IEET > Vision > Contributors > Sohail Inayatullah > Futurism
Seven Positive Trends Amidst the Doom and Gloom
Sohail Inayatullah   Jan 6, 2012  

While there is a great deal of bad, indeed, horrendous, news in the world ­- global warming, terrorism, the global financial crisis, water shortages, worsening inequity - ­there are also signs of positive change.


First, in genomics, the revolution of tailoring health advice has begun. Among other websites, provides detailed personal genetic information to consumers. It provides, “the latest research on how your genes may affect risk for common diseases and conditions such as heart attack, arthritis and cancers.” Once your genome is analyzed, you will also be able to “see your personal history through a new lens with detailed information about your ancient ancestors and comparisons to global populations today.” This development in genomics is good news in that more

information about your personal health future is available. Of course, these are just probabilities and should be used wisely, helping each person make better health choices today. Avoiding creating self­fulfilling prophecies of potential future illnesses would be a priority in teaching individuals to understand their genome map. Bringing wisdom to more information is crucial especially given forecasts that within 10 years every baby will be given a complete genome map at birth.


Second, there is positive news in meditation research. Study after study confirms that meditation is not only of individual benefit but as national health expenditures keep on increasing (because of increased demand from an aging population) along with exercise, low­fat vegetarian food and a close community, meditation as part of a national health strategy can reduce public health costs. For example, we know that studies show that regular meditators exhibit: 87% less heart disease, 55.4% less tumors, 50.2% less hospitalization, 30.6% less mental disorders and 30.4% less infectious diseases (Matthew Bambling, Mind, Body and Heart, Psychotherapy in Australia, February 2006, 52­59). There are even reports on the benefits of meditation for military care providers, not a sector known for spiritual development. Meditation even changes the nature of the brain. Researchers at Harvard, Yale and MIT have found that brain scans reveal that experienced meditators boasted increased thickness in parts of the brain that dealt with attention and processing sensory input. The structure of the adult brain can thus change, suggests the research. Indeed, research as well suggests that through meditation we can train ourselves to be more compassionate toward others. It appears that cultivating compassion and kindness through meditation affects brain regions that can make a person more empathetic to other peoples’ mental states, say researchers at the University of Wisconsin­ in Madison.

While we have had anecdotal evidence of the importance of meditation, developments in MRI scanning have taken the research to new levels providing us with visual and repeatable (scientific) evidence.


Third, we are witnessing a rise in the significance of spirituality as a worldview and as a practice. Spirituality is defined broadly as a practice that brings inner peace and love for self and the transcendent as well as being inclusive of others, that is, it does not claim to be exclusive or in a hierarchy of who is above and who is below. In their book, The Cultural Creatives, Paul Ray and Sherry Anderson go so far as to say that up to 25% of those in OECD nations now subscribe to a new worldview with spirituality as a central feature. Overtime this worldview will likely have increasingly tangible impacts on economic, transport and governance systems.

In their book, A Spiritual Audit of Corporate America, Ian Mitroff and Elizabeth Denton found “spirituality as one of the most important determinants of performance.” Of the 200 companies surveyed, sixty percent believed that spirituality was a benefit provided no particular view of religion was pushed. Georgeanne Lamont’s research in the UK at ‘soul­friendly’ companies ­ including Happy Computers, Bayer UK, Natwest, Microsoft UK, Scott Bader, Peach Personnel ­ found lower than average absenteeism, sickness and staff turnover ­ which saved the businesses money. In one example, Broadway Tyres introduced spiritual practices and absenteeism dropped from twenty­five/thirty percent to two percent.

And: research shows a positive correlation between spiritual organisations and the bottom line ­ organisations that can inspire employees to a ‘higher cause’ tend to have enhanced performance because of the increased motivation and commitment this tends to generate.


Fourth, we are seeing that while many problems are too big for national governments, local governance is thriving. Many cities are taking the future to heart. In Australia for example, Future 2030 city projects are slowly becoming part of the norm (Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Logan City, for example). Cities are broadening democracy to include visioning. Citizens are asked about their desired image of their city – transport, skyline, design, and community – and are working with political leaders and professional staff to create their desired futures. This leads not only to cities changing in directions citizens authentically prefer, but it enhances the capacity of citizens to make a difference. Democracy becomes not only strengthened but the long­term becomes part of decision­ making – a type of anticipatory democracy is being created. Those politicians who prefer to keep power to themselves and not engage in the visioning tend to be booted out, suggests some research (Steve Gould, Creating Alternative Community Futures. MA thesis, University of the Sunshine Coast, 2009).

And what type of futures do citizens prefer? They tend to want more green (gardens on rooftops, for example), far less cars (more public transport), technology embedded in their day­ to­ day lives ­ a seamless integration of nature, the built environment and high technologies – and far more community spaces. They want to work from home, and many imagine new community centres where people of different professions can work individually but also share costs (and avoid loneliness). Imagine the savings in transport costs as well as greenhouse gas emissions. And time! Instead of expensive new infrastructure, creating flexible home­work­community­time options could save billions, not to mention no longer being stuck in traffic jams.

On a practical level, solid social science research demonstrates that cities can develop policies that enhance public health. For example in Australia, the Rockhampton 10,000 steps program has attempted to enhance the physical activity of citizens. Given the volumes of epidemiological evidence that show that regular physical activity promotes and improves health in endless ways, active health is a great best buy.

