Brave Saudi Explains Arab Backwardness

An Open-Minded Arab Explains Why Arab Society is Backwards

This excerpt, from an interview on Al-Arabiya TV, is really great. The gentleman is Ibrahim Al-Buleihi, a former Saudi Shura Council Member.  He speaks with the authority of somebody who is well educated and experienced with both Arab and Western civilizations.  A transcript of this interview follows below the video.


This interview was originally broadcast in Dubai and Saudi Arabia on February 26, 2010.

TV = Al-Arabiya TV interviewer
IB = Ibrahim Al-Buleihi

IB
When we want to study a religious issue, we go back to our heritage. But when we want to study an earthly matter, such as why we are backward, while others are prosperous. We must search for the answer elsewhere, not in our heritage.
TV
Where is “elsewhere”?
IB
In the West, without a doubt.
TV
In the West, not the East?
IB
The East only emulates the West. Take Japan, for example. If not for its openness to Western culture, it too would have remained backward. The individualism of the Arab has been erased in this society . . .
TV
What do you mean by erased individualism?
IB
He [Arabs] is incapable of independent thinking and therefore, he always rejects what is rejected by society and accepts what is accepted by society.
TV
So “team spirit” prevails?
IB
It is the spirit of a herd, not a team. It is the spirit of the herd that cannot free itself from the captivity of the prevailing culture. Whatever society considers to be good, the individual considers to be good. He is incapable of independent thinking and of benefiting from the cultures of others. He is incapable of stepping out of the mold imposed on him since childhood.
TV
Should the Arab individual be rebellious, for example?
IB
Not rebellious, but he should seek the truth. He must not efface his self and dissolve into the herd.
TV
You criticize the Arabs and praise Israel. Do you think that the Arabs should follow the Israeli model?
IB
No. Israel did not create itself: it is an offshoot of the West. They are an offshoot of Western culture. That is why I compared Israel to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. I want to make a very important point . . .
TV
Excuse me but I have a question. Do you consider the fact that some countries are offshoots of Western culture to be a good or a bad thing?
IB
It’s a positive thing.
TV
So we should be offshoots of the West as well?
IB
No, but we should benefit from this rich experience. It is the West that produced all this prosperity. To this day, we are a burden on the West. Even Japan admits that without benefiting from the West, it would not have developed.
TV
Prosperity in what?
IB
In everything. In the value, liberties and dignity of human beings, as well as in the development of science, technology and life. Do you believe that life today is the same as it was ten centuries ago? This tremendous change was produced by the West. Who else produced it?
TV
But shouldn’t the notions of the West – such as human rights – be viewed as an accumulated achievement in which all societies played a role?
IB
It is not an accumulated achievement.
TV
It was achieved solely by the West?
IB
Undoubtedly. Tyranny is a tremendous obstacle which makes any progress impossible.
TV
Do you believe that this theory applies to Iraq? After the fall of Saddam Hussein, whom you describe as . . .
IB
Iraq has not been permitted to achieve stability. The whole world has intervened in its affairs, as we have seen.
TV
The West, which you praise so highly, intervenes in Iraq.
IB
No, the West intervened in Japan’s affairs as well, and managed to save Japan from tyranny. Today, Japan is considered a model of democracy, of liberties, and of all the advantages that the West has produced.
TV
You have said that during their conquests, at the advent of Islam, the Arabs emerged from the deserts in order to conquer, not to learn. What do you mean by that?
IB
In my view, over the centuries, the Arabs believed – and continue to believe – that they have sufficient knowledge and wisdom and that they do not need to learn anything from others because they appeared on the stage of history in order to conquer, not to learn; to teach, not to study . . .
TV
As guiders, not people seeking the guidance of others.
IB
That’s right. This delusion of the Arabs persists to this day, even though the entire world has changed. The world has changed but they still believe that it is their duty to teach others, and it is the duty of others to heed them. The truth is that the Arabs have nothing to offer others, yet they continue this horrible delusion: this belief in one’s own perfection. The belief that others must learn from them makes it impossible for them to benefit from modern culture.

Pascal’s Wager

Over on Facebook, a Christian, named Shawn, attempted to challenge my atheism.  He said: “The way I look at it you have a 50/50 chance of being right. So what happens if you are wrong? I will even ask you this: what happens if you are right?”

The following is my reply . . .


You’re paraphrasing Pascal’s wager, Shawn.  According to Wikipedia . . .

Pascal’s Wager (or Pascal’s Gambit) is a suggestion posed by the French philosopher, mathematician and physicist Blaise Pascal that, even though the existence of God cannot be determined through reason, a person should wager as though God exists, because living life accordingly has everything to gain, and nothing to lose.

First of all, the odds are NOT 50/50.  After all these millennia, if there’s still no concrete evidence of God (or anything else supernatural), the odds are vanishingly small that any exists.

