Martyrdom

Discussion in 'Every Day Debating' started by Julie, Jun 10, 2013.

  1. Julie

    Julie Well-Known Member

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    This is a bit of a philosophical or maybe rather psychological question for you...
    I was wondering, if humans are biologically 'programmed' - in lack of a better word - to strive to survive above everything else, how come something so 'unnatural' as self-sacrifice or martyrdom occurs (quite) regularly? Do you think there's a martyr in any one of us or are these 'freaks of nature'?
     
  2. Druid of Lûhn

    Druid of Lûhn The Little Lamb.

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    Martyrdom is an ideal, so it's probably some psychological bug. In a way, we're giving up all we had, so being heroic.

    On a more biological note:
    When we don't see ourselves, as perfect, the only way that we can think of improving our standing, in a stressful situation, is by sacrificing ourselves: we are giving our most prized possession (our life) to the greater good.
    It really depends on the situation: humans live in groups, so in a way, the group is more important than the individual, which means that loosing one individual for the good of the group is the advantageous side.
     
  3. Sparrow

    Sparrow Well-Known Member

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    I think martyrdom as you're describing it, at least in a religious or political sense is extremely rare, and I doubt many of us would give our life for such notions as that. But making the ultimate sacrifice for a family member or good friend is I think something some of us would do.

    Also, I think sacrificing one's self is something that's done in the heat of the moment when emotions overtake you. And while biology certainly plays a part in it, I bet it's more of a nurtured trait we pick up as we grow to adulthood.
     
  4. S.J. Faerlind

    S.J. Faerlind Flashlight Shadowhunter

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    I'm not sure where you draw the line between blaming biology for martyrdom or the environment. I'm guessing this only came about because we are a social species. There has to be an evolutionary advantage in it for our survival or it would be everyone for themselves. That is probably biological but I'd guess it is also probably why selfless heroism is seen socially as a desirable trait that everyone admires.
    I also agree with Sparrow... it probably isn't something most people think about; they just jump in and do it. I imagine that act is more common in people with reactive personalities (ie: the leap before you look types), but that's only a guess on my part.
     
  5. Overread

    Overread Wolfing it up! Staff Member

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    Martyrdom I see as generally the fact that humans are a social species who are mentally built to operate in groups. Whilst we can operate alone its often seen that people who live in isolation from other humans are often not in the best of health and can often be suffering from directly or eventually do suffer from mental stress and problems (which can then often lead to physical wellbeing also being affected).

    At its most basic level the concept of Martyrdom is survival or promotion of the group over the needs of the individual. Just like you get those who are natural leaders and those who are natural followers I think that an element of self-sacrifice is something that is built into people. Heck many parents will willingly sacrifice themselves for their children.

    This concept of self-sacrifice already being part of our mental structure its then no surprise that we can adjust to allow other factors to cause the desire/willingness to become a martyr for a cause.

    Also don't forget that many many martyrs do not actually set out to become one; they generally set out to achieve or do something - to challenge. They are then bested by the challenge, but the fact that they took upon the challenge makes them the martyr for that cause
     
  6. Druid of Lûhn

    Druid of Lûhn The Little Lamb.

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    In this sense, we are very much like wolves, who will work as a pack and put themselves in danger so that others can go in for the kill.

    Notice I did say that it is done at times of great stress, when one is not really planning things or thinking properly.
     
  7. Julie

    Julie Well-Known Member

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    Well it's not THAT rare. You could look at the notion of martyrdom more broadly. Like persons who choose to become a soldier and go to war for the good of their country..


    That makes sense. I do understand sacrifice for love of course.. But I see martyrdom not AS broad I guess, I see it as giving up your life (or decreasing your chance of living significantly) not for someone you love, but for something abstract like 'God', 'the nation', 'the environment', ..

    Do you think the overpopulation has an influence on our biological drives? The more people, the less sustainable it becomes for people to live, maybe this somehow messes with our drives? I'm aware this sounds a bit crazy,... :)
     
  8. Lord Yuan

    Lord Yuan Death-Thousand+

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    It is certainly a learned thing. People learn to put value in things or find value in things that they may be willing to die for. People aren't born willing to die for a god, die for trees, or die for others. Experiences flesh out how people value these things and to what degree.

    Everybody has the potential but the thing being martyred for has to be learned.
     
  9. Druid of Lûhn

    Druid of Lûhn The Little Lamb.

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    I don't think that it has to do with over-population, as martyrs have always been quite important throughout history, especially in the christian church.
    In a sense, over-population might even be doing the opposite: we don't need to fight for the survival of the human race, so we can allow ourselves to live in comfort and let others (in greater numbers) suffer for us.
     
  10. Overread

    Overread Wolfing it up! Staff Member

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    Overpopulation certainly puts stress on a species although I'd harzard that we likely know more about direct overpopulation effects on other animals than we do of ourselves; mostly as the concept of overpopulation is one that we don't attribute to ourselves beyond when the overpopulation causes a significant lack of resources present for the population to survive off - overpopulation whilst having provision of sufficient food and resources is something humans are about the only creature able to do for long periods of time (most other animals in natural environments simply run out of food)
     
  11. Foinikas

    Foinikas Playing backgammon!

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    Martyrdom varies from culture to culture or religion.For example,the islamist/arabic idea of "martyrdom" is anyone who blows-up and kills himself and others(which is evil),anyone who dies in battle,anyone who dies in their "holy wars",anyone who is killed while trying to spread their faith etc. etc. ....in a few words almost anyone.

