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Science Technology

Genetic Research In The Heart of Amish Country 299

FrenchyinOntario writes "Insular, inbred communities like the Ashkenazi Jews and Indian tribes can be a bonanza of genetic information for researchers, and the Amish & Mennonite communities in the United States are proving to be fertile ground as well for scientists who want to better understand the nature of genetic diseases and how rare illnesses occur more frequently in such closed-off communities. The Amish, famous for their renunciation of a lot of technology, are embracing a lab that has been built in the centre of their community because their faith teaches them to "help their fellow man", recognizing that helping scientists better understand the genetic causes of diabetes, mental retardation, and some of the rarer diseases in their families, helps themselves as well as others. For a better understanding of the Amish and their approach to technology, Wired magazine ran an excellent story a few years back better illustrating why they are not just mindless kneejerk technophobes."
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Genetic Research In The Heart of Amish Country

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  • Duh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by afidel ( 530433 ) on Saturday July 09, 2005 @01:02AM (#13019351)
    Of course they are not mindless technophobes. For one thing every member of the sect is given a period in late adolecense where they are to go forth and experience the rest of society before they join the church. This insures that they have made a choice that is at least somewhat informed. They are an interesting group of very deeply religious folk who have very good reasons for believing as they do. Hell one of my favorite vacations was one where I didn't touch an electronic device for an entire week, it was SO much more relaxing than any other vacation I have ever taken that I have to sometimes wonder if I wouldn't be more happy if I were to give it all up and live life in the simpler fashion of the amish.
    • Somewhat informed? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 09, 2005 @01:17AM (#13019385)
      If you spent a single year living as Amish people do, then you'd want to come back here, too. They send them out with little education and little support and no friends in the outside world. Of course they are going to come back after a year. They may think they are giving people the choice, but in the end, it's adding to the indoctrination because they come back thinking that they know what it's like outside their little community.

      I'm not criticizing the Amish here. I have no doubt that they mean well by doing this, but it is not a fair way to do the comparison.
      • by NanoGradStudent ( 878951 ) on Saturday July 09, 2005 @01:46AM (#13019439)
        The Amish (and I believe to a lesser extent, Mennonites in general) believe that you have to make a conscious and informed decision to be baptised and formally join their faith, so Rumspringa lets them have a taste of life on the outside. The majority usually decide to stay, but UPN had a reality TV show Amish in the City [upn.com] and for some reason, the four Amish that were featured all decided to leave the community. Probably had something to do with the fact that they put them up with a bunch of "English" in a big mansion, and got them doing various activities together.
        • by Micah ( 278 )
          >>> The Amish (and I believe to a lesser extent, Mennonites in general) believe that you have to make a conscious and informed decision to be baptised and formally join their faith

          Yes. I was raised Mennonite. Amish and Mennonites both come from the Anabaptist (which means they baptize again) movement. It began around 1525 or so as some people were convicted that many pracitces of the church of the day (both the Catholic and to a lesser extent later on the Protestant churches) were not lining up
      • I wonder if that is in part because none of them really understand the outside community?
      • by Chordonblue ( 585047 ) on Saturday July 09, 2005 @02:53AM (#13019565) Journal
        I've lived in Amish country now for some 17 years. When I was younger, I wondered about their community and what the deal was with their shunning of technology. After talking to a lot of my co-workers about it (many of whom were Old Order), the local bishop showed up on a lunch hour to help 'get me straight'.

        According to the bishop, the primary reason for avoiding technology had to do with 'idle hands'. Anything that takes them away from the community or their families is considered 'not good' and there really didn't have to be a specific reason for a bishop to disallow something.

        BUT... As much as the Amish outwardly show compliance, the truth is that many of them push the boundries with things like cell phones, solar cell recharging units (some roof-sized panels used to recharge batteries for electicity at night), and even computers. Clearly the letter of the law and the spirit of it are two different things.

        In later years I worked for a small computer store in Ephrata. We catered to the Amish and Mennonite communities as they are often VERY wealthy and shrewd business people (uneducated does not mean stupid), and if the technology is considered necessary, they will not hesitate using it. In most instances, we would end up selling a computer to a farmer who used it for their milking machines or keeping track of finances, or in one instance, an egg counting machine that ran Windows NT!

        One fine day however, we had a rather nervous looking young man come by on his bike and purchased (in cash) a brand new, top of the line, Acer laptop. Upon leaving he put the laptop in the cardboard box on the back of his bike, covered it up, and rode off.

