RE: Knowledge, Memes and Sensory Perception

From: Joe Dees (
Date: Tue Jan 22 2002 - 04:04:37 GMT

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    The two competing contemporary theories that presently dominate political science analysis of world affairs are Huntington's and Frances Fukuyama's (THE END OF HISTORY AND THE LAST MAN). Both of them see fundamentalist Islam as bloodthirsty and pernicious; Fukuyama sees its supervenience (and that of all other religiously or tribally based systems) by secular modernity as inevitable and rather rapid, whereas Huntington is more pessimistic, believing that civilizations tend to fall back on race and religious ideology as distinguishing factors when political differences are resolved, and that this fact augurs for a long and difficult struggle between civilizations, the most savage and virulent of which will be Islam vs. anyone else.
    >As to Ibn Warraq's credentials (and those of the many other secular humanist former Muslims on the website), he is held in high regard by the Council for Secular Humanism (which includes numerous Nobel laureates among its board of directors), which publishes FREE INQUIRY magazine and, through Prometheus Books, several OF Ibn Warraq's books (his titles include ANTI-CHRISTIAN POLEMIC IN EARLY ISLAM: ABU ISA AL-WARRAQ'S 'AGAINST THE TRINITY (UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE ORIENTAL PUBLICATIONS NO. 45), EARLY MUSLIM POLEMIC AGAINST CHRISTIANITY: ABU ISA AL-WARRAQ'S 'AGAINST THE INCARNATION' (UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE ORIENTAL PUBLICATIONS, NO. 59), QUEST FOR THE HISTORICAL MUHAMMED (PROMETHEUS BOOKS), THE ORIGINS OF THE KORAN: CLASSIC ESSAYS ON ISLAM'S HOLY BOOK (PROMETHEUS BOOKS), WHAT THE KORAN REALLY SAYS: LANGUAGE, TEXT AND COMMENTARY (PROMETHEUS BOOKS), and, of course, WHY I AM NOT A MUSLIM (PROMETHEUS BOOKS)). Whaty follows is an excerpt from the foreword to that last work, by R.!
     Joseph Hoffmann, of westminster College, Oxford:
    >Few books about religion deserve the attribution "courageous." This book, I am pleased to report, does. It is courageous because it is (as the term originally denoted) full of heart (couer) and courageous because it is an act of intellectual honesty and bravery, an act of faith rather than faithlessness. It will undoubtedly be a controversial book because it deals personally and forthrightly with a subject widely misunderstood by theists and nontheists of various stripes. That subject is the Islamic faith.
    >it is my privilege to recommend this book as one rich in reflection and intelligence. It is a helpful and in some respects a ground-breaking effort to provide a critical perspective on a faith that is too often - and usually for all the wrong reasons - regarded as uncritical, bellicose, and regressive. What we have is surely no more than one former Muslim's view of his "former" life; but we are mistaken to read this as a coming-out saga. It is part-for-whole a late twentieth-century account of the shrinkage of religious culture, the universality of knowledge, and the inescapability of the humanistic culture, which will survive all particular forms of religion in the twenty-first century. Whether that process, inevitable as it seems, will be marked by violence or accepted with enlightened resignation by defenders of old religious orders and regimes will depend, it seems to me, on how books such as this one are read and received.
    >Richhard Dawkins also gives the book kudos:
    >You seem to have little patience for a religious worldview, but it is the cranks and fundamentalists whom you attack, really. Have you studied any serious theology and would it be true to say that you have a rather shallow understanding of religion? Kevin O’Donnell, Crowthorne.
    >I doubt that religion can survive deep understanding. The shallows are its natural habitat. Cranks and fundamentalists are too often victimised as scapegoats for religion in general. It is only quite recently that Christianity reinvented itself in non-fundamentalist guise, and Islam has yet to do so (see Ibn Warraq’s excellent book, Why I am not a Muslim). Moonies and scientologists get a bad press, but they just haven’t been around as long as the accepted religions. Theology is a respectable discipline when it studies such subjects as moral philosophy, the psychology of religious belief and, above all, biblical history and literature. Like Bertie Wooster, my knowledge of the Bible is above average. I seem to know Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon almost by heart. I think that the Bible as literature should be a compulsory part of the national curriculum – you can’t understand English literature and culture without it. But insofar as theology studies the nature of the di!
    vine, it will earn the right to be taken seriously when it provides the slightest, smallest smidgen of a reason for believing in the existence of the divine. Meanwhile, we should devote as much time to studying serious theology as we devote to studying serious fairies and serious unicorns.
    >Here is the Table of Contents:
    >R. Joseph Hoffmann ix
    >Preface xiii
    >Acknowledgements xv
    >Introduction 1
    >1) The Rushdie Affair 3
    >2) The Origins of Islam 34
    >3) The Problem of Sources 66
    >4) Muhammed and His Message 86
    >5) The Koran 104
    >6) The Totalitarian Nature of Islam 163
    >7) Is Islam Compatible with Democracy and Human Rights? 172
    >8) Arab Imperialism, Islamic Colonialism 198
    >9) The Arab Conquests and the Position of Non-Muslim Subjects 214
    >10) Heretics and Heterodoxy, Atheism and Freethought, Reason and Revelation 241
    >11) Greek Philosophy and Science and Their Influence on Islam 261
    >12) Sufism or Islamic Mysticism 276
    >13) Al-Ma'arri 282
    >14) Women and Islam 290
    >15) Taboos: Wine, Pigs and Homosexuality 328
    >16) Final Assessment of Muhammed 344
    >17) Islam in the West 351
    >Glossary 361
    >Abbreviations of Journals and Encyclopedias 365
    >Notes 367
    >Selected Bibliography 383
    >Index 391
