Dilbert on free will

People don’t like Scott Adams, the author of Dilbert, but I can’t remember why, and can’t be arsed to look it up. But we should judge a comic strip not by the artist’s personality, but by the strip. I like this one, but, as I’m on the train to Poznan (first class! Internet!), I’m not going to get into any semantic arguments about it.


There’s a lot to “unpack” here, as the pomos say, but we’ve been through that before. All I’ll add is if Scott Adams is criticized for being religious, it doesn’t show here.


  1. GBJames
    Posted August 7, 2016 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Scott Adams thought Trump’s convention speech was pretty good. He thought that Clinton would drop in the polls after the Dem convention. He’s a pretty clueless fellow.

    • Posted August 7, 2016 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

      He buys into a lot of strange stuff, including Hoffman’s reality is an illusion nonsense. He peddles serial cynicism through Dilbert. That is why he is so enamored with Trump, our cynic-in-chief.

      None of this means he is necessarily wrong about free will, of course.

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted August 7, 2016 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

        To be wrong he’d have to present a coherent argument, which is not evident in this cartoon. So I’d call it not even wrong.

        • Posted August 7, 2016 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

          Indeed. This cartoon isn’t really about free will, it’s about mind/body (brain) dualism. Ok. Dualism is false. What next?

          (As a matter of fact, Dan Dennett has referenced this very cartoon in a few of his talks about free will, but I can’t remember exactly what his point was.)

    • Mandible
      Posted August 7, 2016 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      Even though he gave Trump’s speech an A-, Adams supports Clinton in this election. From his blog post of 24th July:

      “I endorse Hillary Clinton – for my personal safety – so please don’t kill me when the riots break out. But for the record, my political preferences don’t align with any of the candidates.”

      But yes, much of Adams’s ravings has been pretty odd, to put it mildly.

      • GBJames
        Posted August 7, 2016 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

        No, he didn’t really endorse Clinton. He said on his blog “because I live in California where it is dangerous for people to think you are a Trump supporter.” He’s just saying that he’ll be physically endangered if he didn’t. Another over-the-top bit of idiocy.

        • Mandible
          Posted August 7, 2016 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

          To endorse somebody, you have to declare that you endorse them. Which is what Adams did. I am not saying that his reason for the endorsement is a good or a noble or even a sane one. Many people will vote for Clinton holding their noses – I believe PCC said something to that effect here a while ago.

          • GBJames
            Posted August 8, 2016 at 6:53 am | Permalink

            I endorse your view because if I don’t the guy with a gun to my head will pull the trigger.

            He didn’t say he would hold his nose and vote for Clinton. He said that Clinton supporters are so vicious that they will pull the trigger if he doesn’t say those words. He wasn’t describing who he thought was the better candidate. That’s what endorsements are in the real world. He’s clearly a Trump supporter making a statement about his view of the other camp.

        • Posted August 7, 2016 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

          I’ve read his blog, as far as I can stomach it. He is a Trumpie for sure, defending him at every turn.

          • Mandible
            Posted August 8, 2016 at 2:25 am | Permalink

            Adams has had a strong obsession with the “art of persuasion” long before Trump’s candidacy, and now he is obsessed with Trump whom he sees as a high master of the art. He saw that skill as sufficient for Trump to win the elections. I do not see his “defense” of trump as defense, just as arguing that, as far as persuasion goes, he is pressing the right buttons. Nowhere does he defend Trump’s actual announced policies – on the contrary, he seems to think that they do not matter for persuading voters.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted August 8, 2016 at 6:12 am | Permalink

              As has been noted – regretfully – by many others on this site, that last point may very well be correct, at least as far as it applies to many Trump voters.


      • Posted August 7, 2016 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

        I used to read “Dilbert” faithfully, but haven’t in a very long time. I also haven’t read anything by Scott Adams since the death of his father. So, I was surprised to encounter such negative reactions to what this cartoonist has to say about anything, particularly politics. (Clint Eastwood endorsed Donald Trump also. I haven’t searched the internet for reactions to Clint. Would it be different?)

