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The GWOT: Ghost Dancers, Demons, & Cupid

| 52 Comments | 3 TrackBacks

Frequent Winds commenter Jinnderella has her own blog now, Hot Needle of Inquiry. 3 of her recent posts struck me as very interesting, and all have a strong mythological streak:

--- UPDATES ---

  • Victor Davis Hanson explains why myths matter. His classic article On Gorgons and Furies was written on Oct. 3, 2001. It remains one of his best.

3 TrackBacks

Tracked: September 22, 2004 12:07 AM
New blog: Hot Needles of Inquiry from The Glittering Eye
Excerpt: Joe Katzman of Winds of Change points out that jinnderella, frequent commenter on WoC, has a blog of her own now: Hot Needles of Inquiry. Several of her posts involve mythic imagery especially as it relates to the War on...
Tracked: September 22, 2004 8:31 AM
Up from ignorance from Gene Expression
Excerpt: Over at Winds of Change they are praising neo-GNXPer Jinnderella. Anyway, the conversation took a turn where Jinn & I started recommending some cognitive science to a few commenters. One individual responded that they would get to those works after...
Tracked: May 19, 2005 8:01 PM
Excerpt: Everybody's doing it! Almost exactly a year ago, I speculated that Islamists are modern-day Ghost Dancers. Then Jinnderella picked up the meme (some good comments here). Now I realize that some of the Islamist's de-facto allies are doing it too....

52 Comments

Jinnderella - Those were really creative. Keep writing!

Joe, thanx! I'm really hoping John will show up with his books unpacked to finish our ghost dancers discussion. :)
Ummm, I should explain something about my blog. I believe there is a biological basis for all behavior, and one basic question I always have is why do we love music, art, literature, folklore, myth and legend? Is there a selective advantage in appreciating and creating these things, or is it a side-effect, or a spandrel? Or are the gene complexes linked to complexes for other, obviously advantageous traits? I don't know. But research has proved (Boyer and Atran) that ideas slightly tipped into the fantastical are more strongly retained, and more persistant.

The question I'd like for John (or anyone) to answer, given that the jihaadis strongly resemble a ghost dance cult, is if Wovoka had gotten his 'many locomotives filled with weapons', could the Piute have driven out the Whites?

Jinnderella - No.

To decisively win any war, you must have the capability to defeat the enemy on his own home ground. Only one side ever had that, and even 100 locomotives of weapons wouldn't have changed it.

The whites' superior and secure food supply, and logistics, and unattackable base to the East, would have simply kept them coming. And coming. And coming. Eventually, the Piute would have been buried. But it would have been a longer war - and probably would have become even more explicitly genocidal.

Then, Joe, the jihaadiis cannot win either. By your argument no forth generation, asymmetrical, terrorist war can be won by the ghost dancer side. Is that true?

Oh dear. Another good site I'll need to keep up with.

Re: Piute (and Plains Indians in general), Joe beat me to it.

So I was thinking of wider analogies:
Dynamic, populous, organised, relatively technically advanced civilisations have often expanded at the expense of relatively less developed neighbours.
E.g. Roman expansion into Celtic Europe, northern Chinese in southern China, Islam in Sahelian Africa.
And most markedly of all, the successive waves of European expansion from the late 15th Century.

Examples of expansion "against the gradient" appear to be mainly horse pastoral societies: Mongols, Huns, Tartars, Manchu, Scyths etc.

Capacity to mobilise near 100% of adult males, trained in arms and horsemanship, offset settled peoples edge in population and technology.
But only until the advent of musketry and levels of organisation which enabled settled peoples to convert peasant populations into armies able to withstand nomad cavalry, and to maintain frontier cavalry forces as well. And likely made casual raiding of frontier villages a much more dangerous pastime.

When the Plains Indians switched to horse based societies, Americans (and Mexicans and Canadians) already at the firearms stage were beginning to probe their territories; they never had a chance.