But it is not just physical health that planners are beginning to consider but psychological health. Research shows that green spaces in a city have a pronounced affect on the emotional health of residents, and the higher the biodiversity of green spaces, the more benefits. Thus, keeping green spaces helps in promoting physical and mental health. Enhancing green spaces can also reduce drought as there is considerable evidence that the suburban/strip mall model of development blocks billions of gallons of rainwater from seeping through the soil to replenish ground water (Tom Doggett, “Suburban Sprawl Blocks Water, Worsens U.S. Drought,” Aug 28, 2002,

As part of this rethinking of the city, planners are starting to see transport alternatives as being linked to community health. For example, we now know that air pollution is linked to heart disease, that is, clogged roads lead to clogged arteries (the amount of time spent in traffic increases the risk of heart disease. And if they do not design for health, most likely citizens who have been hospitalized will litigate against city officials for not designing cities for well­being.


Fifth, nations, cities, corporations and non­governmental organizations are creating new ways of measuring their success. While earlier indicators of progress were all about the dollar, now triple bottom line measurements have taken off, and will continue to do so in the future. Instead of only measuring the single bottom line of profit, impacts on nature (sustainability) and on society (social inclusion) are becoming increasingly important, even in this financial crisis. One Australia city has even followed the example of Bhutan and developed a National Happiness index.

This enlargement of what counts as the bottom line is occurring because more and more evidence points to the fact that the economy rests on society which rests on nature. All three have to do well for us to survive and thrive, to move toward individual and collective happiness. Focus on one works in the short run but in the long run having a dynamic balance works best. Even the President of the European Commission, Manuel Barroso, has argued that it is time to go beyond GDP, as this traditional indicator only measures market activity, and not well­being. Says, Barroso, writing about GDP, “We cannot face the challenges of the future with the tools of the past.” Confirming this new approach, Hans­Gert Pöttering, the President of the European Parliament writes that: “well­being is not just growth; it is also health, environment, spirit and culture.” There are now even calls for spirituality to become the fourth bottom line.


Sixth, while there are many benefits of the Information and Communication Technologies revolution, one of the key positive outcomes is the development of peer-­to­-peer power. Traditional hierarchical relations – top down models of relating to each other – are being challenged. And while it is far too early to say the dominator model of social relations will disappear in this generation, slowly over time there are indications that there will be far more balance in emerging futures. Hierarchy will become only one of the ways we engage with each other; the role of partnerships (through cooperatives) will continue to increase as new social technologies via the web make that possible. For example, already wikipedia has challenged traditional modes of knowledge authority. Websites such as allow – though at a small level – direct person to person lending. This could have dramatic impacts on the big banks over time. Social peer­to­peer networking also reduces the ability of authoritarian states to use information communication technologies for surveillance benefits. Power moves from rigid hierarchies to far more fluid and socially inventive networks.

With more information available exponentially, the challenge will be to use information about our genome, our inner lives, and our localities in ways that empower and create harmony. New technologies such as the bodybugg and overtime health and eco­bots will help a great deal as they will give us immediate, interactive and tailored information on the futures we wish for (as does the newly invented smart toilet with its likely web links
to health providers. Health and eco­bots will be able to help us decide which products to buy (do they fit into my value structure, are they triple or quadruple bottom line), how much and how long to exercise and through social networking, enlist communities of support to help achieve desired futures.


Seventh, finally, all the good news is infectious. Harvard social scientist Nicholas Christakis and his political­science colleague James Fowler at the University of California at San Diego argue “that emotions can pass among a network of people up to three degrees of separation away, so your joy may be [partly] determined by how cheerful your friends’ friends are, even if some of the people in this chain are total strangers to you. This means that health and happiness is not just created by individual behavior but by how they feed into the larger social network (Alice Park, “The Happiness Effect,” Time, Dec. 11, 2008). Happiness can be seen as viral; what the Indian mystic P.R. Sarkar has called the Microvita Effect.

All this does not mean we should dismiss attempts to transform social injustice but we need to appreciate how far we have come and focus on ways to improve material, intellectual and spiritual reality.

Positive steps forward can create more positive futures, for individuals and for societies.

Professor Sohail Inayatullah is a political scientist/futurist at the Graduate Institute of Futures Studies, Tamkang University, Taiwan; and the Centre of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism, Macquarie University, Sydney. He also an associate with Mt Eliza Executive Education, Melbourne Business School, where he co-teaches a bi-annual course titled, "Futures thinking and strategy development.”


Glad to hear some good news.  I hope these trends spread fast enough.  Something I find very interesting about this article is that it seems to suggest that Democracy appears to work better in local governments (cities, towns, etc) than in national governments.  I’m also glad that this article brings up the importance of spirituality in our lives, seeing that an estimate 5 billion people in the world today are religious.  While on this, I should note that on a video article that was posted on this site called “Evolving Our Way Past Extinction”, the speaker pointed out that that there is no civilization, while they were thriving, that did not rely on both facts and beliefs.  Here’s the link, I really recommend watching it (

“I’m also glad that this article brings up the importance of spirituality in our lives, seeing that an estimate 5 billion people in the world today are religious.”

Sort-of; but this is making a virtue of ‘necessity’; almost like saying:
“I’m glad that article x brings up the importance of police, courts and prisons in our lives, seeing that an estimate 5 percent of people in the world today have criminal tendencies.”
or say:
“I’m glad that article y brings up the importance of high tech weaponry in our lives, seeing that an estimate 5 percent of nations in the world today want to invade other nations to steal their mineshafts.”
Chris, you want to be cautious in anthropomorphing things.