        Although most of California tends to vote Republican (particularly So. Cal.), the Bay Area tends to be pro-Democrat. Trumpophiles may have reason to be concerned for their health in the Bay Area, same as Clintonites may be relatively unsafe in So. Cal. However, if truly concerned about his safety, he would not blather on about it on his blog, would he?!!

        As to Scott’s testosterone deficiency, I’m surprised that he hadn’t noticed it long before the DNC gathering. Women have been achieving more and better positions in the workplace and government ever since WWII and it’s quite noticeable. It may not be entirely equitable yet, but is becoming more so. And we’ve always had strong, hardworking, pioneer-type women working beside their men throughout the history of this country. (My mother said she was a “feminist” long before there were any women called that!)I haven’t noticed a decrease in sexuality or an extreme drop in this country’s birth rate.

        • daveyc
          Posted August 7, 2016 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

          “Although most of California tends to vote Republican (particularly So. Cal.), the Bay Area tends to be pro-Democrat.”

          Uh…what? Southern California is much more populous than northern California, and yet California is generally a reliably Democratic state. Although the North is more reliably liberal than the South, it would not be possible for California to be a Blue state if the South had the kind of Republican tendencies that you seem to think it has.

          • Posted August 8, 2016 at 7:31 am | Permalink

            Maybe by “most of” she meant in square miles, rather than number of people? I don’t know. It doesn’t really make much sense. California is a solidly democratic state.

            • Posted August 8, 2016 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

              I got the impression that the coast is very Democratic (particularly SF and LA) but the inner parts of the state (such as they are) are very Republican. After all, Reagan and Schwarzenegger were both Republican governors; where does that support come from? (Though in Ahnie’s case I think it was also “Hollyweird” in action, as well as political contrarians; after all, he was not exactly even a Reaganite.)

        • Les
          Posted August 7, 2016 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

          California is solidly blue. All statewide office holders are Democrats. After the Senate race primaries,the two top vote getters are on the ballot. They are both Democrats.
          The Central Valley is the rural agricultural part of the state. As is typical, Repubs do well in that type of area.

      • Posted August 7, 2016 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

        He has also crapped on atheists.


        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted August 7, 2016 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

          And just does Pascal’s Wager!

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted August 7, 2016 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

          No he hasn’t. He doesn’t say anything about atheists as people, he is just debating whether true ‘100% certainty’ atheism can exist.

          It’s a perfectly valid question to debate.


          • Posted August 7, 2016 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

            He misrepresents atheists as people who think they know with certainty that god doesn’t exist when in fact atheists are people who simply say there is no evidence nor reason to believe that god exists.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted August 8, 2016 at 2:08 am | Permalink

              Well, definitions of atheism vary widely. And one definition is, people who claim that God certainly does not exist.
              Your definition sounds more like agnosticism to me.

              I don’t think you can claim that your definition is any more correct than Adams’.
              He makes it quite clear in his blog which definition he is talking about.

              He also says at the end “I sometimes call myself an atheist because it’s too hard to explain Spinoza’s version of god. And it’s too hard to explain that agnosticism is the only intellectually defensible position.”

              I wouldn’t call any of that “crapping on atheists”.

              P.S. As a curious side note, the first comment on his blog is a bizarre, unhinged and quite unrelated tirade against Randi by one David Mabus.


              • Posted August 8, 2016 at 7:38 am | Permalink

                I don’t understand the position that anything less than 100% certainty is agnosticism. Would that have to go for everything? Wouldn’t you be agnostic about almost everything? Was the moon landing faked? I’m agnostic. You think the Yankees will win today? I’m agnostic. What year did Columbus land in the New World? I’m agnostic; can’t be 100% sure. At some point the word becomes meaningless because it applies to everything. Atheist means you don’t believe. Agnostic means you can’t make up your mind.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted August 8, 2016 at 7:52 am | Permalink

                “Atheist means you don’t believe. Agnostic means you can’t make up your mind.”

