[ExI] Function of religions

Mike Dougherty msd001 at gmail.com
Tue Sep 28 03:57:07 UTC 2010

On Mon, Sep 27, 2010 at 10:45 PM, spike <spike66 at att.net> wrote:
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org
>> [mailto:extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org] On Behalf Of
>> Keith Henson
>> ...
>> population as a whole didn't change in size hardly at all, it
>> was Malthusian, living right at the limit of the ecosystem,
>> or rather the current farming technology to support it.
>> But certain groups in the population, particularly the middle
>> to upper class reproduced (spread their genes) far more than
>> the poorest class...  The selection was intense... Keith
> Keith this reminds me of a Pulitzer prize book I read a few years ago that I
> really liked, Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt.  He describes growing up in
> abject squalor, in 1930s and 1940s England.  Three of his siblings died in
> infancy or early childhood of disease, weakened by persistent shortage of
> food.  After reading that story it is easy for me to imagine how a couple
> centuries of those conditions honed and sharpened a people to a fine edge.

I imagine the Black Plague also provided strong "selection pressure"
for resistance to death. (Survive the plague; +2 on saves vs. death)

170 years later the diseases of Europe killed many more Aztecs/Native
Americans than cannons ever would:

"Smallpox is a classic epidemic disease that was sustainable only by
large human populations." [1]
"With the exception of man's oldest disease, Malaria, the scourges of
mankind have resulted from dense populations living in small compact
areas…overcrowded cities with little or no sanitation. Before the
arrival of the white man, the Plains Indians as primarily
hunter-gatherers were free of communicable diseases. " [2]

So it seems xenophobic memes leading to war is not the only way to
reduce population.  In our modern world it would only take a
disgruntled genius DIYbio enthusiast to exert considerable "selection
pressure" on humanity's numbers.  Perhaps some analogue to a
disgruntled genius physics enthusiast who describes how well funded
terrorists could produce a nuke, eh?  Scary fact is that any one
vector is bad enough, but the approach to the singularity compresses
these threats so they cause each others' likelihood to increase.

At least in the good old days of the cold war you could avoid being
nuked by building a bomb shelter in your basement using 14" of books
and a heavy table... [3,4]  The good news is that we can survive
nuclear apocalypse with some planning [5] - so that leaves zombie
apocalypse (which I think can also be managed) and hard-takeoff AI
(either with or without MNT and grey goo scenario) as existential
threats - oh yeah, we have NEO impacts and supervolcano to mitigate
too.  :)

[1] http://www.uic.edu/classes/osci/osci590/3_3%20European%20Disease%20in%20the%20New%20World.htm
[2] http://www.thefurtrapper.com/indian_smallpox.htm
[3] http://www.survivalring.org/community/membership/civil-defense-now/357/
[4] http://www.radshelters4u.com/index3.htm
[5] http://www.ki4u.com/goodnews.htm

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