    >The towering eminence of Islamic studies in the twentieth century is Bernard Lewis; he sees many of the same problems that Samuel Huntington, Ibn Warraq, Richard Dawkins, Lionel Tiger, and many others perceive (check out
    >for several articles
    >and for another article by Richard dawkins, I submit:
    >I have read all the contributions to this discussion and I feel strangely (the right word, in these terrible circumstances) uplifted. More or less randomly chosen examples are Robert Provine's calm and insightful application of signal detection theory, David Myers' social psychology, George Dyson's inspired shift from hub and-spoke travel to packet-switching, Karl Sabbagh's world-wise savvy, Nick Humphrey's constructive humanity, and Bruce Sterling's sober futurology. Unlike Colin Tudge, I come away with enhanced respect for the scientific mind and what it has to offer, even outside the field of science, narrowly defined. It heightens my sensitivity to what – should we become plunged into a new Dark Age – we have to lose: the culture of scientific rationalism which every one of the Edge contributors exemplifies and takes for granted: a culture which, it must be admitted, is almost as alien to many in Britain and America as it is to the Taliban.
    >With perverse injustice, a wave of anti-American verbal nastiness – accompanied by nice, liberal self-doubt – was triggered by the physical anti-Americanism of September 11th. We hear talk of Coca Cola, MacDonalds and other unpopular icons of supposed American culture. These are not what I would be sorry to lose, and they are relatively trivial. Modern America is the principal inheritor, and today's leading exponent, of European scientific and rational civilisation. And that means the highest civilisation ever, not excluding the Greeks and Chinese.
    >When we bend over backwards to see the other point of view and blame ourselves for everything; when we fall over ourselves to sympathise with religious 'hurt', 'offence' and legitimate grievance; when we tie ourselves in knots to avoid anything that could conceivably be misinterpreted as racist, let us keep a sense of proportion. The chips are down, and I suddenly know whose side I am on. A world without Islam, indeed a world from which all three Abrahamic religions had been lost, would not be an obviously worse world in which to live. You may take that as British understatement if you choose. But a world which had lost enlightened scientific reason (which is at its best in America, and not only because more resources are spent on it) would be impoverished beyond all telling. So I hope I shall not sound too corny if I want to stand up as a friend of America. Even (and it feels like pulling teeth to say so) Bush's America.
    >George Lakoff wants us to mobilise moderate and liberal Muslims. This is, no doubt, a worthy aim. My own constructive suggestion is that we should listen to and support those brave former Muslims who have renounced their faith altogether. The Institute for the Secularisation of Islamic Society (ISIS) carries on its web site a perceptive and knowledgeable commentary on the recent atrocity, by Ibn Warraq (not his real name – as a Koranic scholar he knows the punishment for apostasy). He is a leading post-Muslim intellectual and the author of Why I am not a Muslim, a book which I strongly recommend. Please read him at (
    >I have withdrawn most of the rest of my contribution, in deference to what seems to be an American taboo against offending religious opinion. I remain baffled by the fact that liberal arbiters freely allow us to offend against political, economic, musical, artistic and literary opinion, but religious opinion is almost universally regarded as off limits, even by atheists. Douglas Adams called attention to the same paradox, in a speech in 1998 ( ).
    >I agree with Steve Grand that an appropriate response to the current atrocity would be for us all to stop being so damned respectful.
    >>> > "Lawrence DeBivort" <>
    >>> <> RE: Knowledge, Memes and Sensory
    >>> PerceptionDate: Fri, 18 Jan 2002 15:40:18 -0500
    >>> >Reply-To:
    >>> >
    >>> >
    >>> >> I, for one, happen to share them, as do Howard Bloom, Ibn Warraq,
    >>> >> Richard Dawkins, Samuel Huntington, and many others,
    >>> >
    >>> >Joe, do you have any citations for Huntington that would back
    >>> this up. Who
    >>> >is Ibn Warraq, and any citations?
    >>> >
    >>> For Samuel P. Huntington, read THE CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS,
    >>> passim, but particularly pages 109-120 and 183-266 (and most
    >>> particularly the chapter entitled INCIDENCE: ISLAM'S BLOODY
    >>> BORDERS, PP. 254-258). I quote a footnote from page 258:
    >>> No single statement in my FOREIGN AFFAIRS article attracted
    >>> more critical attention than: "Islam has bloody borders." I made
    >>> that judgment on the basis of a casual survey of
    >>> intercivilizational conflicts. Quantitative evidence from every
    >>> disinterested source conclusively demonstrates its validity.
    >>> Ibn Warraq was once a Muslim but has become a secular humanist.
    >>> His book WHY I AM NOT A MUSLIM (a title that echoes Bertrand
    >>> Russel's WHY I AM NOT A CHRISTIAN) earned him a death fatwa, a
    >>> badge of honor he shares with the Bangladeshi doctor Taslima
    >>> Nasrin (she earned it for her book SHAME), and, of course, Salman
    >>> Rushdie. I HIGHLY recommend you avail yourself of several
    >>> insiders' views as to the virulent, murderous and uncompromising
    >>> toxicity of the Islamist memeplex by accessing the website of the
    >>> Institute for the Secularization of Islamic Society, to be found at:
    >>> In particular, I recommend you read the articles that may be
    >>> found in the upper left hand corner of this page.
    >>This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    >>Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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    This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
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    For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)

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