Don’t forget Steven Pinker’s book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined:
Faced with the ceaseless stream of news about war, crime, and terrorism, one could easily think we live in the most violent age ever seen. Yet as New York Times bestselling author Steven Pinker shows in this startling and engaging new work, just the opposite is true: violence has been diminishing for millennia and we may be living in the most peaceful time in our species’s existence. For most of history, war, slavery, infanticide, child abuse, assassinations, pogroms, gruesome punishments, deadly quarrels, and genocide were ordinary features of life. But today, Pinker shows (with the help of more than a hundred graphs and maps) all these forms of violence have dwindled and are widely condemned. How has this happened?:

It is heartening, something I think is important to remember when reading the newspaper or listening to the news.

I would put Christian’s point about “facts and beliefs” thus: a civilisation needs both “facts”, in the sense of things we know (or think we know) beyond any reasonable doubt, and “beliefs”, in the sense of things we believe as a working hypothesis, or perhaps to make our lives feel more meaningful, but for which there is little by way of evidence. Whether the latter need to be “religious” or “spiritual” beliefs is another matter, of course.

@ Peter wicks

I’m glad that you agree with me on something (BTW, was your last post in response to Intomorrow’s).  while your here, I recall you mentioning that you agree that some kind of collapse is inevitable.  What kind of collapse do you think it would be and how long do you think it will affect us?

@Christian Not really in response to Intomorrow. In fact initially I thought you were conflating “belief” with “religious belief”, but then I realised that wasn’t actually a necessary implication of what you were saying.

On collapse, I don’t say “inevitable” but I do say very likely. What kind of collapse? Could be a lot of things but I guess some combination of environmental change, pandemics, resource depletion, warfare/abuse of technology, and/or breakdown of governance and/or the financial and (therefore) economic system. Maybe “very likely” is pessimistic, but I certainly don’t have the impression that we have the situation under control. “Does one ever?” one might ask, but the above are the main reasons that spring to mind why I have the impression that we are living in dangerous times.

How long will it affect us? Your guess is as good as mine. Perhaps it won’t happen. Perhaps it will be a series of minor shocks from which our global civilisation will recover quite quickly. Or perhaps it will wipe us out. None of us really know. What I do know is:

1. There is no good reason to believe that God, Jesus, ET or anyone else is going to ride to the rescue, so we’d better do it ourselves,

2. There are things that each and every one of us can do to make a difference.

I happen to like religion; however such might only signify:

a) there’s something wrong with me;
b) there’s something wrong with religion if I would gravitate towards it.

There’s something IMO admirable about Rightist libertarians: they don’t appear to vacillate as much as many others do; while many would waver on religion/spirituality, a Rightwing libertarian might say “religion is bunk and to hell with that garbage.” They may be tactless, yet they are real.  Whereas, frankly, religion is unreal, pretentious. Chris, you know as well as anyone here the positives of religion/spirituality, no need to go into them;
the negatives are pretentiousness, smarm, and in the case of Christianity, a subconscious urge to crucify others. Naturally, other religions harbor similar crucifitory (shall we write) tendencies.. but this prevalence ought not make a Christian feel any better about it.
We can trust Jesus (esp. since He isn’t around to cause trouble anymore!); but there’s an old caveat: “tricky as a priest”, a warning to keep in the back of the mind as we do all warnings. A priest is not an angel from Heaven brought down to Earth—they do very well for themselves, thank you very much.

As for the future, there’s bad and good news:
Bad news is the world might end.
Good news is it might not end for billions of years.

The point about priests is important. Religions don’t come out of nowhere: they are transmitted via organisations. In the case of Christianity this is the “church”. Of course which organisation has the right to be regarded as the true “church” has been a matter of dispute since…well, since the Jerusalem church fell out with Paul’s acolytes over circumcision. It generally doesn’t take long. But obviously the Roman Catholic church has been the backbone of the transmission of Christianity through the ages, particularly once Constantinople fell, and the RC church is an intensely hierarchical organisation, which throughout much of its history has served not only to transmit the Christian message but also to prop up some pretty unsavoury regimes, often against the wishes and interests of the people. Talk about conflict of interest: is confession there to bring us closer to
God, or to gather intelligence for the priesthood?

With the Reformation Christianity metastasised away from the RC church. New hierarchies were formed, but also a much broader and less hierarchical community of Christians. Henceforth Christians were encouraged to have a direct relationship with God, and to draw more on their own conscience and scripture, now available in their own language, and less on the “authority” of the church.

Problem was, this let the cat out of the bag: once people started questioning the authority of the church, there was no end to their questioning (particularly when they saw what Catholics and Protestants were doing to each other). We ended up with Hume, who made his career out of questioning everything. Which wasn’t a problem at all, of course, but it was for the church, and it remains a problem for those who find it difficult to imagine living without a Christian faith. It was so much easier when you could just go to confession.

@ Peter Wicks

I agree with the number 2. that you give, but I also hope you are one of those people that “believe” that the singularity will come and make everything better (Also I feel that many members here have the belief that being religious/spiritual equates to being irrational which is not the case).  If we really have only ourselves to fix everything, then a feel a collapse is inevitable because we know what the problems are but we haven’t improved the overall situation much.  That’s actually one of the main points of the video that I gave the link for.

@ Intomorrow

Again you perplex me.  On the one hand you say you like religion but on the other you seem to have a problem with it.  This seems to be the way you view almost every topic (exp. “Democracy is the worst form of government save for all others”).  I don’t know exactly how to respond to you except for saying that we ultimately choose how we react to things and situations and that affects our outlook on life.  You seem like a confused person.  Though you may not accept it, I’ll pray for you.

