A review of “God’s Debris” by Scott Adams

A while ago we did a post on pandeism, in that post we discussed the feasibility of pandeism as core of a future religion in a highly scientific society. We introduced the ideas of Bernard Haisch, a NASA PhD astrophysicist, we wrote the book The God Theory in which he explains the creation of the universe as the transformation of god into the universe. However Haisch is not only one to pursue pandeistic ideas. American writer Scott Adams has written an excellent book God’s Debris.

What kind of book is God’s Debris? Although the books start as a novel, it is definitely not a novel, at least not in the usual sense. The book contains only two character, the I-figure, a package deliverer, and an elderly man who reveals himself at the end as “Avatar”. The “story” starts when the I-figure has to deliver a package at a certain address. The postman has the habitat of checking whether doors are locked or not, and when he cannot deliver the package and if he can open the door, he would leave the package indoors. This routine is followed by the main character at the beginning of the book, however in this case the resident is in fact at home. But instead of complaining, the other man, Avatar, invites the deliverer for a conversation. This talk starts with an odd question from Avatar: “Did you deliver the package, or did the package deliver you?” The postman answer that he delivered the package, but Avatar asks then whether he would have delivered the package if it did not contain an address. The I-figure denies he would, Avatar subsequently concludes that a certain cooperation from the package is required to deliver it. This first question is typical for the rest of the book, and therefore I would place “God’s Debris” in the genre of a Socratic dialogue.

Then the man starts to talk about whether we have a free will or not. The package deliverer says we have, but after a few more critical questions from Avatar he admits we cannot be sure. Then Avatar switch to discussing whether god has a free will, and after a short exchange, the I-figure exclaims that the old man is an atheist. Slowly Avatar explains his theory about god and the universe. According to his theory, god has decided at a certain moment to cease to exist. When god ceased to exist his “body” became the dust we and the universe are made, hence the title God’s Debris.

According to Avatar this debris from god, consist of two things: matter and probability. In essence Avatar’s worldview can be described as dualistic, since the world is made up from two different things. However Avatar’s dualism is different from “classic” dualism, because probability is a process rather than a substance. According his theory, probability is the driving force of the universe and is it the left over of god’s mind.

But why did god decide to cease to exist? According to Avatar an omnipotent and omniscient being cannot be motivated by the same motivations as humans, for example an omnipotent god does not require food and hence is not driven by hunger as we do. In fact, Avatar argues, that such omnipotent and omniscient being can only be motivated by one thing: the desire to experience his non-existence. One might wonder if god has really ceased to exist, how can he experience his own non-existence? Here is interesting twist, and also a distinction between Haisch’s pandeism and God’s Debris, the non-existence of god is temporary. According to Avatar we are part of the reconstruction of god. Since our universe is made from the same components as god, these components can rearranged such that god will exist once more. However, we might wonder what god would do after his reconstruction, but on this Avatar remains silent.

There is a striking resemblance between Avatar’s theory and Hinduism. Some schools of Hinduism believe that our soul is actually a piece of god’s soul, Brahman, which had become separated from it. According to this view the purpose of spirituality is the recombination of our soul with Brahman. (For the Harry Potter fans among us, this has nothing to the with the production of horcruxes).

Avatar sees the invention of the Internet as a sign of the upcoming reconstruction of god. He clearly believes that god cannot be reconstructed without human help, in essence the purpose of our existence is to possible the reconstruction of god. Consequently Avatar is worried about the continued existence of humanity, as long as man exists god can be reconstructed. However, when humanity will become extinct god’s reconstruction is jeopardized. Especially is Avatar concerned about the numerous conflicts in the world combined with the existence of weapons of mass destruction. All these might lead to a new world war with the great risk of human extinction.

Interestingly this theory might provide a strong motive for space colonization. Space colonization might ensure the continued existence of the human race, even if terrestrial nations would destroy each other. By further expansion of humanity about the universe, the probability that the human race will be destroyed before the reconstruction of god will decrease rapidly.