        A few days later a buggy pulls up and its this poor fellow and his bishop. The bishop appologized for his parishner's mistake and asked politely if he could get a refund. All this, and the purchaser never looked up once. Of course we gave him one - our relations with the local community demanded that, but I sure felt sorry for that kid.

      • by aussersterne ( 212916 ) on Saturday July 09, 2005 @02:57AM (#13019571) Homepage
        It's not just education and friends that are missing, either. Having grown up and been socialized in isolation from mainstream society, they possess a disctinctly different set of social skills and a different connotative vocabulary, both verbally and nonverbally.

        They lack the correctly formed tools to cope with basic aspects of the mainstream social world, things like dealing with separation and boundaries/emotional distance, the need to be assertive or to tolerate assertiveness in others, the "sixth sense" that most urban and even suburban dwellers develop about crime and dangerous situations, the expectations about what the rights/responsibilities of friendships and coupline relationships are, etc. It's not that they don't have any social tools or skills, it's just that theirs are all applicable to a very different society.

        It's rather like traveling to another country--you think it's nice to visit, but for most people, nothing feels as "comfortable" as being "home," for the very same reasons. Of course the difference is that for religious groups, visits outside the group aren't constructed as visits just to "other people" as they would be if an American visited New Zealand, but rather they are constructed as good vs. evil--you are leaving the "good" people to visit and explore the structurally opposed world of "apostates" or "heretics" or "nonbelievers," so the experience is in no way value-neutral, but rather begins with the expectation that the outside world isn't just different (and hence always at least a little uncomfortable), but that it is uncomfortable because of the presence of various kinds of evil presumed to be a property of the outside world, and conversely absent within the group.

        Thus, even for the most outgoing, life outside the community, while potentially exciting at first, ultimately seems both frightening and hollow, since nothing (including relationships and interpersonal communication) seems to respond safely in a manner that they expect, understand, or need as social beings, and they attribute this mismatch to nefarious forces.

        The problem isn't unique to the Amish, it's seen in children from nearly any intensively lived faith organized into insular communities, i.e. Mormonism, or hare krishna, etc. Even when someone decides that they want to leave the faith, life outside it can be so difficult to navigate and their methods of social interaction and personal development so dependent on its structures that it's easier just to stay inside the group as a nonbeliever.
        • by petrus4 ( 213815 ) on Saturday July 09, 2005 @03:45AM (#13019654) Homepage Journal
          >They lack the correctly formed tools to cope
          >with basic aspects of the mainstream social
          >world, things like dealing with separation and
          >boundaries/emotional distance

          Right. They don't need to know about "emotional distance," because they live in a society where people from outside an immediate family group actually give a shit about each other. Strange concept, I know.

          >the need to be assertive or to tolerate >assertiveness in others,

          Yep. Again, because they have a consistent social structure, they don't need to learn how to communicate in an environment where the heirarchical position of individuals is constantly in flux, depending on context. Each individual has a consistent position in the social pecking order, which makes life much easier.

          >the "sixth sense" that most urban and even >suburban dwellers develop about crime and >dangerous situations

          Again, their society doesn't include things like illegal drug use (and hence, no drug-related crime.) They don't have expensive consumer electronics as an incentive for theft, and being agriculturally based means that virtually anyone is able to get a job, regardless of lack of skill...so there is little incentive to steal.

          The bottom line is that in a vast multitude of areas, mainstream contemporary (corporate) American society is sick, degenerate, and unjustifiable. It is also primarily based in nearly every aspect on the concept of weakening and impoverishing the individual almost to the point of death, so that there is no possible chance of said individual being a threat to the homocidal parasites at the top of the heap. Sure, there's a whole heap of *talk* about the importance of individuality...but the intention behind that is actually the weakening of social cohesion...which again, leads indirectly to the weakening of the individual.

          By contrast, most non-mainstream indigenous or technologically regressive societies are based on the concept of *strengthening* both individuals and communities, and as such they form methods of achieving this over time. So yeah...anyone coming from one of those societies will experience problems...they'll need to undergo a paradigm shift...From being in a society where the emphasis is on doing things that *do* work to benefit human beings, to being in one (the mainstream one) where the specific intention is to emphasise doing things which are detrimental to human beings.
          • by dvdeug ( 5033 ) <[dvdeug] [at] [email.ro]> on Saturday July 09, 2005 @04:09AM (#13019683)
            From being in a society where the emphasis is on doing things that *do* work to benefit human beings, to being in one (the mainstream one) where the specific intention is to emphasise doing things which are detrimental to human beings.