But, John, IF Wovoka had gotten his 'many locomotives filled with weapons and supplies' AND began employing the plains indian equivalent of terrrorist tactics, say, holding whole towns hostage and genociding the White settlers, could the expansion of Whites have been stopped?
I think you and Joe are both saying no, and that is good news. Someoone should tell Andrew Sullivan and John Kerry that we are going to win!

Well, John and I believe that when you're dealing with a territory clash situation, and both parties are side by side - then one side or the other has to win. It's not as if the USA could have withdrawn from America, and western expansion was not going to be stopped.

The Indian Wars were damn near a genocide as it was, and the Indians could not be effective proxies for any other Great Power or collection of smaller powers. Had Wovoka used those tactics, he and his people would have been wiped from the face of the earth, as a people, in a much more organized and deliberate way. And even the wind would no longer remember their names.

Attempts to use terrorism in, say, New England would have simply been ludicrous - and sympathy or cooperation from the American population would have been zero. 4GW is about mindset and will, and those things were not in short supply among the Piute's enemies.

To win an asymetrical conflict you need other assets. You need to serve as a proxy of a useful tool of another state or states. And you need sanctuaries your enemy will not attack. If you have that and your target is [1] not right next to you and [2] not strong enough to steamroll you regardless of your proxies' objections, then it's possible to fight an asymetrical war for limited objectives and win. Of course, those objectives can and will increase over time, but one must be careful at first.

I was thinking of the boiling a frog analogy here, but that's apparently not true so I dislike it. But there are spiders in the tropical rainforests who regularly eat spiders much bigger than they are... they spin webs with toxins on them, so gently the larger spider hardly notices them at first. Many spiders are sedentary most of the time, after all. Eventually, the toxins begin to do their work. Once paralysis begins to set in, our little protagonists can afford to become more bold, tying their victims down more securely with the venemous web and then eating them.

I'm trying to remember the species of spider in question... but it would make an excellent analogy for the war we now find ourselves in.

Thanks, Joe. I've put jinnderella on my Favorites list. If she keeps this up, I'll have to blogroll her ;-)

Why don't people tell me these things?

Well, IIRC, did not various Indians (Eastern, Plains and Western) at times resort to wiping out settlements and raids that, if not terrorist in intent, caused terror by their tactics and use of torture etc?

And the consequence was merely the marshalling of greatly superior numbers, firepower, and logistics, and reprisal campaigns that decimated, displaced, or confined both offending and innocent tribes and clans.

And that was provoked by relatively minor attacks on the fringes of a societ, and countered by local militias and small regular forces. Efforts trivial, relative to overall resources of the US, by comparison with intra-European state warfare.

If a Western culture develops a consensus that it faces an unappeasable and barbarous enemy that endangers the centres of society, even its very existence, the response is likely to be far more than the Indians ever provoked: a Western society in full war-mode. A very dangerous creature indeed.

Do you honestly want to compare the Ghost Dancers to the Islamicists?

Joe, I think your spider maps perfectly. To win the Generic Terrorist War we just have to wake up, and project John's "Full War Mode Western Society"?

Dave Shuler: ::blush:: You get the hattip for my next post-- I'm deriving a performance metric from EGT for 4th gen asymmetrical warfare. I got the idea from your comment at Belmont club! :)

Gary,

It's worth at least investigating the possibility, so we can begin to see similarities and differences. It's also a potentially new way to think about what we face.

It's valuable to consider a lot of things, even if some of them turn out to be crazy. Some of them may also turn out to be useful and right.

If a Western culture develops a consensus that it faces an unappeasable and barbarous enemy that endangers the centres of society, even its very existence, the response is likely to be far more than the Indians ever provoked: a Western society in full war-mode. A very dangerous creature indeed.

In the fight between Native Americans and the West its not particularly easy to tell who were the barbarians.

Ummm, Gary, I think I did make a successful comparison-- One parallel that stood out for me was how the fundamentalists of both 'cults' could exploit mythology to build a suicide cadre.

Another thought, and perhaps a bit off the Ghost Dance track:
Of all the settled civilisations, only that of Europe/America sustained innovation and expansion.

Iberians were able to conquer in Mexico and Peru, to dominate at sea and seize coastal forts and islands in the East. But not to challenge major states like Ottoman Empire, Persia, Mughal India, China or Japan. But by the 18th Century Europeans could.

