Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Natalie Solent on Victor!
Natalie Solent on Victor!
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Michael Jennings on Happiness is Gold Blend at only £3 instead of £4.50
Schrodinger's Dog on Happiness is Gold Blend at only £3 instead of £4.50
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Category archive: Middle East and Islam
While I was on that Waterloo Station upper deck, I espied a couple of adverts next to each other, put out by this organisation.
Here they are together:
And here they each are separately, for you to click on to get them well and truly readable:
Okay, I accept these challenges, and will respond.
The left hand one is a variant on the theme of “a billion people can’t be wrong”. Yes they can. Why has the Qur’an remained unchanged? There are any number of reasons why that would happen, other than what they are trying to say, which is that it is all true. Because it is an object of unthinking worship, rather than of serious study? (Remember that the memorising of it is often done by people who have no idea what they are saying, merely reproducing sounds.) Because people have been too scared to challenge it? Because Islam remains stuck in the seventh century, and unthinking bigotry is built into it?
Science, which the second advert seeks to argue was pre-echoed by the Qur’an, has changed over and over again. And this is a sign of science’s intellectual seriousness and intellectual vitality. Lack of change, century after century, signifies the opposite.
As for the claim of the Qur’an to be science before science, the real theory of the big bang is but the conceptual tip of an intellectual iceberg consisting of a ton of evidence and interpretation, and it is the latter that gives science its force. Science is not merely true. It explains why it is true. It argues about whether it is true. And consequently it gets ever more true. Islam is no truer now than it was thirteen centuries ago.
The good news here is that the claim that the Qur’an is as scientific as real science is a huge concession to the acknowledged intellectual superiority of science. “We have been right all along, and science proves it!” But if they really thought that the Qur’an was the last word on everything, they wouldn’t be dragging science in to back the claim up. Science would be ignored.
But they know that they cannot now ignore science. Science is a challenge they know they have to respond to. On account of it being so much truer and so much better at getting at more truth than the unchanging and unchangeable incantations that they are stuck with.
Incoming from Michael J:
Richard the Lionheart apparently occupied St Hilarion Castle in Northern Cyprus on his way to Jerusalem in the 12th century. Thus it is pretty clear that crusaders used these latrines. However, the castle is a couple of centuries older than this, so we must therefore wonder whether these are actual crusader latrines, or merely latrines used by crusaders.
“Crusader Latrines” sounds like an up-to-the-minute brand, doesn’t it? “Middle Age Privies”, on the other hand ...
This Samizdata posting, for instance, is about a guy using a great big iPad to photo Westminster Abbey. Scorn was expressed by some commenters at how stupid this man was making himself look. I disagree strongly, as did Michael Jennings.
Michael’s comment about this deserves further attention and here it is in full:
It is believed that the reason that the first generation iPad did not have cameras was because Steve Jobs believed that people using it to take photographs would look ridiculous. This received complaints, not so much for people who wanted to use it to take photographs, but for parents of small children. Point the iPad at the baby, start up a video conference with the grandparents, allow the grandparents to watch the baby, and the grandparents will be happily occupied for hours.
However, people then started using the iPad for taking photographs anyway. So, Apple gave it a decent camera. I have one myself, and I prefer taking photographs with it to taking photographs with a cellphone camera. Whether that is the quality of the camera, I am not sure. (By standards of cellphone cameras, the one in the iPad is of high quality, but most high end phones have cameras of similar quality). I think it may be the screen. Everybody who takes digital photographs knows the experience of taking what you think is a good photograph, but discovering later that it is blurry, but being unable to tell that at the time on the tiny screen on the camera. The iPad has a large, very high resolution screen, so you have a much better ability to tell at once if you have taken a good picture or not. If you haven’t, there may even be a chance to take it again.