                I’d go along with that definition.

                What I don’t accept is darwinwins’ assertion that, because any person (e.g. Adams) uses a different definition, he is ‘crapping on atheists’ or ‘misrepresenting’ them (all?). ‘Crapping on atheists’ I would reserve as a description for the wallies who compare us to Hitler and Pol Pot, or misrepresent us as miserable people having no morals – not Adams idle musings on Pascal’s Wager.


              • Philip Elliott
                Posted August 9, 2016 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

                “Atheist means you don’t believe. Agnostic means you can’t make up your mind.”

                Agnostic means you don’t know. 100% certainty is not required to say that you know something.

          • Posted August 8, 2016 at 10:33 am | Permalink

            He writes a condescending post falsely claiming that atheists are certain there is no god, while he himself has read Spinoza and is the superior intellect, and you don’t call that crapping? Further, he calls himself an atheist only because it is simpler than explaining Spinoza to all those little people and you don’t call that crapping?

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted August 8, 2016 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

              No I don’t. See my reply to pacopicopiedra just above.


    • Barney
      Posted August 7, 2016 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

      He has the bizarre idea that American men are being humiliated, just by the presence of a woman as a major presidential candidate. As well as the remark in that second link that the Democratic convention was “a celebration that [men’s] role in society is permanently diminished”, he wrote this claim that lots of American men will vote for Trump because they’re sick of men in V-neck sweaters not looking manly enough in detergent ads. And he finds Trump a manly man.

      I suspect a lot of what he writes is ridiculous on purpose, just to get linked to. But if someone wants to look like an idiot on the internet, people are going to assume there’s some truth in it.

      • loren russell
        Posted August 7, 2016 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

        And this: “I watched singer Alicia Keys perform her song Superwoman at the convention and experienced a sinking feeling. I’m fairly certain my testosterone levels dropped as I watched, and that’s not even a little bit of an exaggeration. Science says men’s testosterone levels rise when they experience victory, and drop when they experience the opposite. I watched Keys tell the world that women are the answer to our problems. True or not, men were probably not feeling successful and victorious during her act.”

        I didn’t watch Keyes live at the convention, but of course I did find a video of Superwoman… Watching the video, I am quite confident that my own T level rose as least as much as SA’s fell. Further I’m reasonably confident that on balance Alicia Keyes has done much to alleviate Low T in America. Even allowing for easily threatened Libertarian nut cases like Adams..

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted August 7, 2016 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

        You mean you take it seriously? When for example he equates V-necked sweaters with male subservience?
        “How many of the married men reading this blog have received those same sweaters as “gifts” from women? Personally, I’ve received about 25 over the years. None from men. I received three of those sweaters so far this year. I throw them away. Nice try.”

        I’d say his entire blog is tongue-in-cheek.


        • Barney
          Posted August 8, 2016 at 6:00 am | Permalink

          As I said, “I suspect a lot of what he writes is ridiculous on purpose, just to get linked to. But if someone wants to look like an idiot on the internet, people are going to assume there’s some truth in it.”

          OK, if the entire blog is tongue in cheek, we may as well assume he is a Tibetan yak herder doing a spot-on impersonation of an insecure American man of limited intelligence who cannot conceive of women succeeding without him personally losing. We’re laughing at the Scott Adams character, not with him. But that doesn’t make it worth reading.

          If you suspect there’s any truth in the character (such as being really written by an American man), then there might be more – such as the inability to cope with successful women. But it doesn’t seem worth spending time trying to work out his real problems or capabilities. I suspect there’s a bit of idiot in there, because who enjoys playing one for so many years?

