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#23753 - 10/12/12 10:10 AM Malala Yousufzai
ryck Offline


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Okanagan Valley
As the world wishes for a complete recovery for Malala Yousufzai , one has to wonder where an 11 year old girl gets such bravery….continuing to promote her beliefs in the face of death threats from the Taliban.

And what a testament to the power of an idea.

An 11 year old child, armed only with her thoughts of the way things should be, is able to frighten an army of well-armed thugs. Knowing that their ideas would never be victorious in a match with hers, these butchers can only resort to the most barbaric and cowardly response.
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#23754 - 10/12/12 11:29 AM Re: Malala Yousufzai [Re: ryck]
jchuzi Offline


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: New York State
I don't remember the source of this quote, but it says it all: "The price of freedom is not free." Given the chance, the Tea Party could be as bad as the Taliban.
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#23755 - 10/12/12 11:49 AM Re: Malala Yousufzai [Re: jchuzi]
alternaut Offline

Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Originally Posted By: jchuzi
Given the chance, the Tea Party could be as bad as the Taliban.

I hope you give that as an example only. AFAICT too many other politically active groups share this questionable 'honor'.
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#23756 - 10/12/12 12:05 PM Re: Malala Yousufzai [Re: alternaut]
jchuzi Offline


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: New York State
Remember the old saying? "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Neither the Tea Party nor the Taliban have absolute power but they would love it. Put another way, "In God I trust. It's his followers that scare the crap out of me."
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#23757 - 10/12/12 12:18 PM Re: Malala Yousufzai [Re: jchuzi]
alternaut Offline

Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Originally Posted By: jchuzi
Put another way, "In God I trust. It's his followers that scare the crap out of me."

To which I'd reply: "Just leave out the middleman." cool
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#23758 - 10/13/12 05:55 AM Re: Malala Yousufzai [Re: jchuzi]
joemikeb Offline
Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Fort Worth, Texas
Originally Posted By: jchuzi
Put another way, "In God I trust. It's his followers that scare the crap out of me."

The vast majority of people of all beliefs; Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hindu, Republicans, Democrats, etc. are fine trustworthy people. It is the zealots that scare the crap out of me. When they become both religious and political zealots they should scare the crap out of everybody.

Malala Yousufzai is extraordinary and her willingness to stand up to the zealots demonstrates a level of courage that is absolutely remarkable. I would nominate her for next year's Nobel prizes. If she were to win the prize, I only hope that it would not be a posthumous award.
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#23759 - 10/13/12 07:27 AM Re: Malala Yousufzai [Re: joemikeb]
ryck Offline


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Okanagan Valley
Originally Posted By: joemikeb
It is the zealots that scare the crap out of me. When they become both religious and political zealots they should scare the crap out of everybody.

Certainly Salman Rushdie would understand your sentiment as well as anyone could, and he said: "Fundamentalism isn't about religion, it's about power.”

Originally Posted By: joemikeb
Malala Yousufzai is extraordinary and her willingness to stand up to the zealots demonstrates a level of courage that is absolutely remarkable.

It is remarkable, and so is the fact that expressing her thoughts could frighten armed men. If the Taliban were capable of rational thought they would consider what has happened throughout history when people armed with ideas have taken on war machines....with the most current examples being Egypt, Libya and Syria.

Originally Posted By: joemikeb
I would nominate her for next year's Nobel prize.

Hear! Hear!


Edited by ryck (10/13/12 07:35 AM)
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#23760 - 10/13/12 07:36 AM Re: Malala Yousufzai [Re: joemikeb]
alternaut Offline

Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Malala Yousafzai illustrates something that seems to escape the attention it deserves, and that is the existence of a growing movement in Pakistan to emancipate people in general and women in particular, even in remote areas like the Swat valley. That flies in the face of the perception all too many in the West have that Pakistan (and most if not all other Islamic countries) are essentially backward and somehow deserving of what's happening to them.

Yes, Malala is courageous, but she wouldn't be the person she is without her father Ziauddin and many others like him, all devoted muslims who clearly discern between religious and cultural dogma, and who have made their choices among those influences to build a more equal society. But under conditions in which violence is all too readily used by various combatants who consider current developments in Pakistan a war, this movement is a tenuous one which can easily be suppressed by killing its proponents. Even so, both popular and government reactions to the recent assassination attempts show that Pakistan still deserves our support. If it takes the horrendous fate of Malala to make that clear, her courage will be really rewarded.
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#23761 - 10/13/12 09:37 AM Re: Malala Yousufzai [Re: alternaut]
joemikeb Offline
Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Fort Worth, Texas
Originally Posted By: alternaut
Yes, Malala is courageous, but she wouldn't be the person she is without her father Ziauddin and many others like him, all devoted muslims who clearly discern between religious and cultural dogma, and who have made their choices among those influences to build a more equal society.

