Talk:Hanlon's razor

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German General[edit]

The paragraph about German general is a clever anecdote which, among other things, speaks of stupidity, but it demonstrates no relation to the subject, i.e., Hanlon's razor. Therefore it must be deleted.

This was clearly stated in edit summary. Please don't revert other people contributions without stating the objections to the presented argument. "a bit high handed" -- I suspect it is not a valid argument, although I have no idea what you mean. Also, its idiomatic phrasing is unclear for non-native English speakers. Muslim lo Juheu (talk) 15:29, 5 May 2011 (UTC)

What I meant was that the anecdote had stood for some time and that it added to the average reader's understanding of the adage (perhaps only by way of comparison) and that to remove it without some discussion would diminish the value of the article. However, I won't die in a ditch if you remove the paragraph because its inclusion is inappropriate. Silent Billy (talk) 23:24, 9 May 2011 (UTC)

Malice is equally common as stupidity, and all too often appears in the same person at exactly the same time, therefore I propose a change to Hanlon's Razor:

"Don't attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."

This would take the form of two utterances held dynamically in equiposition, Hanlon' Razor and its converse, "Don't attribute to stupidity that which is adequately explained by malice."

These two statements, intelligently applied to situations calling for them, when held in the mind together like Schrodinger's Cat in a box, are capable of effectively explaining, all by themselves, nearly every important human interaction.

Here they are again, together:

Don't attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. Don't attribute to stupidity that which is adequately explained by malice.

See? See how so much becomes clear?

(This greatly applies to the Wiki talk world, incidentally, more than words can say. I think we all here can see that.) — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:21, 20 March 2014 (UTC)

Notability/ref tags added[edit]

This article seems to be nothing more than "cool Internet trivia" and not a topic that meets Wikipedia rules for articles. I see no coverage of this topic by sources that meet our rules on reliable sources, and inclusion in some jargon files is a far cry from demonstrating notability for a Wikipedia article. For a sentiment that is demonstrated (albeit through what appears to be original research) to be very old, it also seem wrong to give it the modern name. This article needs to be renamed and reliable sources on the topic found so it can be rewritten largely from scratch, or it needs to be deleted. DreamGuy (talk) 19:44, 28 August 2011 (UTC)

Reference link broken[edit]

Reference 5: "Napoleon I on Incompetence - Quotation - MSN Encarta", is no longer valid. Encarta has been shutdown WebCite apparently does not have a mirror. Sakshale (talk) 21:52, 5 September 2011 (UTC)


Article is wrong. It is Heinlein's Razor. Needs to be fixed. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:50, 1 June 2013 (UTC)

The book referenced as a source ISBN 0-417-06450-0 is by Arthur Bloch ( not Hanlon. There is no adequate sourcing for Mr. Hanlon beyond a supposed email on a site. Contrast that with Heinlein's well-known, long published book. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:00, 1 June 2013 (UTC)

There is no good evidence that Hanlon existed. How did this page past muster? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:05, 1 June 2013 (UTC)

There is no proof Hanlon existed besides one anecdotal email from some guy for whom there is also no proof of real identity. This article name needs to be changed to Heinlein's Razor or deleted. (talk) 18:25, 1 June 2013 (UTC)

I clarified things somewhat; the actual claim is that Hanlon made a submission that was published under his name in Bloch's book. Are you disputing that, and if so, based on what? Granted, neither Stafford-Fraser nor Raymond say they actually researched this to verify it, but they still reported it. Indeed, you should present a source that clearly attributes the razor to Heinlein rather than Hanlon. Deletion is unwarranted in any case, the topic is generally notable, whatever the origin. --Joy [shallot] (talk) 21:51, 1 June 2013 (UTC)
I have a copy of the book, it indeed lists it as Hanlon's Razor. A published book is a perfectly adequate source for a wikipedia page- not everything is online. The email adds details such as Hanlon's first name that I don't see in the book, but this doesn't change the fact that the name 'Hanlon's Razor' itself is well sourced. --Noren (talk) 16:13, 28 August 2013 (UTC)
I'm not sure a book quoting a blog is a good source. Heinlein's short story appeared in 1941, well before the likely typo this article is based on. It's a poor article and not noteworthy. The quotation should appear in Wikiquote with appropriate attribution(s). Ronald Joe Record (talk) 16:39, 1 December 2015 (UTC)
There's now hundreds of books mentioning "Hanlon's razor" - Google Books search - for better or for worse, so I'd say it's well past the point of not being noteworthy. --Joy [shallot] (talk) 22:04, 1 December 2015 (UTC)

