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Trouble in Libya,Egypt
Posted: 16 September 2012 02:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 76 ]
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It seems like this discussion is getting a bit stuck on analyzing why particular Muslims in Libya reacted so strongly and assaulted the US Embassy there, which led to a more general discussion of violence perpetrated by proponents of a particular religion.

First of all, apparently it was a well-orchestrated and pre-planned plot, because when several people at the Embassy fled the initial attack, the safe house they went to came under mortar fire within an hour of their arrival.  *Some*one apparently leaked a state secret (e.g. where the safe house was).  My guess is, Islamists linked to Al Qaida ended up in the Libyan government, whether through infiltration or publicly.  I’m not knowledgeable enough about the current state of things over there to know one way or the other.

Secondly, it would be of great benefit to understand some of the religious and political issues at stake, here.  It’s easy to simply frown on violence perpetrated in the name of religion, but if we want to actually solve the problems, we need to dig a bit deeper.  Those of us who aren’t religious really need to accept that those of us who are, aren’t going away any time soon.  Solutions to those problems will almost certainly need to involve operating within the framework of said religion.  That goes for US diplomacy, too.

Anyway, there’s an excellent book called “Islam Without Extremes” by Mustafa Akyol.  It’s written *from a Muslim perspective*, first of all—which means it’s a lot less likely to be biased through lack of understanding of the real issues.  The main thrust of the author’s discourse is that a religious and theological conundrum in the 10th and 11th centuries AD, coupled with a war that was going on at the time, had a profound impact on Islam which continues to this day.  He also posited that environment—not necessarily genetics—has a much greater impact than we might think.  For instance, he writes that those with a “desert mentality” are prone to doing things the way they’ve always been done.  Basically, surviving in the desert is difficult, and innovation can likely get you killed, so social change happens much more slowly.  But the author is Turkish so he posits that since Turkey isn’t a desert, maybe it has a lot less of an issue with this “desert mentality” than other countries do.

The author goes on to say that in order for Islam to overcome being inherently violent and destructive, it needs to evolve.  Basically, the common Muslim dogma is that everything that needs to be said on how to live, has already been legislated as of the 10th and 11th centuries AD.  Social and technological change notwithstanding, the way Muslims lived in the 7th century AD, when the Koran was written, is still applicable today.  For instance, being stoned for adultery, cutting off one’s hand for theft, etc.  In the US, we have marriage counseling, something that didn’t exist in the 7th century AD.  Stoning for adultery might seem like a harsh punishment, but we can only judge it to be harsh in light of the modern alternative.

Getting back to why certain Islamists feel a need to violently assert themselves, in Islam there is a concept called the “Ummah”—basically, the community of Islam.  In the 7th century AD, if one tribe was attacked, then other neighboring tribes would rise to their defense, because they considered themselves to be brothers under Allah.  That kind of thinking worked in the 7th century AD, in the desert environment in which Islam developed.  But it doesn’t work today, especially when the perceived “attacks” don’t merit the much more intense retaliation we’re getting from them.  It’s also somewhat hypocritical, given the major split in Islam that happened early on, between the Sunnis and Shiites.  There is in actuality far more Muslim-on-Muslim violence than there is, Muslim-on-non-Muslim violence.  And if the Muslim-on-non-Muslim violence is this horrible, one can only shudder to imagine what they do to each other.

Damon

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Posted: 16 September 2012 04:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 77 ]
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George - 15 September 2012 02:04 PM

Or you might as well ask, Occam, why there are so many atheists in Europe. Maybe those who didn’t succeed in their country of origin left for America and simply brought their “God gene” with them. Don’t forget that America became what it is today only after people started to leave Europe for political reasons. For the first couple of centuries, however, most of them left for economic reasons. The reason why they didn’t make it in Europe probably is the same why they were more religious: lower intelligence. It also explains why Americans are fat. Fat people come from ancestors who were short on food.

I was going to reply to Occam’s question, but you already said it basically; many of the most religious Europeans came to the US

That’s an absurd comment about fat Americans however; American are only fatasses as of late, they used to be some of the most fit people on Earth. http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/American-kids-fatter-than-ever-study-says-Junk-2841473.php

http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/126/1/e3.full

Also Europe and the rest of the first world are catching up in terms of obesity.

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Posted: 16 September 2012 05:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 78 ]
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George - 15 September 2012 02:04 PM

The reason why they didn’t make it in Europe probably is the same why they were more religious: lower intelligence.

There is a strong relationship between education and religiosity (people with higher education are usually less religious). Intelligence IMO plays a minor role.

It also explains why Americans are fat. Fat people come from ancestors who were short on food.

What makes us fat is not only how much we eat, but also the kind of food we eat. There is a greater variety of food in Europe, and also their diet is healthier. Not surprisingly, the Slow Food movement (http://www.slowfood.com) started in Europe to propose a [better] alternative to fast food, so popular in the US.

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Posted: 16 September 2012 05:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 79 ]
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George - 15 September 2012 02:04 PM

It also explains why Americans are fat. Fat people come from ancestors who were short on food.