As for Pascal’s wager, it was been debunked a long time ago.  Pascal’s wager assumes that one can choose to believe.  That is not the case.  As Arthur Schopenhauer pointed out, “Man can do what he wills, but he cannot will what he wills.“  If there is a God, does anybody really think we can hoodwink him into thinking we believe in him when we don’t?  Making any concession to God AND thinking you can fool him is just plain nuts.

Then there’s the matter of subordinating your life to fear.  If you act as if you believe in God because you’re afraid of the consequences of not believing, then the core of your identity is wrapped around fear.  It is far better to get off your knees, stand upright and seek answers.

And finally, I’ll turn Pascal’s wager around.  What if there’s NO God and this is the only life you’ll ever have?  Will you surrender your quest for truth and understanding to the authority of a single religion?  After all, there’s thousands of them.  NOW what kind of odds are we talking about, Shawn?

If I’m wrong and there really is a personal God who will condemn me to eternal torture in hell, then I’ll be proud to have lived my life without paying homage to such a monster.  I’ll have all eternity to mock him.  Besides, I’ll have much better company in hell than in heaven (yawn).

If I’m right and there really is no God, then my purpose in life won’t have been wasted on an imaginary sky daddy.  I will have lived without surrendering my quest for truth.  And trust me, Shawn, believing in impossible things (God, heaven, miracles, angels, etc.) IS surrendering your quest.


© Copyright 2011 AtheistExile.com
eMail: AtheistExile@AtheistExile.com


Google Plus Requirement for Real Names

Google Plus (Google+) stirred up a controversy by deleting, wholesale, accounts created under pseudonyms instead of under real names.  Google+ acknowledged their mistakes and is now formulating an official policy for naming conventions on their new social network.

There are legitimate reasons that users might need to use pseudonyms.  Perhaps you don’t want your parents or ex-spouse to contact or follow you in any way.  The most obvious and crucial one is anonymity for political dissidents and social activists. Without that anonymity, activism can be too dangerous to pursue.  Social networks like Facebook and Twitter have changed the face of activism by facilitating historic movements for democratic reforms and human rights.  The whole world needs social networks to provide this service to help keep governments honest and accountable to their citizens. If Google+ wants to be a leader in social networking, they have no business abdicating such a crucial role by requiring the display of real names for their accounts, thus making activism too dangerous.  Google+ can require our real names for their internal records but they do not need to display our real names against our will.

Google+ can suspend, delete or ban accounts that violate their terms of service (TOS) whether or not those accounts use real names.  The purpose of requiring real names is to provide a deterrent against violating their TOS in the first place and to have the real names of culprits to provide to authorities should their violations rise to the level of criminal activity (fraud, cyber bullying, hacking, etc.).

But the deterrent is not about the display of real names . . . it’s about the possession of real names.  The deterrent is just as effective whether or not violators display their real names — as long as they know that Google+ has their real names on record.

And how will Google+ know if the name of an account is the real name unless they require proof of identity from everybody? Unless they do, many people will simply supply legitimate-looking false names. The requirement for real names is virtually unenforceable to begin with.

So the whole controversy over the requirement of real names is unnecessary as long as Google+ allows its users to hide their real names and substitute pseudonyms if they want to.  Google+ only needs to possess our real names: they don’t need to display them.  In theory, not only would they have the deterrent they want but they would also have the real names authorities will need to pursue criminal activity perpetrated on the Google+ network.  But most importantly, Google+ will be able to follow the example set by Facebook and Twitter and provide a desperately needed service to dissidents and activists around the world.  If Google+ is going to require our real names, then we should require them to shoulder their responsibility, as a social networking leader, to facilitate activism.

Let Google+ know that requiring our real names is okay as long as they don’t FORCE us to display them!


© Copyright 2011 AtheistExile.com
eMail: AtheistExile@AtheistExile.com


Self-Determinism: Manipulating Events

The Internet is amazing. It hosts media of all kinds. Anybody can communicate with anybody. And you can find out anything you want to know. It’s huge and complex but we don’t need to understand how it works to know that it does. In the same way, we don’t need to understand how the brain works to know that it does. Its electro-chemical machinations, while interesting, aren’t necessary to understand in order to know that the brain deliberates. That’s what it does.

Neuroscience can’t yet explain how the brain does what it does but it has made some intriguing discoveries. One such discovery is numerous feedback mechanisms in various modules of the brain. It’s this mental (intelligent) feedback that has led me to an interpretation of (the ill-named) “free will” that explains human purpose: I call it “self-determinism”.

The philosophical conundrum with “free will” has always been the notion that it necessarily violates a fundamental law of nature: cause and effect (causality).That’s a false dichotomy. It’s not either/or. There are other possibilities. I hope to convince you that, because of intelligent feedback, self-determinism can explain our ability to manipulate events (purpose): not despite causality but, rather, because of, and in concert with, causality. The challenge is in overcoming philosophical objections. I hope, this time, my explanation succeeds.

