Re: Islam, theology and politeness

From: Damien Raphael Sullivan (
Date: Thu Mar 22 2001 - 00:59:22 MST

On Fri, 16 Mar 2001 19:27:23 +0000
Charlie Stross <> wrote:
> On Wed, Mar 14, 2001 at 03:21:20PM -0800, J. R. Molloy wrote:

> > First, I think people immature enough to truly believe in "technologies
> > that promise to make most of the roots of conflict magically go away"
> > don't belong in science or technology,

Tough, I'm sure they're there.

> And that's the impression that's going to go over to the teeming billions,
> because many of them don't have the rationalist education to absorb anything
> deeper. Science and technology *are* seen as magic by many people, even
> today.

And why shouldn't they be?

We've doubled (or more) life expectancy, Saved the Children (cut child
mortality to near zero -- related facts, actually), banished food worries for
most of society, and maybe for all of society in the more developed welfare
states of Europe (that pesky distribution problem), reduced necessary physical
labor to almost unhealthy levels... obviously I'm talking mostly about the
First World. Which is a lot more peaceful, in terms of both war and crime,
than the historical standard. Or if there's more crime, it's less than you'd
expect for cities of our size and density.

> > .... Scarcity has never been the problem. Just the
> > opposite; overpopulation creates social problems. Politics and
> > distribution failures produce scarcity, but that has to do with misuse of

Garbage. We have 6 billion people. By your logic, scarcity (resources
divided by population, after all) should be much worse than when we had 100
million people. Yet it isn't, because of our technology.

And societies have collapsed due to scarcity caused by environmental change;
Jared Diamond's next book will be about just that, I think.

Iraq attacked Kuwait, and we defended Kuwait, because of the scarcity of oil.
No civilization attacked the steppes of Asia the way the nomads of those
steppes attacked civilization, because who the hell would want the steppes of
Asia? The closest the West has come to blows in recent years -- tiffs between
Canada and Spain, and Canada and Alaska or Seattle people -- have been about
ocean fishing rights, i.e. the scarcity of fish.

Not all conflict comes from economic scarcity; I don't know that it'd explain
the Roman Empire, let alone the Arab one. But fights over land and water and
oil and gold have hardly been negligible.

-xx- Damien X-)

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