Thursday, August 18, 2011

Review: God's Debris

Download "Gods Debris" for free here

I wanted to do a book review for this book I recently read, God's Debris, by Scott Adams. That's the same Scott Adams who writes "Dilbert," though this book has nothing to do with the comic strip. This short book's plot is basically this: a delivery man shows up at a house with a package to deliver, and finds this old man inside, who starts asking strange questions. Thereafter, it is basically a philosophical exchange, in a more or less Socratic form. The book touches on many areas of thought, including probability, gravity, time, evolution, the basis of existence, light, even social skills.

Adams says in the introduction that the old man knows literally everything, and thus he had to try and make the man's facts and explanations sound true; he does this by writing such that the old man gives simple answers, according to the skeptic's premise that the simplest explanation is usually the correct one (a premise that Adams himself tends to doubt, given the complexity of the world we see around us). He says in the introduction that the book is intended to be a thought experiment, namely to "try to figure out what's wrong with the simple explanations," some of which are true and some which aren't.

Frankly, there are definitely plenty of places where I found the facts to be either misguided or misleading, or flat out wrong. Especially in the parts where he talks about evolution, which I have a pretty firm understanding of. Also, the part where he says that, thanks to the immutable law of probability, if we did a redo of the Big Bang, things would happen exactly the same way; chaos theory and modern physics show that to be false. But many other sections seem credible, given my above-typical (though by no means exceptional) grasp of those aspects of science. Some, of course, is pure conjecture, though often a quite compelling sort of conjecture.

And that's what I mostly feel this book is: compelling. There are some truly fresh ideas in here, and the presentation is engaging enough to accept the occasionally contrived-sounding exchanges. The trick is to focus more on the ideas than the plot, which, as I mentioned, is extremely threadbare. The majority of the text is pure discussion, as the book is mainly a vehicle for the expounding of the ideas.

As Adams mentions in his introduction, part of the fun of this book is just to have your head spun around. For me, the most fascinating part were the sections about time and movement. I'd heard similar ideas, about existence pulsing on and off, but I'd never heard it put so clearly and rationally, never seen it given a whole explanation like this, set within a framework other than that of some New Age notion of the universe as the beating heart of God, or something. And what he had to say about light was entirely new to me, enough to qualify as a real mind fuck, a whole new way of looking at things, and I always appreciate that.

I hope you'll read this. It's pretty short, you can read it in a couple hours, depending on how often you stop to think about things; and hell, it's free. And, if you do read it and end up wanting to discuss it with someone, I'd be more than happy to, just send me an email (find my address in my profile).


  1. I've read the book twice! It is one of my favorites. It really leads a person to think.

  2. Excellent review. Haven't read this one yet, but I'm definitely adding it to my to-read list.