By the way, I get the impression that some people think it’s “arrogant” of me to attempt an explanation of “free will”. That’s ridiculous. Everybody’s got an opinion. This one’s mine. If that disturbs you, I suggest you look within for the reason.

Causes aren’t monolithic: they’re discrete. Normally, cause and effect are constantly repeated (or repeatable) with predictable results. Scientific experiments rely on this fact. Outside the quantum realm, causality is universal. You can’t cite an effect without a cause. Like time, causality is unidirectional; flowing from the past, through the present, to the future. Cause comes first, then its effect: the sequence is invariable. This means effects have no influence on their causes. But with intelligent feedback, effects can have an influence on future instances of their causes if we learn from them and prepare for those future instances. If we succeed, we’ve altered the path causality would have otherwise taken. And that takes purpose: self-determinism.

Because of these properties of causality (unidirectional sequence and repeatable predictability) intelligent feedback gives us a virtual, temporal, advantage over causality when we interact with it. With intelligent feedback we can examine events and tie their effects to their causes and deduce the preceding sequence of events. We understand consequences. But the real empowerment of self-determinism comes from our mental ability to extrapolate cause and effect into the future to manipulate anticipated events to suit our own purpose(s). That is self-determinism. We use our intelligence to prepare for — or even control — cause and effect. Cause and effect are not violated. But because of our preparations, we manipulate how it unfolds.

Take Amsterdam, for instance. It is below sea level. Causality would normally dictate that it be under water. But it’s not. Because of our intelligent, proactive, interaction with causality, Amsterdam remains dry. Did we violate causality to accomplish this? Of course not. We intelligently used causality to accomplish it. Causality does not have purpose(s). It doesn’t think. It doesn’t care if Amsterdam exists or not. But we do. We served our own purposes and altered future events (causality) accordingly.

We find this easiest to do with materials and phenomena we readily understand. And what we readily understand are materials and phenomena with consistent, persistent, properties. We can reliably manipulate sand and gravel, wood and metals, air and water, elements and chemical compounds but reliably manipulating people is a different matter. I believe the difficulty boils down to the two different modes of causal response between inanimate matter and animate beings. The inanimate mode of response to causality is passive and predictable. The animate mode of response to causality is interactive and unpredictable. It’s the difference between a rock and a brain. Inanimate matter is easier to manipulate because it’s easier to predict. Animate beings are more difficult to predict because they’re more complex and possess properties, such as intelligence, motility, respiration, digestion, etc. that inanimate matter does not.

As human beings, we interact with the external world intelligently. In other words, we interact with causality intelligently. That means we learn from it, understand it and use it for our own purposes. Feedback is the key. It empowers us by mentally rendering causality bi-directional. We learn from the past to manipulate the future. It’s really just that simple. We can understand consequences and act accordingly. There’s no advanced philosophy needed to explain away man-in-the-machine, mind-brain, dualism because there is none. Just simple facts that anybody can understand.

Self-determinism requires no violation of causality because it’s the properties of causality (unidirectional sequence and repeatable predictability) that facilitate our intelligent interaction with it. Causality gives us a fundamental means by which to understand the world around us. The fact that we use this understanding to manipulate the world around us is empirical proof that we interact with causality intelligently and with purpose. And that means we really do make choices that serve our own purposes — because causality has no purpose. We don’t progress arbitrarily . . . we progress with purpose. That much seems transparently obvious and undeniable. You can claim it’s an illusion, if you like, but you can’t substantiate your claim. The fact is that, in actual practice, civilization takes “free will” for granted and pursues its goals as needed. We all act as if we have “free will”. We take credit for our achievements. Everything we do presumes purpose. In contrast to human purpose, nothing causality does presumes or indicates purpose in any way whatsoever. It’s pretty cut-and-dry when put in the proper perspective.

So I’ll ask: “How does our manipulation of the world around us NOT demonstrate purpose?” Were we really scripted, since the beginning of time, to fly jets into the Twin Towers? Are we really automatons programmed, somehow, at the moment of the Big Bang? That’s what you’re asking us to believe if you insist causality is necessarily violated by “free will”. I say we are what we appear to be and that any assertion that self-determinism is an illusion is based on the erroneous assumption that it must violate causality. That is a false dichotomy which hastily and unnecessarily rules out other possibilities like deliberate, proactive, interaction with causality: self-determinism.

If human brains deliberate and if causality is a law of nature, then they are obviously compatible. Self-determinism explains how. Intelligent feedback extends determinism to self-determinism. It is a compatibilist explanation of what “free will” really is. It is compatible with causality and is, in fact, an extension of it: extended, primarily, by intelligent feedback.

Intelligent feedback makes us self-aware, future-aware, manipulators of events . . . and events are what causality is all about. This manipulation of events gives us a modest power over causality: the power of purpose. That is self-determinism. The only kind of “free will” we have. And the only kind we need.


© Copyright 2011 AtheistExile.com
eMail: AtheistExile@AtheistExile.com