            If our society is detrimental to human beings, why do they depend on us for medical care? They get their idyllic society at the cost of being dependent on our society. They don't have to fight, because we provide the military that protects them. And anyone too disruptive can be exiled to the real world. They need us to keep their world running.
            • by g2devi ( 898503 ) on Saturday July 09, 2005 @09:13AM (#13020362)
              > why do they depend on us for medical care?

              Think of it like a Debian user does.

              Debian has several repositories:
              * SID -- contains the latest and greatest, but it can be unstable and things may be
              * Testing -- contains those parts of SID that have been around a while don't seem to break anything
              * Stable -- contains those parts of Testing that have been around for a while and don't break things. Stable isn't updated that often, but receives constant security patches.

              Given this, let's describe how the Amish see it:
              * SID -- Geek enthusists who'll by anything new and shiny
              * Testing -- the rest of society who'll only use stuff that's actually useful
              * Stable -- Amish-like communities who'll only use generally available technology that is both useful and has a positive impact on their society.

              Now you might claim that the people who rely on Stable are in this privileged position because of all the people who use SID or Testing. You'd be right. But who cares? SID users are happy on the cutting edge, Testing users are happy with the less wild and wooly pace, Stable users are happy with the tried and true. Everyone wins.

            • by NoMoreNicksLeft ( 516230 ) <.john.oyler. .at. .comcast.net.> on Saturday July 09, 2005 @10:31AM (#13020761) Journal
              Nice to think that, though.

              They don't depend on us for medical care, if we withdrew it, they'd go on much as they have before modern medicine was available. They pay for it too, or do you think the AMA sends out doctors to Amishland to treat people for free, because they're all a bunch of big freeloaders? That they choose not to go to medical school themselves means little, did you insist that one of your own family go? Or maybe you're pissed that they don't do any medical research (hey bonehead, this article says that they're participating, in case you didn't notice). Well, if our superior capitalist system is doing its job, the cost of that research is factored in to the care that they pay for.

              They don't have to fight, you say? I know, I know. Everyone is nervous that Iraq will invade, and the Amish, well, they'll be sitting ducks. Wouldn't suprise me if that asshole Saddam launches scuds at them filled with kurdish nerve gas.

              And what about this exile thing? You obviously don't have a clue, but it's going to be so hard to inform you against your will. They allow people to voluntarily leave. They don't force anyone. Those that are disruptive (which happens very rarely) are usually shunned as I understand it. As long as they're willing to put up with that, nothing more happens. They don't do it for 3 weeks, and if the behavior still hasn't ended, they don't form a lynch mob and storm their house at night.

              They don't need us.
          • by Johnny Mnemonic ( 176043 ) <mdinsmore@gmail. c o m> on Saturday July 09, 2005 @06:46AM (#13019899) Homepage Journal

            Again, their society doesn't include things like illegal drug use (and hence, no drug-related crime.)

            Unfortunately, not quite true. [rickross.com] And while the perps may be idiosyncrasies, note who their customers were.

          • Right. They don't need to know about "emotional distance," because they live in a society where people from outside an immediate family group actually give a shit about each other. Strange concept, I know.

            The Amish, like all societies, have their problems. Gender issues, for example, are a big one. I hear that abused women face huge social stigmas if they try to seek help.

            I'm sure there's plenty of emotional distance in the Amish community.

            • If you think that is bad, check out how they deal with child molesters.

              http://www.amishabuse.com/ [amishabuse.com]

              The punishment for it is that no one speaks to the offender for a month. If a victim seeks "English" justice (as in lock up the SOB and throw away the key....) they are apt to be excommunicated. Since the Amish have good PR as moral and upstanding, the courts tend to go easy on them when this sort of thing DOES wind up in court.
          • Maybe I'm just playing devil's advocate now, but to me, that sounds a lot like communism. Not in the sense that the Amish society actually could be compared to communism, that is; but your description is akin to descriptions of communism in that it sounds good on paper, but leads to real problems when actually implemented that are conveniently ignored when a more theoretical description is given.

            Take, for example, the young man mentioned in a comment above who bought a laptop, and whose bishop took him and
          • Again, their society doesn't include things like illegal drug use (and hence, no drug-related crime.)...

            Not true. I live about 20 minutes from "Amish country". A few years ago, a very large crystal meth operation was busted... it was run by the Amish.

        • by rynthetyn ( 618982 ) on Saturday July 09, 2005 @03:50AM (#13019660) Journal
          Culturally, that part of the country is quite different whether you've grown up in the Amish community or not. My parents both come from the Lancaster/Lebanon county region in Pennsylvania, my mom's parents move to Florida when she was in highschool, leaving her older married siblings in PA. It's interesting to look at the part of the family who spent their whole life in one of those two counties as compared to the ones who moved away. The pace of life moves at a much slower tempo, the idea of buying your meat and produce at the weekly farm market is still alive and well, and in general their outlook on life hearkens back to an earlier time in American society.

