The lecture is about 40 minutes long - but the Q&A is long and fantastic [Also see a related lecture by David Sloan Wilson: Evolution & Religion]. There were many excellent questions, but let me point out one that stood out for me: Has there ever been a religion that caused a society to collapse? (about an hour and 8 minutes into the video). Interestingly, Jared Diamond pointed to the Mahdiyah society of Sudan in the 19th century. For a while they were successful against the British, but then at the battle of Omdurman, the fighters were told that they were immune to bullets - and they were wiped out by the bullets of Kitchener's army. I didn't know about this group and about their particular belief about bullets. But then I discovered this news item about an uprising in Chad from last July:
Independent accounts of the fighting are not available, but Chad’s security minister described Bichara’s followers as “intoxicated by indescribable extremism… almost mad” as they “threw themselves” against the fire of security forces in the belief they were immune to bullets (Reuters, July 2). The “clubs, poisoned arrows and swords” used by Bichara’s followers proved to be of little avail against the gunfire of government troops, nor did the amulets that were supposed to provide protection from bullets save those who were hit. The use of such amulets in the region goes back to the very first encounters with firearms—despite a distinctly poor track record in deflecting lead they continue to find a place around the necks of local fighters. The number of dead was given variously as somewhere between 66 and 72, with over 50 seriously wounded.Interesting to know that these battles are still taking place in the 21st century. By the way, can we also convince the Taliban that they are immune from the bullets and that they can charge without weapons full speed ahead. This is mean - but then I'm referring to those idiots who have been flogging women, beheading people in public squares, and blowing up schools.