◊(Local Yarn Code "jillettes-wipeout-test.poly.pm at []")

File articles/jillettes-wipeout-test.poly.pm from the latest check-in


#lang pollen

◊; Copyright 2019 by Joel Dueck. All Rights Reserved.

◊(define-meta published "2011-12-16")

◊title{Jillette’s Wipeout Test}

◊blockquote{“If every trace of any single religion died out and nothing were passed on, it would
never be created exactly that way again. There might be some other nonsense in its place, but not
that exact nonsense. If all of science were wiped out, it would still be true and someone would find
a way to figure it all out again.”}

◊attrib{◊index[#:key "Jillette, Penn!book"]{Penn Jillette}, ◊link[1]{◊i{God, No! Signs You May
Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales}}◊fn[1]}

We might call this the “◊index{wipeout test}”. It is true that no religion would pass it, and that
the laws of physical science probably would. But interestingly, this doesn’t actually say anything
about a religion’s value or truth. It just reflects that a religion is more purely◊fn[2] a product
of complex relationships between particular people.

I can illustrate this by applying the wipeout test to ◊index{Canadian Culture}, for example. If
every single trace of Canadian Culture died out and nothing were passed on, it would never come
back. This is because Canadian culture, like a religion, is the product of a complex history of the
interaction of millions of limited human perspectives and their relationships. This says nothing
about the value of Canadian culture. It doesn’t make sense to say that because of the wipeout test,
Canadian Culture is somehow “false”.

Of course, many religious people ◊em{would} prefer to think their religion and gods are
◊em{uniquely} knowable apart from the people that describe them. And of course this is what Jillette
is pushing back against. But I think maybe there are, or could be, things — contingent,
irreproducible things — stories, cultures, even gods — that are valuable to us, and help us
understand true things about ourselves, even though they would never survive Jillette’s test.

◊fndef[1]{Via ◊link[2]{kottke.org}} 
◊fndef[2]{Science, too, is, in large part, a product of complex relationships between humans.}
◊url[1]{https://books.google.com/books?id=KsI3sswEg14C&lpg=PR1&pg=PR1#v=onepage&f=false}
◊url[2]{https://kottke.org/11/12/exact-nonsense}