Friday, December 16, 2005

Scott Adams should stick to drawing comics

So the guy who draws Dilbert has written a book called God's Debris, which you can download as a PDF and read for free, and in doing so has crossed the border into the land of crazy old men-- jumping the shark, if you will, and losing most, if not all, credibility outside the field of cartooning. IMHO.

The book is basically a retread of Richard Bach's Illusions, but much more didactic and concerned with the physical nature of the universe-- not a bad thing to consider, but it's unfortunate that Adams clearly has no deep understanding of probability, quantum mechanics, gravity, or electromagnetic theory, instead setting them up as paper tigers which he attempts to supplant with his own theory of "God-dust" (yes, it is as kooky as it sounds). It's pretty embarrassing, actually.

I also disagree with the assertion, in the introduction, that "[p]eople under the age of fourteen should not read [this book]." Any real science fiction fan will tell you that he or she had already churned through most of Adams' ideas by that age, and probably knew a hell of a lot more actual science than he seems to.

And any high school debate team would have serious problems with his critical thinking skills-- he selectively chooses evidence to support his goofball theories, conveniently ignoring the bulk of evolutionary theory while accepting the Big Bang as gospel truth. WTF?

As a counterpoint, I offer this list of much better books and other media which provide perspective on the same philosophical issues:
  • Inherit the Stars by James P. Hogan, which deals with evolution and extraordinary evidence;
  • anything by Philip K. Dick, but especially Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, for ideas about memory and perceived reality;
  • Albert Einstein's Relativity, which should be required reading for any college-level physics student;
  • A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking (also available in movie form), which will-- no kidding-- blow your mind;
  • Charles Darwin's Origin of Species, because really, nothing beats primary sources;
  • the movie Mindwalk, in which characters actually understand quantum phenomena, even though their discussion is still lightweight; and
  • the Showtime series Penn & Teller: Bullshit! (also on DVD), which demonstrates that not all skeptics are irrational cultists, as Adams claims in his book.
Provoking thought is never a bad thing, but there are better ways to do it than pimping your own wacked-out philosophy and claiming that it's "the most compelling vision of reality you will ever read." Not even close, dude. I've got an entire bookshelf that makes you a liar.

I just hope Adams isn't trying to start his own religion here.
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