Warning - Off topic comment

Not really George. Yes its true that starvation pressures have caused humans to evlolve metabolic pathways to make maximum use of calories when they are available, but those mechanisms exist in all humans and date back millions of years because until recently we were all subject to periods of starvation. That is genetically based.

Traits passed on recent hardships in recent generations ( Within the last few hundred years) are unlikely to be the result of genetics but instead are epigenetic phenomena. Epigenetics is a recently discovered phenomena whereby environmental factors can affect the expression of genetic traits and that these changes can then be passed on to offspring for a few generations. When it comes to epigenetics and weight the effect of food scarcity is exactly the opposite. Overweight offspring are the result of overweight parents not food scarcity.

The sort of food scarcity that would separate one individual from another in european society (I am referring to the common man, not royalty or nobility) most likely only went back a few generations. In other words, you might be starving now and your neighbor might have food, but go back three or four generations and the fortunes of those two families may very well have been reversed. Genetics doesn’t work on that sort of time scale in humans but epigenetics does.

Weight is of course much more complicated than just genetics and epigenetics. The differences we see in weight between inhabitants of different countries are influenced far more by social issues than they are by other phenomena.

The epigenetics of increasing weight through the generations

[ Edited: 16 September 2012 05:45 AM by macgyver ]
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Posted: 16 September 2012 05:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 80 ]
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mid atlantic - 16 September 2012 04:46 AM

Also Europe and the rest of the first world are catching up in terms of obesity.

Of course they are catching up. The fertility of the intelligent is declining faster than that of the rest. Being slim, educated and intelligent may seem admirable to us, but natural selection thinks otherwise.

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Posted: 16 September 2012 05:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 81 ]
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jls7227 - 16 September 2012 05:05 AM

It also explains why Americans are fat. Fat people come from ancestors who were short on food.

What makes us fat is not only how much we eat, but also the kind of food we eat. There is a greater variety of food in Europe, and also their diet is healthier. Not surprisingly, the Slow Food movement (http://www.slowfood.com) started in Europe to propose a [better] alternative to fast food, so popular in the US.

This is a skeptics forum so lets keep this fact based. Europe is not one country but many with many different cultures. You need to back up statements like that with data. It is commonly believed by the lay public that Americans are fatter than europeans just because the statement has been repeated so many times but you should always check your facts when your statement is based on what “others have told you”

If you look at this BMI map from the World Health Organization you will see that your statement appears to be largely true but England for example is no better than America when it comes to obesity ( measured as BMI here)

Even where there is a difference, assigning cause is far more complicated. To say that “There is a greater variety of food in Europe, and also their diet is healthier. Not surprisingly, the Slow Food movement (http://www.slowfood.com) started in Europe to propose a [better] alternative to fast food, so popular in the US.” is complete conjecture. Even if you could show data that europeans actually eat a diet that is healthier and more varied or that they ate less fast food ( and you havent presented any such data here ), it is not proof that this is the cause of lower BMI’s since there are many other uncontrolled variables such as culture and genetics.

Sorry to nitpick but if we are going to be good skeptics we need to keep things as factual as possible.

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Posted: 16 September 2012 05:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 82 ]
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macgyver - 16 September 2012 05:28 AM
George - 15 September 2012 02:04 PM

It also explains why Americans are fat. Fat people come from ancestors who were short on food.

Warning - Off topic comment

Not really George. Yes its true that starvation pressures have caused humans to evlolve metabolic pathways to make maximum use of calories when they are available, but those mechanisms exist in all humans and date back millions of years because until recently we were all subject to periods of starvation. That is genetically based.

Traits passed on from recent hardships in recent generations ( Within the last few hundred years) are unlikely to be the result of genetics but instead are epigenetic phenomena. Epigenetics is a recently discovered phenomena whereby environmental factors can affect the expression of genetic traits and that these changes can then be passed on to offspring for a few generations. When it comes to epigenetics and weight the effect of food scarcity is exactly the opposite. Overweight offspring are the result of overweight parents not food scarcity.

The sort of food scarcity that would separate one individual from another in european society (I am referring to the common man, not royalty or nobility) most likely only went back a few generations. In other words, you might be starving now and your neighbor might have food, but go back three or four generations and the fortunes of those two families may very well have been reversed. Genetics doesn’t work on that sort of time scale in humans but epigenetics does.

Weight is of course much more complicated than just genetics and epigenetics. The differences we see in weight between inhabitants of different countries are influenced far more by social issues than they are by other phenomena.

The epigenetics of increasing weight through the generations

Actually you have it reversed. It is the effect of epigenetics that disappears after a couple of generations. And of course, if you are predisposed be fat and you don’t have enough food, you won’t get fat. It is only when everyone has an access to the same abundance of food that it becomes easier to detect who is genetically predisposed to be overweight and who is not.

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Posted: 16 September 2012 06:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 83 ]
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Guys, can we move the “fat” discussion to another thread?  This is all horribly off topic at this point.

