers, and the Complexity of Nature.” Philosophy of Science 30: 158-164.

Charlesworth, M. J. (1956). “Aristotle’s Razor.” Philosophical Studies (Ireland) 6: 105-112.

Cornman, J. W. (1980). Skepticism, Justification, and Explanation.

Derkse, W. (1992) On Simplicity and Elegance, Delft: Eburon.

Elliot, R. (1979). “Materialism and Occam’s Razor.” Philosophy 54: 233-34.

Epstein, R. (1984). “The Principle of Parsimony and Some Applications in Psychology.” Journal of Mind Behavior 5: 119-130.

Farris, J. (1985). “Parsimony, synapomorphy, and explanatory power: A reply to Duncan.” Taxon.

Felsenstein, J. (1983). “Parsimony in Systematics.” Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 14: 335-358.

Felsenstein, J. (1983). “Parsimony in Systematics: Biological and Statistical Uses.” Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 14: 313-333.

Felsenstein, J., Sober, E. (1986). “Parsimony and Likelihood: an Exchange.” Systematic Zoology 35: 617-626.

Feurer, L. S. (1957). “The Principle of Simplicity.” Philosophy of Science 24: 109-122.

Feurer, L. S. (1959). “Rejoinder to the Principle of Simplicity.” Philosophy of Science 26: 43-45.

Forrest, P. (1982). “Occam’s Razor and Possible Worlds.” Monist 65: 456-64.

Forster, M. R., Sober, E. (1994). “‘How to Tell When When Simpler, More Unified Less ad hoc Theories Will Provide More Accurate Predictions’.” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 45: 1-36.

Forster, M. R. (1995). “Bayes and Bust : Simplicity as a Problem for a Probabalist’s Approach to Confirmation.” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 46(3): 399-424.

Forster, M. R. (2001). “The New Science of Simplicity.” Simplicity, Inference, and Modelling.

Friedman, K. (1972). “Empirical Simplicity as Testability.” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 23.

Friedman, K. (1973). “Son of Grue: Simplicity VS Entrenchment.” Nous 7: 366-376.

Friedman, K. (1990). Predictive Simplicity.

Feurer, L. S. (1957). “The Principle of Simplicity.” Philosophy of Science 24: 109-122.

Gauch, H. (2003) Scientific Method in Practice, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gernert, D. (2009). “Ockham’s razor and its improper use.” Cognitive Science.

Glassen, P. (1976). “J.J.C. Smart, Materialism, and Occam’s Razor.” Philosophy 51: 349-352.

Glassen, P. (1983). “Smart, Materialism, and Believing.” Philosophy 58: 95-101.

Goodman, N. (1943). “On the Simplicity of Ideas.” Journal of Symbolic Logic 8: 107-121.

Goodman, N. (1949). “The Logical Simplicity of Predicates.” Journal of Symbolic Logic 14: 32-41.

Goodman, N. (1950). “An Improvement in the Theory of Simplicity.” Journal of Symbolic Logic 14: 228-229.

Goodman, N. (1952). “New Notes on Simplicity.” Journal of Symbolic Logic 17: 189-191.

Goodman, N. (1955). “Axiomatic Measurement of Simplicity.” Journal of Philosophy 52: 709-722.

Goodman, N. (1958). “The Test of Simplicity.” Science 128: 1064-1069.

Goodman, N. (1959). “Recent Developments in the Theory of Simplicity.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 19: 429-446.

Goodman, N. (1961). “Safety, Strength, Simplicity.” Philosophy of Science 28: 150-151.

Goodman, N. (1961). “Condensation Versus Simplification.” Theoria 27: 47-48.

Goodman, N. (1967). “Uniformity and Simplicity.” Geological Society of America. Special Paper 89: 93-99.

Groarke, L. (1992) “Following in the Footsteps of Aristotle: the Chicago School, the Glue-stick and the Razor,” Journal of Speculative Philosophy, 6(3), 190-205.

Hales, S. (1997). “Ockham’s Disposable Razor.” The Role of Pragmatics in Contemporary Philosophy. 356-361.

Hesse, M. B. (1967). “Simplicity.” Encyclopedia of Philosophy. P. Edwards. New York, Macmillan. 7: 445-449.

