Thursday, June 04, 2009

Religions owe their success to suffering martyrs

This is rather in accord with psychiatrist H.F. Stein's view that Jews need their persecutors to maintain their separate identity

WHAT is the difference between Jesus Christ and Superman? The content of religions and popular tales is often similar, but only religions have martyrs, according to an analysis of behavioural evolution published this week.

When religious leaders make costly sacrifices for their beliefs, the argument goes, these acts add credibility to their professions of faith and help their beliefs to spread. If, on the other hand, no one is willing to make a significant sacrifice for a belief then observers - even young children - quickly pick up on this and withhold their own commitment. "Nobody takes a day off to worship Superman or gives money to the Superman Foundation," points out Joseph Henrich, an evolutionary anthropologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

The more costly the behaviour, the more likely it is to be sincere: few would willingly give their life for an ideal they did not believe in, and devotees who take vows of poverty or chastity are clearly putting their money where their mouth is. Such credibility-enhancing displays are even more effective if performed by a high-status individual such as a priest or other leader, says Henrich.

Once people believe, they are more likely to perform similar displays themselves. Henrich created a mathematical model to test his ideas and showed that this self-reinforcing loop can stabilise a system of beliefs and actions, and help them persist through many generations (Evolution and Human Behavior).

This dynamic helps explain why so many religions involve costly renunciations. For example, Henrich notes that the persecution of early Christians by Roman authorities may have spread Christian beliefs by allowing believers to be martyred for their faith - the ultimate credibility-enhancing display.

The principle applies to other social movements too. Studies of 19th-century utopian communes such as Hutterites and Shakers show that those making the strictest demands on their followers were most likely to persist, says Henrich. "You can see the changes in action. The number of those costly commitment rituals increases over time."

Henrich's analysis fills an important hole in our understanding of the rise of religions, says Richard Sosis, an anthropologist at the University of Connecticut in Storrs.

The hypothesis still needs to be tested, for example with lab experiments on belief transmission, and historical studies of religions. But if Henrich is right, churches that liberalise their behavioural codes may be sabotaging themselves by reducing their followers' commitment [That is certainly true in practice]. This may explain why strict evangelical Christian churches are expanding in the US at the expense of mainstream denominations. "To be a member you've got to walk the walk and talk the talk," says Henrich. "And this transmits deeper faith to the children."


Big Brother HAS gone too far ... and that's a British ex-spy chief talking

The former head of MI6 has hit out at 'striking and disturbing' invasions of privacy by the Big Brother state. Sir Richard Dearlove, who led the Secret Intelligence Service from 1999 to 2004, claimed some were an 'abuse' of the law. He attacked the 'loss of liberties' caused by expanding surveillance powers and described some police operations as 'mind-boggling.' The former spy chief joins a growing number of high-profile critics warning that individual freedom and privacy are being seriously eroded by the Government's disproportionate efforts to guard against terrorism.

Sir Richard was particularly critical of what he claimed were inadequate laws to regulate some surveillance powers. Commenting on the massive surge in police use of stop-and-search powers in London, he highlighted the fact that Scotland Yard officers have carried out more than 150,000 searches since 2007. This compared with fewer than 300 in Manchester. Sir Richard said: 'That is a mind-boggling statistic. That may well be an abuse of the law. 'I am a great believer in proportionality and as a citizen I worry about the loss of my liberties.'

He questioned the legal constraints on the use of millions of CCTV cameras across Britain, saying: 'We have constructed a society which has great technical competence - and some of that competence isn't particularly regulated. 'I think the important thing in the UK is that there should be very strict legislation and strict legislative oversight.'

Sir Richard, who spoke out during a question-and-answer appearance in front of 800 people at the Hay on Wye Festival, was a career intelligence officer who joined MI6 in 1966. He was in charge of the agency at the time of the September 11 attacks, and oversaw the response to the emerging threat from Al Qaeda. When he left MI6 and became Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge, officials said he would not be giving interviews or making public appearances. But in recent months he has spoken at a number of events.

Sir Richard's remarks echo concerns voiced recently by terrorism watchdog Lord Carlile who criticised the number of stop-and-searches and said it risked gravely undermining relations with the Muslim community.

The House of Lords Constitution Committee recently called for the state's Big Brother powers to be rolled back, while Information Commissioner Richard Thomas has condemned the spread of surveillance, particularly the UK's 4.5million CCTV cameras. He said Home Office plans for a vast internet surveillance database were 'a step too far for the British way of life'. Sir Richard said he believed the U.S. response to September 11 had been disproportionate.

George Bush's administration detained and tortured hundreds of suspected terrorists in foreign jails under the extraordinary rendition programme. Sir Richard said: 'I'm a great believer in proportionality, and while what happened on 9/11 was a dreadful and serious event, in no way did it threaten the integrity of western civilisation.'