A final good thing about the iPad is its fantastic battery life. (This isn’t hard to explain - if you look at pictures of the innards of an iPad it is almost entirely battery). At the end of a busy day, its not uncommon to find that your batteries are low or completely depleted on all your devices except the iPad. You see something that needs photographing, so you use the iPad simply because it is still going.
As for looking ridiculous, that is all about what is normal and expected. If everyone does it, it no longer looks ridiculous.
To me what is truly ridiculous is refraining from doing what works best, because you think that looks ridiculous. It’s like that thing about being cool. If you are trying to be cool, you are by definition failing. If your over-riding concern is not to look ridiculous, then you are being ridiculous.
To illustrate the matter further, Michael immediately added another comment, which included this photo, also deserving of a wider audience than it may get while buried in a comment thread:
Underneath which Michael added:
For instance, if on a slow afternoon you unexpectedly find your self at the tomb in Jerusalem where protestants believe that Christ rose from the dead, it can be really helpful to have your iPad with you.
Last night, Michael and I both attended the Adam Smith Institute Christmas Party. Here is my photo of Michael, taking a picture of me with his iPad:
And here is my photo of Michael’s photo of me, as instantly displayed on his iPad:
Michael could be sure that his photo was in focus even as he was taking it, and certainly immediately afterwards. I could only be sure that my photo of his photo was also in focus when I got home, and actually, a great many of the other photos that I took at this shindig were not properly in focus, there being somewhat insufficient light (with what there was of it typically being ill-directed for my purposes), and people being prone to move about when they converse with one another. Which makes Michael’s point yet again.
Whenever, of a Friday, I go looking for cat news, there is always plenty.
Pride of place today goes to the news that the New York shooter loved his two cats. But, it is now argued, by some different scientists to the scientists who argued the opposite, that he can’t have caught brain cancer from his cats, because that doesn’t happen. Good to know. But, you might be driven by your cats to commit suicide. How about murder?
On the other hand, Cats that pester for food could be suffering from psychological condition. Yes. They’re cats.
News of a cat that is making itself useful: Cat opens new excavator plant in Texas. That must have been something to see. What did the cat say? Did it just chuck a champagne bottle against the side of the excavator plant? Is there video of this?
Next up, the encouraging news that M12 Cat 6A connector system delivers signal integrity up to 10Gbps.
And, in Israel, new born and very rare (apparently) sand kittens, like this one:
I actually don’t think the one on the right is very good. The cat connection is imposed, not explained.
However, I don’t believe the Moists actually care that their precious prophet has had his picture flashed about. I think they’re just looking for a fight, and I am giving them the oxygen of publicity. Oh well. But you can’t just ignore this crap. Here’s hoping the Gendarmes get them.
Don’t agree with the French politician (second link) who wants everyone to “respect” all opinions. Just tolerate, even as you despise and/or detest, is quite sufficient.
What’s Mo saying, by the way? Anyone? Ah, answer here.
I mentioned the difficulties I had last Saturday, at the Liberty League Conference, with indoor photography. The least unsuccessful indoor photos I took were of some of the speakers.
Part of movement building is telling each other what we all look like, so here are these snaps. Click to get bigger pictures, exactly as they emerged from my camera. If anyone uses any of these snaps elsewhere (as they are most welcome to do) they are also welcome to do whatever editing they consider might improve them.
The good gentlemen pictured below are, in the order in which they spoke at the Conference, James Stanfield (top left), Mark Pennington (top centre), Brendon O’Neill (top right), Kristian Niemietz (bottom left), Andrew Lilico (bottom centre), Mustafa Akyol (bottom left):
James Stanfield. Stanfield is a colleague of James Tooley, and was a late replacement for Tooley, who had been struck down by a travel-related bug. It seems that school spotting in far away places has its dangers. Having heard Tooley speak a number of times over the years, most recently last Wednesday, and not ever having heard James Stanfield before, I personally was not that distressed by this swap, although I’m guessing others present may have been.