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted August 8, 2016 at 6:31 am | Permalink

            Well, whether it’s worth reading depends on the quality of the writing, and whether he manages to make it interesting. That’s a matter of the reader’s taste, I guess.

            But since he’s a professional humorist, I think it would be misleading to take any particular thing he writes at face value. If you read his Dilbert books, for example, it’s obvious their content is not intended to be taken literally.

            I haven’t read enough of his blog to come to a conclusion on his real attitude to e.g. feminism, but I think taking one blog post in isolation is likely to be misleading.


      • Linn
        Posted August 9, 2016 at 4:02 am | Permalink

        All I will say about that, is that if Scott were right about Trump being a manly man and a role model for all other men, I would become a lesbian in a heart beat.

        Luckily, the majority of men I have encountered in my life, are nothing like Trump.
        In my experience, the men that talk the most about being “manly” are extremely unattractive (not just physically, but they lack charm as well). The men that are “manly” by nature, rarely have to flaunt it or talk about manliness at all.

    • eric
      Posted August 7, 2016 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

      You guys missed his best comment! He thinks electing Hilary will pose a serious problem to US manliness because it will lower all US male testosterone levels.

      Yes, I’m serious.

      Pay particular attention to the bit where he re-emphasizes that he’s serious. “Let me say this again, so you know I’m not kidding. Based on what I know about the human body, and the way our thoughts regulate our hormones, the Democratic National Convention is probably lowering testosterone levels all over the country. Literally, not figuratively.”

      • Posted August 7, 2016 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

        You know, if he was right, I think that might be a good thing.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted August 7, 2016 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

        “He thinks electing Hilary will pose a serious problem to US manliness”

        No he does NOT say that. He says that over-emphasising the feminist side *at the convention* (NOT ‘electing Hilary’) could lower testosterone levels in male viewers. He could be quite correct about that.

        He also says this, for instance:

        “I agree with Michelle Obama’s gratitude about Clinton’s success so far, and how the country now “takes it for granted that a woman can be president.” That’s a big, big deal, and an accomplishment that you can never take away from Clinton, no matter how it all ends.”

        You really need to read the whole piece.


  2. Ullrich Fischer
    Posted August 7, 2016 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Dilbert is a great philosoopher and this cartoon is the best argument I’ve seen anywhere for the absurdity of contra-causal free-will of the type beloved of those infected with a god virus.

  3. Mark Joseph
    Posted August 7, 2016 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    As the Dilbert comic strip is, for me, one of the crowning achievements of human civilization (I work in an office), I was a bit surprised to see that he has been criticized (although, I guess I should not have been surprised, as I don’t follow celebrities).

    Checking his Wikipedia page, I see a few minor items that might have stirred some faint animus, but nothing like Bill Maher’s anti-vaxxing (is that even still an issue??) or any kind of nod to religion (many Dilbert strips have punctured religion in a most superb manner; see a sampling here; and who can forget this: Dilbert: How do the Elbonians celebrate their holy week? Pointy-haired Boss: Wedgies, mostly).

    I’m guessing that the “criticism” comes from frothing-at-the-mouth Trump supporters, and concerns yet another quasi-fascist example of Trump’s supporters threatening violence toward those who disagree with them; I will not paste in the details (too long) but would encourage everyone to read the section “Statements on the 2016 election” on Adams’ Wikipedia page.

  4. Rob Gleich
    Posted August 7, 2016 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Dennett used this comic in a talk at the Santa Fe Institute: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGPIzSe5cAU
    Definitely worth watching

  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 7, 2016 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Pace Dogbert’s suggestion, the locus of free will is the seat of the soul — the pineal gland, as Descartes postulated.

  6. Posted August 7, 2016 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    There are two points of view represented in the Dilbert conversation. In panels 6-7 they both agree to a mistaken premise and Dilbert calls it “obvious”. Meh. Many philosophical conundrums arise because there are 3 or more “obvious” ideas that are jointly inconsistent. In all these cases at least one of these “obvious” ideas is wrong.

