[Paleopsych] Osama and the Petri Dish--Jihad as a reproductive strategy

HowlBloom at aol.com HowlBloom at aol.com
Sun Jul 18 23:10:36 UTC 2004

I wrote this up for paleopsych a few months ago, and don't remember whether 
it went out or was stopped by our listserv's 8-week hiccup.  So please bear 
with me if you've seen it before.  Howard  
Has anyone noticed that the current World War between militant Islam and the 
Western Way of Life is actually something so basic even a bacterium could 
understand it?  It's a battle of reproductive strategies.  Specifically it's a 
battle of what population biologists call r and k strategies.  
One definition of the r strategy is this.  You're up against the threat of a 
swift and hungry predator.  You mate with as many females as you can, keep 
them pregnant constantly, use them as serial baby incubators, and put very few 
resources into each child.  Why?  So you can have as many kids as possible.  The 
gamble goes like this.  The more kids I shove out there, the more are likely 
to survive.
The opposite strategy is k.  One version of the k strategy (the 
let's-konserve strategy) is this.  Have very few kids but put a huge investment into each 
one.  This only works when you can be pretty sure each kid will survive.
Predators--like wild dogs and large cats--lions, tigers, cheetahs--top of the 
food-chain dominators--tend to use the k strategy.  They don't have to face 
death at the hands of bigger enemies, but do have to teach their young an awful 
lot to turn them into good hunters.  If an adolescent cheetah hasn't learned 
her hunting skills well enough to bring down one big kill out of every four 
she tries, she is dead.
Prey--like the mice, voles, and other rodents that even big cats and wild 
dogs hunt down as quick snacks--go for the r strategy.  Breed like rabbits and 
hope that 4 out of every 12 pups survive.  Cheetahs often have just two cubs at 
a time.
Right now we Westerners dominate the worldwide food chain. We've opted for k. 
 But Osama bin Laden has declared openly that he's going for the r strategy.  
He's said that his form of Islam honors women.  It keeps them off the street, 
out of public sight, out of careers that might distract their attention, and 
keeps them pregnant so they can have between seven and seventeen children 
each.  Men in Osama's privileged position can also have four wives at a time.  And 
they can add to that advantage by wife-trading.  They can divorce one wife 
and bring in another, running through as many wives as Osama's dad did.  Bin 
Laden senior, with his 54 children, had eleven wives.
We in the Western World, on the other hand, are having fewer kids than would 
be needed to replace our current population.  What are we doing with those 
kids?  We're investing in them hugely.  These days we're doing far more than 
educating  the hell out of them.  We're also accessorizing them with 
ability-extenders--the equivalent of mega-arms, macro-legs, super-eyes, and tele-ears.  We 
are giving them appendages it would have taken evolution 200 million years to 
develop...cell phones, digital cameras and videocams built into those phones, 
laptops, Google, instant access to the fastest-growing library in world 
history--the World Wide Web-- cars, cheap airline tickets, ubiquitous video 
displays, and the imagination-extenders of X-Boxes, Sony Play Stations, and Nintendo 
sets.  We're turning our kids into digipedes--creatures with newly-invented 
cyber-senses and digi-limbs.
That's precisely why Osama says we will fall as victim's of our own 
blindness, obesity, and decay.  "We love death more than you love life," he says.  To 
paraphrase his communiqués to the Ummah of Islam, "We can afford to sacrifice 
as many as 250 million of our believers even if you strike us with your 
nuclear weapons.  The blood of our martyrs will only strengthen the 1.75 million of 
us who remain."
You and I are very different, says Osama.  You, he says, are cowards.  You 
quiver when one of your soldiers is killed and his body is dragged through the 
streets of Somalia.   You cringe when the warriors of holiness cut off a single 
head.  You speak of exit strategies, Osama sneers, when a mere thousand of 
your soldiers have died in Iraq.  Osama says he can whip us right left and 
center.  Again, to paraphrase his speeches, "Our religion tells us to put ourselves 
into the battle and to kill and take the chance of being killed.  We know 
that your corruption will do away with the brief wisp of putrescence you call a 
civilization.  But our God has ordered that your destruction shall not be left 
to your rot.  It shall not be left to your lack of manners and of decency.  
Our  God has ordered that your sinews and bones be severed by the swords of our 
sons, by the fire and flame of our students-turned-to knights, and by the 
hellstorms delivered to you by our teenage heroes."
Osama inspires with the poetry of the r strategy, the poetry of a rodent 