Hesse, M. B. (1973). The Structure of Scientific Inference. London, Macmillan.

Hillman, D. J. (1962). “The Measurement of Simplicity.” Philosophy of Science 29: 225-252.

Holsinger, K. (1981) “Comment: the Blunting of Occam’s Razor,” Canadian Journal of Zoology, 59, 144-6.

Huemer, Michael (2008). “When is Parsimony a Virtue?Philosophical Quarterly 59: 216-36.

Jacquette, D. (1994). “Ockham’s Razor.” Philosophy of Mind.

Kemeny, J. G. (1953). “The Use of Simplicity in Induction.” Philosophical Review 62: 391-408.

Kemeny, J. G. (1955). “Two Measures of Complexity.” Journal of Philosophy 52: 722-733.

Kluge, A. (2001). “Parsimony with and without scientific justification.” Cladistics.

Kuhn, T. (1977). “Objectivity, Value Judgment, and Theory Choice,” in The Essential Tension, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 320-39.

Lewis, D. (1973). Counterfactuals.

Lycan, W. G. (1975). “Occam’s Razor.” Metaphilosophy 6: 223-237.

Maurer, A. (1984) “Ockham’s Razor and Chatton’s Anti-Razor,” Mediaeval Studies, 46, 463-75.

Maurer, A. (1978). “Method in Ockham’s Nominalism.” Monism 61: 426-43.

Nolan, D. (1997) “Quantitative Parsimony”, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 48, 329–43.

O’Hara, G. (1963). “Ockham’s Razor Today.” Philosophical Studies 12: 125-139.

Popper, K. R. (1959). The Logic of Scientific Discovery.

Post, H. R. (1960). “Simplicity in Scientific Theories.” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 11: 32-41.

Post, H. R. (1961). “A Criticism of Popper’s Theory of Simplicity.” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 12: 328-331.

Quine, W. (1966) “On Simple Theories of a Complex World”, in The Ways of Paradox, New York: Random House.

Reichenbach, H. (2008). The Concept of Probability in the Mathematical Representation of Reality.

Rescher, N. (1998) Complexity: a Philosophical Overview, New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

Rogers, C. F. (1940). “Ockham’s Razor.” Theology 40: 340-249.

Rosenkrantz, R. (1976). “Simplicity.” Foundations and Philosophy of Statistical Inference.

Rosenkrantz, R. D. (1977). “Simplicity.” Inference, Method, and Decision.

Rudner, R. S. (1961). “An Introduction to Simplicity.” Philosophy of Science 28: 109-119.

Schlesinger, G. (1959). “The Principle of Simplicity and Verifiability.” Philosophy of Science 26: 41-42.

Schlesinger, G. (1960). “The Principle of Minimum Assumption.” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 11: 55-58.

Schlesinger, G. (1961). “A Second Note On The Principle Of Minimum Assumption.” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 11: 328-329.

Schlesinger, G. (1961). “Dynamic Simplicity.” Philosophical Review 70: 485-499.

Schlesinger, G. (1967). “The Probability of the Simple Hypothesis.” American Philosophical Quarterly 4: 152-158.

Schlesinger, N. (1971). “Induction and Parsimony.” American Philosophical Quarterly 8: 179-185.

Smart, J. (1984) “Ockham’s Razor,” in Principles of Philosophical Reasoning, ed. Fetzer, 118-28.

Smart, J. J. C. (1959). “‘Sensations and Brain Processes.” Philosophical Review 68: 141-156.

Smart, J. J. C. (1978). “Is Occam’s Razor a Physical Thing?Philosophy 53: 382-385.

Sober, E. (1975). Simplicity.

Sober, E. (1981). “The Principle of Parsimony.” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 32: 145-156.

Sober, E. (1983). “Parsimony Methods: Philosophical Issues.” Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 14: 335-58.

Sober, E. (1984). “Common Cause Explanation.” Philosophy of Science 51: 212-241.

Sober, E. (1987). “Parsimony, Likelihood, and the Common Cause.” Philosophy of Science 54: 465-469.

Sober, E. (1987). “Parsimony and the Units of Selection.” The Process of Science: Contemporary Philosophical Approaches To Understanding Scientific Practice.

Sober, E. (1988). Reconstructing the Past: Parsimony, Evolution, and Inference.