At a certain point the I-figure ask whether people has to do anything special in order to “satisfy” god. Avatar responds to this question:

“Every economic activity helps. Whether you are pro-
gramming computers, or growing food, or raising children,
or cleaning garbage from the side of the road, you are con-
tributing to the realization of God’s consciousness. None of
those activities is more important than another.”

In other words simply living your life is a good thing to do because everything is helping the reconstruction of god. As an ethical theory this is a pleasant idea, do whatever you do for a living and you are a good person. No worry about difficult dilemma’s or strange rules written in long forgotten books. However, when we are speaking about ethics, we are talking about good and evil. This is what Avatar has to say about it:

“Evil is any action that might damage people. Probabil-ity generally punishes evildoers. Since most criminals arecaptured and jailed, overall the people who hurt others tendto pay. So evil does exist and, on average, it is punished.

This comes quite clause to the Buddhist idea of causality. The comparison with karma does not escape the attention of the package deliverer. Naturally the conversation shifts to the topic of the afterlife. Avatar explains as follows:

“Over time, everything that is possible happens. That is
a fundamental quality of probability. If you flip a coin often
enough, eventually it will come up heads a thousand times
in a row. And everything possible will happen over and over
as long as God’s debris exists. The clump of debris that
comprises your body and mind will break down and disin-
tegrate someday, but a version of you will reappear in the
future, by chance.”
“Are you saying I’ll reincarnate?”
“Not exactly. I’m saying a replica of your mind and
body will exist in the distant future, by chance. And the
things you do now can either make life more pleasant or
more difficult for your replica.”
“Why would I care about a replica of me? That’s a dif-
ferent guy.”

Avatar goes further and explains that there will be many more replicas of ourselves in the future, but he also states that some future people will have some of our memories, not necessarily all.This is also a further similarity with the Buddhist idea of rebirth, which is distinct from reincarnation. The latter is the movement of the soul from one body to another, however, Buddhism denies to existence of the soul. The Buddhist idea of rebirth means that to lives are related, but not identical.

We might now wonder if the theory as presented in God’s Debris is true, what about different religious views. Are those wrong? Avatar denies that religion does not matter, even if there are false:

“The best any human can do is to pick a delusion thathelps him get through the day. This is why people of differ-ent religions can generally live in peace. At some level, weall suspect that other people don’t believe their own religionany more than we believe ours.”

I want the end this post with the following quote:

“Four billion people say they believe in God, but fewgenuinely believe. If people believed in God, they wouldlive every minute of their lives in support of that belief. Richpeople would give their wealth to the needy. Everyonewould be frantic to determine which religion was the trueone. No one could be comfortable in the thought that theymight have picked the wrong religion and blundered into eternal damnation, or bad reincarnation, or some otherunthinkable consequence. People would dedicate their livesto converting others to their religions.

20 thoughts on “A review of “God’s Debris” by Scott Adams”

  1. Great review. The idea he presented about people not genuinely believing in god is an interesting one and I think it hold some water.

    1. I think it’s true. I think when it comes to religious believes people are using double thought like procedures (from 1984): the ability to hold two contradicting ideas simultaneously. When I read 1984 for the first time at age 12, I found the whole idea of double thought bizarre. But when I got more experience with people, I realized that double thought is actually a normal thing. It might also explain why people as Rebecca can honestly believe that christianity is a logical believe, despite being able to see all the evidence on the contrary.

      1. 1984 is a great read, I read it and loved it immensely. I think in general such people feel that the contradictions are a small matter and therefore doesn’t do much to affect the belief held.

        1. There are often misguided on that, although most of the time no cares about such contradictions. But one the try engage in serious discussions they are confronted with these flaws, and they are unable to keep their story straight. Instead they choose to distort their opponents views or are ignoring parts of the argument.