    In Orthodox Christianity a martyr is someone who dies for not converting to another religion,somebody who is killed for his religio.Mostly someone who is harmed and killed for his faith and for not accepting the enemy's ideas and religion.For example many of the saints are martyrs and there are some people who are called nation-martyrs,passion bearers or martyrs for their faith,like the Romanov family for example who are called Royal Passion-bearers or Royal martyrs.
     
  12. S.J. Faerlind

    S.J. Faerlind Flashlight Shadowhunter

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    I don't think it sounds crazy at all. I think overpopulation does have an influence on our biological drives to some extent though I'm not sure it has an effect on martyrdom in particular. I guess to find out, you'd have to see if the percentage of martyrs in a population rose as the population increased in numbers. I think it would be difficult to prove such a causal relationship however, since there are so many other factors that play into the situation of martyrdom. You could argue for example, that bigger populations have more diversity and thus more conflict within them, therefore creating more martyrs. I'm not sure that's exactly the same thing as a biological drive to allow your own death for the betterment of the "herd". Any correlation between increased percentage of martyrs and increased population may well be incidental, not causal (ie: a spurious correlation). Interesting question though. :)

    I think we (like other life forms) may indeed have influences on our biological drives that we're not consciously aware of and it's possible that some of those might be triggered by overpopulation. Pheromones (chemicals emitted by the people around us that have effects on our own brains and bodies) would be an example of that. Ever heard of the "dormitory effect" where women living in close quarters rearrange their cycles to coincide because of pheromones? My understanding is that this was never proven to happen definitively in humans but the concept is sound. Pheromones have all kinds of known effects in other species so it makes sense to me that we would be affected by them too.
     
  13. Kelmourne

    Kelmourne The Savage Hippy

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    I would think martyrdom stems from a desire to leave a lasting legacy, which can also be expressed in other ways. It seems alot more reasonable if you're religious and you care about your immortal soul and it's fate in the afterlife. I don't think there is an evolutionary reason for it that predates civilized society, it's probably based upon abstract ideas like legacy, honour, and religion, created by humans when we started having more free time due to agriculture.
     
  14. Mububban

    Mububban Administrator Staff Member

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    If you're talking religious martyrdom, that is because they think they are not really dying and that they're doing something good for their god and the world, so why wouldn't they do it? They've got nothing to lose and eternity in paradise to gain.

    I you're talking the "parent throwing themselves in front of a bus" scenario, that is nature ensuring that your genes survive, even if it means you yourself die. You give your life to protect your genetic line.
     
  15. Eustace

    Eustace The One True Tsar

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    OK - I agree with you on the religious side, there is a certain amount of fanaticism involved. Of course there are different sorts of Religious Martyr, so I'll take up that point. Take Christians in Ancient Rome, for e.g., obviously there was a degree of fanaticism, but it couldn't be called a 'spur of the moment' decision - the Roman state bent over backwards to give these Christians a way out in the later years before it became the state religion; Emperor worship was the big issue here, and the Romans would generally have been happy enough if the early Christians had made even a token concession in this direction. They, of course, refused, and by all accounts went singing and happy to their deaths - mad, perhaps, but for me there's a certain amount of bravery there too.

    Myself, I actually disagree with calling suicide bombers 'martyrs' - this might be how they see themselves, it might be how the cowardly clerics who talk them into doing it, but would never do it themselves, see it, but to me they're poisonous, evil nutters. Mububban, I reckon that the parent would probably see it less biologically and more as an act of love, really.
     
  16. Foinikas

    Foinikas Playing backgammon!

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    The Christians during the Roman persecutions were not mad at all,they were brave and they did not reject their beliefs because some Emperor thought he was god or because he wanted them to convert to dodekatheism.And this continues up to this day with muslim fanatics trying to impose islam to others,for example Evgeniy Rodionov is considered to be one of the modern martyrs,he was a young Russian soldier,the Chechens had told him to take his cross off and convert to islam or die.They kept insisting that if he took his cross off and became a muslim they would let him live.But he didn't reject Christ and his beliefs and they beheaded him.
     
  17. Foinikas

    Foinikas Playing backgammon!

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  18. Sparrow

    Sparrow Well-Known Member

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    I think when we're talking about soldiers going off to war for God & Country it's a lot more about cultural conditioning than anything else. In fact I believe most of what we're talking about here is cultural conditioning and not biology or other factors. We're pressured into these beliefs we have by our parents, friends, society. I think these are mostly western ideals pertaining to sacrifice, the foundation being the Jesus Christ myth. I might be an atheist but there's no getting away from it, the myth of Jesus Christ effects my beliefs when it comes to sacrificing one's self for a greater purpose.
     
  19. Julie

    Julie Well-Known Member

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    A Muslim martyr is anyone who blows up and kills himself and others?? I don't think the majority of Muslims would agree to that...
    And aren't there Christian soldiers that have died in battle (the crusades f.e.) who are also seen as martyrs ?? (so your first definition of martyrdom then)

    Related to this, a researcher that did a comparison between the bible and the quran found that the bible is much more violent:
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124494788

    Also, the first suicide bomber was a Christian:
    http://news.sky.com/story/357924/suicide-bombing-the-first-was-a-christian

    But I do think suicide bombing is much more related to politics than to religion, ...
     
  20. Druid of Lûhn

    Druid of Lûhn The Little Lamb.

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    He actually said "islamist" (I had to double-check as well): in the modern world, islamists are the fanatics who are not considered true muslims by other muslims.