Sober, E. (1990). “Let’s Razor Ockham’s Razor.” Explanation and its Limits.

Sober, E. (1993). Philosophy of Biology.

Sober, E. (1994). From a Biological Point of View: Essays in Evolutionary Philosophy.

Sober, E. (1996). “Parsimony and Predictive Equivalence.” Erkenntnis 44(2): 167-197.

Sober, E. (2000). “Evolution and the Problem of Other Minds.” Journal of Philosophy 97(7): 365-386.

Sober, E. (2003) “Parsimony,” in The Philosophy of Science: An Encyclopedia.

Suppes, P. (1956). “Nelson Goodman on the Concept of Logical Simplicity.” Philosophy of Science 23: 153-159.

Svenonius, L. (1955). “Definability and Simplicity.” Journal of Symbolic Logic 20: 235-250.

Swinburne, R. (1997) Simplicity as Evidence for Truth, Milwaukee: Marquette University Press.

Zellner, A. M., Michael; Keuzenkamp, Hugo A., Ed. (2001). Simplicity, Inference and Modeling.

Thornburn, W. M. (1915). “Occam’s Razor.” Mind N. S. xxiv: 287-288.

Thornburn, W. M. (1918). “The Myth of Ockham’s Razor.” Mind: 345-353.

Walsh, D. (1979). “Occam’s Razor: A Principle of Intellectual Elegance”, American Philosophical Quarterly, 16, 241–4.

White, R. (2005). “Why Favour Simplicity?“, Analysis 65 (287): 205–210.

Wreen, M. (1996). “Most Assur’d of What He is Most Ignorant.” Erkenntnis 44(3): 341-368.

Zellner, A., Keuzenkamp, H. & McAleer, M. (eds.) (2001) Simplicity, Inference and Modelling: Keeping It Sophisticatedly Simple. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Parsimony Used in Science

Allard, M. W. (1993). “An Empirical Example of Parsimony Behaviour.” Problems of Phylogentic Reconstruction.

Allard, M. W. M., Michael M. (1992). “Perspective: Testing Phylogenetic Approaches with Empirical Data, as Illustrated with the Parsimony Method.” Molecular Biology and Evolution 9(5): 778.

Anderberg, A. A. B., Kare (1991). “Parsimony Analysis and Cladistic Reclassification of the Relhania Generic Group (Asteraceae Gnaphalieae).” Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 78(4): 1061.

Andersen, N. M. (1989). “The Coral Bugs, Genus Halovelia Bergroth (Hemiptera, Veliidae): II. Taxonomy of the Halovelia Malaya group, Cladistics, Ecology, Biology, and Biogeography.” Entomologica Scandinavica 20(2): 179-228.

Anderson, D. R. B., K. P. (1999). “Understanding Information Criteria for Selection Among Captur-Recapture or Ring Recovery Models.” Bird Study 46: 14-21.

Archie, J. W. (1989). “A Randomization Test for Phylogenetic Information in Systematic Data.” Systematic Zoology 38(3): 239-252.

Arnold, E. N. (1996). “The Role of Biological Process in Phylogenetics with Examples from the Study of Lizards.” Memorie della Societa Italiana di Scienze Naturali e del Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Milar 27(1): 9-20.

Arrotin, P. D., V. (1993). “A Parsimony Analysis of Eukaryotic Small Subunit Ribosomal RNA (“18 S”) Sequences.” Archives Internationales de Physiologie, de Bioc 101(3): 221.

Backelijau, T. d. B., L.; Winnepenninckx, B. (1995). “Random Amplified Polymorphic DNA (RAPD) and Parsimony Methods.” Cladistics 11(2): 119.

Baldwin, B. G. K., D. W.; Dvorak, J. (1990). “Chloroplast DNA Evolution and Adaptive Radiation in the Hawaiian (USA) Silverword Alliance (Asteraceae, Madiinae).” Annals of the Missouri Botanical Gardens 77(1): 96-109.

Barker, F. K. L., Scott M. (2000). “The Impact of Parsimony Weighting Schemes on Inferred Relationships Among Toucans and Neotropical Barbets (Aves: Piciformes).” Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 15(2): 215.