Asked about Britain's involvement in the CIA's rendition programme, Sir Richard told the festival audience that MI6 would have sought ministerial approval of any cases involving British citizens or residents. He said: 'The intelligence and security community act in sensitive situations with political cover'. Sir Richard admitted he had been aware of a number of rendition cases while he was head of MI6, but claimed the Americans had not passed on lists of names. He added: 'Yes, I think we were certainly aware. I mean we were not aware of the detail, we were aware of some individual cases.' He said he had known of no cases involving British nationals, and dismissed suggestions that the UK had run its own rendition programme to move terror suspects abroad to be questioned and tortured.

The former spy chief said: 'No British minister would ever have agreed a rendition action by us because I think the legal advice in the UK would have been that under common law this was very questionable. U.S. lawyers gave different advice.'

Sir Richard insisted Britain's position condemning torture remained secure, adding: 'I do not know of any violations. 'We don't use torture and in instances where we know that, let's say, a foreign government is not handling a case in line with our legal procedures then we would express our disagreement and our disapproval.'


Muslim team defile British cricket

Typical Muslim petulance

An umpire was beaten with stumps when tempers flared during a cricket match. Police were called after violence broke out during a Sunday league game between Sheffield Alliance Cricket Club and the Shimla Cricket Club, from Bradford. Three members of the Shimla team, apparently unhappy at a decision by the umpire, Matthew Lowson, 19, are alleged to have attacked him at the Phoenix Cricket Club in Rotherham. The attack happened towards the end of the match, when the Bradford side appealed for a catch but the umpire called “Not out”. Players surrounded him and witnesses say that he was punched, kicked and hit with stumps. He escaped serious injury after members of the home team used themselves as human shields.

A South Yorkshire Police spokeswoman confirmed officers attended the ground at Brinsworth, Rotherham, and said officers were speaking to three people from West Yorkshire but no arrests had been made. She said: “Three men are accused on confronting the umpire and it is believed one of them may have struck the umpire in the face.”

Stuart Granger, chairman of South Yorkshire Cricket League Umpire’s Association and secretary of the English Cricket Board’s Association of Cricket Officials for the South Yorkshire Branch, said: “This club must be banned from all cricket and the players must appear before a disciplinary committee for the league. We shall be seeking to have them expelled. We are not prepared to accept this against a 19-year-old lad.

“This is totally unacceptable in any level of cricket. It is totally against the spirit of the game. Players should have respect for their colleagues, umpires and other players.” The Barnsley-born umpire Dickie Bird condemned the incident and said he hoped that strong disciplinary action would be taken against any players found to have taken part.

He said: “Cricket is a civilised sport played by gentlemen. It saddens me to hear of anyone being attacked on a cricket field over a decision. What is the game coming to?”


A Modern Witch Trial

By Theodore Dalrymple

Men may be created equal, but not all murders are equal. Some are quickly forgotten, except by those immediately affected by them, while others--by no means always political assassinations--have a lasting political impact. Among the politically significant kind was the murder of Stephen Lawrence, a young black man, in a London suburb on the evening of April 22, 1993. Five or six white youths set upon Lawrence and a friend, Duwayne Brooks. One of the attackers supposedly shouted, "What, what, nigger?" immediately before Lawrence was stabbed to death. Brooks managed to evade the attackers, who ran away.

Despite considerable circumstantial evidence against several suspects, the perpetrators escaped conviction. The police investigation into the murder was a model of incompetence of the kind that every Briton now expects of our boys in blue. Over the investigation there also hung a pall of suspected corruption, for one suspect was the son of a rich drug trafficker who, on a previous occasion when his son stood accused of a stabbing, had tried (unsuccessfully) to bribe and threaten the victim into altering his evidence.

But the Lawrence murder took on a wide social significance because of its racial overtones. The botched investigation became a cause celebre--the presumption being that racism alone could explain the police's failure to bring the perpetrators to justice--and the government launched an official inquiry to "identify the lessons to be learned for the investigation and prosecution of racially motivated crimes." There followed a festival of political and emotional correctness the likes of which have rarely been equaled. It would be impossible, at less than book length, to plumb the depths of intellectual confusion and moral cowardice to which the inquiry plunged. In 1999, it released a report of its findings that won almost universal praise despite its risible shortcomings.

This year, on the tenth anniversary of the report, the press and professional criminologists are celebrating it for, as one put it, bringing about a "paradigm shift" in the sensitivities of British police about "diversity"--police now think about race all the time, it seems. The report's real effect, however, was to demoralize further an already demoralized police force, which, immediately after the report appeared, retreated from stopping or searching people behaving suspiciously and watched street robberies increase 50 percent.

