I found that I was compelled to ask myself a few questions after reading of this book. God’s Debris is a book by Scott Adams, whom you may have heard of as the creator of Dilbert. Here are a few of those questions:
- What exactly motivated God to create the world we know?
- What does knowing ‘everything’ even mean? Is omnipotence possible?
- Can anything remain unaffected by the phenomenon of probability?
- Why should probability matter to me if in my limited life, probability will never even out to averages?
- Do all religions have a common end?
- If probability is the essence of God, how can one say that God has consciousness? Is God nothing but probability?
Adams begins the book cleverly by presenting a challenge to the readers right in the introduction. This could make you want to zip through the book in record time but you’ll soon realise that this is a ride you’ll want to take with a few thinking breaks in between. Though I will not reveal the absolutely ‘amaze’ theory that the author lays out in the book: it shall remain hidden so those who actually read it get rewarded. Majorly.
There are two central characters in the book: one of them is Avatar, an old man who knows everything, which obviously makes Adams’ life very simple (lol jk) and the other is a young fellow who, like me, thinks he is a smart cookie because he has stumbled into thinking about one or two “deep” questions about life and the universe. Almost the entirety of the book is devoted to a conversation between the above two people, initiated by the old man.
The two talk about God, free will, light, extra-sensory perceptions, evolution, religion, internet, technology, extraterrestrial life, gravity and a bunch of other topics that we think we have thought about at great length. But this book makes you feel like an idiot for not having asked the right questions about any of them. As the old man says, through the years of civilisation we haven’t been able to answer the ‘why’ questions; we’ve only adjusted to these incredible phenomena and learnt to use them to our advantage.
The one underlying theme that comes up constantly is how humans have had to choose between delusion on one hand and the discomfort of partial understanding on the other. This means that at almost every step, we’ve chosen to draw a limited conclusion based on the information we gather, and subsequently generalise it because the other alternative of going on with life without the matter having been settled is really, really uncomfortable. Avatar describes this most succinctly when he says that the mind is an illusion generator, not a window to reality. The young man manages a more coherent response after the initial awe and disbelief that I personally never got out of.
“Okay, imagine you’re a sea captain but you’re blind and deaf. You shout orders to your crew, but you don’t know for sure if they heard the orders or obeyed them. All you know is that when you give an order to sail to a particular warm port, within a few days you are someplace warm. You can never be sure if the crew obeyed you, or took you to some other warm place, or if you went nowhere and the weather improved. If, as you say, our minds are delusion generators, then we’re all like blind and deaf sea captains shouting orders into the universe and hoping it makes a difference. We have no way of knowing what really works and what merely seems to work. So doesn’t it make sense to try all the things that appear to work even if we can’t be sure?”
“You have potential,” he said.
I didn’t know what that meant.
And the conversation continues much in the same vein.
So if you happen to have a few hours to spare, even if it’s while travelling to your internship and back, I suggest you read this book, and if you do figure out the challenge, or have a million thoughts in your head, even if it’s ‘OMG, can that be true?!’, you know whom to tell (Glasnost).