  7. paul kramarchyk
    Posted August 7, 2016 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    The “will” is free enough to hold people accountable for their actions. Even if H. sapiens were merely water logged insects, out of respect for C. Darwin, the hive has an obligation to exile aberrant drones from the colony. Whether they are mindful of their aberrance or not.

  8. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted August 7, 2016 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Adams took a lot of flak some years ago for his claim that evolution is bullshit. I don’t know if he’s since changed his mind, but let’s just say he seems to be a lot more impressed by his own hunches than by actual facts.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted August 7, 2016 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I stopped reading Dilbert at this point, I try to avoid economically supporting an anti-science nut.

      Others take notice of Adams’s greed, maximizing the cost of reading each and every published cartoon. On that point, YMMV, as I assume libertarians like it and yet others may not care.

      • chris moffatt
        Posted August 7, 2016 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

        I can’t remember ever paying to read Dilbert. It comes in the local paper comics and is available free on the internet as are a great many other comics (non sequitur for instance). If you look around you can probably still even find Alley Oop for free….

        We must never forget the many who are under-endowed in the sense-of-humour department; they are not all Trumpsters

        • Lauren
          Posted August 8, 2016 at 7:18 am | Permalink

          Thanks for providing the link on Adams’ post on evolution. I didn’t feel that discouraged by it – he actually says fossils are BS rather than evolution, and he explains his conclusion. He’s quite opinionated!

          I’ve recently started reading his blog & I find is amusing. Me does like to stir things up. I’m also listening to his book How to Fail at Almost Everything etc. I wanted his take on systems vs. goals. (I was disturbed somewhat [which seems to be his reason for everything he publishes] by linking to unsubstantiated accusations about Clinton’s health, although I did agree with his overall topic about prescription drug use by candidates)

          I’ll get my science facts from PCC (emeritus), but find Adams’ take on most things thought-provoking.

    • Christopher
      Posted August 7, 2016 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      oh yeah, I remember that. what a tool. never liked this strip anyway, as i’m not a cubicle-dweller and always found it dull. I don’t think i’ve missed anything.

    • kieran
      Posted August 7, 2016 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

      Thinks evolution is bullshit. Use of sock puppets to say nice things about himself. Thinks science is to blame when the media misconstrues science. Promotes pascals wager. Thinks having a high IQ makes his ideas great no matter what.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted August 7, 2016 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

      He did NOT say that evolution is BS. He said the ‘fossil record’ seems like BS – or rather, it set off his ‘bullshit detector’.

      “I remind you that I don’t believe in Intelligent Design or Creationism or invisible friends of any sort. I just think that evolution looks like a blend of science and bullshit, and have predicted for years that it would be revised in scientific terms in my lifetime. It’s a hunch – nothing more.”

      ‘Revised in scientific terms’ does not equate to ‘false’.

      Isn’t his final para the tipoff?
      “And if this isn’t enough to spike my blog hit count, I should add that the first person to explain that science continuously revises itself — and that’s what makes it so great! — has no free will.”


      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted August 7, 2016 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

        I don’t see how that contradicts what I said. He’s still a poster child for Dunning-Kruger who gives more credence to his uninformed hunches and the alleged excellence of his bullshit detector than he does to the facts.

        To argue that he’s just trolling is hardly a defense, in my view.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted August 8, 2016 at 7:06 am | Permalink

          I wouldn’t call it ‘trolling’ when he does it on his own blog.

          Maybe he’s reading this page and having a laugh at all the commenters who took his facetious rant so seriously.


          • Gregory Kusnick
            Posted August 8, 2016 at 10:05 am | Permalink

            So he posts outrageous stuff just to get people riled up so he can have a private laugh at them. But you wouldn’t call that trolling.