Why did Europe continue to innovate? Likely because of internal competition, both commercial and military.

Islam, in both Arab and Turkic phases, looks like an interesting hybrid of nomadic and settled expansion. In earlier stages it overwhelms settled societies with tribal mass-mobilisation; but adapts to and absorbs agrarian and urban society (because of its own semi-urban origins?).

Unlike e.g. Mongols assimilated to Chinese culture, Islam either transformed the conquered; or was at least able to sustain a settler/warrior elite for a long time (e.g. Mughal India).
But did not sustain cultural dynamism in the long term.

Lack of internal competition? Or other cultural/social factors?
Any suggestions for a good book on socio/cultural history of Islamic societies that bears on this?

Current problem: to encourage Islamic societies onto a path away from cultural stasis; but without recourse to the levels of inter-state competition that stimulated early modern Europe, and are potentially deadly given modern global interconnection and technologies of destruction.

The Jihadi alternative appears to draw on analogies of earlier Islamic success; adopt and adapt the technologies and techniques of the infidel where useful, (cannon and galleys then; nuclear weapons, aircraft now) but also to re-assert the purity of religion as various historical actors did (e.g. early Abbasids, Seljuks, Murabit, Muwahids).
This is a theological imperative in itself, but also a force for internal cohesion of the jihad warriors and Islamic homelands (and a tried and tested means of subsuming conquests?)

But modern technology and technique is FAR more tricky to wholly absorb and replicate (as opposed to merely appropriating superficially) without drastically reforming a society than that of Medieval times. Hence perhaps the internal stresses of Islamic society.

The fantasy ideologies incubated within elements of the Islamic world may parallel Ghost Dancing (hey, I got back to it!) - and the post-WW2 New Guinea "cargo revolt" - as response to overwhelming cultural "shock".
But Islam is a far more potent cultural force, the roots of Arab/Islamic reaction correspondingly deeper and stronger, and the problem correspondingly more difficult and perilous.

Joe Katzman,

Consider the fact that the Ghost Dancers had every right to desire the demise of their enemy - meaning White people; and that the Ghost Dance ended in slaughter in one instance - the Massacre at Wounded Knee.

Sorry, but the Ghost Dancers, and resistance - however violent - to European incursions in the Americas was a perfectly acceptable and reasonable response. What you risk by this analogy is legitimizing Islamicist attacks on the U.S.

jinnderella,

I stand by remarks.

John Farren,

Of all the settled civilisations, only that of Europe/America sustained innovation and expansion.

That depends on which historical epoch you're discussing. During other epochs Europe was in retrenchment. Now Asia is on the rise; its economic fortunes blossoming and even "threatening" the West (witness all the rhetoric about "outsourcing" in the U.S.).

John Farren,

BTW, its difficult for me to see how sporadic attacks on the plains threatened Western civilization. The only truly realistic existenialist indigenous threat that Europeans (meaning the English colonies) faced in North America was during King Philip's War; where approximately 1/3rd of the white population of New England was slaughtered. Futhermore, I really do not see any reason to condemn King Philip, or the Wampanoag, Nipmuck, or Narragansett (the latter only joined after the colonists attacked them), for trying to drive the English into the sea.

Oh, Gary, I'm just generalizing models from cultural anthroplogy, not supporting jihaadists!
Look, all question of good and evil aside, how were the Ghost Dance cults stopped? Because Wovoka and his warriors dicovered the 'blessed' shirts didn't stop bullets. What if prospective suicide bombers lost their faith in "the key to the garden of virtue" that Juan described? Would we have fewer suicide bombers? And how could we help them lose their desire to enter Paradise? By making an alternative! That's the Bush doctrine, remove the substrate that grows terrorism.

Gary Gunnels:
You're right, of course. I was thinking of Europe c.1000 to 1950. Force of Eurocentric historical habit, I'm afraid. Mea culpa.

Re. relative barbarism; I often think of a lot of history can be summed up as "competing groups of nasty people doing nasty things".