Everyone, definitely including me, regretted the no-show by Toby Young, who got stuck in traffic and then failed to find anywhere to park and went back home. Bizarre. But at least Young phoned in to explain all this. The titles of two of his books, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People and The Sound of No Hands Clapping, provoked laughter when mentioned by conference supremo Anton Howes as he passed on these travel updates.
Stanfield’s talk was distinguished by his assertion of the value of liberty, as a principle. Stanfield didn’t justify a total free market in education merely because it would, in the opinion of onlookers, have better educational results. People should, he said, be allowed to choose whatever education they want for their children, because that is an inherently good idea, along with such ideas as it being good for people to be allowed to say what they want and go where they want.
The other of the above speakers who particularly impressed me was Mustafa Akyol. I am no admirer of Islam. Akyol is the first person (Muslim or otherwise) I have ever heard to have got me thinking that I might be mistaken about just how inherently evil Islam is. He is the author of a book entitled Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case For Liberty, a copy of which I purchased after he gave his talk. I probably still won’t be convinced, mind, but I am looking forward to reading this.
That a particular speaker may not have impressed me as much as the above two says little about him and quite a lot about me. I have reached the nodding off stage in life. If I nod off while you are speaking at an event I am attending, you shouldn’t take it personally. Could this be why so many people - people other than me - prefer not to sit at the front of the audience at events like this?
Actually it’s by Youssef Courbage and Emmanuel Todd. And it’s not that new; it was first published (in French) in 2007. But it has just been made available in English. And it is exactly the Todd book that, for several years now, I have most been wanting to read. It is entitled A Convergence of Civilizations: The Transformation of Muslim Societies Around the World.
If it is as interesting as I hope it is, this book could finally enable Todd to make his long overdue breakthrough into the English speaking world.
And it is, as Instapundit is always saying, in the post.
In all my previous Todd googlings, I had never before come across this stuff about Todd, although I am almost certain that it has been there all along. Will read this tomorrow, or failing that, Real Soon. (And ooh look: at the top left, under where it says “NEW!!!”, there is me, and three of my Todd postings.)
Think about it: What’s the best way to make sure there is only goodwill out there towards Muslims?
That’s right: Kill all the bad Muslims.
It’s the way that he combines hate-the-hateful speech with everyone-live-in-harmony speech that makes it so funny, right speak with left speak. Reminds me of that great speech for the defence in Animal House.
This evening I attended the ASI blogger bash, and one of the speakers, Harry Cole, said something along the lines of: Lefties are better at comedy than the Right.. Which I suspect is a lot truer of Britain than it is of the USA. Closely related to that observation is that in Britain, as was also discussed, we are years away from anything resembling a British version of the Tea Party. The British Right, in other words, is not in tune with the Zeitgeist, or even any major slab of the Zeitgeist, the way the USA Right is in the USA. And even there, it may just be a temporary consequence of the Obama phenomenon,, which is a huge attempt to turn the USA into something entirely different. Europe, basically. When that attempt gets switched off, whenever that happens, the Tea Party may die with it. By which I mean either go home or else turn entirely into dull old regular politics.
LATER: Further illustration of the same proposition. When Cleese was funny, he was, if not Left, then at least anti-Right. Now that he’s not funny, he’s Right.
Came across this photo, here, having been sent there to read something else that I’ve forgotten about. Let’s backtrack and see. Yes, apparently I was reading this, for some bizarre reason or other. Plus, rootling through these photos also got me paying some attention to aqueducts. So anyway, the photo (slightly flattened):
A chance for the New York Post to get in a dig at the Israelis for being horrid to the Palestinians:
The fishermen go out every morning hoping that they will be allowed to go out to sea, but Israeli navy forces rarely allow them to leave the shallow waters.
Because after all, under no circumstances whatsoever could “fishermen” possibly be doubling up as anything else.
So, also a chance for me to link back to a posting here about how my attitude to Israel is one of unconditional positive regard.
But putting all that to one side, nice photo.