          However, the Amish aren't so entirely isolated as you may think, you can't really escape the outside world, at least not anymore. They even retire to Florida like every other person in this country over a certain age does, there's a pretty large Amish community in Sarasota, Florida (not all retirees), a lot of the men work in construction jobs, which pay really well if you're a skilled craftsman. Incidentally, two of the people who went on Amish In The City had ties to Sarasota, one girl used to live there, another guy has been living there for a number of years, and given the quotes his friends gave the Sarasota paper, he definitely didn't have trouble adapting to life outside of the community (one friend was quoted as saying her first question to him when he got back was "who did you hook up with?")--that happens to be why I think the show was a joke, they pretended that the Amish on the show had never seen a city or seen the beach, but then they cast people who were living in a city right on the Gulf Coast of Florida, with beaches that people travel all the way from Europe just to visit.
        • You might have made me realize why I moved back to Nebraska after traveling the world. Thanks.
        • by dubious9 ( 580994 )
          They have not been "grown up and been socialized in isolation from mainstream society" as much as you might think. The world is all around them. I don't know if you've ever been to Amish country, but at least in Lancaster, PA, you can't really be isolated anymore.

          I know I alot of people that grew up there that played regularly with amish kids. The amish and mennonites would go to the local schools and participate in things like sports and other activities that were deemed acceptable. They know more th
        • You write it as if I should hear a subtle sarcasm when you state but that it is uncomfortable because of the presence of various kinds of evil presumed to be a property of the outside world, and conversely absent within the group.... this is one paragraph below where you tell us they have no sixth sense for crime and dangerous situations.

          And this, seems both frightening and hollow. I'm an atheist, and I'd never dream of giving up technology, but anyone who hasn't thought our society is hollow at least once
        • I have a feeling you're taking a too simple view of how the Old Order Mennonites (Amish) see themselves and the rest of the world.

          A little bit of reference, I am a Mennonite myself, I'm not Old Order but I have spent a number of years in close proximity to them plus a couple months learning specifically about their beliefs and values.

          It's not about good vs evil. Yes, the rest of the world are 'the others', people who do not believe as they do but it isn't about seeing them as evil or unenlightened. It wou
      • Unless the Amish person winds up hooking up with someone like Roy Munson and goes on a bowling for dollars winning streak....

        Ishmael Boorg: Whatcha doin', Mr. Munson?
        Roy: Flossin'.
        Ishmael Boorg: Flossin? Where the hell did I get "Munson"?
        Roy: The name's Munson, what I'm doin' is flossin'.

        God I love it!
    • Be careful out among the English, Ishmael [imdb.com].

    • by krunk4ever ( 856261 ) on Saturday July 09, 2005 @03:56AM (#13019665) Homepage
      if people are allowed to leave, are people allowed to join?

      a search on google gave me this:
      http://www.800padutch.com/atafaq.shtml#join [800padutch.com]

      "Can an outsider join the Amish church/community?"

      "A local Amishman recently remarked, "You do not need to move here to adopt a lifestyle of simplicity and discipleship. You can begin wherever you are." Yes, it is possible for outsiders, through conversion and convincement, to join the Amish community, but we must quickly add that it seldom happens. First, the Amish do not evangelize and seek to add outsiders to their church. Second, outsiders would need to live among the Amish and demonstrate a genuine conversion experience and faith that results in a changed lifestyle. Third, it is extremely difficult for anyone who has not been raised without electricity, automobiles, and other modern conveniences to adjust to the austere lifestyle of the Amish. And to truly be a part of the Amish community one would need to learn the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect."

  • Though probably known to few, may I suggest the population of South Towanda PA for such a study. Some may have heard of it, very special population, get to study genetics and a special language all in one shot.
    • Are you kidding? I would think that Dickson City wold be the prime example, *especially* for the language!

      "Hey, who closed the light? I was right in the middle of my sangwich, heyna? Where's that bah'el (bottle) of medsin? I got a sore troat! I got it when I went to Catlick church last week and I gotta go to da U (University of Scranton) for da Eetalyun (Italian) Festivahl!"