And let all God's People say, AMEN!
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#23773 - 10/15/12 08:39 AM Re: Malala Yousufzai [Re: joemikeb]
jchuzi Offline


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: New York State
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#23779 - 10/15/12 12:25 PM Re: Malala Yousufzai [Re: jchuzi]
joemikeb Offline
Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Fort Worth, Texas
Yes and now that she has been taken out of the convenient reach of the Taliban, it is said that her father's expected lifespan has suddenly become short. Very short. frown
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#23781 - 10/15/12 05:39 PM Re: Malala Yousufzai [Re: joemikeb]
tacit Offline


Registered: 08/03/09
Loc: Portland, Oregon, USA
I've been reading a lot lately about what seems to be two different and unrelated things: parasitology (my new sweetie has been reading to me about it, in fact) and ideology, specifically religious ideology.

What's striking to me is that these are actually the same thing in two different forms.

Parasites make their living by invading a host, then using the host's resources to spread themselves. To this end, they do some amazing manipulation of the host. Some parasites, for instance, are able to alter a host's behavior in some really interesting ways, whether it's by something as crude as irritating the host's throat to promote coughing which spreads hundreds of millions of virus particles, or something as bizarre and subtle as influencing the host's mind to change the way the host responds to fear, in order to make it more likely that the host will be eaten by a predator which will then infect itself with the same parasite. In fact, parasitologists today are discovering that the study of life on Earth IS the study of parasites; parasites, more than any other single factor, may be the most significant determinant in the ratio of predator to prey biomass on this planet.

Religious ideology would seem to be a long way off from parasitism, unless you consider that ideas, like parasites, spread themselves by taking control of a host and modifying the host's behavior so as to promote the spread of the idea.

This isn't a new concept; Richard Dawkins coined the term 'meme' to describe self-replicating ideas decades ago.

But what's striking to me is how literal and direct the comparison is. The more I learn about parasites, the more I come to believe that parasites and memes aren't allegories for each other; parasites ARE memes, and vice versa, in a direct and literal way.

We tend to think of parasites like toxoplasma as being real things, and ideas as being abstract concepts that don't really exist the same way that real things do. But I don't think that's true.

Ideas exist in physical form. It might be as a series of symbols printed in a book or as a pattern of neural connections stored inside a brain, but no matter how you slice it, ideas have a physical existence. An idea that does not exist in any physical way, even as neuron connections wired into a person's head, doesn't exist.

Similarly, parasites are information, just like ideas are. A strand of DNA is nothing but an encoded piece of information, in the same literal sense that a series of magnetic spots on a hard disk are information. In fact, researchers have made devices that use DNA molecules to store computer information, treating banks of DNA as if they were hard drives.

Ideas and organisms aren't different things. They are the same thing written into the world in different ways. An idea that takes control of a host's brain and modifies the host to promote the spread of the idea is exactly, literally, like a parasite that takes control of a host and modifies it to spread the parasite. The fact that the idea exists as configurations of connections of neurons rather than as configurations of nucleotides is really irrelevant.

We can treat ideas the same way we treat parasites or diseases. We can use the tools of epidemiology to track how ideas spread. We can map the virulence of ideas in exactly the same way that we map the virulence of diseases.

Religion is unquestionably a meme--a complex idea that is specifically designed to spread itself, sometimes at the host's expense. A believer infected with a religious ideology who kills himself for his belief is no different than a moose infected with a parasite that dies as a result of the infection; the parasite in both cases has hijacked the host, and subverted the host's own biological existence for its own end.

The more I see the amazing adaptations that parasites have made to help protect themselves and spread themselves, the more I'm struck by how memes, and especially religious memes, have made exactly the same adaptations. Some parasitic wasps, for example, will create multiple types of larva in a host caterpillar--larva that go on to be more wasps, and larva that act as guardians, protecting the host from infection by other parasites by eating any new parasites that come along.