            Call it what you like; what you’re saying basically is that he’s not the obnoxious jerk we all take him for; he’s different kind of obnoxious jerk. Again, not much of a defense.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted August 8, 2016 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

              That’s not what I said and you know it.

              It’s obvious you don’t like him. Big deal. I don’t see much point in continuing this.


      • Posted August 8, 2016 at 7:50 am | Permalink

        Sounds like his internal “bullshit detector” needs to be re-calibrated.

  9. Vaal
    Posted August 7, 2016 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Is it my fuzzy middle-aged brain acting up…or wasn’t there already a post about that cartoon on WEIT?

    Either way, I love the panel with Dilbert waving his hands as he describes the brain being out there and kind of free.

  10. Posted August 7, 2016 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    I’ve heard that Adams worked for many years as a cubicle-drone for Southern California Bell Telephone — which experience inspired “Dilbert”. Makes sense to me.

  11. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted August 7, 2016 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Other people up thar have already explained why the cartoonist has some issues. I still think he is funny as a cartoonist.
    What I like about this site is that public figures can be a wanker for one reason or another, but if they did something agreeable, then we can agree with them on that point.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 7, 2016 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

      It’s how I feel about Orson Scott Card. He has Victorian opinions about women as well as most social issues and can be a real jerk about it but I really like his Enders Game series.

  12. David Evans
    Posted August 7, 2016 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    Feminists don’t like Scott Adams because he thinks (or pretends to think) that the US is a matriarchy. Why? Well, because:

    “When I go to dinner, I expect the server to take my date’s order first. I expect the server to deliver her meal first. I expect to pay the check. I expect to be the designated driver, or at least manage the transportation for the evening. And on the way out, I will hold the door for her, then open the door to the car.

    When we get home, access to sex is strictly controlled by the woman. If the woman has additional preferences in terms of temperature, beverages, and whatnot, the man generally complies. If I fall in love and want to propose, I am expected to do so on my knees, to set the tone for the rest of the marriage.”

    Reference: http://blog.dilbert.com/post/133406477506/global-gender-war

    • Posted August 7, 2016 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

      Gag. Because token gestures on dates totally compensates for glass ceilings and such.

    • Linn
      Posted August 9, 2016 at 3:52 am | Permalink

      I don’t live in the USA so can’t speak for the date rules there, but here in feminist Scandinavia, I certainly don’t expect any man to pay my bill, or open the door for me.
      The problem is, some men insist on these silly customs and gets insulted if the woman wants to do things for herself.

      I usually open the door for others, including men. The reason being, I’m usually first through the door.
      When it comes to others opening the door for me, I’ve encountered even more women doing it than men.
      Except for taxi drivers, I’ve never had anyone open the car door for me.

      When it comes to payment, I earn more money than most men anyway so I will often pay more.
      It’s the same with my aunt, to use an example. When her husband wants a car, she buys it for him, she also gives him spending money.
      I suppose, growing up in a family of strong women has made me somewhat biased.

      Like musical beef, I have no clue why any such dating customs would make a country into a matriarchy. I’m quite certain saudi arabian men open doors for women more frequently than norwegian men do (though that’s just speculation on my part). Does that mean Saudi-Arabia is is a matriarchy?

      And by the way, in my experience, the decision to have sex is made by both parts. It’s not something that you plan ahead, and yes, if the other part says no you have to accept that.
      It seems as if Scott is pissed off at being rejected and not being allowed to simply jump on a woman and have his way.
      Well that’s too bad Scott. Women are allowed to say no to sex with you and I suspect many exercise that right.

  13. harrync
    Posted August 7, 2016 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    I do remember a few years back seeing some pseudo-science type stuff from Adams and losing confidence in his judgment in that area. His wikipedia page notes he is a vegetarian [interesting, but no big deal] and into “affirmations” – the idea that if you write something down enough times, it will happen. That seems pretty close to “woo” to me. He liked Bill Clinton, but supported Romney. Most of his cartoons are good, though I don’t follow him much anymore. And wikipedia says Stephan Pastis, creator of Pearls Before Swine, credits Adams for launching his career as a cartoonist. Give him credit for that.