Perhaps the fact that the inquiry was open to the public had something to do with the nature of the resulting report. The public gallery regularly overflowed with activists and extremists, who did not hesitate to jeer and mock the witnesses with whom they disagreed; the head of the inquiry, Sir William Macpherson, rarely admonished these spectators, thus creating an officially sanctioned atmosphere of intimidation. Among the self-congratulatory sentences that opened the report ("We believe that our procedures did ensure fairness"; "The contributions of the Inquiry's Advisers to the Report and to the conclusions to the Report . . . have been imaginative, radical and of incalculable worth") was the following, a flash of lightning in the darkness: "We thank the officers from the Walworth Police Station, who in difficult and sometimes dangerous circumstances have helped to keep order when emotions ran high." An incipient riot is not a situation in which the truth is likely to emerge or to be uppermost in people's minds.

The report's contention was that the mishandled Lawrence case illustrated the "institutional racism" of the London police force. Poor Sir William tied himself in knots trying to explain the notion of institutional racism, relying in part on that great moral authority on race relations, Stokely Carmichael, the onetime "prime minister" of the Black Panthers. As Macpherson admitted, he could point to no actual instance of racist behavior by the officers involved in the case, though evidence of incompetence and delay was abundant. But if he had concluded from the lack of evidence of racist behavior that the police were not racist, he doubtless would have become an object of execration by all the people who think the right thoughts. Thus Macpherson's redefinition of racism: "Failure to adjust policies and methods to meet the needs of policing a multi-racial society can occur simply because police officers may mistakenly believe that it is legitimate to be 'colour-blind' in both individual and team response to the management and investigation of racist crimes."

On the very next page, however, Sir William quoted approvingly the assertion of an association of black police officers: "Institutional racism leads officers to act, albeit unconsciously, and for the most part unintentionally, and treat others differently because of their ethnicity or culture." In other words, if you treat people the same, you are racist; but if you treat them differently, you are racist. It is clear that we are here in the realm not of the rule of law but of the Malleus Maleficarum, and that Macpherson is acting not as judge but as witchfinder-general.

The evidence of institutional racism that Macpherson uncovered would be laughable, had the liberal press not taken it so seriously. For example, when the police arrived at the murder scene, Brooks snarled: "Who called you fucking cunts anyway, pigs, I only called an ambulance." That the police did not feel entirely reassured that Brooks was a respectable, upright citizen, and ignored the fact that he was also a victim of the attack, became for Macpherson a sign of their racist stereotyping, not a natural response to such vile abuse, which is not a normal way for the law-abiding to address the supposed guardians of the law--or, indeed, anyone else.

Further evidence, in Sir William's view, was that some of the detectives refused to accept that the Lawrence murder was "wholly racist," though none denied at least a racist element. Of course, since no one had actually been convicted of the murder, the murderer's motive could not be known for certain. And even if the suspects--a violent group, certainly--were indeed the culprits, was racism the sole, or even primary, cause of their violence? One suspect--David Norris, the drug trafficker's son--was almost certainly guilty of that earlier stabbing in which his father became illegally involved, as the report observed. But there the victim was white. Norris and two other suspects in the Lawrence murder had also been suspects in another assault, this one on two brothers, both white. In both instances, Norris got off because of incompetent prosecutions.

Macpherson did not draw the obvious inference, and if he did, the liberal intelligentsia would not have applauded.

Let us assume that Norris was indeed one of Stephen Lawrence's murderers. If the prosecution of Norris's earlier crimes had not been so incompetent, and if he had received an adequate sentence if found guilty (an unlikely outcome in contemporary Britain), then Lawrence would now be alive.

At one point, the inquiry listened to secretly recorded conversations among the Lawrence suspects. The conversations were racist in the crudest possible way, but they were not purely racist. Norris said, for example, "If I was going to kill myself, do you know what I'd do? I'd go and kill every black cunt, every Paki, every copper, every mug that I know." The police in London are not predominantly minorities; it is also unlikely that "every mug" that Norris knew was a minority. Norris's propensity to racism was probably caused by his propensity to violence, rather than the other way around.

So on every possible ground, the police who dismissed the idea that the murder was "wholly racist" were right, at least factually. Their error was political or even metaphysical--beyond the realm of mere empirical evidence. On Macpherson's view, the police should act more as defenders of politically correct orthodoxy than as keepers of the peace and searchers after the truth.

Further confirmation of Sir William's moral cowardice was his uncritical acceptance of everything that Stephen Lawrence's mother said. Now, Mrs. Lawrence had lost her son to murder, and the police had failed to solve the far from insoluble crime; she was understandably distraught and angry. But that did not make her the arbiter of truth; common sense, indeed, should have suggested the contrary. One might have hoped that a judge would have shown some judgment.