That’s twice in the last few days I’ve slammed some important nails on the head in brief and to-the-point blog postings at Samizdata. I did it with this, and I think I just might have done it again with this. The point will be a familiar one to all who read everything here. But how many is that? And I think, this time, I may just have cracked the phrasing of it. I hope that this latest one also has its little moment of virality, but assume nothing.
Just to say where I come from, in case strangers are passing by (welcome, by the way): I’m an atheist, for most of the usual atheist reasons, and an atheist who prefers Christianity to Islam, for most of the usual human reasons.
Were a time traveller/historian from the future to reveal to me that Islam had indeed been defeated (setting aside for the time being just what “defeated” might mean), I would expect him/her to add, at some point in our (I hope) quite prolonged discussions, that Christianity had played a big part in this excellent outcome.
Religion seems to me to be a part of human nature, which is not to say that all humans seem to need it like we all need air, food or drink. It’s just that a lot of us seem to. As an atheist I am resigned to this. All the arguments that convince me of the non-existence of God are not so much wrong, to a religionist, as beside the point. The point being that they really need their religion, and that’s the truth that matters to them, not people like me explaining the factual implausibility of spaghetti monsters or orbiting teapots (two favourite atheist inventions).
So the question for many is simply: which religion shall it be? And just now, it seems, although I don’t know the numbers, that when it comes to people converting from one religion to another, the big story in the world in recent decades is of people converting from Islam to Christianity, particularly (so I am told) in Africa, but even more particularly in the rich societies of Europe and the USA. See, for instance, this posting, which I dug up on the www, and in particular the comments, where “Kepha” says:
My guess is that the time is not far off when the number of conversions from Islam in the West will be so large that it will be noticed; and the most that the jihadis will be able to do is splutter with helpless rage ...
But, say other commenters in the same thread, Muslims are more than replacing themselves, by having a higher birthrate.
Many things could be said about this. I will confine myself to one (or maybe it’s two followed by a deduction), which is that whereas the flow of Muslims out of Islam and into Christianity can be expected to continue pretty much indefinitely, very possibly becoming a stampede once converts to Christianity are able to be more public about the process, the current high birthrates of many Muslim countries can be expected, in due course, to moderate. All modernising countries experience a big bulge in their birthrates, but this never lasts, or such is my understanding.
If the above is right, that’s very good news for Christianity and very bad news for Islam. And people like me, who would merely like to see Islam defeated, can just relax and be patient and let history take its course.
Okay, pessimistic cup-half-empty commenters, off you go. Tell me this is all wishful thinking.
If you feel like it. These Islam postings here are really just me thinking aloud. If others join in fine, but if not, fine too.
One of my many writing ambitions is to answer, at some point before I die, this challenge, from Ian B, commenter extraordinaire at Samizdata, on this occasion commenting on this:
There’s a lot of talk of this eternal war twixt Christendom and Islam. I’m interested to know what those commenters who insist that we are in this state of eternal war would do if they had command of Christendom and its armies. If you were the American government, or NATO, or King Of The Western World or such, what exactly would you do?
It’s all very well making a speech about how they will reap the whirlwind. What IS the whirlwind, specifically?
Provisional title of my grand essay: How to Defeat Islam. And, of course, it starts by defining “defeat”.
This posting has been written in the spirit of this posting (of which I am very proud), which was about how, if you are somewhat or even severely stumped by the self-imposed obligation to say everything about something, you could at least start by saying something about that something. Like, for instance: just what it is that you are hoping to nail down in all its magnificent and unanswerable detail.
To say that I want to “defeat Islam” (more exactly: that I would like posterity to see it defeated) is already to say a very great deal.
The Gospel of Matthew: A Book for Today? Just putting this link here because I don’t want to forget about this fascinating article.
Roughly, as I recall (it being a while since I read this), Edmund Standing (a favourite writer of mine - see one of the links here), says that St Matthew’s Gospel tells of a Jew (Jesus) with a message for other Jews, about exactly how to fight the Jewish corner against all comers. The rest of us are not intended to be part of the discussion.