When considering history, as opposed to policy, I try to leave my personal (and contemporary social) ethical standards aside.

jinnderella,

Oh, Gary, I'm just generalizing models from cultural anthroplogy, not supporting jihaadists!

I never wrote that you were supporting jihaadists. I am asking you to think through your analogies a bit more than you have in this instance.

Look, all question of good and evil aside, how were the Ghost Dance cults stopped? Because Wovoka and his warriors dicovered the 'blessed' shirts didn't stop bullets.

The second period of the Ghost Dancers were stopped largely by the incidents at Wounded Knee.

What if prospective suicide bombers lost their faith in "the key to the garden of virtue" that Juan described?

The problem with this is of course that death is what is perferred for the Islamists, as opposed to protection against death with regard to the shirts of the Ghost Dancers; the analogy doesn't fit in other words.

That's the Bush doctrine, remove the substrate that grows terrorism.

I wouldn't give a fig for the Bush doctrine (or the Kerry doctrine, if such exists).

You're right, of course. I was thinking of Europe c.1000 to 1950. Force of Eurocentric historical habit, I'm afraid. Mea culpa.

Europe circa 1000-1400 remained the backwater of much of Eurasia; unable to hold gains in the Levant; unable to hold off assaults during much of the his period from other European states/peoples; unable to stop those from the Asian steppes from invading and slaughtering them en masse; often only able to gain back lost territories in Europe (e.g., Sicily, Spain), and eventually coming under seige by 1400 in its southeast by the Turks, etc.

European dominance is far more checkered and truncated than many would like to admit. I think the obsessive need to make comments about European/American dominance points to a level of insecurity about our place in the world.

When considering history, as opposed to policy, I try to leave my personal (and contemporary social) ethical standards aside.

You didn't do a very good job of it this time it seems.

John: "Any suggestions for a good book on socio/cultural history of Islamic societies that bears on this?"

I don't know if you'll like my reccommend! :-)
John Maynard Smith's Evloutionary Theory of Games. Islam behaves as an Evolutionarily Stable Strategy, that is, as long as the strategy is adopted by all members of the population no mutant strategy can invade. Islam can also function as the invading strategy against populations with less 'organic unity' or cohesion. :)

jinnderella,

BTW, I am skeptical of most if not all attempts to analogize historical events, periods, etc., to what is happening today; such analogies, upon analysis, tend to fall apart - in part because of the uniqueness of any historical event, period, etc. Furthermore, our knowledge of historical events, etc. is often so limited and jaded by prejudices as to make such analogies fraught with danger. Its best to simply avoid them.

jinnderella,

I don't see how that makes Islam any different from any other meme.

Gary. (reproachfully) I don't think you read my post.
The problem with this is of course that death is what is perferred for the Islamists, as opposed to protection against death with regard to the shirts of the Ghost Dancers; the analogy doesn't fit in other words.
Ummm, I said (or, rather, John said)--
"magical claims of either immunity to death or rapturous immortality in the hereafter."

The material object is a symbol only.

"The "plastic key", like the Ghost shirts, is a symbol for attaining the goal-- for the Ghost Dancers, immunity from bullets, for the terrorists, automatic entry to paradise."
The Ghost Shirts didn't work at Wounded Knee, did they?

Gary!! Shockant!! Islam is not a single meme! More like a vast grouping of meme complexes. :)

I am skeptical of most if not all attempts to analogize historical events, periods, etc., to what is happening today
But Gary, there are always recognizable patterns. And I only really believe in history insofar as it is motivated by biology. You're correct, historical motivations can be veiled, but biological ones are constant and predictable.

the basic cognitive substrate remains the same, not matter the variance in the emergent properties. go jinn! go!

they'll know the names sperber, atran and boyer by the time you're done with them. btw, you might be curious of the work of peter richerson and robert boyd, they tacke the problem of 'culture' from ethology rather than cog sci.

Gary Gunnels (30082):
I would entirely agree that the Indians did NOT (usually)pose an existential threat to Euro-American settlers. (Or condemn their actions; by condemnation or approval is irrelevant in any case.)

I must have been unclear, as I thought that was more or less what I said: marginal threats to fringes of American settlement still provoked , or were unable to deflect, both military counterstrokes and territorial encroachment that annihilated Indian societies, but which required the application of only a fraction of the potential power of the Euro-American society.

Re. 30085 & European dominance.
Again, I would broadly agree, and apologise that I was not specific enough.
Before 1400 Europe was indeed a relative backwater in many respects.

Indeed, I would go further:
Even after then (as I indicated in comment 30078), till roughly the mid-18th to early-19th Centuries European states, though (usually) dominant at sea, were incapable of, or unwilling to attempt, challenging the Great Powers of Asia on land.

What is intriguing, though, is how far the history of Europe before then i.e. from c.1000 to 1750, including external assault and internal contention, shaped European societies into the states that increasingly reshaped the old world from the 18th Century on.

"You didn't do a very good job of it this time it seems."
I try. Don't always succeed. Will try harder.
:)

jinnderella:
Thanks for the recommendation.
Though "Evolutionary Theory of Games" sounds ominously mathematical.
I will tackle math. If threatened severely enough; scorpion filled pits will do it ;)

I seem to recall something about ESS though. Dawkins in "The Extended Phenotype" maybe?
Interesting idea.

I think, though, I'll be looking first at Bernard Lewis' work, which I still haven't got round to yet.
hangs head in shame

jinnderella:

Dave Shuler: ::blush:: You get the hattip for my next post-- I'm deriving a performance metric from EGT for 4th gen asymmetrical warfare. I got the idea from your comment at Belmont club! :)

Thanks. I'll be interested to see what you come up with since I've been working on some performance metrics of my own. I've been needling Wretchard about this both in his comments section and in emails for some time now. I think the lack of metrics bothers him, too. But we just don't have enough information on what's actually going on over there to come up with anything suitable.

And I sincerely believe that using casualties as a metric is intrinsically defeatist. How else to reduce it to zero other than withdrawal?

By the way, drop on by my place. I've got a post up here announcing the existence of your blog (it's also in the trackbacks above) and offering a little commentary on a myth you might reflect on.

I think, though, I'll be looking first at Bernard Lewis' work, which I still haven't got round to yet.

but you're going at it the wrong way! start from the building blocks, then work up the complex narratives. i've read almost all of lewis' non-techical works myself, but too often historians think in terms of grand forces without considering what about individual psychology is at the root of these forces.

jinndrella,

Ummm, I said (or, rather, John said)--
"magical claims of either immunity to death or rapturous immortality in the hereafter."

Then the author admits in the comment that the analogy doesn't fit.

The Ghost Shirts didn't work at Wounded Knee, did they?

No, American soldiers slaughtered in large part a bunch of old men, women and children, and then claimed that they fought a heroic battle in revenge (amongst other things) of Custer's defeat. Is that your solution for dealing with adherents of Islam?

Gary!! Shockant!! Islam is not a single meme! More like a vast grouping of meme complexes. :)

Your statement is beside the point and borders on pedantry. Just answer my question next time: do not not all memes, or combinations thereof, work as you described Islam to work?

But Gary, there are always recognizable patterns.

What you probably mean is that there are patterns that you can create so as to undergird your agenda, opinions, etc.

And I only really believe in history insofar as it is motivated by biology.

So you're a biological determinist? Wow, that's an incredibly stupid thing to believe in, if that's the case. Are you also opposed - like members of the President's Bio-Ethics Council - to lengthening human life? Growing new organs for people?

John Farren,

I must have been unclear, as I thought that was more or less what I said: marginal threats to fringes of American settlement still provoked , or were unable to deflect, both military counterstrokes and territorial encroachment that annihilated Indian societies, but which required the application of only a fraction of the potential power of the Euro-American society.

Yes, by the time of the late 19th century century certainly; but not during the 17th or 18th centuries. Indeed, one of the reasons why removal of the "civilized tribes" of the American southeast was so important to Jackson and his ilk was due to their success. They were a tremendous bulwark against white encroachment; thus whites called upon the power of the government to displace them; in other words, they could not out compete them, so they had the government remove them.