At the beginning of the report, Macpherson defended the unusually "adversarial" manner in which the inquiry was conducted. "Cross-examination of many officers was undoubtedly robust and searching," he wrote. A few pages later, without noticing any contradiction, he mentioned that when one Mr. Gompertz, the counsel for the police, was questioning Mrs. Lawrence, "The nature and content of the questions made Mrs. Lawrence protest that her perception was that she was being put on trial. Wisely Mr. Gompertz desisted." In short, only the accused could be questioned.

Mrs. Lawrence had already demonstrated that, no doubt in her distress, she was willing to go beyond the facts. In her statement to the coroner's court, she said (and later repeated the assertion to Nelson Mandela when he visited London): "In my opinion what had happened was the way of the judicial system making a clear statement to the black community that their lives are worth nothing and the justice system will support any one, any white person who wishes to commit any crime or even murder against a black person, you will be protected, you will be supported by the British system."

Even if we leave aside the question of why she bothered to participate in the system at all if it really was as she described it, she ought to have known that she was exaggerating. I quote from the report, which sought to show that Lawrence's was not the only racist murder in the area:

In February 1991 a white man named Thornburrow murdered a young 15 year old black youth named Rolan Adams. . . . He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

On 11 July 1992 an Asian boy called Rohit Duggal was stabbed to death by a white youth named Peter Thompson. . . . Thompson was found guilty of the murder in February 1993.

Mrs. Lawrence should have known about these sentences. If she did not, she was ignorant; if she did, she was lying. But all that Macpherson said of her incendiary charge was that it showed the depth of her feeling--not that it was inaccurate and misleading. Her victimhood had to be immaculate.

Mrs. Lawrence further said that she felt condescended to by the police and ascribed this condescension to their racism. Macpherson showed--surprisingly, for a judge--no recognition of the obvious difficulties in accepting such feeling as evidence of anything. He did not even demand that her feelings have some objective correlative: if she felt condescended to because of racism, she was condescended to because of racism.

Among the report's many pernicious recommendations was the following: "The definition of a racist incident should be any incident which is perceived as racist by the victim or any other person." Nothing could be better designed to destroy the possibility of easy--dare I say normal--relations among people of different races. For the notion that racism is so pervasive and institutionalized that it is everywhere, even where it appears not to be, induces in the susceptible a paranoid state of mind, which then finds racism in every possible situation, in every remark, in every suggestion, in every gesture and expression. It is a charge against which there is no defense.

Two incidents in my clinical experience illustrate this nonfalsifiability. In the first, the lawyers for a black defendant asked me to appraise his fitness to plead. The defendant faced charges of assaulting another black man, out of the blue, with an iron bar. The man was obviously paranoid, his speech rambling and incoherent; his lawyers could obtain no sensible instructions from him. I argued that he was unfit to plead. Whereupon the man's sister denounced me as a racist: I had reached my conclusions, she charged, only because her brother was black. Her 15-year-old daughter started to describe to me her frequent difficulties in understanding her uncle, only to be told to shut up by her mother. The lawyers had been unable to obtain instructions from the defendant only because they were white, the sister persisted. Give her brother black lawyers, and he would be perfectly reasonable. Of course, if I had said that he was fit to plead, she could have claimed with equal justice (which is none) that I came to that conclusion only because he was black.

The second case, far more serious, ended in a man's death; the blame was partly mine. A black man in his mid-twenties arrived at our hospital with severely cut wrists. He was nearly exsanguinated and needed a large blood transfusion; his tendons also needed an operation to repair. By all accounts, he had been a perfectly normal man, happily employed, a few weeks before, but suddenly he had stopped eating and become a recluse, barricading himself in his house until police and family broke in to reach him. His suicide attempt was not one of those frivolous gestures with which our hospitals are all too familiar. If ever a man meant to kill himself, this man did.

His mother was by his bedside. I told her that her son should remain in the hospital for treatment (you'd hardly have to be a doctor to realize this). At first she was perfectly agreeable; but then a friend of the young man, himself young and black, arrived and instantly accused me of racism for my supposed desire to lock the patient up. I tried to reason with this friend, but he became agitated and aggressive, even menacing. Whether from conviction or because she, too, felt intimidated, the mother then sided with the friend and started to say that I was racist in wishing to detain her son.

I could have insisted on the powers granted to me by law--asking a court to have social services replace the mother as the patient's nearest relative for the legal purpose of keeping him in treatment. But I did not fancy the process: the young friend had threatened to bring reinforcements, and a riot might have ensued in the hospital. Instead, I agreed to the demand that I let the patient go home. The two said that they would look after him, and I made them sign a paper (of no legal worth) acknowledging that I had warned them of the possible consequences.

This piece of paper they screwed up into a ball and threw away immediately outside the ward, where I found it later. I had made copies, and it was one of these that I sent to the coroner when, six weeks later, the young man gassed himself to death with car exhaust. The notion of ubiquitous, institutionalized racism resulted in his death; and I resolved that it would never intimidate me again.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


No comments: