Friday, July 13, 2007

Politically Incorrect Human Nature

Politically incorrect. Why is it always a smoke screen for factually incorrect? Or rude as fuck?  That's all people mean when the say politically incorrect.
So what does that have to do with Psychology Today? Glad you asked.
Psychology Today: Ten Politically Incorrect Truths About Human Nature
Human behavior is a product both of our innate human nature and of our individual experience and environment. In this article, however, we emphasize biological influences on human behavior, because most social scientists explain human behavior as if evolution stops at the neck and as if our behavior is a product almost entirely of environment and socialization. In contrast, evolutionary psychologists see human nature as a collection of psychological adaptations that often operate beneath conscious thinking to solve problems of survival and reproduction by predisposing us to think or feel in certain ways. Our preference for sweets and fats is an evolved psychological mechanism. We do not consciously choose to like sweets and fats; they just taste good to us.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. We like candy. Big fraking shock. What's the list?
  1. Men like blond bombshells (and women want to look like them)
  2. Humans are naturally polygamous
  3. Most women benefit from polygyny, while most men benefit from monogamy
  4. Most suicide bombers are Muslim
  5. Having sons reduces the likelihood of divorce
  6. Beautiful people have more daughters
  7. What Bill Gates and Paul McCartney have in common with criminals
  8. The midlife crisis is a myth—sort of
  9. It's natural for politicians to risk everything for an affair (but only if they're male)
  10. Men sexually harass women because they are not sexist

I can't comment in too much depth on most of them, but here's a few comments:
1. I'm not that fond of them. The main point of attractiveness is the bonds you make with faces as a child. My own wife is shortish and brunette.
7. They're over their prime by their mid-30's. Look, rock and roll is a young man's game. Iconoclastic folks are always going to skew younger; but master craftsmen, they're older and more mature. Might want to check out some ideas on later borns vs first borns and that sort of stuff.
2., 3., 9., 10. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Sex affects what we do. Big whoop. You wanna fight about it. If you've read anything about evolution at this point you know there is a bit of game theory that goes on in sexual pairings. We're only somewhat polygamous. Also, men don't benefit most from monogamy, in a genetic sense they benefit from monogamy with copious cheating that they don't get caught at. As long as no-one else does it on them. All of this is a gross oversimplification of principles with a pastiche of cruddy stereotypes mind-melding a few pub jokes..
These are looked at by better than I here, here, and here.
Whoa. Number 4 jumps out at me. The majority of suicide bombers are Muslim. Sure I believe that. I mean who flew the planes into the World Trade Centre? Uneducated, oppressed, Iraqi Islamofascists, that's who. [muffled speaking off stage] No? They were what? They were Muslim, right? I can leave that in?
Okay, so are the majority of suicide bombers Muslims.
Let's check in with Dr Robert Pape of the University of Chicago, author of Dying to Win:
2006 AFA Air & Space Conference - Dr. Robert Pape
Over the last few years I’ve compiled the first complete database of every suicide terrorist attack around the world from 1980 to early 2004, and then I’ve recently updated that database for the crucial case of Iraq through the end of 2005. I defined suicide terrorism in the classic sense that you would expect of an attacker killing himself or herself in the course of a mission to kill others. The core database includes 315 completed suicide terrorist attacks by 462 suicide terrorists who actually killed themselves. There’s more terrorists than attacks because many of the attacks were team attacks.

The data shows that Islamic Fundamentalism is not as closely associated with suicide terrorism as many people think. Overall during this period there were 315 completed suicide terrorist attacks worldwide. The world leader is the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. They’re not an Islamic group at all. They’re a Marxist group, a secular group, a Hindu group. The Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka have done more suicide terrorists attacks than Hammas or Islamic Jihad. Further, at least 30 percent of Muslim suicide attacks are by secular groups such as the PKK in Turkey. Overall at least 50 percent of suicide attacks are not associated with Islamic Fundamentalism.
Instead of religion what nearly all suicide terrorists attacks have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal, to compel a democratic state to withdraw combat forces – I don’t mean advisors with side arms, I mean tanks, fighter aircraft and armored vehicles – from territory the terrorists consider to be their homeland or prize greatly. From Lebanon to the West Bank to Sri Lanka to Chechnya to Kashmir, every suicide terrorist campaign since 1980 has been waged by terrorist groups whose main goal has been to establish self determination for territory they prize.

Is there a pattern to the data, Doctor?
Three general patterns in the data support my conclusions. The first concerns the timing of suicide terrorist attacks. Suicide terrorism rarely occurs as an isolated, scattered or random event as it would if it were merely the product of religious fanaticism or any ideology independent of a circumstance. Instead, the attacks tend to occur in clusters that look very much like campaigns. And specifically, 301 of the 315 attacks occur in coherent, organized strategic campaigns the terrorist groups design for specific, mainly political goals. Only five percent of the attacks are random or isolated.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting I can explain every suicide attack, but I am suggesting that the patterns I’m about to show you do account for 95 percent of all suicide attacks.

Got anything else? Thanks for asking. I have dug up a couple of things:
Probing the Minds of the Bombers
Professor Robert A. Pape who teaches international relations at the University of Chicago carried out a research study on what the US State Department calls ‘Suicide Terrorism’ for two years between 2003 and 2005. Pape headed the ‘Chicago Project on Suicide Terrorism’ as its director.

Regions studied
Palestine/Israel, Lebanon, entire Middle East, Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Kashmir, Sri Lanka,
Size of the Study, age, ideology and gender of the bombers:
* Pape established 462 individuals in his “universe” of suicide terrorists available for analytical purposes.
* Hezbollah suicide bombers in the period 1982-1986 were 71% Christian, 21% Communist/Socialist, 8% Islamist.
* In general, the study says, suicide terrorists are in their early 20s. Females are fewer in Islamist groups: “Islamist fundamentalism may actually reduce the number of suicide terrorists by discouraging certain categories of individuals”. Female suicide terrorists tend to be older than male.
* The survey in Lebanon identified 38 of the 41 attackers. Thirty of them were affiliated to groups opposed to Islamic fundamentalism. Three were not clearly associated with ideology. All 38 were native Lebanese. The book contains pictures of four women suicide attackers; all are dressed in Western clothes with stylish haircuts and even make-up.
* There is no documented mental illness in any case of suicide terrorism, though there are 16 cases of personal trauma (e.g. the loss of a loved one). Arab suicide terrorists are in general better educated than average and are from the working or middle classes. “They resemble the kind of politically conscious individuals who might join a grassroots movement more than they do wayward adolescents or religious fanatics”
Pape’s statistics “definitively show that people are attacked by suicide car bombs not because of who they are or what they believe, as Presidents Clinton and Bush have been saying to the American people.” Instead, “people use car bombs to attack occupying powers. This war is about what we do in the world, not who we are.”
Motivation for the suicide bombers:
The study says ‘the taproot of suicide terrorism is nationalism’ and “at bottom suicide terrorism is a strategy for national liberation from foreign occupation by a democratic state”. In 1978 the United Nations General Assembly recognised “the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence ... from ... foreign occupation by all available means, particularly armed struggle”

And an NPR story on the same thing here.
And some info on the book Dying to Win here.
Oh, and the Economist had this to say.
If this is a campaign and isn't Islam based, then No. 4 is basically bunkum without explanatory power, or at least can't tell us more than some of the influences on someone who agrees to join one campaign in one part of the world. Well I guess that's that then.
This is what reality looks like. Deal.

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