All part of the big claim that Christianity means pretty much whatever you want it to mean, massive reinterpretation being built into its very DNA, in extreme contrast to Islam. Which, flying off at a huge tangent from a posting about James I’s son dying in 1612, we argue about in the comments, here.
And in connection with that comment thread, I also don’t want to forget about this, by one of the key protagonists in that.
I love this, gleefully siezed upon here, at the website of something called J Street:
“J Street has said it doesn’t receive money from George Soros, but now news reports indicate that he has in fact contributed.”
The left hand knoweth not what the left hand doeth.
Early comments on the piece this is quoted in say that Soros is a former Nazi, an accusation which I’d never heard before. Is that right? I presume that Godwin’s law doesn’t apply if it is being claimed that you really were (or even really are) an actual Nazi.
I am finding American politics more interesting that British politics at the moment.
By the way, my attitude towards the State of Israel is one of unconditional positive regard.
My problem (one of my problems) is that I accumulate open windows, to things I don’t want to forget about, and which I am hence reluctant to shut. But these open windows, and all the advertising shite they come with, clog up my computer, or so it feels to me.
Now I am sure there is a better answer to this problem than the one that follows, but for now, my answer, today, is to stick a few such links here, where they won’t vanish in half a day and where anyway I know my way around.
The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet. Note, incidentally, the disastrous headline punctuation. Punctuation in headlines says you can’t have a full stop at the end of a headline, but that you can have whatever punctuation you like in the middle of the headline, fullstops included. Bizarre. (Not that that’s why the piece interests me.)
That Codevilla piece about the American ruling class. Actually I think a major part of this story is that it isn’t only the American ruling class. It’s a global, or at least beyond national, class. The entire West that was is starting to be ruled by a united gang of interconnected people. Rulers of The World Unite. You have nothing to lose but the love of your dreary little voters. (To “love”, should I add “consent”?)
On the Validity and Necessity of Atheist Criticism of Islam. I like Edmund Standing a lot. Mostly I agree with this. But, I think he makes too little of the differences between Christianity and Islam. Christianity is bonkers but Islam is downright evil. (Although, I do admit that Christian anti-semitism is deeply embedded in it.) The problem I have with Islam is not only that it is so false. It is that it so nasty. Allah does not exist, but if Allah does exist he should be opposed. This is somewhat less true of the various Christian versions of God, especially nowadays.
The Vanity Fair Sarah Palin piece. I want to read this to see if it actually says anything more than: she’s a politician! Is she going to run for President? If she gets to be President will she be a quite good one, as Reagan (won the Cold War - only talked about stopping the US state spending rise) was. Will President Palin, that is to say, actually stop the US state spending rise?
The Chinese state media global offensive. Were a time traveller from a hundred years hence to invite me to guess what sparked the Big War of 2037, I’d guess China versus someone, rather than Islam versus anyone. Islam has the will to Big War, but looks unlikely at all soon to command the means to wage it. (I include Iran in that judgement. There is more to having a Bomb than just having a Bomb. You must also have the means to attack the other guy’s Bomb, and to defend your remaining Bombs, which you must also have.) And I have long believed that being able to fight wars is more important in their causation than merely wanting to. I mean, few great powers unambiguously want to fight major wars, because they have too much to lose. But, from time to time, they still did, and might one day again. Hopefully The Bomb will continue to work its terrifying magic, and Great Wars Between Great Powers will continue to not happen, but how long will that last?
I want to do a Big Piece on Samizdata about all that, Real Soon Now. Globalisation as we now know it, i.e. the version where we don’t fight global wars against one another, is more caused by The Bomb (which first happened in 1945) than by Modern Electronic Communications (which first happened in 1842). See Global Ruling Class, uniting of, above.
That should clear out my computer’s tubes a little.