Here’s what I found interesting from God’s Debris by Scott Adams. It’s a short read, 132 pages and around 90 minutes or so. I won’t say much more about it, because to give a summary would be to ruin the fun of reading it.
I’ll add more context to these highlights soon, but for now here’s the raw dump.
My experience tells me that in this complicated world the simplest explanation is usually dead wrong. But I’ve noticed that the simplest explanation usually sounds right and is far more convincing than any complicated explanation could hope to be.
“Four billion people say they believe in God, but few genuinely believe. If people believed in God, they would live every minute of their lives in support of that belief. Rich people would give their wealth to the needy. Everyone would be frantic to determine which religion was the true one. No one could be comfortable in the thought that they might have picked the wrong religion and blundered into eternal damnation, or bad reincarnation, or some other unthinkable consequence. People would dedicate their lives to converting others to their religions.
“They say that they believe because pretending to believe is necessary to get the benefits of religion.
When belief does not control your most important decisions, it is not belief in the underlying reality, it is belief in the usefulness of believing.”
“The best any human can do is to pick a delusion that helps him get through the day. This is why people of different religions can generally live in peace. At some level, we all suspect that other people don’t believe their own religion any more than we believe ours.”
“Okay,” I said, “but who made the maps in the first place?” “The maps were made by the people who went first and didn’t die. The maps that survive are the ones that work,”
The advice to ‘be yourself’ is obviously nonsense. But our brains accept this tripe as wisdom because it is more comfortable to believe we have a strategy for life than to believe we have no idea how to behave.”
Importance is not an intrinsic quality of the universe. It exists only in our delusion-filled minds.
“If you want to understand UFOs, reincarnation, and God, do not study UFOs, reincarnation, and God. Study people.”
“Whether you understand the true nature of your food or not, you still have to eat. And in my example it makes little difference if you don’t know a carrot from a potato. We can only act on our perceptions, no matter how faulty. The best we can do is to periodically adjust our perceptions—our delusions, if you will—to make them more consistent with our logic and common sense.”
You believe that DNA and probability are opposites. But both make specific things happen. DNA runs on a tighter schedule than probability, but in the long run—the extreme long run—probability is just as fixed and certain in its outcome.
“I think I’d know it if we were part of an omnipotent being,” I said. “Would you? Your skin cells are not aware that they are part of a human being. Skin cells are not equipped for that knowledge. They are equipped to do what they do and nothing more. Likewise, if we humans—and all the plants and animals and dirt and rocks—were components of God, would we have the capacity to know it?”
Usually the assumptions are right, or close enough to be useful.
“You are always part of the universe, by definition. So when your rocket goes beyond the current boundary, the boundary moves with you. You become the outer edge for that direction. But the universe is still a specific size, not infinite.”
Humans believe that organic things are more important than inorganic things because we are organic.
“If you are proven to be right a hundred times in a row, no amount of evidence will convince you that you are mistaken in the hundred-and-first case.
“When anything physical moves, it has a gravitational impact on every other object in the universe, instantly and across any distance. That impact is fantastically small, but it is real. When you have a thought, it is coupled with a physical change in your mind that is specific to that thought, and it has an instant gravitational ripple effect throughout the entire universe.
“In such a case, the so-called psychic’s powers would be useful and in some sense genuine, but they could never be reproduced under controlled experiments. In a lab setting, all patterns are removed.”
“The so-called speed of light is simply the limit to how far a particle can pop into existence from its original location.
“But these are curious bees. When they don’t understand something, they become unsettled and unhappy. In the long run the bees would have to choose between permanent curiosity—an uncomfortable mental state—and delusion. The bees don’t like those choices. They would prefer to know the true color of the church’s interior and its purpose, but bee brains are not designed for that level of understanding.
“We like to believe that other people have the same level of urges as we do, despite all evidence to the contrary. We convince ourselves that people differ only in their degree of morality or willpower, or a combination of the two. But urges are real, and they differ wildly for every individual. Morality and willpower are illusions. For any human being, the highest urge always wins and willpower never enters into it. Willpower is a delusion.”
“Yes, but good things do not return in a one-for-one manner. Individual actions are not directly rewarded. It is only on average that doing good improves the quality of life for you and the people around you.”
“Stress is the cause of all unhappiness and it comes in infinite varieties, all with a common cause. Stress is a result of fighting probability, and the friction between what you are doing and what you know you should be doing to live within probability.”
“Why would I care about a replica of me? That’s a different guy.” “That distinction is an illusion. In your current life, every cell in your body has died and been replaced many times. There is nothing in your current body that you were born with. You have no original equipment, just replacement parts, so for all practical purposes, you are already a replica of a prior version of you.”
“There are two types of people in the world, my young friend. One type is people-oriented. When they make conversation, it is about people—what people are doing, what someone said, how someone feels. The other group is idea-oriented. When they make conversation, they talk about ideas and concepts and objects.”
Humans are only capable of receiving information. They create their own advice. If you seek to influence someone, don’t waste time giving advice. You can change only what people know, not what they do.”
“Most disagreements are like my example. Two people have different information, but they think the root of their disagreement is that the other person has bad judgment or bad manners or bad values. In fact, most people would share your opinions if they had the same information. If you spend your time arguing about the faultiness of other people’s opinions, you waste your time and theirs. The only thing than can be useful is examining the differences in your assumptions and adding to each other’s information. Sometimes that is enough to make viewpoints converge over time.”
“Honesty is like food. Both are necessary, but too much of either creates discomfort. When you downplay your accomplishments, you make people feel better about their own accomplishments. It is dishonest, but it is kind.”
“Conversation is more than the sum of the words. It is also a way of signaling the importance of another person by showing your willingness to give that person your rarest resource: time. It is a way of conveying respect. Conversation reminds us that we are part of a greater whole, connected in some way that transcends duty or bloodline or commerce. Conversation can be many things, but it can never be useless.”
Express gratitude. Give more than is expected. Speak optimistically. Touch people. Remember names. Don’t confuse flexibility with weakness. Don’t judge people by their mistakes; rather, judge them by how they respond to their mistakes. Remember that your physical appearance is for the benefit of others. Attend to your own basic needs first; otherwise you will not be useful to anyone else.
“Because they know what they want,” he said. “The ability to work hard and make sacrifices comes naturally to those who know exactly what they want. “Most people believe they have goals when, in fact, they only have wishes.
“People who do affirmations will have the sensation that they are causing the environment to conform to their will. This is an immensely enjoyable feeling because the illusion of control is one of the best illusions you can have.”
“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?”
“Is awareness like intelligence?” I asked. “No. Intelligence is a measure of how well you function within your level of awareness. Your intelligence will stay about the same over your life. Awareness is entirely different from intelligence; awareness involves recognizing your delusions for what they are. Most people’s awareness will advance one or two levels in their lifetime.”
“You shouldn’t. There is no implied good or bad about one’s level of awareness. No level is better or worse than any other level. People enjoy happiness at every level and they contribute to society at every level.”
“You can’t wake yourself from a dream. You need someone who is already awake to shake you gently, to whisper in your ear. In a sense, that is what I do.”
“Ideas are the only things that can change the world. The rest is details.”