      Sadly, those outside of the coal region can't understand, but if they did they'd know that this would be +5 Accurate. :)
  • Evil plot? (Score:2, Funny)

    by RickPartin ( 892479 )
    Am I the only one that saw the headline and got a picture in my head of a mad scientist experimenting on the Amish? They would be the perfect target. Come to my lab, we're going to uh, cure cancer and stuff. Yup. Great fun that curing cancer is. Yep...
    • Re:Evil plot? (Score:3, Interesting)

      Not to ruin a perfectly good joke, but for whatever reason, the Amish seem pretty gung-ho for biotechnology and what not (at least in their embrace of GM crops and what not). Another reason may be the fact that the Amish also all descended from a few hundred Swiss Germans (who did and continue to marry within themselves) so they suffer from the founder effect. [wikipedia.org]

      According to the wikipedia article on the Amish, there was a 60 Minutes [cbsnews.com] piece some time ago about a clinic the Amish themselves set up in Ohio in o
      • The Hasidim are similar, in that they suffer from the founder effect, have been a great research population, and have set up internal systems to attempt to study and minimize inbreeding.
  • First hand knowledge (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pHatidic ( 163975 ) on Saturday July 09, 2005 @01:18AM (#13019387)
    One of the women who works there lives a couple doors down from me in CT. A bunch of years ago some of the Amish came over to her house to do build an addition, and they basically did it barn-raising style. Cool stuff. This has definitely been going on for 10+ years though.
    • by WidescreenFreak ( 830043 ) on Saturday July 09, 2005 @02:45AM (#13019552) Homepage Journal
      That's VERY common around here. Many Amish barn/shed builders guarantee to have your entire structure built in a single day regardless (to a certain extent) of the size. Obviously a full-sized barn can't be done in a day, but there are many Amish builders who will guarantee that smaller barns and large sheds will be up before sundown. They're very, VERY skilled woodsmiths. Amish furniture is some of the most durable that you can purchase as well.

      No, I don't work for any Amish marketing board. Really. :) When you live 30 minutes from Lancaster, you see these things frequently.
    • Impressive workmen. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by The Tyro ( 247333 ) * on Saturday July 09, 2005 @04:12AM (#13019687)
      When I was growing up, one of my relatives was a physician in eastern Ohio, and had some amish patients. He was pediatrician and a strong christian, which was something the amish greatly appreciated. As a result, many members of their community brought their children to see him.

      He mentioned in passing to one of them that he was thinking of remodeling his kitchen. The amish man immediately stated "we could do that for you."

      I was there when they came to redo the place... it was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. Two truckloads of people, men and women, and they worked from sunup to sundown, breaking only briefly for lunch. The workmanship was incredible... everything fit perfectly. They also put in all kinds of clever little gadgets; sliding racks for table leaves, concealed hangers for towels, pivoting shelves and rack for dishes and pots... I've been in million-dollar homes that didn't have a kitchen as nice.

      Whatever criticism are leveled at the amish, there's definitely nothing wrong their work ethic.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Over in Australia we have another group of people that are highly inbred, they live on the island state of Tasmania.

    There is even rumoured to exist the infamous "two-headed" Tasmanian which were thought to have been exterminated by the early settlers though the odd unconfirmed sighting is reported now and then.
  • The Amish (Score:5, Insightful)

    by petrus4 ( 213815 ) on Saturday July 09, 2005 @01:19AM (#13019389) Homepage Journal
    The Amish are an extremely important cultural group, IMHO. I'd be lost without my computer, but aside from that I consider them a positive example to the rest of us (at least in some respects) where sustainable living is concerned. I've believed for a while now that despite having had some people laugh at them, it may well be that the Amish themselves will have the last laugh once peak oil hits. Their lifestyle also has numerous sociological benefits as well. It's fairly self-evident that the level of communal interaction is higher among less technologically oriented societies, as well as overall levels of apathy being a good deal lower. People from such communities tend to care a great deal more about their fellow man, and on a day to day basis, as well...not just when disaster hits. The rest of human society could learn a lot from them.
    • Peak Oil (Score:5, Insightful)

      by josh3736 ( 745265 ) on Saturday July 09, 2005 @01:56AM (#13019455) Homepage
      I've believed for a while now that despite having had some people laugh at them, it may well be that the Amish themselves will have the last laugh once peak oil hits.
      I've read a lot (from both sides) about Peak Oil and I've come to the conclusion that while the end of oil is nigh, the end of the world and civilization is not. The thing that Peak theories fail to take into account is the fact that as the price of oil-derived energy rises, the attractiveness of alternate sources also rises. As more people switch to alternate fuel sources, there will be more incentive for companies to put resources into research and the economy of scale will take over after a while.

      So yeah, it's not a good time to buy a new car, but the gears of industry aren't exactly about to come to a screeching halt.

      Of course, depending on how rough the transition is, the Amish very well could have a lot to teach us.