    • Sastra
      Posted August 7, 2016 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

      Oh yes, now I remember (sort of.) Adams once wrote something claiming that ‘science’ backed up his assertion that the contents of a letter containing results of some sort were not determined till he opened it. This was part of a larger argument for quantum woo.

      He also did a series of cartoons lambasting ‘skeptics’ for being closed-minded and dogmatic.

      • Posted August 8, 2016 at 6:57 am | Permalink

        “He also did a series of cartoons lambasting ‘skeptics’ for being closed-minded and dogmatic.”

        Yeah, but. As far as I’m concerned, everyone is fair game for comedy. And there are some pretty authoritarian skeptics out there.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted August 8, 2016 at 7:14 am | Permalink



        • Sastra
          Posted August 8, 2016 at 8:11 am | Permalink

          True, but as I recall, he was attacking us for our virtues, not our vices.

          Though I’m skeptical that my memory is accurate. Of course.

    • George Millo
      Posted August 8, 2016 at 8:07 am | Permalink

      I have mixed feelings about Scott Adams. His writing is certainly entertaining though, even if I don’t agree with all of it.

      On the point of “affirmations” though, I don’t think he ventures too far into the realm of woo-woo. If you listen to his recent interview with Tim Ferriss, you’ll find that all he really says about affirmations is “I’ve tried them, and they worked for me.” He offers some different explanations for why they might have worked, but doesn’t really seem to care about which one is the “correct” one.

      Definitely an interesting interview.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted August 8, 2016 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

        It could just be that they put you in a positive frame of mind. Which, if you’re about to try something moderately tricky, like an interview or riding a bicycle for the first time, usually helps.


  14. Randall Schenck
    Posted August 7, 2016 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    As often happens with celebs who professionally seem very interesting, the more they revel of themselves, the less you like them.

  15. Posted August 7, 2016 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    Unfalsifiable freedom.

  16. Kevin
    Posted August 7, 2016 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    I like Dilbert’s in general…but this one was mild. The conclusion is right: free will is metaphysics. It’s where it’s taught in philosophy.

    • Posted August 8, 2016 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

      Not always – the Free Will and Determinism seminar I took at UBC with Paul Russell was labeled an ethics course. (Though it made absolutely no difference to anything whatever, as far as I can tell.)

      • Kevin
        Posted August 8, 2016 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

        That’s insane.

        • Posted August 9, 2016 at 11:21 am | Permalink

          Actually, no, it isn’t, though only on the assumption that the consensus in the literature is correct (which I have my doubts over, but …) Anyway, there it is *always* an ethical problem, or framed as such. _Responsibility and Control_ was one of our assigned texts, and that’s *explicitly* an attempt to be metaphysically neutral. It fails to convince, partially for that reason, but that’s another story.

          In some sense, though, the course *might* have been titled “Moral Responsibility”.

  17. Tom
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 12:55 am | Permalink

    Whether free will exists or not is really not the issue,the issue is that most countries have their laws based on an ancient superstition that it DOES exist. The consequence is that barring outright insanity most evidence to the contrary is currently ignored by law.
    Dilberts cartoon should be questioning the strangeness of the laws not the existence or none existence of free will.

    • Posted August 8, 2016 at 1:44 am | Permalink

      “Dilberts cartoon should be questioning the strangeness of the laws not the existence or none existence of free will.”

      Depends how you read it. I agree with you and I think the cartoon does just what you say it should.

  18. Posted August 8, 2016 at 1:41 am | Permalink

    This cartoon and the interesting comments speak to my condition.

    I am addicted to this blog.