Barnabas, S. K., S.; Barnabas, J. (1995). “The Branching Pattern of Major Groups of Land Plants Inferred from Parsimony Analysis of ribosomal RNA Sequencing.” Journal of Biosciences 20(2): 259.

Barriel, V. T., P. (1993). “Characters, Observations and Steps: Comment on Lipscomb’s “Parsimony, Homology and the Analysis of Multistate Characters”.” Cladistics 9(2): 223.

Barriel, V. T., P. (1998). “Rooting with Multiple Outgroups: Consensus Versus Parsimony.” Cladisitics 14(2): 193.

Baum, B. R. E., G. F. (1996). “Impact of Outgroup Inclusion on Estimates By Parsimony of Undirected Branching of Ingroup Phylogenetic Lines.” Taxon 45(2): 243.

Beanland, T. J. (1990). “Evolutionary Relationships Between “Q-Type” Photosynthetic Reaction Centres: Hypothesis-Testing Using Parsimony.” Journal of Theoretical Biology 145(4): 535.

Bennett, M. V. L. (1997). “Gap Junctions as Electrical Synapses.” Journal of Neurocytology 26(6): 349-366.

Berlocher, S. H. S., David L. (1997). “Searching for Phylogenetic Trees Under the Frequency Parsimony Criterion: An Approximation Using Generalized Parsimony.” Systematic Biology 46(1): 211.

Bhattacharya, D. (1996). “Analysis of the Distribution of Bootstrap Tree Lengths Using Maximum Parsimony Method.” Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 6(3): 339.

Bininda Emonds, O. R. P. B., Harold N. (1998). “Properties of Matrix Representation with Parsimony Analyses.” Systematic Biology 47(3): 497.

Blum, M. S. (1996). “Semiochemical Parsimony in the Arthropoda.” Annual Review of Entomology 41: 353.

Boonin-Vail, D. R., Robert P. (1993). “Parsimony, Evolution and Animal Pain.” Between the Species 9(3): 133.

Borowik, O. A. M., Deborah (1999). “Phylogenetic Patterns of Parental Care in Calidridine Sandpipers.” Auk. 116(4): 1107-1117.

Bremer, B. (1996). “Combined and Seperate Analyses of Morphological and Molecular Data in the Plant Family Rubiaceae.” Cladistics 12(1): 21-40.

Brooks, D. R. (1990). “Parsimony Analysis in Historical Biogeograpghy and Coevolution: Methodological and Theoretical Update.” Systematic Zoology 39(1): 14.

Brooks, D. R. a. D. A. M. (1986). Parascript Parasites and the Language of Evolution. Washington, London, Smithsonian Institution Press.

Bruce, L. L. N., Timothy J. (1995). “The Limbic System of Tetrapods: A Comparative Analysis of Cortical and Amygdalar Populations.” Brain Behavior and Evolution 46(4-5): 224-234.

Bryant, H. N. (1989). “An Evaluation of Cladistic and Character Analyses as Hypothetico-Deductive Procedures, and the Consequences for Character Weighting.” Systematic Zoology 38(3): 214-227.

Campbell, K. S. W. B., R. E. (1990). “Paleozoic Dipnoan Phylogeny: Functional Complexes and Evolution Without Parsimony.” Paleobiology 16(2): 143.

Capesius, I. (1995). “A Molecular Phylogeny of Bryophytes Based on the Nuclear Encoded 18S rRNA Genes.” Journal of Plant Physiology 146(1-2): 59-63.

Capesius, I. B., Martin (1997). “New Classification of Liverworts Based on Molecular and Morphological Data.” Plant Systematics and Evolution 207(1-2): 87-97.

Capesius, I. S., Michael (1997). “Molecular Relationships within Moses Based in 18S rRNA Gene Sequences.” Nova Hedwigia 64(3-4): 525-533.

Carroll, R. L. Z. M., D. (1991). “Hupehsuchus, an Enigmatic Aquatic Reptile from the Triassic of China, and the Problem of Establishing Relationships.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Biological Sciences 331(1260): 131-154.

Chase, M. W. (1989). “Chloroplast DNA Systematics of Liloid Monocots: Resources, Feasibility, and an Example from the Orchidaceae.” American Journal of Botany 76(12): 1720-1730.