Similarly, religious memes will protect themselves by preventing their host from infection by other memes; many successful religions teach that other religions are created by the devil and are therefore evil.

We see the same patterns of host resistance to parasites and to memes, too. A host population exposed to the same parasites for many generations will tend to develop a resistance to the parasites, as individuals who are particularly vulnerable to the parasites are selected against and individuals particularly resistant to the parasites are selected for by natural selection. Similarly, a virulent religious meme that causes many of its hosts to die will gradually face resistance in its host population, as particularly susceptible individuals are killed and particularly resistant individuals gain a survival advantage.

Writers like Sam Harris and Michael Shermer talk about how people in a pluralistic society can not really accept and live by the tenets of, say, the Bible, no matter how Bible-believing they consider themselves to be. The Bible advocates slavery, and executing women for not being virgins on their wedding night, and destroying any town where prophets call upon the citizens to turn away from God; these are behaviors which you simply can't do in an industrialized, pluralistic society. So the members of modern, industrialized societies--even the ones who call themselves "fundamentalists" and who say things like "the Bible is the literal word of God," don't really act as though they believe these things are true. They don't execute their wives or sell their daughters into slavery. The memes are not as effective at modifying the hosts as they used to be; they have become less virulent.

But new memes, like new parasites, always have the chance of being particularly virulent. Their host populations have not developed resistance. In the Middle East, in places where an emergent strain of fundamentalist Islam leads to things like the Taliban shooting Malala Yousufzai, I think that's what we're seeing--a new, virulent meme. islam itself is not new, of course, but to think that the modern strains of Islam are the same as the original is to think that the modern incarnations of Christianity are akin to the way Jesus actually lived; it's about as far off the mark as thinking a bird is a dinosaur. They share a common heritage, but that's all. They have evolved into very different organisms.

And this particular meme, this particular virulent strain of Islam, is canny enough to attack its host immune system directly. The Taliban targeted Malala Yousufzai because she favors education for women. Education, in many ways, provides an immunological response to memes; it is no accident that Tammy Faye Bakker famously said that it's possible to educate yourself right out of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It's no accident that Fundamentalism in all of its guises tends to be anti-intellectual and anti-education.

Malala Yousufzai represents the development of an antidote to virulent, destructive memes.
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#23783 - 10/16/12 02:52 AM Re: Malala Yousufzai [Re: tacit]
roger Offline


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Vermont
that is fascinating. and I think you are definitely on to something.

and I think it's been said before that humans are parasites to this planet.
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#23784 - 10/16/12 04:12 AM Re: Malala Yousufzai [Re: tacit]
dboh Offline


Registered: 08/04/09
I think religion is merely the route (and only one of many). The real parasite is the desire for power, and I don't know how you deal with that. It's just too intrinsic to people.

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#23785 - 10/16/12 04:44 AM Re: Malala Yousufzai [Re: dboh]
jchuzi Offline


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: New York State
The origin of the word "politics" is interesting. It comes from the Greek "poly", meaning MANY and 'tics", meaning BLOOD SUCKING PARASITES. As with many jokes, it's funny because there is more than a modicum of truth to it. There isn't much difference between religion and politics. Witness the machinations of the Medici and the Borgias involving power and the papacy.
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#23789 - 10/16/12 10:52 AM Re: Malala Yousufzai [Re: dboh]
joemikeb Offline
Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Fort Worth, Texas
Quote:
I think religion is merely the route (and only one of many). The real parasite is the desire for power, and I don't know how you deal with that. It's just too intrinsic to people.

Contrary to popular opinion the original sin of the Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Testament that is foundational to Jews, Christians, and Islamists) has nothing to do with procreational or recreational sex. The original sin was humankind's tendency to try to be like God and thereby gain more power.

So this concept of the desire for power as the parasite is at least 3,000 years old and the stories of creation, Adam and Eve, likely predate the Torah by another 1,000 years. Calvinists, coined the term "total depravity" to describe this human tendency.
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#23790 - 10/16/12 11:54 AM Re: Malala Yousufzai [Re: dboh]
tacit Offline


Registered: 08/03/09
Loc: Portland, Oregon, USA
I would argue that desire for power isn't a parasitic meme; on the contrary, it's a drive which has positive survival traits for the person who has it. Throughout history, we see that powerful people, especially powerful men, have been disproportionately successful at attracting mates and spreading their genes. It's no surprise that a strong positive selective pressure would be attached to such a drive.
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