The Rambow Effect: How Moderate Views Fuel Extremism

Henry Rambow wrote an article which essentially regurgitates Sam Harris’s argument about religious moderates being blamed for the existence of extreme religious fundamentalists.

Like Harris, Rambow approaches the whole issue with incredible tunnel vision.  He seems oblivious to the fact that there is no reason to restrict the focus of his logic to religion.  The very same logic can be used elsewhere.

For example, think about how a moderate concern for animal welfare fuels animal rights terrorism.   Do you support your local Humane Society?  Then, according to Harris/Rambow logic, you are helping to legitimize extreme animal rights organizations and their acts of terrorism.

Concerned about the environment?  Then you are both legitimizing and fueling eco-terrorism.

Do you consider yourself a supporter of civil rights and a good liberal?  Then, according to Harris/Rambow logic,  you are both legitimizing and fueling the Regressive Left.  After all, if religious moderates are to blame for religious fundamentalists, then moderate leftists are to blame for the extreme, Regressive Left.

The irony of this New Atheist Logic is that while Harris points his finger at religious moderates and blames them for the extreme acts of some religious fundamentalists, his same logic would make him (as a environmentalist liberal who supports animal rights) partly responsible for animal rights terrorism, eco-terrorism, and the anti-free speech efforts of the Regressive Left.

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13 Responses to The Rambow Effect: How Moderate Views Fuel Extremism

  1. Derek Ramsey says:

    “How Moderate Views Fuel Extremism”

    Michael Woodley has hypothesized that Social Epistasis Amplification may be to blame for increased extremism. In short, genetic mutations of the few have deleterious effect on the normal social interactions of the population (what he terms ‘interorganismal gene-gene interactions’). In atheist-friendly evolutionary terms, those who are most genetically unfit (e.g. atheists; activists)—and would have historically been selected out of the population—are now causing normal people to behave as if they themselves were unfit.

    Moderate views don’t fuel extremism, activist extremism fuels itself. It’s like cancer. Such extremism is disproportionately effective (i.e. high social power and influence) across the entire social spectrum.

  2. Ilíon says:

    … argument about religious moderates being blamed for the existence of extreme religious fundamentalists.

    It rather depends on the religion, doesn’t it? To be more precise, it depends upon what the fundamentals of the religion are.

    The fundamentals of Christianity are: 1) Love God (i.e. Being Himself, Who upholds/ratifies all other being); 2) love your neighbor as yourself. Christianity holds that Jesus the Christ is the perfect exemplar of those fundamentals. A Christian fundamentalist takes Christianity seriously — he desires to be ever more like Christ.

    Oddly, the “moderate” “Christians” always seem to join in with the God-haters in denigrating the fundamentalist Christians. How else do you think that the term “fundamentalist” — which was, after all, coined by fundamentalist Christians to denote themselves — came to have the negative meaning as used by leftists and atheists and “moderates”?

    The fundamentals of Islam are: 1) *Anything* is permissible to advance the Cause of Allah; 2) You must advance the Cause of Allah. Islam holds that “The Prophet” Mohammad (piss be upon him) was the perfect exemplar (*) of those fundamentals. A Moslem fundamentalist takes Islam seriously — he desires to be ever more like Mohammad.

    The fundamentals of Atheism are: 1) All existence is (and existents are) the result of sets of accidents. To put it another way: “There is no Way Things Ought To Be“. An atheist fundamentalist takes atheism seriously — and thank God there are so few serious atheists — he desires to be ever more nihilistic.

    The fundamentals of Environmentalism are: 1) Well sure, all existence is (and existents are) the result of sets of accidents; but 2) No one can *live* as though life has no purpose and meaning, no one can *live* as though “There is no Way Things Ought To Be“. ; 3) therefore, since by 1) a human life is of no more worth than an animal or any other non-human life life, we (environmentalists) can give our own individual lives purpose and meaning by holding that non-human life is of more worth and meaning than human life (except our own, of course).

    The fundamentals of Leftism are: … I think the Reader gets the point by now. A leftist fundamentalist takes leftism seriously … and desires to be ever more like Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Hitler, Mussolini, Castro, Che, Pol Pot, Robespierre, and on and on.

    (*) Or, as his child-wife, Aisha, is reported — by the authoritative texts of Islam — to have said to Mohammad: “Your God must really love you, for he always commands you to do exactly what you already wanted to do.

  3. Ilíon says:

    above, that was supposed to be “Love God [with all your heart and mind and soul]”

  4. pennywit says:

    There is truth, generally, to the notion that moderates in a particular social group bear some level of responsibility for extremists’ excesses. People’s attitudes are based in part on the feedback they receive around them. I’d the so-called moderates fail to denounce such edtemism within the social group, extremists will see that as validation.

  5. Kevin says:

    I’d the so-called moderates fail to denounce such edtemism within the social group, extremists will see that as validation.

    Of course, those not in the social group will blame the so-called moderates either way.

  6. TFBW says:

    The question depends on what the so-called moderates are actually doing. If they denounce and distance themselves from the extremists, then they are doing pretty much all that can be done. Under these conditions, the Harris/Rambow objection to the very existence of moderates is transparently unreasonable. If the moderates are providing aid and cover to the extremists without directly joining them in their extreme acts, however, then the criticism is perfectly valid. For example, when Don Lemon says nice things about Antifa on his CNN show, he is a moderate Liberal providing material aid to Leftist extremists.

