[extropy-chat] Islamic morons win yet again

Keith Henson hkhenson at rogers.com
Fri Sep 29 23:16:31 UTC 2006

At 03:16 PM 9/29/2006 -0400, Robert Bradbury wrote:


>I'll cite an example I am familiar with, namely the EST training during 
>the 1970s.  It required two weekends in a fairly controlled environment 
>where people are encouraged to come face to face with their "belief systems".

I presume you are aware that EST (Landmark/Forum, Lifespring(?) etc) is a 
offshoot from scientology just like scientology was an offshoot of OTO.

Erhard was a former scientologist and scientology considered the EST 
"technology" stolen.  They spent millions trying to ruin Erhard and (as I 
remember) did force him to leave the US.

>I suspect a fraction of the people may have felt offended (insulted?) by 
>some of the presentation and/or questions but since the format is such 
>that more frequently one is allowed to see oneself in others (avoiding a 
>positional "debate" framework) "horrible insults" may not be a requirement 
>for dislodging belief systems in everyone.  I am reasonably sure however 
>some people are so "addicted" to their belief systems [1] that changing 
>them may require rather severe educational methods.

I.e., treatment in the general category of brainwashing, or a mild 
activation of the capture bonding mechanism also known as Stockholm 
syndrome.  See the Wikipedia page on Capture-bonding.

>It is interesting (at least to me) that belief system alteration may 
>require hard changes in the neural network [2] -- which implies that there 
>are time limits on how rapidly, perhaps even how completely, one can 
>change belief systems.

The Arab armies of the expansion period had it down pat.  "Convert or die, 

>I would be interested in whether anyone knows if there are branches of 
>psychology or sociology (or books) which deal explicitly with belief 
>system alteration?

Evolutionary psychology.  This happens to be the fundamental level tying 
psychology into the rest of biology.

>1. I suspect there is a strong genetic basis for this -- that there will 
>be individuals with polymorphisms in neuron gene structure and function 
>that it is easy for them to become strongly addicted to drugs, behaviors, 
>memes, etc.

I think you are right on these points and said so some years ago.

Original Article
Sex, Drugs, and Cults. An evolutionary psychology perspective on why and 
how cult memes get a drug-like hold on people, and what might be done to 
mitigate the effects
By H. Keith Henson

In the aggregate, memes constitute human culture. Most are useful. But a 
whole class of memes (cults, ideologies, etc.) have no obvious replication 
drivers. Why are some humans highly susceptible to such memes? Evolutionary 
psychology is required to answer this question. Two major evolved 
psychological mechanisms emerge from the past to make us susceptible to 
cults. Capture-bonding exemplified by Patty Hearst and the Stockholm 
Syndrome is one. Attention-reward is the other. Attention is the way social 
primates measure status. Attention indicates status and is highly rewarding 
because it causes the release of brain chemicals such as dopamine and 
endorphins. Actions lead to Attention that releases Rewarding brain 
chemicals. Drugs shortcut attention in the Action-Attention-Reward (AAR) 
brain system and lead to the repeated behaviour we call addiction. Gambling 
also causes misfiring of the AAR pathway. Memes that manifest as cults 
hijack this brain reward system by inducing high levels of attention 
behaviour between cult members. People may become irresponsible on either 
cults or drugs sometimes resulting in severe damage to reproductive 
potential. Evolutionary psychology thus answers the question of why humans 
are susceptible to memes that do them and/or their potential for 
reproductive success damage. We evolved the psychological traits of 
capture-bonding and attention-reward that make us vulnerable for other 
maladaptive functions. We should be concerned about predator and pathogen 
memes and the mechanisms that make us vulnerable. The possibility of 
modeling important social factors contributing to the spread of dangerous 
cult memes is discussed. The history of the author's experiences that led 
to understanding the connection between drugs and cults is related.

Keywords: evolutionary psychology, memetics, Stockholm syndrome, 
capture-bonding, reproductive success, dopamine, endorphins, cults, drugs 
and attention rewards, brainwashing, mind control, deprogramming, scientology.

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