What is intriguing, though, is how far the history of Europe before then i.e. from c.1000 to 1750, including external assault and internal contention, shaped European societies into the states that increasingly reshaped the old world from the 18th Century on.

You should probably read Geoffrey Parker's The Military Revolution: Military Innovation and the Rise of the West, 1500-1800
. Then take a look at Michael Adas' Machines as the Measure of Men: Science, Technology, and Ideologies of Western Dominance. And take a look at Leo Marx's The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America
, if your interested in the history of technology angle.

Then, if your still interested in the books that I recommend, you can try my favorite fiction writer right now - Jean-Christophe Rufin (one of the founders of Médecins Sans Frontières as I understand it) - or the book I am currently reading, Javier Cercas' Soldiers of Salamis

I look forward to your recommendations. :)

Gary, The Bioethics Council is a horror, you might as well accuse me of being one of those 'intelligent design' beings. No one can legislate Science.
You certainly don't have to accept any parallels I draw between jihaadis and Ghost Dancers, with you, my argument is failed.
You see the motivations of men in history, I see the motivations of populations. So?
BTW, I'm 1/32 Cherokee.
And yes, Islam is different. For one thing, it is a superset of religion, and for another, it is far more cohesive.
A lot of people 'don't get' memes. I actually prefer Wilson's original term of 'culture gene', but the use of meme has become widespread.

jinndrella,

Gary, The Bioethics Council is a horror, you might as well accuse me of being one of those 'intelligent design' beings.

Just another reason not to vote for Bush. And thank you for not supporting the Bio-Ethics Council.

You certainly don't have to accept any parallels I draw between jihaadis and Ghost Dancers, with you, my argument is failed.

I merely argue that its not a particularly good analogy.

And yes, Islam is different. For one thing, it is a superset of religion, and for another, it is far more cohesive.

Yet, all in all, its just one very complex meme, like all ideologies (religious or not).

razib, these poor people already know Boyer's definition of fundamentalism by heart, I've quoted him so often-- but there can never be enough Atran and Boyer for me! :)
I really like your bottom up approach, because if you understand the nuts and bolts level, it is so much easier to read the plans.

I really like your bottom up approach, because if you understand the nuts and bolts level, it is so much easier to read the plans.

well, it makes hypothesis testing easier. or, it basically makes hypotheses easier to formulate in the first place.

example: why do they hate us?

well, a lot of hypotheses deal with macrohistorical events, ie; the mossadeq coup, or american troops in saudi arabia, etc. would be nice to figure out the psychological motivations of these people by MRIs that show how they react to various topics..

What I was thinking way back when I brought up this meme:

1. Both Ghost Dancers and Islamists see themselves losing the war according to their own definition of it.

2. The reason they are losing the war is lack of technological sophistication, and a culture which is capable of supporting it.

3. The reaction of both is not to evolve their own cultures in such a way as to enable technological sophistication, but to evolve toward fantasyland. (To see another possibility, look at the Asian "tigers" or India.)

4. Both struggles are ultimately hopeless, though they could cause great destruction (think nuclear armed ghost-dancers) because, as I said, their answer is a fantasy, and their success depends on the misunderstanding of their enemies. At some point their enemies will figure out their intent. The only question is how long it will take, and how much is destroyed in the process.

David, that is the best answer! And it shares commonality with Joe's and John's, so it is reproducible.

razib, example: why do they hate us?

I think about that a lot. I think it is more than hatred, I think it is revenge. How else do the jihaadis violate the species taboos against killing children? The cortical map for revenge is co-located with the ones for sex and opiate useage, right? The overrride has to be very strong. If we can be addicted to love and drugs, we must be able to be addicted to revenge. (Hmm, now why would that be a selective advantage?)

And I think revenge is a motivator for Ghost Dance cults too, "people who developed a sense of deprivation". The revenge theme is strong in Arab rhetoric, especially in Palestinians, "Well, they are "killing" our children, so we kill theirs."

jinnderella:

"I think it is more than hatred, I think it is revenge."