    I think it’s pretty clear that the Harris/Rambow objection to “moderates” only applies to the moderate version of ideologies they particularly dislike, thus the relevance of Michael’s observations in the OP. Is Sam, as a moderate anti-religious activist, passively enabling the activities of anti-religious extremists, like people who shoot up churches, mosques, and synagogues? I’m sure he doesn’t think so, but that would be the consistent position to take. I think that this “moderates enable extremists” narrative is just a weak, post-hoc rationalisation for his desire that the religious moderates would simply go away, because their existence makes his job of framing religious folks as nutty extremists that much harder.

  7. Ilíon says:

    I’d the so-called moderates fail to denounce such edtemism within the social group, extremists will see that as validation.

    Of course, those not in the social group will blame the so-called moderates either way.

    After all, “extremist” merely means “that icky person over there who believes a belief I don’t like with a degree of sincerity (or at least of passion) that I don’t like

  8. TFBW says:

    “Extremist” is used as a pejorative by the same kind of people who use “fundamentalist” as a pejorative: those who seem to think that there is something virtuous about being in the middle of the herd. I think they mistake social risk-averseness for a virtue. Not everyone is so shy of extremism. though: some gladly adopt the term “free speech extremist”, for example. For some reason, those on the Left seem to prefer the term “radical”. The Left can be very particular about their verbal framing: words with good connotations must be applied to their own causes, and words with bad connotations must be applied to their ideological opponents (“fascists”, the lot of them).

  9. Ilíon says:

    The word ‘radical’ comes from the Latin for ‘root’ … thus, for example, some set of brush-strokes of a Chinese character are termed the character’s ‘radical’, as the particular meaning of the complete character is based on (or grows out of) the ‘radical’.

    In the 18th-20th centuries, various leftist “progressive” groups termed themselves ‘radical-this’ or ‘radical-that’.

    In general, a radical is an advocate for fundamental transformation (i.e. changing what-is to what-is-not) of existing (and generally organic) social or political settlements by revolutionary, rather than organic, means.

    So, of course, today’s leftists are going to tend to give a positive connotation to the word. Well, except when they use it in a phrase such as “radical right-wing extremist”.

  10. pennywit says:

    Truth to be told, I’m thinking less of Rambow here and more of Fishbein and Ison’s work.

  11. Isaac says:

    Christians who are crazy, violent, and sociopathic are not Christian extremists, but entirely the opposite. They are the type of Christians who are least engaged with Christianity.

    You can easily see this by looking at the actual statements of those offered as “Christian extremists.” Religion is either entirely tangential to them (as in the case of the El Paso shooter,) or they have their own insane theology that is impossible to reconcile with scripture. It makes it difficult for anyone trying to create a false equivalency between Christians and other ideologies, many of which are compatible with bad behavior. Atheists end up cherry-picking examples of “Christian extremists” hiding all of the ways that even those carefully curated examples don’t prove their point. (Have fun and inform a causal internet atheist that Jim Jones was himself a hardcore atheist the next time they use the phrase “drinking the Kool-Aid” to describe the religious. Then wait as they frantically Google it and realize you’re right.)

    That’s because Christianity, unlike many other ideologies, has a very distinct orthodoxy. In writing. Given to us in an easy-to-translate written rulebook created at a 6th-grade reading level. It’s very easy to tell what does and does not reflect the teachings and principles of Christianity. And, in a neat bit of providence, there is no room for any alternate, non-scriptural interpretation of Jesus to claim any authenticity, because all we know of Christ and his apostles’ teaching comes from books in the Bible.

    That’s why actual “Christian extremists” look like Harriet Beecher Stowe, Fred Rogers, Norman Borlaug, William Booth or Corrie Ten Boom. Those are the “nuts” doing extreme, Jesus-like things while correctly quoting scripture and using the Bible as a guide. Can you imagine the awful dystopia we would live in if EVERYONE had that kind of devotion? We need more atheist to get book deals, if only to save us from such a fate.

  12. Dhay says:

    Derek Ramsey > Michael Woodley has hypothesized that Social Epistasis Amplification may be to blame for increased extremism. In short, genetic mutations of the few have deleterious effect on the normal social interactions of the population…

    Never having heard of Social Epistasis Amplification, but — thanks — intrigued, I searched for the idea on the web and found this long and very interesting article, “Are Atheists Genetic Mutants-A Product of Recent Evolution?”, the title of which encapsulates the content; the bottom line starts:

    Dutton & Co.’s research is so incendiary because it is presenting the SJWs with what they really are: mutants; maladapted people who undermine carefully evolved, evolutionarily useful structures—such as religion—meaning they make even non-carriers maladapted; discouraging them from breeding or from defending their ethnic group.

    http://www.unz.com/article/are-atheists-genetic-mutants-a-product-of-recent-evolution/

    Incendiary indeed.

  13. Derek Ramsey says:

    @Dhay

    According to Pew, 91% of atheists believe evolutionary theory is true. Evolutionary theory and associated research has a lot of interesting things to say. For one, religion is selected adaptive beneficial behavior, associated with many positive benefits. For another, atheism is evolutionary maladaptive at the group and individual level and is correlated with scientific markers of high mutational load.

    The atheist, were he rationally consistent, would be neither anti-natalist, nor pro-natalist. Instead, he would be personally anti-natalist while simultaneously pro-religion and pro-natalist for the religious. While they do the former, they do not do the latter, and I’d like an atheist to explain why.

    The extreme, shall we say fundamentalist, atheist might support the transfer of resources from the atheists to the theists or even selective eugenics (e.g. the execution or sterilization of atheists). I can explain, on the basis of Christianity, why we would not want to do these things, but I can’t determine why an atheist would object to this.

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