“On the one hand you say you like religion but on the other you seem to have a problem with it.”

There’s a name for it: ambivalence. Above, Rightist libertarians—only for example, not to pick on them—were mentioned as those who don’t waver as much as many do; one could also write “hardline Communists aren’t ambivalent, they know what they want” (to begin with they want to have a revolution and kill ambivalents and other nonbelievers).
Nuances, shades of gray, make us who are not True Believers in something waver, make us ambivalent—while a True Believer sees life in black and white. What I resent is religions not sticking to religion; why can’t they cease meddling to such a degree in politics? they blow the abortion ‘debate’ (monologue) ludicrously out of proportion. It is obvious abortion, gay issues, and so forth are to religious activists more or less wedge issues to express not love but, rather, anger and.. dare one write it?.. hatred. So often hatred is disguised as love.
Confused? ambivalent? you betcha- because there is every reason to be.

@ Peter Wicks

Like I’ve said before, there are people who have done terrible things in God’s name, but that’s their fault, not God’s or Christianity itself.  Pastor Alex could probably explain these things better.  Trying to tie this to the topic, I honestly think that spirituality, particularly in the form of “good” religion, is essential for motivating people to building a better future even if the situation seems hopeless (I emphasize good to distinguish it from the religions and cults that have caused harm and tarnish the reputation of true religion and faith).  This is why atheism does not work for me.   

Back on topic, another trend this article mentions that really uplifts me is the desire to have more green and integration of nature.  I’ve always love seeing green trees and plants within cities and seeing fauna living amongst them, even if it is what many consider pests.  To me, integration of nature into cities adds a kind of beauty to them.

P.S. @ Intomorrow: I hope you don’t believe that the negatives you see in religion and faith are all that religion and faith is.  I agree that certain radicals take specific things too far, but their are things that religious people disagree with.  A couple of examples; why should abortion be any different from infanticide (in both cases the parents choose to kill their own children in spite of the potential they could have had for society), and though I respect gays as human beings I personally do not support them (on a scientific level, I don’t see how homosexuality benefits the human species in the long run).  One more thing, don’t politics often meddle with religions, and is it unethical to prevent people from making a case for something just because their views are religious?  Again, some people do take it to far but excluding someone or a group of people from politics just because they are religious seems discriminatory to me.

One of the most interesting comments I have seen in a while around measuring quality of life is that if one can say they trust their neighbours, regardless of ethnicity, social or economic class (as discussed in several articles here ) Many of the good news things Sohail discusses would have a direct impact on how much people can trust their neighbours.

I would agree that spirituality is separate from religion though there is some overlap. I would also suggest that not all religion is spiritual.

“One more thing, don’t politics often meddle with religions”

Religion gave birth to politics, Chris- no danger for you of the religious being marginalized in America; the GOP for instance has a pull disproportionate to its numbers.
BTW, sometimes abortion is necessary. And what I don’t like about anti-gays is they want to scapegoat gays as blacks were scapegoated at one time; there is always the ‘Other’ to be blamed or in some cases to be crucified.


Pastor Alex may possibly have had enough of arguing religion with me, but I’m up for it if he is! I don’t really like attaching blame either: one can always look for underlying reasons why terrible things happening, blaming people for them is rarely a constructive way forward. My intention was rather to build on Intomorrow’s point about priests, which struck me as important.

You say atheism doesn’t work for you because you think that “spirituality, particularly in the form of good religion, is essential for motivating people to build I a better future.” In truth the evidence here is mixed. As I argued above, I do believe that “beliefs”, in the sense of things we believe even without much evidence to go on - perhaps a better word would be faith - is essential. For example I have to believe I can make a difference, even at those times when evidence seems to be lacking. But it’s far from clear to me that religion is necessary, or even helpful over all. I think it is possible to construct motivational belief systems that are much better than existing religions. Bear in mind, also, that for much of the world’s population the word “Christianity” is associated with Western colonialism, arrogance, hypocrisy and atrocities.

Pete is handling the topic of priests well, so I’ll stick with crucifixion (in a manner of speaking, that is):
apparently Christ was born about 6 BCE, and crucified around 27 CE; in the approx. 1985 years since His martyrdom, crucifixion has been intrinsic to Christianity..remember, you cannot separate good (positive) from evil (negative), they are interlinked. Crucifixion means taking the sins of humanity and placing them upon the shoulders of a person or a group of persons, crucifixion basically means scapegoating—“scaping” a human, not a goat. First came animal sacrifice, then came human sacrifice; when religious control was eventually replaced by political control, humanity switched from literal sacrifice to more figurative sacrifice, though literal—physical—sacrifice still continues in a more random manner, more subconsciously. For instance when Matthew Shephard was crucified in Wyoming, his crucifiers weren’t thinking about religious crucifixion, it was subconscious or quasi-subconscious.

Christian-fleas come with the dog of Christianity.

“I respect gays as human beings I personally do not support them (on a scientific level, I don’t see how homosexuality benefits the human species in the long run).”

Christian, this is precisely the kind of thing that makes gays want to throw up. You cannot respect people as human beings while at the same time saying that you don’t “support them” because you don’t see “how homosexuality benefits the human species in the long run”.