Revenge for what? For threatening to destroy their worldview.

David Boxenhorn,

1. Both Ghost Dancers and Islamists see themselves losing the war according to their own definition of it.

It is not my impression that the Islamists see that they are losing the war.

2. The reason they are losing the war is lack of technological sophistication, and a culture which is capable of supporting it.

Technological sophistication does not always triumph; indeed, the common theme of insurgencies which have beat out far stronger, better supplied, etc., opponents is that they did not win via more advanced technology, but via better strategic and tactical understanding of their situation. Furthermore, the Ghost Dancers were part of a small, already vanquished population; that is not true of adherents of Islam (whether they support the Islamisits or not); indeed, demographically speaking, the situation is reversed; its the US that has a small force in the middle east, and the Islamists which have a large force which can feed off an even larger population. Thus your analogy falls apart upon further inspection.

3. The reaction of both is not to evolve their own cultures in such a way as to enable technological sophistication, but to evolve toward fantasyland. (To see another possibility, look at the Asian "tigers" or India.)

Withdrawing to cultural traditions has worked many times in the past; indeed, that has been a successful strategy for at least some of the successful insurgencies.

4. Both struggles are ultimately hopeless...

That's merely a prediction and a hoped for conclusion; I eschew such determinism. In other words, you have no idea what the future holds, yet you've created this easily busted historical analogy as a means to "predict" what you hope will happen.

jindrella,

David, that is the best answer! And it shares commonality with Joe's and John's, so it is reproducible.

Ahh, no. Simply because someone shares the same opinion as another person has nothing to do with reproducibility. What you are doing here is foisting upon us what is known as an appeal to popularity - a fallacious argument if there ever was one. Reproducible knowledge is that which is based on demonstration and experiment; neither of which you have done. What you are referring to is like interpretation, which is a combination of human imagination operating on experience.

How else do the jihaadis violate the species taboos against killing children?

There is no species taboo about killing children; hell, from the start of recorded time people have been killing children, even their own children, for all manner of reasons (think here of Agamemnon killing his own daughter).

Gary:
Agamemnon is a myth. And I think the lesson conveyed is that it wrong to kill children.
Sure, children are killed for biological reasons, like exposure of female infants. In that case the taboo is overidden by a stronger imperative. The fact remains that it is taboo to kill or prey on children. Cultural anthropology reveals common mores in a wide variant of societies.

The most telling argument is the evolutionary one. The way children look, their appearance is designed by evolution to arouse caretaker feelings in adults. Also, the way they sound. There's a whole body of work on this.

Your argument about reproducibilty is subjective in itself. Most of us reached the same conclusions based on data input. You do not. Outlier?

jinndrella,

Agamemnon is a myth.

That is unknown.

Sure, children are killed for biological reasons, like exposure of female infants. In that case the taboo is overidden by a stronger imperative.

In other words, when the data doesn't support your thesis, you explain it away as an aberration. Its a weak taboo in other words.

The fact remains that it is taboo to kill or prey on children.

If such exists, it is not a particularly strong taboo given all the caveats you appear to be willing put in the behavior of this so-called taboo; and if its not particularly strong, there is not much reason to put any credence in it.

Cultural anthropology reveals common mores in a wide variant of societies.

Cultural anthropology reveals common mores which allow for the death of children as well as nurturing them; this to me means that your theory is hogwash.

The way children look, their appearance is designed by evolution to arouse caretaker feelings in adults.

Mere bullshit conjecture.

Your argument about reproducibilty is subjective in itself.

Its not subjective at all; that's what reproducibility is! I explained it to you in some detail, then told you what practice you were actually undertaking - intepretation.

Most of us....

Three out of four people .... oooh, what a sample size. Someone with half a day's training in statisitics will tell you that all you produce with four people equals automatically a null hypothesis! A statistician would laugh.

...reached the same conclusions based on data input. You do not. Outlier?

Again, from the standpoint of statistics (which you are obviously appealing to when you use terms like outlier) you're all screwed up: (a) your evidence is anecdotal evidence (very small sample size again); (b) your sample is not random. Non-randomized samples are literally worthless due to issues of bias; the fact on top of this the sample size is too small to create anything more than a null hypothesis doesn't help your cause either.