reproductive passion.  In his own words:  "By Allah, it is either victory or 
martyrdom and only those whose life span has come to an end will be killed, so his 
family will miss him, only for his soul to be, as our Messenger (peace and 
mercy be upon him) said, to be in the bellies of green birds that roam freely in 
heaven as they please, then head towards lanterns suspended with the throne of 
the Most Compassionate. There is no comparison between the two vicinities, 
the vicinity of his family and the vicinity of his lord.  So dear youth of Islam 
everywhere, especially those of the neighborhood, where the duty upon you is 
conclusive, dear Muslim youths in the Arabic peninsula, and in Egypt and 
greater Syria, dear youths of Rabia’a [an Iraqi poetess born in 717 ad] and 
Mudhr, dear grandsons of Salahuddine, dear knights of Mohammed the Conqueror, dear 
Fedayeen of Umm Al-Fida and Aleppo, and the lions of Muan and Al-Zarqa, and 
the brave of Azad, the heroes of Assir, Hashed, Madhaj and Bakil, let your 
supplies be continuous so that you may rescue the land of the two rivers."
Osama's betting on lots of kids.  We're betting on few.  Osama's betting on 
small investments in each body he sends into battle.  Osama's betting that as 
one Egyptian contemporary of bin Laden's said way back in the early 1980s when 
al Qaeda was just beginning: "Islam is a tree that feeds on blood and grows on 
severed limbs."
Osama is betting on the strategy of homicidal plague bacteria-- Yersinia 
pestis --bacteria that bet on flagrant, fast reproduction--bacteria that put their 
chips on the r strategy.  We are betting on the strategy of elephants--the k 
strategy.  This is far more than what Osama says it is when he uses Samuel 
Huntington's words and declares that: "this struggle is a religious and a 
doctrinal one and that the clash is in fact a clash of civilizations."  It is more 
than what Osama calls, "a rare opportunity…and a priceless one…to sharpen 
the faculties of the Ummah and to break its shackles, in order to storm forward 
towards the battlefields of Jihad."  And it is more than Osama's "decisive 
war", the war he says has opened "a crossroads" in history.
It is a war between two ancient reproductive strategies in a new environment, 
a global, cyber-niche..  But primitive as it is, it is also a war between two 
different views of darkness and of light.  I choose to believe that the light 
is that of the Western religion of human rights, women's rights, gay rights, 
democracy, free speech, secularism, and science.  Osama believes the light 
lies in the purity of a seventh century vision that muzzles minds and tears the 
tongues from the mouths of blasphemers. 
In the end this is a fight to see:
v     whether humanity can continue its technological,  philosophical, and 
artistic-mindleaps and soul-expansions 
v     or whether our race cowers beneath clouds of nuclear soot and the veils 
of burqas and trudges back to what it experienced from 550 ad to 1100 AD--a 
Mad-Max dark ages.
It is a war to see which reproductive strategy can grab the new cyber-global 
niche--this new wireless planet.  It is a war to see which strategy can 
mobilize speed, conviction, whacko-cleverness, extremely long-term thinking, and 
implacable, adamantine persistence.
Does either of our presidential candidates, Bush or Kerry, have a clear 
vision of just how desperate and critical this war of two colonies of organisms in 
the petri dish of our planet is?  Does either have the persuasive and poetic 
capacity to turn a nation of couch potatoes and self-hating critics into a 
nation of secular humanist saviors...saviors of the fast-track experiment in the 
reinvention of mass mind, of personal passion, and of human powers that we call 
our civilization?  
Howard Bloom

Howard Bloom
Author of The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of 
History and Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind From The Big Bang to the 
21st Century
Visiting Scholar-Graduate Psychology Department, New York University; Faculty 
Member, The Graduate Institute
Founder: International Paleopsychology Project; founding board member: Epic 
of Evolution Society; founding board member, The Darwin Project; founder: The 
Big Bang Tango Media Lab; member: New York Academy of Sciences, American 
Association for the Advancement of Science, American Psychological Society, Academy 
of Political Science, Human Behavior and Evolution Society, International 
Society for Human Ethology; advisory board member: Youthactivism.org; executive 
editor -- New Paradigm book series.
For information on The International Paleopsychology Project, see: 
for two chapters from 
The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History, 
see www.howardbloom.net/lucifer
For information on Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang 
to the 21st Century, see www.howardbloom.net
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