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Friday, July 07, 2006

Mass market materialism: Its hidden costs

Mustafa Akyol comments that the idea that "material things are the only things that matter" - the very philosophy that Darwinism so helpfully underwrites - misleads Muslims about life in North America, and thus inadvertently provides the fanatic with a platform.

... many Muslims -- in Turkey and elsewhere -- despise capitalism and perceive it as something both alien and destructive to Islam. Yet this is a misdirected disdain. When you look at anti-capitalist rhetoric in Muslim circles, you will see that it is focused on sexual laxity, prostitution, drugs, crime, or the general selfishness in Western societies. Yet these are not the inherent elements of capitalism, they would be better explained by the term "cultural materialism" - the idea that material things are the only things that matter. Most Muslims who abhor capitalism simply confuse it with materialism.

Such worried Muslims would be quite surprised to discover that some of the most outspoken advocates of the free market in the West are also staunch defenders of religious faith, family values and the healthy role of both in public life. Unfortunately, the synthesis of democratic capitalism with Judeo-Christian values -- which is basically an American, not a European phenomenon -- is not well known in the Islamic world. The America of churches and charities is poorly represented in the global mass media. Quite the contrary, what most Muslims see as standard Americans are the unabashed hedonists of MTV and Hollywood.

Akyol, who writes for the financial markets, argues that Islam is fully compatible with capitalism. I, for one, would have to agree; many small Muslim-owned businesses in Toronto offer excellent service at reasonable prices, and I doubt that the proprietors feel conflicted about religion.

Similarly, I remember the day last summer, at a local garden centre, where one of the employees was a young Muslim woman. I overheard her tell a more senior staff: "Look, the boss must soon face reality! These rose bushes are too old, so no one buys them. All day she is paying me to water a product that loses value every hour. Tell her to put them on sale at a dollar each, no refunds, and get them out of here. Customers will buy armloads of them, and I will go back to doing something that it is worth her while to pay me for. Anything that isn't sold by next week, just throw out." The boss accepted her advice.

Now there was a person who understood the fine art of cutting your losses and focusing on the high profit centers. And I believe she was only about 23 or so.
If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

Are you looking for one of the following stories?

A summary of recent opinion columns on the ID controversy

A summary of recent polls of US public opinion on the ID controversy

A summary of the Catholic Church's entry into the controversy, essentially on the side of ID.

O'Leary's intro to non-Darwinian agnostic philosopher David Stove ?

An ID Timeline: The ID folk seem always to win when they lose.

O’Leary’s comments on Francis Beckwith, a Dembski associate, being denied tenure at Baylor.

Why origin of life is such a difficult problem.
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