And anyway, why the hell shouldn’t it? The world is overpopulated as it is. It’s understandable that in more primitive societies (such as Old Testament Israel) there was a perceived need to disallow practices that were seen to deviate our sexual energies away from reproduction. There wasn’t much freedom in those societies, and with good reason: freedom is, to some extent, a luxury made possible by sophisticated civilisation. To deny freedom once it has become possible, and not only possible but beneficial to society, is a crime. If you want to convince us that religion is evil, carry on spewing homophobia at us.

(I have somewhat more nuanced views in relation to abortion, but the argument about “what the child could have become” also has its limits. Take that to its logical conclusion and not having sex becomes a crime, because you are denying the right of existence to the child you would have conceived. So the Pope shouldn’t only ban condoms, he should ban abstinence as well!)

... Shepard, not Shephard.
The following link sketches out how Shepard’s murder was a crucifixion in its basis, and why Reverend Phelps picketed his funeral; announcing that Shepard brought it upon himself. Phelps thinks Shepard was crucified for Sin: the corollary being Shepard was (in Westboro reasoning) crucified for not only his own, but also others’, sins:

Technically, Giulio is correct, we ought to be impartial; unfortunately the squeaky wheel gets the grease: if blacks hadn’t demanded so much, they wouldn’t have gotten anywhere.
Gay marriage doesn’t actually interest me anymore, it is for gays to decide what course of action to take- however when someone says:

“Gawd created marriage fer a man and a woo-man”,

they can’t be trusted no matter how kind & sincere they are.

@ Peter Wicks

I’m really tired you you guys making so many assumptions about me and religion.  First of all, me failing to see how homosexuality benefits the human species in the long run is “not” why I don’t support them (neither me nor the the church I attend bear hatred towards gays or affiliate ourselves with any group, religious or otherwise, that does).  Besides, do you honestly think that there aren’t things you guys say that make me and other religious people hurl?  Gays being discriminated is becoming increasingly untrue (homosexuality was practiced in several ancient cultures) and it is not accurate to compare discrimination towards gays and discrimination towards people of African decent because a relationship is a choice, ethnicity isn’t.  If anything it seems, to me at least, that it is the religious who are being discriminated and that certainly will be the case in the Trans-humanist future most of the people here envision.  Concerning abortion, my view is that a person exists at the moment of conception.  I have no problem with condoms sense no life is being lost (though I’m concerned about the pills and stuff that prevent fertility due too the chemical side affects).  The reason I feel this way about abortion is that I and anyone from my generation (and maybe yours as well) could have been terminated before birth if my parents simply didn’t want me.  That’s something for people to think about.

P.S. I should have worded my statement about why atheism does not work for me because the reason I gave is not the only one. It’s more personal than that.


You seem to like viewing things in a negative light, especially if it relates to religion.  Now I don’t know who Matthew Shepard is, but I disagree with your definition of crucifixion.  By definition, crucifixion is a form of shaming and execution that involved binding or nailing someone to an upright cross until death (and it was truly one of the most horrible ways to die).  It is also described as a painful ordeal or victimization, the latter being partly in accordance to what you are describing.  In the case of Jesus, he was willing crucified, in spite of not being found guilty, for the sake of everyone because he loved them so, even though they hated him back and worse.  His sacrifice was not simple “scapegoating” as you seem to view it as.  A little thing to think about; would you or anyone here suffer such a horrible death and humiliation to save everyone you love and cared about, even if they have not loved you back?

P.S.  The way illustrate people who hold to heterosexual marriage as dumb hillbillies is both inaccurate and unprofessional.

@Intomorrow I think gay marriage *should* interest you, and indeed I think this is the kind of issue where Alex’s code of responsibility becomes supremely relevant. I think (by and large) gays have already decided which course of action they want to take, at least in those countries where they can be openly gay without severe consequences. Their responsibility to take their fate in their own hands in no way diminishes our responsibility to take a position on the issue ourselves.

@Christian Thanks for your spirited response! But…...being gay is not a relationship choice! It’s a natural tendency at least partly genetically determined. Repressing it comes at a cost to the person’s quality of life, so we should think carefully before promoting any kind of restrictions in this regard. If it’s not because you think it’s “bad for the human species in the long run”, which is the reason you gave, then why is it? What IS your justification for “not supporting” them. And don’t say “it’s personal” because your pronouncements have an effect on others. This is a public, not a private, matter.

I’ll admit that my use of the term “homophobia” was somewhat loose. It is, of course,  possible to hold an intellectual position (however misguided) on the matter without it involving or reflecting any kind of fear or hatred.

Regarding discrimination against religious believers, there are indeed interesting parallels and comparisons to draw with homosexuality. Clearly what you believe, and even more what you profess, is a choice….like what kind of intimate relationships to form. But perhaps the tendency towards religious belief is partly genetically determined, like homosexuality. I’d be surprised if it wasn’t.

But here’s the thing: as Giulio would put it, it really shouldn’t matter what kind of genitals you have and what you choose to do with them (within reason). If gays are not harming you through there lifestyle then there is absolutely no justification for you not to “support” them. Whereas there is good reason to insist (again, within reason) on people striving to hold accurate, evidence-based beliefs. For example: I read somewhere that 57% of Christians in the US belief that Jesus will come back, and many of those believe it will happen in their lifetime. If one holds such absurd beliefs, how engaged is one going to be to deal with the actual problems of humanity?

By the way, I’d be interested in your views on the recent threads on Engineering Transcendence and Did the Universe Evolve the Blue Brain Project to Become Self-Aware? As you will see there, not all of us are against religion per se, far from it. We are, generally, against off-the-shelf religions where one believes what one was brought up to believe rather than examining the actual evidence for such beliefs.

