[Paleopsych] Jihad and the petri dish--Osama's reproductive strategy

Eshel Ben-Jacob eshel at tamar.tau.ac.il
Fri Jul 23 23:34:30 UTC 2004

I agree with what you have wrote. I am convinced that if western society will continue 
along the current approach it will stop to exist. What will happen then is not clear. You did not talk about China. It might become the next power and not the Islam.

Eshel  Ben Jacob                                     E-mail:        eshel at tamar.tau.ac.il
Professor of Physics                               Home Page: http://star.tau.ac.il/~eshel/
School of Physics and Astronomy           
The Maguy-Glass Chair in Physics of Complex Systems
Tel Aviv University, 69978 Tel Aviv, Israel
President of the Israel Physical Society               Visit the IPS on-line magazine          
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  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: HowlBloom at aol.com 
  To: paleopsych at paleopsych.org 
  Sent: Monday, July 19, 2004 12:15 AM
  Subject: [Paleopsych] Jihad and the petri dish--Osama's reproductive strategy

  Bear with me if I posted this before, but it's something I wrote up for paleopsych that I think was sent while our listserv was down.  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: www.paleopsych.org
  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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