Damon

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Posted: 16 September 2012 06:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 84 ]
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damoncasale - 16 September 2012 06:07 AM

Guys, can we move the “fat” discussion to another thread?  This is all horribly off topic at this point.

Damon

You are correct damon I’ll respond privately to George.

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Posted: 17 September 2012 06:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 85 ]
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damoncasale - 16 September 2012 02:20 AM

It seems like this discussion is getting ...

Totally forgot to thank you for your very informative post, Damon!

Many of us here react emotional on Moslem violence, and do not even want to understand what is going on, and also are not interested in a rational way of coping with Moslem extremism. They seem rather to support Geert Wilders who wants to forbid the Koran on the same ground as Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”, or supporting the initiative of the Swiss People’s Party to forbid the building of minarets. I think none of these actions will help us in strengthening the idea of a secular state or of overcoming religious extremism.

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Posted: 17 September 2012 07:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 86 ]
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Actions should be directed at making religious extremism noneffective.  The question is: What actions will make religious extremism less effective rather than more effective?

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Posted: 17 September 2012 08:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 87 ]
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An excellent question, and there’s a lot of difference of opinion on that.

I just read in the news this morning that Netanyahu has been pushing for “a red line in the sand” for Iran, basically a statement that gives some kind of deadline or ultimatum.  His belief is that the US has been far too soft on Iran, and Iran has been taking advantage of that.  Iran claims not to be seeking nuclear weapons, but they’ve refined enough uranium to 20% purity to keep their medical reactor fueled for the next ten years, *and they’re still ramping up production*.  They claim that they would never seek nuclear weapons, but their actions seem to indicate otherwise.

On the one hand, you have state-sponsored religious extremism, like Iran, which has repeatedly and vocally threatened to wipe Israel off the face of the map.  On the other hand, you have the more independent groups which may or may not have some affiliation with the government(s) of the country/ies they operate in (like Al Qaida in Libya, which could possibly be connected to the government or have infiltrated it, but it’s not completely clear that they are/have).

There are two main currents that seem to generate religious extremism.  One of them is socio-political in nature (basically, lack of good jobs, government corruption, etc.) and the other is religious (lack of “morals” by the general populace—although their idea of morals would be far different from what we in the West would think of as morals).  The socio-political current seems to generate mostly Muslim-on-Muslim violence, although with the Israeli-Palestinian problem and the perception of “meddling” by the US and other Western powers, that has also brought the West into their sights as well.  The religious current, on the other hand, is directed first at their own people, but equally as much if not moreso, at the West for being decadent and “immoral.”

Perhaps the best way to deal with religious extremism would be to deal with the moral issues, and the theology that supports them, within the framework of Islam itself.  For instance, for our diplomats to argue that it was never the intent of Islam to be the “moral police” of the entire world, and give reasons why.  To argue that what is seen by Islam as “immoral” behavior should be weighed against modern standards, not the standards of the 7th century AD, and give reasons why.

That won’t entirely solve the problem, because we still have the socio-political issues to deal with.  Things like oil, water rights, government corruption, and the fact that just because one particular person, whether Israeli, Palestinian, or whatever, did something abhorrent, doesn’t mean that the entire culture or nation would sanction their behavior—something that terrorists seem to conveniently forget when protesting things like the Innocence of Islam video.

One thing that a fellow CFI member mentioned at a meetup yesterday is that there is apparently a strong perception in Muslim countries that all video, music, news, etc., is state-sponsored…BECAUSE THEIRS IS.  I don’t know if that’s true, but if it is, that’s yet another notion that we need to strongly disavow.

Damon

[ Edited: 17 September 2012 10:54 AM by damoncasale ]
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Posted: 17 September 2012 08:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 88 ]
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TimB - 17 September 2012 07:42 AM

Actions should be directed at making religious extremism noneffective.  The question is: What actions will make religious extremism less effective rather than more effective?

FWIW, HERE are some recommendations from Scott Atran:

Recommendations for a change in course in dealing with foreign forms of political and religious extremism that take violent aim at our society should be geared to a policy of “less is more,” that is, less costly and more effective:

• CUT short-term and long-term costs of U.S. military and foreign aid.

• LIMIT U.S. military and ideological involvement to a minimum, consistent with support for—rather than management or direction of—local, national, and regional democratic aspirations and initiatives.

• SHIFT from top-heavy government-to-government planning and programs to establishing relationships with local actors and groups, including relationships involving America’s most influential, efficient, and productive nongovernmental national resources: U.S. universities, entertainment media, small-business groups, and faith-based organizations.

• INCREASE America’s moral standing, influence, and leadership.

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Posted: 17 September 2012 10:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 89 ]
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Today’s Survey: Is Libya/Egypt situation being handled properly? http://tinyurl.com/8crgeko

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Posted: 17 September 2012 12:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 90 ]
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Found this on Yahoo.  It seems to be a fairly balanced analysis of what’s going on.  Thoughts?

http://news.yahoo.com/multiple-personalities-muslim-rage-194454551.html

Damon

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