Collins, T. M. W., Peter H.; Naylor, Gavin J. P. (1994). “Compositional Bias, Character-State Bias, and Character-State Reconstruction Using Parsimony.” Systematic Biology 43(4): 482.

Columbus, J. T. K., Michael S.; Delgado, Maria Elena Siqueros (1998). “Cladistic Parsimony Analysis of Internal Transcribed Spacer Region (nrDNA) Sequences of Bouteloua and Relatives (Graminaeae: Chloridoideae).” Aliso 17(2): 99.

Cripps, A. P. (1991). “A Cladistic Analysis of the Cornutes (Stem Chordates).” Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 102(4): 333-366.

Da Silva, J. M. C. O., D. C. (1996). “Applications of Parsimony Analysis of Endemicity in Amazonia Biogeography: An Example with Primates.” Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 59(4): 427.

Danforth, B. N. S., Herve; Packer, Laurence (1999). “Phylogeny of the Bee Benus Halictus (Hymenoptera: Halictidae) Based on Parsimony and Likelihood Analyses of Nuclear EF-1 Alpha Sequence Data.” Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 13(3): 605.

De Laet, J. S., E. (1998). “On the TTSC-FTSC Formulation of Standard Parsimony.” Cladisitics 14(3): 239.

De Laet, J. S., E. (1998). “On theThree-Taxon Approach to Parsimony Analysis.” Cladistics 14(4): 363.

De Luna, E. (1996). “Epistemology of Taxonomic Research: Phylogenetic Inference and its Evaluation.” Boletin de la Sociedad Botanica de Mexico 0(58): 43-53.

De Puytorac, P. G., J.; Legendre, P. (1994). “An Attempt and Reconstructing a Phylogenetic Tree of the Ciliphora Using Parsimony Methods.” European journal of Protistology 30(1): 1.

de Vega Rodrigues, M. (1984). “Philogenesis, Adaptation, and Biological Processes of Knowledge: An Alternative to Formal A Analogies.” Boletin de Psicologia Spain Dec(1-2): 111-148.

De Weerdt, W. H. (1989). “Phylogeny and Vicariance Biogeography of North Atlantic Chalinidae (Haplosclerida, Demospongiae).” Beaufortia 39(3): 55-88.

Del Castillo, J. S. D. S. (1996). “We Still Invoke Friction and Occam’s Razor to Explain Catch in the Spines of Eucidaris Tribuloides.” Biological Bulletin Woods Hole 190(2): 243-244.

Dickerman, A. W. (1998). “Generalizing Phylogenetic Parsimony from the Tree to the Forest.” Systematic Biology 47(3): 414.

Dimmick, W. W. (1991). “Phylogenetic Relationships of Members of the Genus Pteronotropis Inferred from Parsimony Analysis of Allozymic and Morphological Data (Cyprinidae: Cypriniformes).” Biochemical Systematics and Ecology 19(5): 413.

Easteal, S. (1990). “The Pattern of Mamillian Evolution and Relative Rate of Molecular Evolution.” Genetics 124(1): 165-174.

Evrard, J. L. K., M.; Weil, J. L. (1990). “The Nucleotide Sequence of Five Ribosomal Protein Genes from the Cyanelles of Cyanophora Paradoxa: Implications Concerning the Phylogenetic Relationship Between Cyanelles and Chloroplasts.” Journal of Molecular Evolution 30(1): 16-25.

Excoffier, L. (1990). “Evolution of Human Mitochondrial DNA: Evidence for Departure from a Pure Neutral Model of Populations at Equilibrium.” Journal of Molecular Evolution 30(2): 125-139.

Excoffier, L. S., Peter E. (1994). “Using Allele Frequency and Geographic Subdivision to Reconstruct Gene Trees within a Species: Molecular Variance Parsimony.” Genetics 136(1): 343.

Eyre, W. A. (1998). “Problems with Parsimony in Sequence of Biased Base Composition.” Journal of Molecular Evolution 47(6): 686.

Farris, J. S. A., V. A.; Kluge, A. G. (1996). “Parsimony Jackknifing Outperforms Neighbor-Joining.” Cladisitics 12(2): 99.

Farris, J. S. K., Arnold G. (1998). “The Brief History of Three-Taxon Analysis.” Cladistics 14(4): 349-362.

