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

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  • Laurence D. Krute
    From: Jeremy Bowman ... There is an excellent and even moving view of the process of how an essentially random cross-section of Germans
    Message 1 of 15 , Mar 31, 2003
      From: "Jeremy Bowman" <bowman@...>

      >Aleks Jakulin:
      >
      >> But religion is not necessary in this context,
      >> as Girish stressed, and neither is anger, the
      >> crucial is the state of *war*. People have
      >> probably evolved to be good soldiers, just
      >> like ants and bees. In war, sacrifice is not as
      >> incomprehenible. It's the 'esprit de corps,'
      >> which hasn't been explored much in casual
      >> psychology.

      There is an excellent and even moving view of the process of how an essentially random cross-section of Germans came to take part in the Holocaust, during the period of personal, face-to-face killing in Christopher Browning, Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battlaion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland. This is a highly nuanced account of the range of motivations and responses, based on direct testimony.
      SNIP

      >-- Can anyone think of even a SINGLE case of suicide-for-political-motives
      >(terrorism, hunger strikes ending in death, etc.) in which close family
      >members of the deceased did NOT stand to make significant gains in money,
      >social status, future prospects, fame, etc.?

      Buddhist monks immolating themselves in protest against the American war in Vietnam. My understanding is that your karma doesn't carry over to anyone else and there was no economic pay-off nor even lasting societal recognition of these people as martyr/heroes.

      Larry Krute

      --
      Dr. Laurence Krute
      Associate Professor (Second Languages, ESL, Multicultural ED)
      School of Education
      Manhattanville College
      2900 Purchase Street Purchase, NY 10577
      voice:914 323-5141
      fax:914 323-5493
      --
    • Ian Pitchford
      Jeremy Bowman wrote: I m interested in the question because I wonder how effective blocking benefit to kin might be. The families of Palestinian suicide
      Message 2 of 15 , Apr 1, 2003
        Jeremy Bowman wrote:

        I'm interested in the question because I wonder how effective "blocking"
        benefit to kin might be. The families of Palestinian suicide bombers are
        said to get $25,000 from the Iraqi government -- what if that dried up?
        ______

        REPLY: As the homes of alleged suicide bombers are routinely demolished by the
        Israeli authorities, payments to the families could be viewed as compensation
        rather than as a benefit. In the Arab world these payments are often seen as
        humanitarian aid, not as an incentive for terrorism. Iraq has also donated
        money to the families of those killed during the IDF's attacks in Gaza.

        This is from the annual report of Human Rights Watch:

        "Israeli forces continued to demolish punitively the homes of families of
        alleged suicide bombers or other members of armed Palestinian groups. According
        to B'Tselem, more than eighty-one homes had been punitively demolished from
        January 1 to November 17, 2002. These acts violated international humanitarian
        law provisions prohibiting collective punishment. Other dwellings were
        destroyed for alleged security purposes. According to the Gaza-based
        Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), 613 dwellings were destroyed by IDF
        forces in Gaza from September 2000 to September 25, 2002, leaving more than
        four thousand individuals homeless. The PCHR reported some seventeen thousand
        dunums of agricultural land were forcibly cleared during the same period.
        Israeli authorities also confiscated Palestinian lands to expand Israeli
        settlements and for the construction of bypass roads. On May 20, the Israeli
        group Peace Now reported that fifteen new settlement sites had been established
        since the election of Prime Minister Sharon in February 2002 in contravention
        of international humanitarian law. In August, Peace Now reported that eight new
        settlements had been established in that month alone. On September 19,
        outspoken settlement supporter Effie Eitam was appointed minister of national
        infrastructure. Two weeks later, Defense Minister and Labor leader Benyamin
        Ben-Eliezer ordered the dismantling of some eighteen unauthorized settlement
        outposts, the majority uninhabited, before resigning from government on October
        28.

        More land was confiscated, and de-facto borders re-defined, as Israel began the
        construction of a "security fence" over 116 kilometers of the northern West
        Bank, along--but not contiguous with--the Israeli border. Over ten thousand
        Palestinian inhabitants were expected to be affected as their villages became
        caught within the proposed fence.

        On September 3, the Supreme Court upheld the forcible relocation of two family
        members of an alleged suicide bomber from the West Bank to Gaza for two years.
        The court's decision limited the application of the punishment to individuals
        who themselves constituted a security danger to the state. The determinations
        were made in administrative proceedings, based on secret evidence unavailable
        to the defendants and their counsel. Similarly, the right to trial was denied
        to Nahad Abu Kishaq, whose Israeli citizenship was revoked by the minister of
        the interior on the basis of Kishaq's alleged involvement in Hamas attacks
        against civilians.