      • While I agree that Peak Oil does not have to imply the end of civilization, I think the 'market forces' answer might be wrong.

        Let's say I'm making solar cells. The materials used much energy to produce, from refining to transporting workers to making factories and mining equipment. 9 out of fifteen calories on the workers plates came from oil based fertilizer. Some of this energy came from other sources, but most came from oil.

        My point is, if oil is sitting at $300 a barrel, all these costs propagate do

        • You're driving up the production cost of the solar panels but not of the solar energy itself.

          Over time even if the panels cost shitloads to make they'll pay for themselves, by producing energy at far lower running cost than the oil based alternatives (which would continue to increase in price in your doomsday scenario).

          OTOH they've been saying oil will run out for decades and they just keep finding more of it... I don't believe them this time either.
          • OTOH they've been saying oil will run out for decades and they just keep finding more of it... I don't believe them this time either.

            Perhaps not but watching the gas prices odometer up in a whirring blue tends to be a powerful convincer. The other thing you're missing that large so-called "second world" countries have large populations that want the big SUV too. Oil may not be about to run out but production can only be increased so much. So the supply may be fine but the demand is something else again
          • OTOH they've been saying oil will run out for decades and they just keep finding more of it... I don't believe them this time either.

            It's not that they are running out, just that what stocks remain are harder to extract, rasing the production costs dramatically. They went for the easy stuff first, obviously. Peak Oil is real, and WILL happen. The debate is simply when.

      • I agree with your first paragraph though it'll be several decades for oil to realy run out.

        But I think this is a good time to buy a new car and house and regfrigarator.

        Because (especially for Americans) chances are great you can get a car with like double the mileage, that you can get a house build that needs hardly any heating and a fridge that's considerably more afficient.
        Every time I visit the southern US I am amazed if not disturbed at how badly most buildings are insulated, they'll moan about the

    • Re:The Amish (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Eskarel ( 565631 ) on Saturday July 09, 2005 @02:35AM (#13019524)
      I agree with some of this, but it's not really fair to base communal interaction on this sort of society because it's a very insular and homogenious society.

      Every member of the Amish community is very much like every other member, religiously, ethnically, even gentically(hence this article). Those who disagree with their way of life probably leave the society, there is little conflict, but there is little difference also.

    • Re:The Amish (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mochan_s ( 536939 )

      Their lifestyle also has numerous sociological benefits as well. It's fairly self-evident that the level of communal interaction is higher among less technologically oriented societies, as well as overall levels of apathy being a good deal lower. People from such communities tend to care a great deal more about their fellow man, and on a day to day basis, as well...not just when disaster hits. The rest of human society could learn a lot from them.

      A professor mine used to say that if you used things like

      • if you used things like it's self-evident and obvious before a leap of logic, anything could be justified.

        Which means that to get a valid argument you have to put the word after the leap of logic, obviously.

        -- Terrorism may have turned the United States into a nation of fear and aggression, but it won't succeed in Europe.
      • You probably haven't experienced too many "simpler" cultures. I think the grandparent is right. Modern Western society gives us far too much "stuff" to do, and spending quality time with family and neighbors has pretty much gone down the drain. How many of us actually even know more than a couple of our neighbors?

        I've been in small communities in Central America and have seen the lifestyles of people who don't have much, but have each other. IMHO they probably have far richer lives overall than most Ame
  • Amish Paradise (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ranger ( 1783 ) on Saturday July 09, 2005 @01:26AM (#13019399) Homepage
    illustrating why they are not just mindless kneejerk technophobes."

    As opposed to mindless kneejerk slashdot technophiles?

    Anyway time to get out Weird Al's Amish Paradise. [com-www.com]
    • Ahh, thanks to that song, particularly the line "Jebediah feeds the chickens", my sister and brother (who's name is Jedidiah), found themselves having to explain to my sister's hockey teammates that no, we are not Amish. I guess the fact that we drove a car and that my sister was playing on a guy's hockey team wasn't enough proof for them.
  • Now please... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jerk City Troll ( 661616 ) on Saturday July 09, 2005 @02:11AM (#13019479) Homepage

    illustrating why they are not just mindless kneejerk technophobes.

    ...seriously, tell us how you really feel.

