Notes from God’s Debris


Scott Adams rambles all over the philosophical world in [_God’s Debris_](, his first non-Dilbert book, which attempts to slaughter most of the world’s sacred cows. This book of philosophy surprised his fans when published in 2001; after all, most times a celebrity in one field takes on another, we end up with something like [Eddie Murphy’s music video](

His sections on religion and science are best, perhaps because those are more objective subjects. The sections on relationships and the practical applications of the stated philosophy are weaker, and come off as a cheesy self-help book.

The first-person prose is not great, coming off as a mix between a _film noir_ detective thriller and the narration of _The Wonder Years_. It performs its function, however, of distancing the ideas from statements of truth. Adams writes in the forward: “I call it a 132-page thought experiment wrapped in a fictional story…You won’t discover my opinions by reading my fiction.”

Another drawback of the prose, however, is the way it forces him to explain each step of the reasoning. He has to build his arguments like houses of cards, where any one flaw seems to take down the entire structure. The way he does so shows a lot of ego from the Avatar’s perspective. The overall concepts once he finishes explaining them are strong, but the hubris makes me skeptical of the execution.

The real value of reading _God’s Debris_ is in the discussions that inevitably come out of it. The book is an excellent _provocateur_, and I agree with him that it’s best to “share _God’s Debris_ with a smart friend and then discuss it while enjoying a tasty beverage.” It’s best to not take these ideas for absolute truth, but reading it with friends will certainly help you find out what you really believe yourself.

### Notes

Adams pushes strongly at first the notion that all our understanding of the world is done through metaphors; that we can’t possibly understand the way the world actually works from the perspective we have.

> Everything you perceive is a metaphor for something your brain is not equipped to fully understand. God is as real as the clothes you are wearing and the chair you are sitting in. They are all metaphors for something you will never understand. (47)

With that in mind, better metaphors (or ideas) are the best things we can give the world.

> The religious metaphors of the past are no longer comforting. Science is whittling at them from every side. Humanity needs a metaphor that allows God and science to coexist, at least in our minds, for the next thousand years. (47)

> Ideas are the only things that can change the world. The rest is details. (127)

B.S. detector was on high alert around page 58, where Adams goes on a quantum leap about, well, quantum leaps.

> If a piece of…dust disappears near a large mass, say a planet, then probability will cause it to pop back into existence nearer to the planet on the next beat. Probability is highest when you are near massive objects. Or to put it another way, mass is the physical expression of probability. (58)

Could a deterministic universe pretend to have free-will for practical purposes?

> It is a useful fiction to blame a thing called willpower and pretend the individual is somehow capable of overcoming urges with this magical and invisible force. Without that fiction, there could be no blame, no indignation, and no universal agreement that some things should be punished. And without those very real limiting forces, our urges would be less contained and more disruptive than they are. The delusion of willpower is a practical fiction. (94-95)

So what does one do in a deterministic world where probability is the ruling force?

> God’s reassembly requires people–living, healthy people…When you buckle your seatbelt, you increase your chances of living. That is obeying probability. If you get drunk and drive without a seat belt, you are fighting probability…Every economic activity helps…you are contributing to the realization of God’s consciousness. (99-100)

One interesting bit in the self-help section about the “affirmation” technique, and something I’ve noticed too about prayer:

> The process of concentrating on the goal every day greatly increases the likelihood of noticing an opportunity in the environment. (118)

I’ve had to do a fair bit of unlearning in most parts of my life where I thought I was an expert, in order to move forward.

> Awareness is about _unlearning_. It is the recognition that you don’t know as much as you thought you knew. (124)

You know, this explains a lot:

> The most effective [leaders] are [irrational]. You don’t often see math geniuses or logic professors become great leaders. Logic is a detriment to leadership. (127)

Interesting that Adams cites a feeling I once had after a similar enlightening conversation; mine also dealt with the opportunity we have to participate in changing our world. That must be what triggers this intense awareness of our surroundings:

> I don’t remember leaving his house or walking to my van, but I do remember how everything looked. The city had bright edges. Sound was crisp. Colors were vivid…I could feel every variation in airflow. (129)