Attribution to Napoleon[edit]

I see from this page that a very similar saying ("Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.") is attributed to Napoleon. I see above that a Napoleonic connection was deleted when the source went offline? Is this a real earlier instance? If so, it should be possible to find a cite. Noel (talk) 18:18, 20 September 2013 (UTC)

Alternate law also called Hanlon's Razor[edit]

I have seen the following as an alternate Hanlon's razor, "Do not invoke conspiracy as an explanation when ignorance and incompetence will suffice, as conspiracy implies intelligence."

Maybe it should be added to the page as an alternate? (talk) 17:29, 14 February 2014 (UTC)

Where have you seen it? Google just turns up some anonymous forum usage and a journalist using that exact quote but calling it Finagle's law. --McGeddon (talk) 17:41, 14 February 2014 (UTC)


In the main text, there is the phrase "Robert J. Hanlon of Scranton, Pennsylvania", in which "Scranton, Pennsylvania" is a link to another wiki site. But the focal point here, if any, is Robert J. Hanlon (no wiki page), not Scranton, Pennsylvania... I think that the link to Scranton, Pennsylvania should be removed since there is no obvious relevance for the link. Sure Scranton, Pennsylvania has a wiki page, but so do so many other things (the word "name" as an absurd example: ), so it is not worthy to argue that it *can* be linked and therefore it *should* be linked. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:17, 11 April 2014 (UTC)

 Done "Anyone can edit", be WP:BOLD. Face-wink.svg Paradoctor (talk) 07:22, 11 April 2014 (UTC)

Gray's Law?[edit]

So why is it called Gray's law if it paraphrases Arthur C. Clarke and/or Porter Clark? (The Clark's Law page was deleted: Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Clark's Law and apparently not merged in here). Now there's no way to tell if this was done maliciously! --Theodore Kloba (talk) 20:48, 6 May 2014 (UTC)

Reverted citation[edit]

FTR, if someone wants to research this then there's a discussion with many links here that goes quite far back in time about the origins of this, and it doesn't even mention "Gray's law".!search/Vernon$20Shryver$20incompetence$20malice/rec.arts.sf.fandom/1JaqxckrAOc/xO5jzyejK1UJ

--Attila.lendvai (talk) 06:07, 16 May 2014 (UTC)

Criticism Section?[edit]

If I were a malicious person, I would have come up with this razor independently of Hanlon to convince people I was just stupid. Just sayin'. Honestly, I think most people agree that this razor is miguided at best and dishonest at worst. (talk) 21:27, 12 July 2016 (UTC)

Lol well it is circular. If I say Hanlon was malicious when he came up with this "law" will I be countered by Hanlons "law"? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:48, 2 May 2017 (UTC)

Bill Clarke's claim[edit]

On 2006-01-20, blogger Bill Clarke claims to have coined the phrase (Archived)in the short story 'Axioms of a Mad Poet' that supposedly was published in 1974 "in a small 'summer project' newspaper in Toronto's East End' under the pen name "W.B. Clarke" . (On that same blog page, a certain Eric M. Van claims to have coined the phrase independently.) Clarke's claim cannot be used in the article without independent evidence, but it seems worth recording here since a copy of said newspaper could in principle exist. --Jorge Stolfi (talk) 12:27, 17 November 2016 (UTC)