In 1961, Frank Drake, one of the pioneers of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, came up with an equation known as the Drake Equation, which is used to calculate the frequency of extraterrestrial civilizations. One interesting aspect of the equation is the variable called the rate of demise, or L in this equation, which is the probability a civilization, would destroy itself. Similarly, Robert Zubrin, in his book, Entering Space, speculates on some of the things that could destroy an advanced civilization that has expanded to several hundred stars, (called a type III civilization.) Bad memes, or bad ideas, is one of the few of them.
Can ideas change world history? Few would argue no. In a town called Tours in present day France the Moslem army was on the brink of world domination. For a time the Muslims were more enlightened then the Christians, and in some ways more tolerant. Their religion was spreading though the globe, but now the GNP of the Muslim world has shrunk to a tiny fraction of the west. What happened? There are a number of factors. The Mongol invasion of Islam helped darkened beliefs and encouraged fundamentalism is one of many factors. It’s competitor, the European feudal system, precisely because it was weaker, allowed greater individualization, which helped spur the Renaissance and scientific growth. But I think the main factor in it’s decline was the rise of fundamentalism, which helped destroy Muslim scientific growth, hamper economic development, and oppress rights. This is not the only time bad ideas have damaged humanity. The effects of bad ideas have left a path of damage throughout our history.
In the modern era National Socialism and fascism was a cancer to Europe only rooted out at the cost of millions. Had the Allies struck during the Czechoslovakia crisis, the cost might have been in the tens of thousands, as opposed the tens of millions. Instead, Hiltler used the Czechoslovakian tanks for the invasion of France and Russia. Without the appeasement of Hitler, these attacks would not have been impossible. (This is another example of how pacifists and the Cindy Sheehans of the world have cost humanity the lives of millions.) Sadly, even with the defeat of fascism, the reign of bad ideas continued, as Communism caused the self inflicted national suicide in the form of the murder of possibly 40-50 million of the inhabitants in China and the USSR by their own leaders. The effects of this national horror are still felt today as China and Russia both lag behind the West in many categories. (However, this has not stopped leftists by the millions of embracing communism and socialism.) Now the danger is not a group or a nation, but an idea, a perversion of a religion. It is radical Islamic fundamentalism. Like National Socialism and Communism, fundamentalist Islam has sucked the lifeblood from the Islamic world. The wrong ideas have been more destructive then any other creation of man.
To be fair, I agree with many of the clerics that much of the values of the west are decadent and immoral. However, the response is not to return to the Middle Ages. Many of the Muslim youth are not the enemy, as Iran’s protests for Democracy have showed, as the young only want to drink Pepsi, watch trash on TV, listen to Duran Duran, and have choices in their own lives. Mr. Bush recognizes this, and his call for democracy has touched a nerve in the Middle East. Note the protests for freedom in Lebanon, the changing of the election laws in Egypt, and the beginning of restricted elections in Saudi Arabia. Some credit for this must go to the catalyst of the Iraq and Afghan elections, and therefore, Mr. Bush. Those defeatists and appeasers that hate him need to ask themselves how many times Democracies have declared war on each other. (I also see Democracy as a basic human right, and those on the left that claim to love freedom seem to care little that others do not enjoy the freedom that they take for granted.) The possibilities here are incredible, but we need to understand this, and encourage it. Only America has the vision and will for such a job. It is time for the Muslim world to reclaim their proud history. The grip the mullahs have is not absolute, and is starting to crack. It must be broken.
I do want to clarify that this is not an attack on religion in general. Our founding fathers were religious, and our nation, regardless of what the liberals will want you to believe, was founded as a Christian nation. Our beliefs and values are rooted in religion, and keep us strong. However, it is not a theocracy and we respect the beliefs and religious views of others, as it should be. But nevertheless, we are in a war, a war of ideas. This is not a war just against Al-Qaeda, but against fundamentalist militant Islam. We need to understand that the wrong ideas can be weapons of mass destruction. To fight it, we need to understand, as Reagan did, the incredible power in freedom. We need to ignore the protesters and the idealistic liberal beliefs of coexistence with the darkest strains of radical Islamic fundamentalism. This will only encourage its spread, as Chamberlin’s appeasement spurred Hitler. But we were lucky. Hitler attacked before his war machine was ready. Imagine a Hitler with nuclear weapons. Papers found after his death showed Hitler would not have stopped with the USSR, and America was next. Had Hitler not been stopped, the death toll might have been hundreds of millions. This is the danger of bad ideas. This is the limits of L. The liberal idea of moral relativism needs to be junked. History has shown us the dangers of bad ideas. We will ignore it at our own peril.