Monday, June 25, 2012

The Terrifying Brilliance of Islam


HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED why millions of Muslim men are dedicated to killing Americans? Or why so many are willing to blow themselves up to kill Israelis? Or why they are so committed to blowing up random people in Bali, London, Madrid, etc.?

Islamic supremacists are doing this all over the world, attacking Westerners and their own fellow Muslims alike. Why?  

Because of a doctrine. A doctrine is a collection of ideas. These could be customs, words, beliefs, etc. A religion is not a single idea; it is a collection of ideas. The collection of ideas that make up the religion of Islam makes Muslims behave and feel as they do.

Collections of ideas compete with each other in the same way that collections of cells (organisms) compete with each other. And because idea-collections compete, and because new ideas can often be added or subtracted from the collection, and because some collections gain more believers than others, collections of ideas can actually evolve.
Let's look at how religious idea-collections evolve and compete. To begin with, let's assume we already have a religion established. It already has a holy book and millions of people are already believers.

And then there is a slight variation.

The original version had a "live and let live" attitude, and never tried to encourage its followers to get converts. But then someone comes up with the idea that if you can persuade a non-believer to become a believer, you earn some sort of spiritual merit. You are saving souls, and your chances of getting into heaven are better.

Okay, now you have two variations on the same religion: One contains the idea that it doesn't really matter if you get anyone else to join the religion. The other motivates its believers to persuade others to join.

After a thousand years, which of the two variations will have more believers? I'm betting on the motivated-to-spread-it version.

Let's assume, for the moment, that the motivated version gets far more followers. Does that mean it makes people happier? Or more successful in life? Or have healthier children? No. Just because a collection of ideas successfully gains followers does not mean it benefits any of the people believing those ideas.

The same is true in genetics. Contrary to common sense, a successful gene doesn't necessarily benefit the organism. It is "successful" in the sense that it has made lots of copies of itself and is found in many organisms. But it may actually be harmful for the organism.

For example, if there is a gene for alcoholism, and if drinking causes someone to start having children younger than someone who doesn't drink, over thousands of years, the alcoholism gene might be more successful (the gene makes its way into more offspring) than the non-alcoholism gene, even though it is bad for each individual person carrying the gene.