True, simplicity is not proof of truth. But since we can
never understand true reality, if two models both explain the
same facts, it is more rational to use the simpler one. It is a
matter of convenience.
Scott Adams’ book God’s Debris introduces us, the reader and first-person narrator, to the world’s smartest person sitting in a rocking chair, Avatar.
You (the narrator) and Avatar hold a wide-ranging conversation about God, religion, science, and probability.
And it’s persuasive.
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Alert! God’s Debris is a work of fiction. There are complete spoilers ahead!
The book’s title comes from the idea that an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful, omnipotent God has no challenges in its life. More on this later, but we have to build up to it.
Occam’s Razor suggests that the simplest explanation of an event is likely the correct cause. Adam’s describes the technique as the skeptics creed: the most simple explanation is the correct one.
Adams’ uses this to whittle complex subjects into simple explanations. Simplicity is persuasive, after all.
As humans, Avatar tells us, we have extremely limited understanding of our environments. Our sense of cause-and-effect is rudimentary at best. We’re limited by the information at hand, our previous behaviors and results, and the illusion of understanding what’s around us. We can’t understand reality, so our brains filter what we can and we create metaphors for what we know and what we think we know.
Readers of PersuasionReadingList.com may be familiar with these concepts already. Avatar is setting the groundwork for arguments later in the book.
The idea of Free Will is addressed. When events go our way, we tend to think it was a result of our efforts, Avatar tells us. When things go against us, on the other hand, we often blame the situation or a higher power.
In reality, there are forces far removed at play. Sam Harris covers this in his book, Free Will. These forces limit the choices we can conceive and the choices that are available to us.
One of these forces, according to God’s Debris, is Probability. Across the universe Probability determines the outcome of every interaction — without any detectable force. Avatar describes Gravity and Magnetism as representations of Probability, and Probability is one half of God.
Religion has no part in this conversation, Avatar says. Every religion is one map towards a better social structure. If the map fails, the religion fails. We’re warned against other maps that our priests may not trust, but at a deeper level most people don’t live their religion full-time. People aren’t giving away all of their money, people aren’t loving their enemy. Instead, they act out their religion for the benefits it brings them, knowing they might have picked the wrong one, Avatar says.
The other half of God, in addition to Probability, is the most base-level of energy or whatever is smaller even still. Everything is made of smaller components, smaller than atoms and quarks, until we get to the smallest thing that makes up all matter. Avatar calls this God-Dust.
And we, the readers, are God’s Debris, made up of this God-Dust.
Earlier, I mentioned that an omnipotent God would have no challenges. It would know our future, it would know its own future, it would know its own power. Avatar suggests that God would be bored.
The only challenge an omnipotent God could face is to destroy itself, and see what happens next.
Hence, the Big Bang. God destroyed itself and sent its energy around the universe. Humanity and other God’s Debris is working within the realm of Probability to reassemble our collective energy back into God.
Connecting people has always been one of humanity’s driving forces. The Internet is another example of this. Someday our mental capacity will be connected. We’re forever moving towards greater group power and interconnectedness.
Probability determines that most evil is punished, Avatar say, and that most good, on average, is rewarded. If we work with Probability, our live on average is going to be better than working against Probability.
Education and economic output are both given as examples of working with Probability, to increasing the good of humanity and rebuilding the network of God’s Debris back into a single powerful entity — God.
Willpower and Morality are both illusions, we’re told, to change the equation of what urges are more powerful in humans. We give into the most powerful urge, and those two illusions are social methods to help exert external influence over peoples’ internal urges.
The book covers a few topics towards the end that address human relations. Too many people think conversation is a way to exchange information, we’re told. Instead, conversation is a way to build trust between people.
While not identified by name, a handful of Dale Carnegie’s principles are thrown in for good measure, such as talking in terms of the other person’s interest, using peoples’ names, and making others feel valued.
The book touches on Affirmations and their ability to focus the mind towards a goal. If we’re able to build a habit of repeatedly focusing on an outcome, our brain will tune itself to recognize opportunities to make that a reality. This is similar to The Secret and the Eastern concept of the Tao, that things will come as a natural order of the universe.
Adams wraps up the book discussing peoples’ levels of awareness to the nature of reality. Unlearning the artificial constructs of society and the illusion that we understand reality is another Taoist idea that is present here.
Scott Adams’ book God’s Debris covers a lot of topics in its 130-odd pages. It’s an interesting and quick read, and very enjoyable. I’ve read it twice in the last few years, wrapping my head around some of the ideas.
God’s Debris is on Adams’ Persuasion Reading List because of the simple, Occam’s Razor nature of the arguments. Simple arguments are persuasive, even if they’re not always accurate. It’s hard to attack a simple idea with complex reasoning that requires mental gymnastics.
In addition to simple arguments, Adams writes with short sentences and clear vocabulary. Short, direct sentences are persuasive. They don’t hide complex ideas within a pile of commas. The same can be said about easy to understand vocabulary. People trust what they can easily understand.
Adams has other aspects at play here as well. He uses pacing and leading in the book, talking in terms that the reader will agree with to help move them along in the argument.
As a part of pacing, Adams uses mind reading. No, he doesn’t literally read your mind. Adams writes the main character as someone who would likely have similar thoughts or objections as the reader might. These are then addressed in the book, getting your brain on the same wavelength. Then, as the character is persuaded, so too is the reader.
The role of Avatar is given an aura of authority. He speaks with confidence and a sense of deep knowledge. Authority is persuasive because we believe the other person knows more than we do about the subject.
Adams opens God’s Debris saying this is a thought experiment. He believes that the explanation for most things is far more complicated than we understand. By presenting these ideas in their simple form, are we persuaded? or can we find flaws to his logic?