Now I can give you lecture on science methods if that's what you want. I am perfectly willing to do so, free of charge. But please quit talking out your ass; because I am becoming embarressed for you.

No thanks on the lecture. This is not a scientific survey, but a discussion. Guess what? I'm a trained statistician and I'm not laughing.

You can google 30,000 references on taboos against killing children in cultural anthropology and behavioral genetics.

This getting rather off topic, and also sort of boring. May I suggest that you read some of the body of work in early sociobiolgy, if you have a genuine interest? I'd reccommend Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, and Matt Ridely's Nature Via Nurture, two of my favorites.

Gary,

What is your problem? None of these good people would mind if you disagree with them, but do you have to be such a jerk when you do it?

Someone needs to do a study on blog discussions, vis-a-vis rigor. Some people enter discussions with the idea that general principles are most interesting and that's what they want to talk about. Others seem engage assuming the rigor necessary of a dissertation or a published paper. This, it seems to me, is one of the roots of blogging disharmony - people engaging at differing levels of rigor. Is this one of the causes of Den Beste's current funk?

Lurker, I am doing a study of how bloggers implicitly and explicitly assign measures of validity, relevance and usefulness to information. I presented a short contributed paper at an academic conference last May and hope to do some surveys and more detailed analysis for a conference this spring.

The blogosphere is different from some other discussion venues in several ways, among them that the norms for the medium are various and evolving. And, of course, there isn't just one blogosphere.

Robin, Those are interesting ideas as well. I just thought of another one.

Blog's bring together people of vastly different backgrounds, professions, and skills. What kind of disagreements - of the two ships passing in the night sort - can arise when people argue in the limited medium of blog comments, when everyone comes with completely different sets of axioms and assupmtions? What kind of discussions are possible? Or will we always be preaching past each other in differing and mutually misunderstood jargon?

Are we having a meta discussion now? ;-)

The sinking of Kerry by the Swifties includes an attack on one of the main myths of current Political Correctness.

Kerry's Lie(s) about Vietnam (Christmas in Cambodia; war crimes as US policy) have 3 main effects:
1) sinking Kerry in Nov.,
2) demonstrating the PC Leftist bias of the Press,
3) opening to question a pillar of PC thought -- use of American military to fight evil is bad; for PC folk, peace (and genocide) is better than fighting evil when such a war means killing, dying, and even killing innocents.
(see Kerry's Lies)

RatherGate is a huge indictment of the Leftist bias in the Press, and many elites (especially socialistic professors).
There is an echo chamber myth that the liberal MSM is not biased. But it is.

The PC myth about Vietnam is that, after 1971, it was "good" for the US to leave.
Peace.
Peace and genocide was better than more long-term fighting. That myth needs to be questioned, and publicized, because it's NOT good.

Tom Grey, are you on the right thread?

I'm just passing through, but thought I would put in my two cents.

First, I agree about Gary. Gary, remember that you win more converts when you're nice. People tune out cranks.

Second, as a neutral party, I perceive that many of you posters are ignoring half of what the other person says or else snidely twisting what they did say. You all seem to possess excellent intellect. Try applying honesty and humility and grace along with it. (NOTE: I don't always do that in my life, but I try. I spent twenty minutes whittling down my own abrasive statements. It takes work, but can't y'all just try harder?)

As for the off-topic Tom Grey, I think he would do well to debate me on this topic in another forum, where he can quantify media liberalism versus it's conservatism (by both commission and omission). It seems he believes that the mega-super-rich owners of major infotainment media actually tolerate genuinely liberal journalism, despite the fact it threatens their very conservative power structure. I look forward to a short debate on that topic (elsewhere).

That's my two cents, OK, two hundred cents. Gotta run. Cheers!

Bruce

Oh, rat. I just replied to a 3-yr old thread. I've been talking to myself. Ha-ha-ha! If anybody finds this in a million years, know that I was laughing hard at myself. HAAAAAAAAA!

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