  • by Baldrson ( 78598 ) * on Saturday July 09, 2005 @03:22AM (#13019619) Homepage Journal
    1. The Amish have an incidence of autism [google.com] that is less than 1/10th of the general population of the US.
    2. The Hutterites, even more inbred than the Amish, have been the highest growth rate, both population and economic, group of any Protestant heritage group -- including the Mormons.
    3. The Hutterites have a far lower rate of deliterious recessive disease expression than should be expected given their level of inbreeding. U of Chicago researchers who have been tracking their geneaologies for decades hypothesize Hutterite females must have some means of detecting when a Hutterite male has matching deliterious recessives.
    4. The Amish were forced into the cash economy when the government forbade their midwives from deliving their children. This had a traumatic effect according to friends of mine whose families have lived as neighbors to the Amish for generations.
    5. In case it slipped anyone's attention: mutations are typically recessive so if you want to see really novel evolution in action you are less likely to see it through cross breeding than through inbreeding. Yes, you'll see a lot more junk just because that's what mutations usually produce... but...
    • It would be appreciated by all if you did not call the Mormons Protestant. I will start by saying that no one considers them Protestant: Christians by and large consider them to be non-Christians (and therefore non-Protestant); they consider themselves a unique denominational class and neither Protestant, Catholic, Coptic, nor Orthodox.

      I hope you noticed that I was neutral in the above paragraph: I pulled their claim to be non-Protestant off of their own website and I'm trying to be informative and not

      • Christians by and large consider them to be non-Christians


        The above statement means little. Creationists of belief X usually consider Creationists of belief Y (where Y != X) to be lost sheep, damned, etc.

        A Google search for "are mormons christians" leads to some interesting reading. They seem to consider themselves to be Christians but the bigger kids on the block would rather not invite them to play.

      • Any follower of the teachings of Jesus Christ is a Christian. That's what the word means and no amount of wordplay is gonna change that.
    • ... U of Chicago researchers who have been tracking their geneaologies for decades hypothesize Hutterite females must have some means of detecting when a Hutterite male has matching deliterious recessives.

      Yeah, everyone is disgusted with incest and it's built into everyone. Why would the Hutterite females need a super sense?

      Marriage and mating is the most intricate of all social practices. Maybe the Hutterite has a mate selection system that minimizes the effects of interbreeding.

      Interbreeding is

    • Inbreeding weeds out the most dangerous recessives. But the really interesting minority to study is icelanders. Those genealogical records of theirs were in part kept to prevent inbreeding, which has been a big taboo since the vikings. I believe it was the law of Magnus Lagabøter which forbade marriages between fifth cousins or closer relatives.
    • I think the first point proves that autism has more to do with upbringing/environment than genes. As the Wired article tells, the Amish value social relations a lot more than typical Westerners do.
    • The Amish have an incidence of autism [google.com] that is less than 1/10th of the general population of the US.

      Widely believed to be a result of thimerosol (Largely Mercury) in vaccines. One Amish community studied for Autism had only 4 cases. 1 child had large exposure to mercury while really young, and the other 3 had been vaccinated when they were babies.

      http://salon.com/news/feature/2005/06/16/thimerosa l/index_np.html [salon.com]

    • I worked at the National INstitutes of Health (NIH) in Washington, D.C. the "Meca" of medical science research in the world, in the early 90's. The lab I was in did some early stuff on the Human Genome project, and we mainly looked at inherited heart disease - specifically hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM).

      HCM means - hypertrophic=increased, cardio=heart myopathy=sick muscle, so patients have a heart who's muscle becomes so thick , that it interpheres with its normal function, and the people can get cond

  • The Amish, famous for their renunciation of a lot of technology, are embracing a lab that has been built in the centre of their community because their faith teaches them to "help their fellow man", recognizing that helping scientists better understand the genetic causes of diabetes, mental retardation, and some of the rarer diseases in their families, helps themselves as well as others.

    From the article it says, "To the Amish, many of whom travel the few dozen miles or so from their homes by horse and

    • better understand the genetic causes of diabetes


      Have SEEN how much candy and sweets these people eat? I would not be surprised if the result of this study was the finding that mass consumption of sweets was as genetically altering as smoking tobacco products. It seems that society replaces one vice with invented others.


  • Women? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by OutOfMyTree ( 810249 )
    The ability of people to write about a "community" without looking at women's lives is amazing (Do a count in any issue of National Geographic). Presumably half the Amish are female, but what do we learn of their experience of technology in these stories? Browsing around more widely, it certainly doesn't look like their invisibility is because they enjoy the same type of lives as the men.

    It would shed a great deal of light on the Amish if we were told what modern technology is considered acceptable for hou
  • The Gentle People (Score:4, Interesting)

    by whatever3003 ( 536979 ) <AliceViaWonderland@@@gmail...com> on Saturday July 09, 2005 @06:48AM (#13019905)
    After reading this article [legalaffairs.org] I was horrified at the new insights about these bizarre people.