Felsenstein, J. (1978). “Cases in which Parsimony or Compatibility methods will be Positively Misleading.” Systematic Zoology 27: 401-410.

Felsenstein, J. (1981). “A Likelyhood Approach to Character Weighting and What it Tells Us About Parsimony and Compatibility.” Biological Journal of the Linaean Society 16: 183-196.

Felsenstein, J. (1983). “Parsimony in Systematics: Biological and Statistical Uses.” Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 14: 313-333.

Felsenstein, J. (1984). “The Statistical Approach to Inferring Evolutionary Trees and What it Tells Us About Parsimony and Compatibility.” Cladistics: Perspectives on the Reconstruction of Evolutionary History. T. Duncan, Stuessy, T. New York, Columbia University Press: 169-191.

Felsenstein, J., Sober, E. (1986). “Parsimony and Likelihood: an Exchange.” Systematic Zoology 35: 617-626.

Fitch, H. A. G., M. (1991). “Phylogenetic Scanning: A Computer-Assisted Algorithm for Mapping Gene Conversions and other Recombinational Events.” Computer Applications in the Biosciences 7(2): 207-216.

Garland, T., Jr., Karen L. M. Martin, and Ramon Diaz-Uriarte (1997). “Reconstructing Ancestral Trait Values Using Square-Change Parsimony: Plasma Osmolarity at the Amniote Transition.” Amniote Origins. S. S. Sunida, and Karen L. M. Martin. San Diego, Academic Press: 425-464.

Giribet, G. W., Ward C. (1999). “The Position of Arthropods in the Animal Kingdom: Ecdysozoa, Islands, Trees, and the “Parsimony Ratchet”.” Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 13(3): 619.

Goldman, N. (1990). “Maximum Likelihood Inference of Phylogenetic Trees, with Special Reference to a Poisson Process Model of DNA Substitution and to Parsimony Analysis.” Systematic Zoology 39(4): 345.

Goloboff, P. A. (1995). “Parsimony and Weighting: A Reply to Turner and Zandee.” Cladistics 11(1): 91.

Goloboff, P. A. (1996). “Methods for Faster Parsimony Analysis.” Cladisitics 12(3): 199.

Goloboff, P. A. (1998). “Tree Searches Under Sankoff Parsimony.” Cladisitics 14(3): 229.

Gorman, O. T. B., w. J.; Kawaoka, Y.; Webster, R. G. (1990). “Evolution of the Nucleoprotein Gene of Influenza A Virus.” Journal of Virology 64(4): 1487-1497.

Granzow De La Cerda, I. (1990). “The Cladistic Method Applied to a Real Case: Phylogenetic Analysis of Anomodon Hook. and Tayl. (Musci).” Anales Del Jardin Botanico De Madrid 47(2): 305-326.

Griesbach, J. A. M., A. R. (1989). “Vector Capability of Xiphinema Americanum Sensu Lato in California (USA).” Journal of Nematology 21(4): 517-523.

Harvey, A. W. (1992). “Three-Taxon Statements: More Precisely, an Abuse of Parsimony?” Cladistics 8(4): 345.

Hasegawa, M. F., Masami (1993). “Relative Efficiencies of the Maximum Likelihood, Maximum Parsimony, and Neibhor-Joining Methods for Estimating Protein Phylogeny.” Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 2(1): 1.

Haszprunar, G. (1992). “How Reliable are Computer Parsimony Programs for Systematics?” Zeitschrift fur Zoologische Systematik und Evolution 30(3): 244.

Haszprunar, G. (1998). “Parsimony Analysis as a Specific Kind of Homology Estimation and the Implications for Character Weighting.” Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 9(3): 333.

Hay, A. M., D. J. (1991). “‘Transference of Function’ and the Origin of Aroids: Their Significance in early Angiosperm Evolution.” Botanische Jahrbuecher Fuer Systematik Pflanzengeschichte und Pflanzengeographie 113(2-3): 339-428.

Heidrich, P. W., Michael (1994). “Tawny Owl (Strix Aluco) and Hume’s Tawny Owl (Strix Butleri) are Distinct Species: Evidence from Nucleotide Sequences of the Cytochrome Beta Gene.” Zeitschrift fuer Naturforschung Section C Biosciences 49(3-4): 230-234.