      2. If you can convince yourself that 2+2=5 and that is always how you add it up despite that other people say it is 4, you’ll learn that to get along with people when you make change you’ll have to give a penny extra to make sure they think you’re not cheating them. You can go all through your life that way.
        2+2=5, 5-4=0, 1 is not a number

        People learn wrong thinking and you have to dislodge the wrongful logic/rules from their simulation of the world before they can find better understanding of how it works.

        1. Thank you for your comment!

          I have nothing to add, except that dislodging the wrongful logic/rules from their simulation is the difficult thing, and too often it’s impossible to do. But we should try convince people that their logic is faulty and to learn them the right rules.

          1. Dislodging those wrongful ideas/rules is difficult which is why many deconversion stories are about a long road from theism to atheism, many with stops at agnosticism along the way.

            I think that changing the basic rules in your head is difficult and can’t be taught to you in a few days/weeks without resorting to brainwashing techniques.

            1. Indeed, that’s why I do not try to “(de)convert” people on the net. Instead I try to show them their errors, hoping that they will understand it at some time.

              1. I completely agree with that. How good I am at it remains to be seen. I think people like The Thinking Atheist have a better shot than I do.

        1. From a poetic angle I liked the idea of gods suicide and reassembling. That comes from a vedic creation myth, but i liked the way he re-cast it.

          1. I agree with you. I compare it with a building, which is demolished and later rebuild.

            This theory is much more appealing then the abrahamic concept of creation. For instance this idea provides us with a clear motive for creating the world, whilst most theists can’t answer that question. And as I have pointed out, the story gives also an explanation for the meaning of life, which actually makes sense.

            Whether it’s true, is a totally different matter.

            1. I know what you mean, and unlike the Abrahamic religions it places responsibility on the individual, and that is a good thing. Here, this is the abridged prehistoric Vedic hymn i was talking about:

              “In the beginning there was a swirling dark chaos. Enveloping this thing that was neither non-existence nor existence there was a cosmic man, a giant named Purusha who had a thousand heads, a thousand eyes, and a thousand feet. Although there was nothing he pervaded everything and even stretched ten fingers’ breadth beyond. Purusha was all that was and all that would be, which presented certain, unavoidable problems. Before doing something, anything, Purusha realised that he would have already done it. The future was the present and the present was the past. Doing everything but nothing at the same time left Purusha just one option for his first (and last) ever action: he sacrificed himself, and from his body parts came all that is.”

  2. What you’ve written here about God’s Debris by Scott Adams and the relating subjects reminds me of a novel my sister in England recently sent to me here in the US. It is the 1937 novel titled Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon. Here is link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Maker to Wikipedia article about it. I’d never heard of it before. I’ve only had time to get to the end of the first chapter. Interesting so far. but not what I usually like to read. Or maybe it’s just the style of the author that hasn’t grabbed me yet. So I set it aside for another time. Arthur C. Clarke considered it the best ever written, and I suspect it had some impact on his writing of 2001: A Space Odyssey, especially the bizarre ending. I’d not yet heard of the belief that God became the universe, but it is another interesting one. I believe the best line Clarke ever wrote is: “All we can imagine is probably not half as crazy as the truth.” Of that, I have no doubt.

  3. A very interesting review, Mordanicus. I like the final quote, about the way people believe and the Socratic beginnings. The middle part seems to be a bit like other books where you’re supposed to encounter deep insights: they generally don’t work for me.

    1. The middle part seems to be a bit like other books where you’re supposed to encounter deep insights: they generally don’t work for me.

      In general I agree with you. Most people do not think, subsequently they see any insights as “deep”. Personally I consider “God’s Debris” one of the very few books triggered my thinking, although I have to admit that some parts were “yes, but…”.

      1. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but that is exactly what I meant. To the many people who don’t think, any insight will seem ‘deep’. For the record: I don’t think you are one of those people. Not at all! And I haven’t read this book so I can’t judge it…

        1. I have never had the impression that you wanted to sound arrogant, it’s was entirely clear you was speaking in general terms.

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