    The article tells of systematic rape and abuse with no punishment, and with generations of incest producing an inbred and backwards society, condoned by the american govt. giving them the legal right to police themselves, dealing out their own justice where they see fit.

    After reading the entirety of the article, it would be hard to dismiss this as an isolated case, but if you do and still consider that they represent some noble return-to-basics society and that their rejection of technology is somehow endearing, there are other [abcnews.com] sources [go.com], and a dedicated blog [myblogsite.com] that may help to change your mind.

    • Take what you read with a grain of salt and be aware of what agenda the writer is trying to push.

      No matter where you go in the world, some communities have more problems than others. I know of an Amish community near to where I lived that in that in 20 years the biggest crime that occured was one incident of spousal abuse that was dealt with by due process and resulted in excommunication and expulsion from the community of the offending individual.

      There are bad examples, and there are good examples, don't
  • by daigu ( 111684 ) on Saturday July 09, 2005 @09:01AM (#13020313) Journal

    I remember reading a story - I believe it appeared in the Plain Reader [amazon.com] - that talked about the Amish approach to technology:

    A bus load of tourists were visiting Amish country. At some point in their journey, someone on the tour asked an Amish elder what it means to be Amish.

    The elder started explaining about Jesus Christ - but before he got too far, he was stopped. "We know all about that, but what does it mean to be Amish?" He stopped, and thought for a moment.

    He then asked everyone on the tour, "How many of you have television sets?" Every hand went up. Then, "How many of you believe that television has a negative impact on your relationships with your family, your community and with God?" Most hands went up. He then asked, "Believing that television has a negative impact on your relationships, how many of you would give up television?" No hands went up.

    "That's what it means to be Amish."

  • Amish (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 09, 2005 @09:21AM (#13020388)
    I find the Amish the most interesting people in the US.

    The main misconception is the Amish hate technology. This is not true. They just do not want technology to control them.

    I'll give an example, if a vehicle can go faster than a horse it is banned. Why is this? Because people can then travel great distances and migrate away. Why is this a problem? Its a problem because it breaks up families. You know what, looking at my family that is precisely what happened! This is the main intention to take the rubber off the wheels of wagons ... it makes them go slower.

    The Amish do not like electricity because it comes from the grid. In other words, it makes people dependent on others. So, you can go into a store and the ceiling fan will be run from air pressure. Yep, there is a gas pump pumping air to make the fan go around. Little tubes all over the ceiling. The pump might be running vegetable oil. Or they can store fuel ... the point is they are in control.

    What is interesting is I saw some Amish using power tools. Yet, the tools were plugged into a portable generator and not the grid.

    If there is a telephone it is outside the home. Why is that? Because strangers are not allowed inside the home. You have to get permission to use the phone and go outside. You see, technology is not in control again. Having a t.v. in the house is like inviting in a child abuser...and it is!

    In the 60s, the US government tried to take over Amish schools and force their children to public schools. They fought that and won. See, more control...there was another school system in place before the feds and the 60s school take overs.

    Its very nostalgic to see a horse drawn cart harvesting a field of corn. No gas used and totally independent.

    They still have 5-6 children per family. So, in another century they will probably be a majority of the population in their state. Not dependent on immigrants to flip burgers. Again they are in control.

    What's great is $60 oil, electric grid going out, router down ... it just does not matter. They are totally independent. This flies in the face with todays elite trying to make everyone 'interdependent'. I find it fascinating.

  • Just for reference not all Mennonites live in closed communities, their active members of their communities, they buy and use technology and frequently marry people from outside their church, their pretty normal and no they don't marry their cousins, atleast no more than any other group of americans.... IF you think it's weird for a woman to wear a dress she sewed, she might think it's weird that another woman paid $300 for some jeans that a poor child was paid $0.20 to make.
  • by bmasel ( 129946 ) <bmasel@@@tds...net> on Saturday July 09, 2005 @11:23PM (#13024507) Journal
    9 years ago I organised Weedstock, a 3 day benefit for NORML, and "Agricultural Educational Event" in Monroe County, Wisconsin. The rural area is heavily amish, tho our host was not.

    The County authorities reluctantly acknowledged our 1st Amendment right to hold the event, but sought ways to agressively enforce the marijuana laws with "traffic' stops of those entering and leaving. They sought to use the Amish neighbors' land as staging and surveillance posts, but were refused.

    I later heard from our host that he'd met with the 80 odd year old bishop, who, on hearing of our advocacy of reintroducing hemp as a fiber crop, went on a tirade against the Federal Government's ban on this useful plant, which his people had used extensively, especially for handwoven clothing.

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