Hein, J. (1990). “Reconstructing Evolution of Sequences Subject to Recombination Using Parsimony.” Mathematical Biosciences 98(2): 185-200.

Henderson, R. A. W., P. D. (1992). “Interpretation of the Fossil Record of Acanthaster Planci from the Great Barrier Ref: A Reply to Criticism.” Coral Reefs 11(2): 95-101.

Hendy, M. D. (1989). “The Relationship Between Simple Evolutionary Tree Models and Observable Sequence Data.” Systematic Zoology 38(4): 310-321.

Hendy, M. D. P., D. (1989). “A Framework for the Quantitative Study of Evolutionary Trees.” Systematic Zoology 38(4): 297-309.

Hitchin, R. B., Michael J. (1997). “Congruence Between Parsimony and Stratigraphy: Comparisons of Three Indices.” Paleobiology 23(1): 20.

Ho Ju, S. (1994). “Copepod Phylogeny: A Reconsideration of Huys and Boxshall’s ‘Parsimony Versus Homology’.” Hydrobiologia 292-293(0): 31-39.

Ho Meng, C. W., Michael P.; Cleveland, Thomas E.; Dean, Ralph A. (1995). “Sequence Analysis of the Aspergillus Nidulans Pectate Lyase pelA Gene and Evidence for Binding of Promoter Regions to CREA, a Regulator of Carbon Catabolite Repression.” Current Genetics 27(2): 142-149.

Holland, M. A. (1997). “Occam’s Razor Applied to Hormology: Are Cytokinins Produced by Plants?” Plant Physiology Rockeville 115(3): 865-868.

Jin, L. N., M. (1990). “Limitations of the Evolutionary Parsimony Method of Phylogenetic Analysis.” Molecular Biology and Evolution 7(1): 82-102.

Jin, L. N., Masatoshi (1991). “Relative Efficiencies of the Maximum-Parsimony and Distance -Matrix Methods of Phylogeny Construction for Restriction Data.” Molecular Biology and Evolution 8(3): 356.

Johnson, L. A. S. (1989). “Models and Reality: Doctrine and Practicality in Classification.” Plant Systematics and Evolution 168(3-4): 95-108.

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Pujadas, G. R., Flora M.; Palua, Jaume (1996). “Evolution of Beta-Amylase: Patterns of Variation and Conservation in Subfamily Sequences in Relation to Parsimony Mechanisms.” Proteins 25(4): 456.

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Ronquist, F. N., S. (1990). “Process and Pattern in the Evolution of Species Associations.” Systematic Zoology 39(4): 323-344.

Rosa, M. R. (1989). “The Genus Atriplex (Chenopodiaceae) in Chile.” Gayana Botanica 46(1-2): 3-82.

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Saitou, N. (1989). “Relative Efficiencies of the Fitch-Margoliash, Maximum Likelihood, Minimum-Evolution, and Neighbor-Joining Methods of Phylogenetic Tree Construction in Obtaining the Correct Tree.” Molecular Biology and Evolution 6(5): 414.

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Siddall, M. E. (1998). “Success of Parsimony in the Four-Taxon Case: Long-Branch Repulsion by Likelihood in the Farris Zone.” Cladisitics 14(3): 209.

Sinclair, T. R. M., R. C. (1999). “Occam’s Razor, Radiation-Use Efficiency, and Vapor Preasure Deficit.” Field Crops Research 62(2-3): 239-243.

Sinsheimer, J. S. L., J. A.; Little, R. J. A. (1997). “Inference for Phylogenies Under a Hybrid Parsimony Methods: Evolutionay-Symmetric Transversion Parsimony.” Biometrics 53(1): 23.

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

justfinethanks March 28, 2010 at 8:55 pm

Smart, J. J. C. (1978). “Is Occam’s Razor a Physical Thing?” Philosophy 53: 382-385.

Oh man, I hope you track this one down. I’m hoping against hope the author means an actual, physical blade owned by William of Ockham.

It would be like the True Cross of epistemology.


lukeprog March 28, 2010 at 9:08 pm



TK March 29, 2010 at 12:18 am

I always like looking at these lists and seeing people I took classes under.

(W.D. Maddison taught part of my undergrad phylogenetics course. He gave us a lovely story about beetle penis shapes and how they lead to rapid speciation.)


