Letter to the Editor

*(Editor’s Note: This letter is a response to Scott Adams’s letter to the editor in the December 1997 issue of The REALL News responding to David Bloomberg’s critical review of Adams’s book, The Dilbert Future, in the October 1997 newsletter. Redekop also has had email discussions with Adams.)

Adams: "For example, let's say your house has two doors. Every time you walk out the North door, you get hit on the head with a golf ball. Scientists can't figure out where it comes from, because it never happens when they're watching. All you know is that it happens every time you walk out the door when no one else is watching. And it hurts."

If it happens every time you walk out the North door, then scientists can watch it happen. If it never happens when anyone is watching, all you have to do is set up a camera and it'll never happen again.

Adams: "The controversial part of my book deals with some thought exercises ranging from quantum physics, to gravity, to luck, to an experience I had with a self-described psychic. They all sound silly out of context, particularly if you think I was trying to "prove" psychic ability, as David's review suggests."

The problem is that they sound equally silly *in* context if you happen to know anything about quantum physics, gravity, probability, etc.

Adams: My objective was to paint a picture of an alternate reality that is competitively imaginable with the "normal" view of reality .... Once an alternate reality can be imagined, it becomes rational to try strategies that might work better if the alternate reality exists.

The problem is that this wasn't done very well. There was not enough context given in the writing.

Adams: It's about imagining reality being different, not about proving it.

This, however, was never made clear.

Adams: The offending chapter of the book is by far the most popular thing I've ever written, according to my mail.... My mail is running about 100 to 1 in favor. (Yes, I know it's not a scientific sample.)

Yeah, but Geller gets more press than Randi, too.

Adams: I've been flamed to a crisp for my discussions of gravity and physics by many people who know a little about science. They write to tell me I got many things grossly wrong. By contrast, the people who seem to know a great deal about science (Ph.D.s, university professors, practicing scientists) write to tell me that I got it about right, enough to support my argument.

I'd be curious as to what sorts of Ph.D.s, professors, and scientists he's referring to. English Ph.D.s, professors of law, and social scientists can all agree completely while still being clueless.

Anyway, I still maintain that the rest of the book is a lot of fun, but this chapter, if his goals were actually as he states above (which I have no reason to doubt) were not outlined clearly -- if at all -- making him look rather foolish in places. And even had this intention been clear from the start, he could have done much better than he did with his quantum mechanics, etc., examples.

However, this message is entirely consistent with what he and I argued about, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and suppose, reasonably, that he's just not as good at serious writing as he is at satirical/comedic writing (which he is *very* good at).

-- James H.G. Redekop

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