Re: Boom! and you go to Heaven

From: Philip Jonkers (
Date: Tue May 21 2002 - 02:11:26 BST

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    Subject: Re: Boom! and you go to Heaven
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    > My original question was that Evo Psych does not explain suicide bombers
    > etc. So what is powerful enough to make young men and women commit suicide
    > for a cause?

    Hi Steve the following is the larger part of reply posted earlier on the
    list (sept. 21 2001
    to be precise).

    Steven Pinker, one of the leading authorities
    in evolutionary psychology, argues in `How the Mind Works'
    that warring parties are able to round up soldiers to work out their
    armed conflicts by exploiting the human characteristic that
    people are willing to fight and die in a war provided they don't
    know if or when they are going to die. If death is imminent
    and unavoidable, Pinker argues, people strongly tend to withdraw
    from scenes of battle.

    Although this argument may account well for the typical kind
    of warfare it falls terribly short of explaining suicide commandos.
    The argument simply ignores the existence of kamikaze pilots,
    Shiite terrorists, and the recent plane-as-bomb bombers.
    Surely these kind of soldiers know perfectly well that they
    are going to die. Evolutionary psychology fails to give a reason.

    This is where memetics provides some answers. By using memetic tools,
    suppose an authoritative person is able to brainwash people in
    such a way that they are made into believing that if they die
    they go on living forever in some sort of perfect blissful paradise
    invisible to mortals. For people fearing death as the ultimate end,
    this is a welcome change of play as it denies death as the ultimate end.
    It doesn't matter too much if the basis of the persuasive arguments
    are anything but sound, since the following applies to the average Joe:
    `People are not rational but instead they rationalize'
    (I forgot who originally said that). Being able to be rational is an
    art brought about after mastery of a lot of rational/logical memes
    that typically requires years of rigorous training and practice.
    The ability to rationalize fades in comparison for you learn to do this
    already at an early age as a means to verbally defend yourself to others and
    explain your actions towards peers and relatives if they are affected.

    So suppose then that people are relatively easy lured into believing
    all kind of crazy stuff, as long as the promises are great enough
    to rationalize away any doubts regarding its truth content.
    This is precisely the vulnerable and sorry human trait that terrorist
    organizations eagerly tap into. By laying down their lives,
    in order to defend the values and interests of the religion
    of some group or simply to try to preserve its safety, suicide
    bombers (plus family and friends) are promised eternal heaven.
    Young naive studs eagerly line up as volunteers.
    This is a free translation of Dawkins argument.


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