One concept I learned about during my undergrad studies in Anthropology was Occam’s Razor (The Law of Parsimony) as defined below:

“Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate”

“Frustra fit per plura quod potest fieri per pauciora”

“Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem”

In English: “Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily.” In layman’s terms: sometimes the simplest answer is the best answer.   And via wiki: “The term razor refers to the act of shaving away unnecessary assumptions to get to the simplest explanation.”

I’ve only recently thought of Occam’s Razor while reading Michael Pollan‘s In Defense of Food.

In his chapter on the rise of nutritionism, he writes about how in America, the food industry has taken over the true meaning of food and nutrition.  Our grocery stores are stocked with processed foods “fortified with vitamins,” “low-fat” foods, diet this, diet that.  When really, if you want to eat healthfully, the best answer is the simplest one.  His most important tip to us, the reader and the consumer:  avoid the aisles and stick to the outer edges.

I haven’t finished the book yet, but here’s a good excerpt that may help explain why:

Eat Right, Get Fatter

In fact, we did change our eating habits in the wake of new guidelines, endeavoring to replace the evil fats at the top of the food pyramid with the good carbs spread out at the bottom.  The whole of the industrial food supply was reformulated to reflect the new nutritional wisdom, giving us low-fat pork, low-fat Snackwell’s, and all the low-fat pasta and high-fructose (yet low-fat!) corn syrup we could consume.  Which turned out to be quite a lot.  Oddly, Americans got really fat on their new low-fat diet.

One response to “Parsimony

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