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Samizdata quote for the day

“As an old Sci-Fi fan, I firmly believe that we will encounter alien races someday. These conversations are good practice. I would imagine there will really be some different worldviews when that happens, esp. if they’re hydrogen breathers.”

Comment by regular Samizdata contributor calling himself VeryRetired, who describes what it feels like to debate with apologists for radical Islam: ie, the sheer inability to bridge a gulf of understanding between those who support the open society, free speech and enquiry, and those for whom the statements contained in a book written over a thousand years ago contain the sum total of wisdom, the criticism of which should be dealt with violently.

I certainly do tend to think that understanding of how to cope with radical Islam can be usefully supplemented by reading Robert A. Heinlein, say, or Vernor Vinge rather than the editorial pages of the Guardian or the Daily Telegraph.

20 comments to Samizdata quote for the day

  • Chris Harper

    esp. if they’re hydrogen breathers. (Extra credit for that very obscure reference.)

    veryretired,

    Ok, I give up.

    I have been trying to figure it out, but with no luck.

    I can discuss jaunting, chronoclasmic infundibula and why Poddys tormentor went bright yellow. I even know why remote manipulators are called waldos, but on this one I am lost.

  • bta

    David Brin – the Uplift series, I think, where hydrogen breathers are characterised as utterly alien and implacably hostile.

    For an extra bonus point – which SF writer posited that if a life-form is *really* alien then any mutal understanding or comprehension is, by definition, impossible.

    Getting closer with that one, I think.

  • Wasn’t it methane breathers rather than hydrogen breathers, or am I thinking of Cherryh’s Chanur books?

    For an extra bonus point – which SF writer posited that if a life-form is *really* alien then any mutal understanding or comprehension is, by definition, impossible.

    Orson Scott Card’s Speaker for the Dead. Isn’t Card a Mormon fundie?

  • Joshua

    Isn’t Card a Mormon fundie?

    Yes.

  • Perhaps. However, please read this stunning link from the Sunday Telegraph this morning. This individual understands radical Islam better than I do, for sure.

    “Is it any surprise that after decades of indoctrination in a culture of hate, that people actually do hate? Arab society has created a system of relying on fear of a common enemy. It’s a system that has brought them much-needed unity, cohesion and compliance in a region ravaged by tribal feuds, instability, violence, and selfish corruption. So Arab leaders blame Jews and Christians rather than provide good schools, roads, hospitals, housing, jobs, or hope to their people.
    For 30 years I lived inside this war zone of oppressive dictatorships and police states. Citizens competed to appease and glorify their dictators, but they looked the other way when Muslims tortured and terrorised other Muslims. I witnessed honour killings of girls, oppression of women, female genital mutilation, polygamy and its devastating effect on family relations. All of this is destroying the Muslim faith from within. …
    Muslims need jobs – not jihad. Apologies about cartoons will not solve the problems. What is needed is hope and not hate. Unless we recognise that the culture of hate is the true root of the riots surrounding this cartoon controversy, this violent overreaction will only be the start of a clash of civilisations that the world cannot bear.”

    Nonie Darwish in Sunday Telegraph

  • Joshua

    While Orson Scott Card is still fresh on the thread – here is what he had to say about last year’s Koran-flushing incident.

    I don’t read his column often enough to know if he’s had anything to say about the latest bi-weekly muslim unhinged overreaction. Probably he has.

  • bta

    “For an extra bonus point – which SF writer posited that if a life-form is *really* alien then any mutal understanding or comprehension is, by definition, impossible.”

    “Orson Scott Card’s Speaker for the Dead. Isn’t Card a Mormon fundie?”

    It pre-dates Card by a long way, mid-50s – Damon Knight, “Stranger Station”.

    Um.
    Was it Card’s Mormon background that influenced his coming up with “Buggers” as the great enemy of mankind? Plus ‘hero’ Ender being characterised as separate but special?

  • Robert Alderson

    Orson Scott Card writes:

    Our country is at war. And it’s a war in which victory absolutely depends on the Muslim world perceiving it as a war between the U.S and its allies on one side, and fanatical murderous terrorists on the other.

    If it is ever perceived as a war against Islam, then we have lost. The world has lost.

    We would do well to remember that.

  • Joshua

    Card’s Mormon beliefs are easier to see in his short stories, but they come through clear enough in the later Ender novels.

    I understand that it’s absolutely blatant in his more recent novels – but I haven’t read any of those.

  • Dune is more appropriate .

  • Hylas

    esp. if they’re hydrogen breathers. (Extra credit for that very obscure reference.)

    That sounds like a reference to “Hardfought” by Greg Bear. If it wasn’t, it should have been – considering the context of the comment. ;)

  • An instructive sci-fi movie is “Returner,” made in Japan a few years ago. The premise is that a small but powerful group of arrogant thugs who are too stupid to know when they’re in over their heads almost get humanity wiped out by an alien race that is quite unforgiving and believes strongly in collective responsibility.

  • Joshua

    I only just now got around to clicking on the Vernor Vinge link Jonathan included in his post. On that page (under the Buy Danish – Havarti for Free Speech link) is a link to Wikipedia’s page on the controversy.

