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24124Re: [evol-psych] Re: Suicide terrorism revisited

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  • Roger Masters
    Apr 3, 2003
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      I believe that the dialogue on suicide terrorism is of the greatest importance,
      BUT that the discussion has hitherto been far too narrow. Key factors in kin
      selected altruism among other species are: FIRST, population demography (more
      likely where there is: high birthrate, low per capita "investment" of
      resources, low life expectancy; less likely with inverse demography of low
      birthrate, high per capita investment, long life expectancy. SECOND: between
      group competition for non-divisible resources (two bands of primates competing
      for the ONLY water source in the region; two human populations fighting over
      non-divisible resources AND/OR norms that underlie the basic structure of
      entire social systems of both groups).

      EXPLANATION OF AL QAEDA. "ISLAMIST" societies are in part based on view that
      Christianity is a false religion because Christians now accept the separation
      of church and state (developed by the Egyption theologian Al Qatb), which means that the
      introduction of a Western market economy -- with its individualistic view of
      choice -- is subversive of the entire religious/social/economic structure
      desired for society. To get an idea, it's useful to compare Osama bin Laden
      and Al Qaeda with the original Puritans in Mass. Bay. (Note that after the
      reformation, Christians worshipping the "Prince of Peace" in different ways
      killed each other over just such a non-divisible conflict).

      Factors such as payments to kin (phenotypic pay-offs that are modelled in kin
      selection) or ideology (notably the 70 virgins in paradise which also are
      modelled on kin selection), along with more prosaic social indoctrination
      focused on revenge (Hatfields vs. McCoys), are ways of satisfying the functional
      requisites of a behavior that BECOMES adaptive under defined circumstances. That is, one needs to look at behaviors (including cognitively mediated motivations) as means of satisfying functional consequences. This is important because often there is more than one way to satisfy a functional requisite for kin selection (just as there is more than one way to drive from Boston to Chicago).

      Explanations solely in terms of GENES or solely in terms of INDOCTRINATION
      merely replicate the "nature-nurture dichotomy" -- and that dichotomy is as
      relevant as the Flat Earth model of geography (i.e., it's OK for your back
      yard, but don't use it elsewhere). Combinations of different causal factors are increasingly evident in all manner of human social behavior as is increasingly evident in such fields as medicine and toxicology.

      roger masters
      --- You wrote:
      >Joao Sousa wrote:
      > >I saw some days ago in TV an Iraqi old man saying in tears and anger he
      > >will become a suicide terrorist to revenge his children who were killed
      > >during this war ..<snip>.. Since his children were already dead, I
      >wonder how is this
      > >fits in your kin selection hypothesis.

      Pete Carlton answered:

      >Perhaps it isn't the suicide itself, but the potential deterrence
      >caused by the threat of revenge, that has given benefit in the past.

      That's fine to explain the impulse of revenge, but relevant selective
      pressures in the past must be taken into account. What genes would benefit
      from this deterrence? Genes in close kin? Interesting, but these kin should
      be alive and with good reproductive prospects to generate a significant
      inclusive fitness (IF) benefit. In the case of long-lasting rivalries
      between large family clans (such as in Sicilian mafias or Yanomamo parties)
      even deterrence benefiting a large number of distant kin (belonging to the
      clan) could produce a significant IF benefit, and this could explain
      revenge at these levels. That's fine. However, even in these cases, it is
      hard to see how *suicide* could be included in the repertoire of such
      adaptations. How often situations arose in ancestral environments in which
      suicide would promote a better deterrence than, say, aggression without
      suicide? How often near or distant kin were really benefiting? My guess is
      that such revenge adaptations do exist, but their 'triggering' in modern
      war situations, promoting sacrifice for country, ethnic group, religion,
      etc, are not adaptive in modern times (they hardly if at all produce a real
      IF benefit).
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