In my first comment on this thread I supported (while reformulating in a way that I found more precise and accurate) your comment about the need for beliefs, and not only facts. In particular I agreed that it’s important to believe things without always insisting on cast-iron evidence. The interesting question, for me, is just what kind of beliefs those are. And the point I also made is that we can do better than most traditional religious beliefs.

Why don’t you write an article outlining the nature of your religious belief and affiliation, together with your motivations for holding them? You said that it’s partly personal, and I understand that there may be some things you don’t want to divulge. But when those beliefs lead you to make comments about how others should live their lives, it’s important to be at least moderately open about the underlying reasons for one’s beliefs, at least to the extent that you understand them yourself. Just an idea.

Okay, before I finish reading the rest of your post I have to respond to your first paragraph.  You’re either misunderstanding me or your twisting my words.  I said the reasons “atheism doesn’t work for me” are personal, I didn’t mention anything about my views on gays in that sentence.  When I say I don’t support gay, I mean that don’t want to get involved in the whole politics situation.  I’m not an expert on politics so I might as well stay out of It, but that by no means that I discriminate them.  It’s just seems unnatural to me (this is an opinion like the first thing I said).  I don’t want them to be beaten up or murder or kick up of a hotel or anything like that.  I’m just a straight guy that likes girls.  The closest thing to being personal is that I find the though of two guys kissing or making out disturbing as well as gays being attracted to me (the latter is an unlikely scenario and an maybe an over exaggeration).  Then again, I kind of antisocial towards everybody I’m not familiar with, even people who are high functioning autistic like me, but that my problem.  As for the gene thing, that’s only means they have genetic tendency to be gay.  What your saying is like saying someone has no control over his outburst of rage because it is genetic.  In the end it is ultimately their choice.  What kind of relationship a person wants to have is up to them.  I may disagree with it, but I won’t decide for them.

“Their responsibility to take their fate in their own hands in no way diminishes our responsibility to take a position on the issue ourselves.’

Correct again, Pete- you get it right every time; however I do not vtrust the GOP and their ilk anymore; wish to avoid their traps as they are masters of bait & switch.
Try living in America to see how you enjoy our political football, Pete.
AS for Christian, he has a good heart, yet he ought to be more careful about being gullible. Perhaps idealism is virtually impossible w/ out gullibility, but:
why is homosexuality more animal and ‘disgusting’ than hetero? “natural”? what does natural mean today; what will it mean decades from now? IMO, Christians are very often utopian-conservative, many are imbeciles.

...“I read somewhere that 57% of Christians in the US belief that Jesus will come back, and many of those believe it will happen in their lifetime. If one holds such absurd beliefs, how engaged is one going to be to deal with the actual problems of humanity?”

The above gets to the heart of it- as is the wont with Pete. But I can’t stand attempting to communicate with Americans anymore whether the topic is political or religious in orientation—it’s a mountain of emotional toxic waste from Fargo to Key Largo.. let someone else younger/with more energy to burn talk to those cornballs. As you know, Pete, it isn’t merely the marketplace of ideas. A computer can handle GIGO, not us.
Christian politics are—ironically—animal politics, as all politics are. We are hominids on a ball of rock hurtling through space; so too are religious politics. Max More summed it up in two words: monkey politics. IMO stop-gap monkey politics: people are more or less clueless so they internalize religious memes. Christian politics are, as all religious politics, circa 99.99999 animal;
.000089 Christian.

@ Peter Wicks & Intomorrow

I attend to respond to both of your post and other future articles but my responses may be spread out because I have college work to attend to.  I’ll try to respond as often as I can.

Well I guess we’ve strayed some way from “positive trends amid the doom and gloom” here, but that’s OK. We’re having a good conversation.

@Christian The feelings you have about homosexuality (being disturbed etc) are perfectly natural… natural, in fact, as being gay (it may *seem* unnatural to straight people, but in fact it isn’t. Otherwise it wouldn’t happen).

If you read the rest of my post Christian you’ll find that I’ve actually been quite careful to distinguish between genetic predisposition and what we choose to do with it. But the key point is already in that first paragraph: repressing something as fundamental to our identity as our (natural) sexual orientation is bad for one’s quality of life. I didn’t say it’s impossible.

The thing is, Christian, by posting comments about homosexuality - a subject about which you clearly know very little - on a public website you *are* getting involved in politics. I’m just suggesting you be a bit more careful about how you do it, particularly if you want to convince the IEET readership that religion is a positive rather than a negative thing. Some of my closest friends are gay and I know what effect homophobia has on them. Again, it’s natural to find homosexuality disturbing, but one needs to be careful what one does with such feelings. And reject, uncompromisingly, any biblical or religious teachings (of which there are many) that tend to justify them.

@Intomorrow Not asking you to trust the GOP (who would? Just look at their presidential candidates) or enjoy the political football. I find it pretty disgusting as well. The news often is, even here in Europe, which is why I’m careful with TV, radio and the like. Reading the International Herald Tribune once a week and picking up the rest via the Internet (without becoming addicted to news sites) and the conversation of those around me is news enough for me. Tim Ferris calls it the “information-free diet”.

What I am asking you to do is: take a position, have faith! I think Christian is right: you seem to like viewing things in a negative light. OK up to a point, but doesn’t it become a bit limiting after a while?

By the way, I agree (with Intomorrow) that some people are just not worth talking to. They’re just not receptive, so you’re basically pissing in the wind trying to get your point across. It’s a question of getting bang for the buck: at least talk to people who are listening.

@Christian Best of luck with your studies.

