X-Message-Number: 19342
From: "Mark Plus" <>
Subject: Re: Americans "Left Behind" intellectually 
Date: Tue, 25 Jun 2002 08:13:58 -0700

In Message #19338, Robert Ettinger wrote,

>First, what people say they believe often means very little, or has very 
>little relevance to any attempt to predict behavior. Alleged or reported 
>belief is one thing; actual conscious belief is a second thing; "real" or 
>unconscious belief is a third thing; habit, which can override belief, is a 
>fourth thing; and new leadership is a fifth thing.

I do think the kinds of stories we tell ourselves as a society have a great 
deal of influence over net behavior.  If your society praises adolescents 
who strap C-4 to themselves to blow up Israelis, then you'll have a supply 
of new "martyrs" to take their place.  If you have a significant subculture 
in the U.S. which believes that it is going to get "raptured" at any time 
now, then that affects people's choices about education, financial planning 
and political involvement.  Christians who don't believe in the "rapture," 
like libertarian author Gary North, have complained about the enervating 
effects of "rapture fever" on Christian participation in society.

People aren't lining up to buy the latest installment in a series of 
optimistic novels about a Transhuman future titled "Leapt Ahead."  At the 
very least, the diversion of resources towards the charlatans and cranks who 
promote supernatural doomsday beliefs has some measurable consequences.

I do hope this sort of cultural obsession fades in a few years.  I'm 
especially worried that such beliefs might impair the judgment of key 
figures in the U.S. government when it comes to policy and war-making in the 
Middle East.  Optimism about a human-controlled destiny is consistent with 
Americans' real values regarding risk-taking, novelty and achievement, and I 
look forward to the resurgence of this tradition.

Mark Plus

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