Haecceitas March 29, 2010 at 12:27 am

There’s Robert Prevost’s Probability and Theistic Explanation which at least touches on the simplicity issue. Though I did’t find the book particularly deep or insightful (though not bad either).


Rups900 March 29, 2010 at 4:42 am

Michael Huemer, “When Is Parsimony a Virtue?” Philosophical Quarterly 59 (2009): 216-36.

Here’s the abstract:

Parsimony is a virtue of empirical theories. Is it also a virtue of philosophical theories? I review four contemporary accounts of the virtue of parsimony in empirical theorizing, and consider how each might apply to two prominent appeals to parsimony in the philosophical literature, those made on behalf of physicalism and on behalf of nominalism. None of the accounts of the virtue of parsimony extends naturally to either of these philosophical cases. This suggests that in typical philosophical contexts, ontological simplicity has no evidential value.

Sounds like the kind of thing you want, I could send you the PDF is you like? Obviously he’ll cite to more relevant literature too.

(Nb. Huemer is the guy who wrote Ethical Intuitionism that Wielenberg mentions in your podcast).


Ryan March 29, 2010 at 6:00 am

I’ve always thought that the only type of simplicity that can make a theory preferable is simplicity in the sense of proposing fewer hypotheses or explanatory entities, simply because the more hypotheses you propose the more likely your overall theory is false.

Each hypothesis carries a chance of being wrong, and so, all things being equal, a theory that needs ten hypotheses to work is more likely to be wrong than a theory that only needs two hypotheses to work in light of the fact that the latter carries fewer chances of being wrong. Does that make sense?


lukeprog March 29, 2010 at 6:52 am

Thanks, guys.


ImagingGeek March 29, 2010 at 7:04 am

I’ve always thought that the only type of simplicity that can make a theory preferable is simplicity in the sense of proposing fewer hypotheses or explanatory entitie

You’ve got it half right – the concept of parsimony is basically “the simplest explanation is best”; in other words, if your theory needs 100 elements (formulas, forces, whatever) to explain something, while a competing theory needs 5 to explain the same thing, we’ll generally prefer the competing theory – at least until the more complex one explains something that the simple one doesn’t.

But you have it wrong in terms of hypothesis. A good theory generates lots of hypothesis, and by testing those hypothesis we can test the theory itself. A theory that does not generate questions we can test is useless from a scientific point of view – hence why ID is not a scientific theory.

In simple terms, a scientific theory:
1) Is based on, and explain all existing data
2) It generates a series of hypothesis (questions)
3) The hypothesis it generates are testable; therefore making the theory itself is testable, and finally
4) The theory is falsifiable, basically meaning if its wrong, its possible to prove that it is wrong.


Rups900 March 29, 2010 at 7:16 am

Luke, I’ve emailed the Huemer paper across although it should be listed in the philosophy section I think, not the science one.


lukeprog March 29, 2010 at 8:27 am

Oh yeah. Thanks, Rups900.


Josh March 29, 2010 at 11:20 am

Somehow, I get the feeling that phylogenetic parsimony is very different from true parsimony… in particular that phylogenetic parsimony is an empirical question about something very very specific that is obviously wrong and is not used as a way of explaining things but rather a way of reconstructing trees…


TaiChi March 29, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Sober’s got some stuff on his website:


exapologist March 29, 2010 at 8:47 pm

Don’t forget David Lewis’ famous remarks about qualitative vs. quantitative simplicity in his classic 1973 book, Counterfactuals.


TaiChi March 29, 2010 at 9:29 pm

Don’t forget David Lewis’ famous remarks about qualitative vs. quantitative simplicity in his classic 1973 book, Counterfactuals.  

Oooh. That reminds me – anyone who’s familiar with Lewis’s modal realism should check out..


Andrew April 2, 2010 at 7:11 pm

Here’s one: Roger White (2005). “Why Favour Simplicity?” Analysis 65 (287):205–210.


lukeprog April 2, 2010 at 9:09 pm

Thanks again, Andrew. You’re making lots of great contributions!


Rups900 September 7, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Philosopher Steven D. Hales has a book chapter, “Ockham’s Disposable Razor”, available from his website here:


lukeprog September 7, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Thanks, Rups900.


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