This may seem tangential to the notion of simplicity as discussed in the class, but it is important to know about the association I bring to this subject if I hope to dispel or at least challenge my pre-concieved notions and biases. It also raises the question: if important decisions have been made in education by masking complex issues with a cloak of complexity, then what else have we been sold because someone (a company, a group of experts, a government) has offered up a Simple Truth or conclusion about something because it was the easiest path through a bureaucratic quagmire. At any rate, I believe it is as healthy to have a robust skepticism of all claims to simplicity as it is to seek out simple theories or models of best fit.
Speaking of bias, I was stopped by this line from one of the articles we read: "Preferences for simpler theories are widely thought to have played a central role in many important episodes in the history of science." (Simplicity in the Philosophy of Science from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy). The history of science, here and elsewhere, is probably taken to mean the history of Western Science. I can't help but wonder about the correlation with colonial, andocentric, and Eurocentric perspectives. Does the use of a contrasting perspective to traditional Western Science, feminist standpoint theory for example, challenge the appeal to simplicity as a virtue and use of simpler theories? What is simplicity, again, is masking complexity because it contains perspectives and interpretations within existing paradigms?
I wrote two quotes at the top of my copy of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on the noted social and political Viennese philosopher Karl Popper..I'm really not sure if it was his words or something I picked up in class: "science must begin with myths, and the criticism of myths" and "science may be described as the art of systematic over-simplication." Taken together, these quotes could furnish a course-length study on their own, but I appreciate how they frame, for myself anyway, the important bookends of a study on the faith in simplicity in scientific research, particularly of a social kind applied to policy and culture. I made a note to return to Popper's disdain for historicism. I sense that many Social Studies teachers are unwitting acolytes of historical determinism, so perhaps Popper will suggest a cure. I should also note that the most interesting word I learned while reading about Popper was amanuensis, as in Popper's wife was also his amanuensis. It means secretary.