    A couple of points of interest. First – as could well have been expected – they’ve had to lock out changes due to “vandalism.” Heh.

    Another – their coverage of the publication of the cartoons in the Middle East goes a bit further than I’ve read on the internet. For example – it’s worth noting that two (muslim) people who were arrested in Jordan for publishing the cartoons (apparently it’s illegal to “insult religion” there) were released two days later, all charges dropped.

    I somehow don’t think that’s what the people calling for Rasmussen to “punish” Jylands-Posten had in mind for the artists who drew the cartoons, exactly… (I wonder when Iran will get around to staging a “Death to Jordan” or “Death to Egypt” rally as a result of these publications?)

    In any case, the article is good – worth a read.

  • veryretired

    Busy day. Just noticed this post and, again, am flattered.

    Ding—I was referring to the Uplift series of “Startide Rising” et al. I really wanted to work in a Groaci reference but couldn’t figure out how. They were more cold-warrish anyway, although the diplomatic lunacy seems relevant.

    I’m stunned that someone mentioned jaunting—one of my favorite stories and characters when I was much younger. I still remember the song—

    Gully Foyle is my name
    Terra is my nation
    Deep space my final resting place
    The stars my destination.

    When I think about all the adventures and discoveries awaiting us if we could just stop killing each other, it makes me a little sad. So much of humankind’s energy wasted fighting over who gets to be the big cheese and tell everybody what to do, what to think, how to behave.

    No wonder Klaatu and Gort were ready to blow us up.

  • Chris Harper

    I’m stunned that someone mentioned jaunting

    You are not the only one on this site born before 1970. I spent my childhood making up my own starscapes before Lucas et al debased the noble genra of SF into the dross of scifi.

    There have been only two worthwhile science fiction movies ever made, 2001 and Enemy Mine, and a special mention for Forbidden Planet as well. All else? Star Wars? Utter dross.

  • Carl Sagan’s Contact offers two lessons surroundign the meeting between Ellie Arroway and the Reverend Richard Rankin.

    1. I have forgotten the particulars, but I recall that Arroway and Rankin each were talking about two separate issues but were trying to conduct a dialogue at the same time – something that happens all too often in the real world.

    2. I also recall Arroway’s frustration with Christians – how ironic that she’s eager to meet aliens from other worlds but can’t deal with the aliens from this world.

    (Lifted verbatim – with numbering added – from an old blog post of mine)

    Seeking out new life and new civilizations starts at home.

  • DuncanS

    I read, and loved, The Stars my Destination — but when ever I hear “jaunting” I think of Stephen Kings short, “The Jaunt.” .. that story always creeps me out.

  • Paul Marks

    It is deeply depressing that the good person who wrote the article in the “Sunday Telegraph”, believed that governments in the Muslim world could and should give “good schools, hospitals, housing, jobs….” (etc) to the local populations.

    Of course this attitude has long been dominant in the Western world also.

    Every government that the lady complains about tries to do the very things that she wants them to do – that is the problem.

    Governments can not sustainably provide all these nice things to the mass of the population and they cause great harm by trying to do so.

    Not only every election, but every revolt and revolution seems to be about the failure of government to provide what it can not provide – “the people are poor, the schools and hospitals are bad – we must have a new regime”.

    While that is the ruling attitude no political system will work – including the democracy the lady favours.

    It is no better in Christian Latin America than in the Muslim Middle East.

    The first President of an independent Ghana (in Africa) summed up the attitude “seek ye first the political Kingdom, and then all other things will be given unto you” – he came out with this adaptation of the Bible without any spirit of irony (he really believed in this absurdity – and so did the people who voted for him).

    Most people in Western Europe or North America are not quite this bad – but they are not a vast distance away from being this bad.

    Local, State and Fed government have totally failed to save the city from being flooded – so the government must have wider powers and more money (reenforce failure). This is the mainstream attitude in the United States (and Britian).

    Every failure in government (for example Medicare and Medicaid in the U.S. or the National Health Service in Britian) simply brings calls for more government spending and controls.

    As for Muslim attitudes (towards the cartoons on much else) I have no seen any polling data. And whilst opinion polls are not totally trustworthy, I prefer to wait until I do see some polling data – rather than judge the Muslims on the basis of a few thousand people chanting “kill, kill” (or whatever).

  • Joshua

    There have been only two worthwhile science fiction movies ever made, 2001 and Enemy Mine, and a special mention for Forbidden Planet as well. All else? Star Wars? Utter dross.

    I don’t really think of Star Wars as scifi – it’s fantasy that happens to take place in outer space. With that in mind, “Empire Strikes Back” was a great movie (probably because Lucas largely delegated it away to real talent).

    But yeah – I agree – “Star Wars” has done a lot of damage to cinema “scifi.” And let’s not let Star Trek off the hook as far as television goes (though I admit a sentimental attachment to the old show and also to not minding Voyager).

    Oh and by the way – not all Bester fans were born before 1970! I was born in 1975 and consider “The Stars My Destination” one of my favorite books! (Yes, I liked it better than “The Demolished Man.” Sue me.)