The Questionable Authority

The Pointy-Haired Cartoonist

I always find it a bit amusing when someone who is exceptionally good at identifying (and mercilessly mocking) stupidity in certain circumstances turns out to be totally oblivious to his own stupidity. That’s exactly the case when it comes to Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame). He’s gone off the deep end when it comes to evolution before, and now he’s at it again. I’m not going to try to identify all of the problems with his latest attempt. Instead, I’ll just pick a couple of the more spectacularly stupid remarks.

Consider the simple act of picking up a pencil. It requires your brain and your muscles, but it also requires you to exist in the first place. And that means that your mother and father are part of the process, as well as their parents, etc. Once you existed, and within your body, there was a vast sequence of cause and effect between your brain and your muscles to make it all happen. You might say that “you” picked up the pencil, but I look at the big picture and say the Big Bang picked up that pencil – with or without the existence of free will – because without the Big Bang, none of it would happen.

If you reject the Big Bang as being intelligent – after acknowledging that it created so many books and other works of art, it leaves you with no test for intelligence.

I take the practical approach – that something is intelligent if it unambiguously performs tasks that require intelligence. Writing Moby Dick required intelligence. The Big Bang wrote Moby Dick. Therefore, the Big Bang is intelligent, and you and I are created by that same intelligence. Therefore, we are created by an intelligent entity.

The logic (for lack of a better word) that runs through Adams’ argument is funny enough, but here’s something that makes it funnier – the following paragraph appeared right before the bit that I just quoted:

I suppose some of you will argue that the Big Bang started a natural series of events that led to a chance development of intelligent life. And then the life did all of the intelligent stuff. But what is the logic behind arbitrarily picking a tiny slice of time and acting as if it’s the only important part of a process that requires many steps?

I hate to break it to you, Scott, but the only one who is “arbitrarily picking a tiny slice of time and acting as if it’s the only important part of a process that requires many steps” is you.

Comments

  1. #1 John Wilkins
    January 31, 2007

    Science fiction fans call this the attack of the Brain Eater. This mythical beast attacks when a brain leaves the realm in which it is protected by knowledge, and exposes itself to infestation by any old crackpot idea. Orson Scott Card did precisely this, as has Greg Bear and various others.

  2. #2 Roy
    January 31, 2007

    Scott Adams is also blind to the false problem of whether there is ‘free will’. He asserts there is none. He doesn’t understand that ‘free will’ is a fake solution to a fake problem. What’s stranger is that when he has it spelled out to him he still doesn’t get it.

    That takes nothing away from his keen perception of idiocy in the workplace.

  3. #3 Torbjörn Larsson
    January 31, 2007

    So he has two modes – Dilbert and Dullbert.

  4. #4 Tukla in Iowa
    January 31, 2007

    I’m familiar with Card’s nuttiness, but what has Bear done?

  5. #5 Orac
    January 31, 2007

    My question exactly? What nuttiness has Bear done? (He’s been one of my favorite SF writers for years now.)

  6. #6 jackd
    January 31, 2007

    Wilkins has been suffering from insomnia, so perhaps a synaptic misfire caused him to type “Greg Bear” when he meant “James P. Hogan” – the canonical case of Brain Eater in the science fiction world.

  7. #7 Anna
    January 31, 2007

    I see no problem if someone wants to believe the Big Bang was intelligent, after all nobody ever “met” the Big Bang or can say one way or the other.

    I do see a problem and a huge one if someone starts to teach it in public schools, for the same reason.

    I also question Adams when he says he doesn’t see how an atheist can have a differing point of view. He can’t imagine someone who doesn’t see things his way? Wow he sounds like the stupid Dilbert boss.

  8. #8 Tukla in Iowa
    January 31, 2007

    James P. Hogan. Holy crap.

  9. #9 Michael Ralston
    February 2, 2007

    I used to enjoy James P Hogan’s stuff …

    … then I picked up collection of short stories and essays of his.

    It was surprisingly painful and has turned me off of him ever since.

  10. #10 Ichthyic
    February 2, 2007

    Orson Scott Card did precisely this, as has Greg Bear and various others.

    awww. Greg Bear too?

    half of me is curious to see what drivel he managed to glom on to, and the other half really would rather forget you mentioned his name.

    *sigh*

    ok, so what’s he saying? link?

  11. #11 Andrew
    February 2, 2007

    Wow, did you guys nail it with James P. Hogan — who went from having a James Randiesque protagonist in one of his earlier novels to becoming a full-on acolyte/missionary for Velikovsky-style catastrophism.

    And shocker of shocker, his fiction went from “enjoyable” to “holy crap” during the same time span.

    Much of what Orson Scott Card wrote is still pretty good (and even better if you just skip over the Mormon elements, like the wholly unnecessary last chapter of the otherwise-brilliant _Ender’s Game_), provided you don’t read anything he wrote post 9/11.

    And what’s the deal with Dennis Miller? And James Lileks? ….

  12. #12 Pierce R. Butler
    February 2, 2007

    Maybe I missed something important & exculpatory, but I thought Darwin’s Radio was terribly teleological…

  13. #13 Wolf
    February 4, 2007

    I do not see anything wrong with calling the universe intelligent, or creative, because it has created life. It just depends on how you define intelligence. Why not consider the universe a huge computer that is calculating life forms by means of evolution. (Like in Douglas Adams “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.)
    You could even call this intelligence inherent to the universe “God”, why not?
    As long as you do not believe things like Jesus rose from the dead, such an attitude does not contradict to science.

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