If Chris wont be so negative about certain things in particular, I wont be so negative about life in general.
Hope Chris isn’t opposed to ‘botsex, people take natural too seriously: what, we are going to live in faith-based intentional communities in rural locations; eat nothing but natural food; wear nothing but natural-fiber clothing; and engage in missionary-position sex for procreation only?

The obsession with what is “natural” is also a gripe I have with most fellow environmentalists (that and their general technophobia and fear of business, can we call it emporiophobia?). To which my standard reply these days is: “nature is whatever happens”.

By the way over dinner this evening we came up with a good way to characterise the Republican primaries: The Muppet Show. God forbid one of these guys actually becomes President!

“By the way over dinner this evening we came up with a good way to characterise the Republican primaries: The Muppet Show…”

Until something more efficacious comes along, laughter is still the best medicine. Last night two Christians (they are everywhere in the Midwest and South) and I were discussing the Book of Revelation, located as you probably know very near the end of the Bible. The subjects, two figures, in Revelation known as “The AntiChrist” and “The Beast” were gone into. I said the identity of “The Beast” might be Charlie Sheen—and we all cackled like hens. We can have fun with religion, it isn’t all gloom and doom as the author of this piece explains.
We ought to get back ontopic; all the same, this piece speaks for itself. All seven trends are nothing if not encouraging.

Yep, humour is the way to go. My wife is addicted to the Colbert report and the Daily Show. Which of the muppets do you think Romney will choose as his running mate? I hope impersonators are gearing up to emulate Tina Fey’s star performance.

But humour isn’t enough: as I’ve discussed with Giulio and others we also need sex appeal. Obama needs to rediscover his. We need a bit more “yes we can” in this year of gloomy prediction…....which, come to think of it, takes us nicely back to the article, from which we have rather strayed!

Romney might choose a woman such as Palin, good for a few thousand votes at least. However America is still too macho to vote for a woman as president. Or perhaps it has something to do with Eve having tempted Adam in the Garden of Eden. Actually, I do not mind the ethics of America’s Christianity—this country’s dominant faith; six of one, half a dozen of another: if one lives a ‘clean’ life one might do better; however those in the fast lane aren’t complaining—as long as they are financially well-off.
It is the demons, eschatology, things-that-go-bump-in-the-night aspects of religion which negate the ethics. Such is kidstuff, tantamount to watching a Frankenstein cartoon.
This piece, again, speaks for itself. What to say? the majority of people have their minds stuck firmly in the past, which makes me more negative than any religionist with a crap-eating grin on his face. Here we are trying to promote the 21st century while most are living back in the ‘80s at best (as you know there’s the new film about Margaret Thatcher- surely a glossy flick about the life of Reagan is being contemplated, it will sell scores of millions of tickets), A sizable fraction of Americans are living in the 1950s- ‘60s. We are attempting to promote 21st century tech, when the public doesn’t know how the radio they listen to Rush Limbaugh on works.

No way Romney will go for Palin: he knows perfectly well this was the kiss of death for McCain’s campaign.

I don’t this America is too macho to vote for a woman as president - without Obama, Hilary Clinton would be president today - the problem with Palin was that outside the conservative base she is understood to be what she is.

I’m less tolerant of America’s “Christian ethics” than you are: sure there’s lots that’s good about it, but from homophobia to “God wants you rich” there are problems. But you’re right in a way: it’s the delusional aspects that create the real problems. There’s a lot to be said for clean living.

About Americans being stuck in the past, you know what they say: the future is here, it’s just unevenly distributed. The pace of change will always be fastest, I guess, in the big cities. Manhattan looked quaint when I was there in October after spending a month in China. As for Brussels, it looked like a model village. Perhaps that’s why Christianity is so resilient: the choice often seems to be between Christian clean living and some kind of debauchery. The idea that you don’t need God to be good - in other words the progression away from existentialist nihilism towards a genuinely secular humanism (let alone transhumanism), one that is (as Giulio puts it) so secular that we don’t even bother to call ourselves atheist….....this hasn’t really penetrated much beyond the coastal areas in America yet. But this is changing I think: Rimbaugh and co are the death throes of anachronistic faith in America.

“Rimbaugh and co are the death throes of anachronistic faith in America.”

The death throes of a dog run over by an auto lasts a short time; the death throes of anachronistic faith is decades in duration—I first heard of the death of anachronistic faith in 1964… 48 years later faith still dominates America; yes dominates. Faith is comparable to the hypochondriac who dies of the same heart attack for ages. To paraphrase Twain, the death of faith may be greatly exaggerated.
Palin was the most interesting ‘thing’ McCain had going for him. McCain, as Dole, was only nominated for POTUS because of having been wounded (in McCain’s case, tortured) in combat, which demonstrates how macho America is. Funny, the Germans—who placed a few million women in ovens starting 70 years ago—have a woman as head of state, but not the “greatest country in the world.”
Pete, mainly I always deep down have the hunch social progress is a mass of constructs to hide how nothing outside of creative destruction has any lasting significance in our lives. What I’ve always found detestable about futurist books is there are no beings in them, merely trends & trendlets—or in some cases, just fads. Which is where religion kicks in: as escape from knowledge of this reality.
For though social progress may or may not be based on constructs, creative destruction is undeniably real—as real as you or I.

This is what I wrote at a ‘conservative’ site:

“creative destruction is what we do best. In fact Darwinism in general is the God of not only this world, but also of our entire cosmology. And now we have reached the stage we can admit we worship Adam Smith as our Lord and personal savior, not God.”
[it ought to have read Jesus, not God, however such shows how ludicrous their religions are].