  19. Posted August 8, 2016 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    I got the impression a while back that there aren’t any really new ideas in Dilbert, which is a shame, since it was groundbreaking for a while. (This comes from only reading it regularly while at my parents’ place, who still get a daily newspaper.) As for Adams himself, from what I can tell he’s a bit of a jerk and a Dunning-Kruger case. But that doesn’t (normally) affect the qualities of the strips, or if it does one can ignore those …

  20. Peter
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

    If the chemistry of the brain really does determine all that a person does, then, as is asked in the cartoon above, how can we hold people responsible for the actions they take, the thoughts they form, and the beliefs they hold? Is it reasonable to denounce, for example, Islamic extremism if the terrorists in question couldn’t act freely and had to perpetrate the atrocities they committed? Is it reasonable to condemn and oppose people who hate homosexuals or oppose abortion? After all, they’re just following their programming aren’t they?

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted August 8, 2016 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

      Well in that case we can, without blaming them for their predetermined actions, just decide that their programming is unacceptable and shoot them all*. In a totally impartial and non-judgemental way.


      *The terrorists, that is. We might give a bit of leeway to gay-bashers or anti-abortionists.

    • peepuk
      Posted August 9, 2016 at 8:44 am | Permalink

      That’s the idea behind criticizing bad ideas and not the people who support them.

      Fortunately humans can very easy switch from one belief to another, as we have seen in Germany:

      The same people who supported monarchy until 1918, later supported democracy from the Weimarer Republic, until they supported fascism and war, and somewhat later supported liberalism, communism in the DDR and capitalism.

      The good news is that determinism doesn’t seem to be a problem for changing the “programming” of a homo sapiens.

      • Peter
        Posted August 9, 2016 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

        But the people who support those bad ideas will never be able to come around to your point of view, if they lack the ability to actually change their minds. That’s one of the – patently obvious – problems in accepting the notion that free will isn’t real.

        • Posted August 10, 2016 at 1:24 am | Permalink

          You haven’t read what I’ve written on the subject: OF COURSE people can change their behavior due to an environmental stimulus, of which one is listening to other people’s arguments. They don’t of course ‘change their minds’ in some dualistic way; rather, it’s like having a computer reprogrammed. I’d suggest you do some more reading on determinism

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 9, 2016 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      But their programming can be changed with appropriate inputs. So, while people have no choice but to behave as they do at any point of time given the availability of inputs into the brain, experience and brain anatomy/chemistry, they can be influenced at any point of time. The effectiveness of the input and the type of input will vary with each individual. But you’re right – you can’t hold someone morally responsible but you can correct them (jail or other institutionalization) and protect others from them if they cannot be rehabilitated.

  21. Zetopan
    Posted August 12, 2016 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    Scott Adams is quite the anti-science kook. I used to buy his books until he started actively peddling some woo called “affirmations” in his books. Write down what you want to happen on pieces of paper and lay them around everywhere. This eventually (magically) causes these affirmations to become true. He suffers from a profound level of scientific illiteracy and Dunning Kruger to the 99th percentile level. He is also somewhat like Trump in that he has an extremely high opinion of himself, and will even go as far as sock-puppeting to congratulate himself on how wonderful his claims and writings are.
    People should not confuse the Dilbert cartoon strip with Scott Adams the person. As has been pointed out several years ago (I didn’t save the link), Adams is just as loony at the pointed hair boss that he ridicules. For a like comparison, look at Sherlock Holmes and A.C Doyle. Doyle was an idiot spiritualist who endorsed the existence of the Cottingley fairies, etc., in contrast to the character that he created Sherlock Holmes. Scott Adams is just like that.

    Fossils are bullshit (paleontologists apparently study nothing worthwhile, according to Scott Adams):

    One of his apologetics for religion that also shows innumeracy (even if there is only a 0.00000000001% chance of ending up in Hell, 0.00000000001% of infinity is an infinite amount of time):

    Adams has also written apologetics for including creationism in biology classes as well as trying to defend creationism:

    Scott Adams the misogynist:

    Scott Adams the hero:

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