Received: by alpheratz.cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk id TAA13209 (8.6.9/5.3[ref firstname.lastname@example.org] for cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk from email@example.com); Fri, 21 Sep 2001 19:17:32 +0100 From: Philip Jonkers <P.A.E.Jonkers@phys.rug.nl> X-Authentication-Warning: rugth1.phys.rug.nl: www-data set sender to jonkers@localhost using -f To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Who's right Pinker, Dawkins or Brodie? Message-ID: <email@example.com> Date: Fri, 21 Sep 2001 20:13:13 +0200 (CEST) References: <2D1C159B783DD211808A006008062D3102A6D016@inchna.stir.ac.uk> <firstname.lastname@example.org> In-Reply-To: <email@example.com> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1 Content-Transfer-Encoding: 8bit User-Agent: IMP/PHP IMAP webmail program 2.2.5 X-Originating-IP: 22.214.171.124 Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org Precedence: bulk Reply-To: email@example.com
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.
Brodie's argument basically says that the terrorists were motivated after
their psychological buttons to save their kin were pressed. This does not
necessarily contradict Dawkins' view if you realize that in a lot of religions
its members consider each-other as `brothers', `sisters', `fathers' and
`mothers'. Thus, an act of self-sacrifice as an attempt to preserve the group in
a way saves the lives of the commandos kin, when kin is taken with the widest
possible meaning. Perhaps religion does press that button, but without the
prospect of forever ending up in a privileged place in an attractive heaven,
however, it seems to me that potential suicide bombers are then significantly
harder to find.
Regarding the question of the heading, it's obvious that Pinker immediately is
outclassed by Dawkins and Brodie. Regarding the latter two, it seems to me
that Dawkins is right (also given the testimonies of surviving suicide bombers
on an impartial tv station) although Brodie and Dawkins' explanations aren't
necessarily mutual exclusive but rather possibly complemental.
This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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