The above isn’t abstraction, it isn’t ethereal metaphysics: social Darwinism/creative destruction are real and have real effects which can be discerned everywhere; again, this is why religion is so important to so many: to mask the reality—
so what I ask is for so-called conservatives to admit it.

nothing I’ve written above is directly related to Sohail’s article; the following questions are:

a) are cities actually greening at the rate Sohail hinted at?
b) are cities even really greening at all, or are countervailing trends well-nigh negating the ‘greening’?
c) don’t internal combustion engines Rule, and wont ICEs continue to do so for a long time?

@ Peter Wicks and Intomorrow

As much as I want to respond to your comments (believe me, their is a lot I would want to say to you guys), I don’t have the time or energy to respond in an proper manner.  But I will say this; most of your guy’s view on Christianity and religion in general sound more like stereo types than what they are in reality.  This isn’t that surprising seeing how religion, especially the Judea-Christian faiths, is so widely victimized in this day and age in very inaccurate portrayals.  This is what I mean by religion and faith being discriminated.

@Christian This is why I think it would be good if you wrote an article outlining in more detail the nature of your religious belief and affiliation, and anything else you think would help to correct our view on Christianity and religion in general. I have my own experience, of course (as does Intomorrow), and much of what you say reminds me of things I used to say and have heard from other Christians I know much better than I know you, so the assumptions I make about you are not based on pure fantasy. But of course there is a degree of stereotyping (there always is), and a more complete statement of your faith would I think help to improve our dialogue. I can’t speak for Hank of course, but given your obvious interest in the issues we discuss on this blog and willingness to engage in constructive dialogue I can imagine he would welcome such an article.

But in your own time of course - by all means give priority to your studies.

Before going on-topic (gosh, going on-topic- what is the world coming to?) in a way Chris is correct, or at least I feel guilty—having been raised Christian—in critiquing it. Religion is so much more pleasant than politics for starters; and then, too, politics probably has corrupted religion more than vice versa. So the following is excerpted from Francis Fukuyama, does not mention religion at all, may in some way be relatable to Sohail’s piece, and will be recycled later in other articles at IEET:

“Although the Tea Party is anti-elitist in its rhetoric, its members vote for conservative politicians who serve the interests of precisely those financiers and elites they claim to despise… multiculturalism validates the victimhood of virtually every out-group. It is impossible to generate a mass progressive movement on the basis of such a motley coalition: most of the working-class citizens victmized by the system are cultural conservative… postmodernism begins with a denial of any master narrative of history or society, undercutting its own authority as a voice for the majority of citizens who feel betrayed by their elites…”

Extremely sharp for the guy who wrote the End Of History (history is alive and well), however it might not be relevant to Sohail’s article; so the question about the greening of cities will be reiterated: are cities truly being greened after all?

@Intomorrow I don’t think we should feel guilty critiquing the religion we were raised into, provided that (i) we are fair, accurate and sensitive in our criticisms and (ii) we have a basically constructive purpose in doing so. I certainly feel more qualified to critique Christianity than any other religion, and at the same time I do believe there is a social cost associated with any kind of superstition. As I’ve said repeatedly,, I have no problem with people going to church and drawing inspiration from Christian scripture and teachings. I do have a problem if they believe those teachings unquestioningly and/or put them on some kind of pedestal while simultaneously trying to claim they say something they don’t.

For example, homosexuality is described as an “abomination” in the Old Testament, and the New Testament also refers to it in similar terms. Fact. Clearly, the authors of the relevant sections of the Bible regarded homosexuality as a sin against God. Should we try to argue that this isn’t really what they meant? No, that is obfuscation. Should we try to make a case that the Bible really is the Word of God but, whatever the human authors might have meant, this is not what God wants us to believe? Also obfuscation in my view. Does this mean we have to regard homosexuality as a sin against God ourselves? Of course not. But we do then need to bite the bullet and insist on a basis for our moral and political sense that is independent from the Bible. The Bible is not the Word of God: it is a body of human literature that happens to have been adopted as authoritative by one of the major world religions, and in particular the religion that has underpinned the development of Western civilisation. Now that we have managed to develop scientific, moral and political traditions that are (largely) independent of that literature, and the idea that it is the Word of God has become more of a liability than an asset. It is important for this to be recognised explicitly, especially by those who insist on continuing to call themselves and live as Christians, and even more especially by those in a position of considerable influence within Christian communities.

@ Peter and Christian—

Actually, I am not at all interested in publishing an article on the topic
“A Defense Of Christianity”
but if someone wrote an article on a topic like
“Christianity and TransHumanism”
that would be very welcome.

We’ve published articles on
“Mormons and TransHumanism” for example.

Personally, I regard politely listening to people who believe the Bible is the word of God, and that homosexuality is a sin, as a total waste of my time. 
Attacking those ideas relentlessly has great value, though.

“Personally, I regard politely listening to people who believe the Bible is the word of God, and that homosexuality is a sin, as a total waste of my time.”

You are right, both you and Pete.
In the Midwest, though, as in the South, what works for me is listening semi-politely while interjecting humorously; it is more irritating to tell religionists to buzz off than to waste a little time in turning the tables on them. The stock reply to those who dislike gays (lesbians aren’t disliked as much) is:
“depends what the guy looks like, if he is Justin Bieber, then I go down on him.”
Christian interlocutors are a bit nonplussed at such replies—and some of them are undoubtedly bi themselves.


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