        According to B'Tselem, Israeli settlers in the Occupied Territories killed at
        least twelve Palestinian civilians from January to October 2002, and injured
        dozens more. Settlers attacked Palestinian homes, fields, cars and other
        property, and blocked major roads with unofficial checkpoints. On July 28,
        settlers from Kiryat Arba in Hebron killed two Palestinian children and injured
        at least fifteen others as they attacked and burned houses in Hebron following
        the funeral of two settlers killed by Palestinian gunmen two days earlier.
        Settler attacks against Palestinian civilians and civilian property were rarely
        prevented or halted by the Israeli authorities, and were particularly acute
        during the October-November olive harvest season."

        http://www.hrw.org/wr2k3/mideast5.html

        Ian Pitchford PhD CBiol MIBiol
        Editor, Evolutionary Psychology http://human-nature.com/ep/
        Editor, Human Nature Review http://human-nature.com/
      • Aleks Jakulin
        From: Jeremy Bowman ... By now, there have been several explanations, and I ll try to summarize them in brief: - Mental plasticity allows
        Message 3 of 15 , Apr 1, 2003
          From: "Jeremy Bowman" <bowman@...>
          > -- OK, in that case I'll have to weaken my original claim. I accept that
          > there isn't a strict connection between suicide and benefit to siblings, in
          > the sense that not every suicide actually benefits kin. But I'd maintain
          > that suicidal behaviour among the childless was probably selected for
          > because of benefit to siblings (and other close kin).

          By now, there have been several explanations, and I'll try to summarize them in
          brief:
          - Mental plasticity allows us to accept both fitness-increasing memes and
          fitness-decreasing memes (ideology, religion)
          - Obedience (authority)
          - Retaliatiative behavior (anger)
          - (in the context of war): In the past, soldiers on one side were usually kin.
          Selfless behavior for the best of the team is fitness-increasing, if the team is
          kin (esprit de corps, denial of danger)

          and finally:
          - Rational cost-benefit calculations (for which we have seen a lot of evidence
          against)

          Aleks
        • Pete Carlton
          I ve been lurking for a while, and I thought I d jump into this thread. I thought I d mention what Steven Pinker gives as his take on the evolutionary
          Message 4 of 15 , Apr 1, 2003
            I've been lurking for a while, and I thought I'd jump into this thread.
            I thought I'd mention what Steven Pinker gives as his take on the
            evolutionary rationale of some cases of suicide.

            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.

            Perhaps it isn't the suicide itself, but the potential deterrence
            caused by the threat of revenge, that has given benefit in the past.
            In order for the threat of revenge to be credible, it can't be faked.
            An uncontrollable thirst for taking revenge, even at the expense of
            one's one life, is a very strong deterrent to potential enemies and
            thus can be selected for genetically. For every person who is
            triggered to suicide/revenge by an insult, there must be many more who
            were spared an insult precisely because of the real risk that they
            might take revenge no matter what the cost to them. The benefits of
            being spared an insult due to this credible threat must outweigh the
            costs of the occasional triggering of the suicide/revenge mechanism.

            Some of this is built into us genetically (we all feel the impulse to
            take revenge when we're slighted), but it can be enhanced culturally
            (the suicide-bomber meme has become an important player in the middle
            east today, for instance). It is certainly a fitness-decreasing meme
            for young men to accept, but only if the suicide is actually carried
            out. In my view, some people have encouraged the spread of this meme
            to benefit from the fact that others will carry out suicide/revenge,
            but the reason it can spread so well is because it ties in to a
            preexisting genetic impulse.

            Well, this is what I've taken from Pinker's "How the Mind Works". I
            think it nicely explains why sometimes people take revenge despite it
            being against their own short-term interests to do so; and suicide
            terrorism is an extreme case of this.
          • David Wilmsen
            I believe the figure is $2,500. There had been suicide bombings in Palestine and elsewhere long before Iraq started offering money to the families of some of
            Message 5 of 15 , Apr 1, 2003
              I believe the figure is $2,500.

              There had been suicide bombings in Palestine and elsewhere long
              before Iraq started offering money to the families of some of the
              latest bombers. I doubt that a drying up of funds would stem the
              tide of people willing to engage in such acts. They are
              motivated by other considerations than money.

              David Wilmsen
              Arabic and Translation Studies
              The American University in Cairo
            • Joao Sousa
              ... 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
              Message 6 of 15 , Apr 1, 2003
                >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).
              • Roger Masters
                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
                Message 7 of 15 , Apr 3, 2003
                  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).
                • Roger D. Masters
                  ... Anyone on this list interested in going deeply into the psychology of terrorism? ... Mark: There are (as always) several levels of analysis. Psychology --
                  Message 8 of 15 , Apr 3, 2003
                    --- You wrote:
                    Anyone on this list interested in going deeply into the psychology of
                    terrorism?
                    --- end of quote ---
                    Mark:

                    There are (as always) several levels of analysis. Psychology -- AT THE INDIVIDUAL LEVEL -- may often refect the personality type known as "antisocial" personality: that is, those humans who feel no emotional response at harming or killing others (that is, someone who kills a child with as much feeling as most of us kill a mosquito biting our arm on a hot summer day). On a biological pathway to this personality type, reflecting to co-occurrence of a genotype (the MAO A nul mutant) and an environmental event at a specific stage of development (child abuse under the age of one year), see:

                    Caspi, et all, "Role of Genotype in the Cycle of Violence in Maltreated Children," SCIENCE (2 Aug. 2002), pp. 851-853.

                    This article is especially important because it illustrates clearly how the "nature-nurture" dichotomy is no longer terribly useful. On the one hand, gene-environment-development interactions often matter; on the other, many phenotypic traits can be produced by more than one causal pathway.

                    It's also important to use language carefully. Usury may be cruel and nasty in some cases. It is NOT the same thing as torturing prisoners or flying an airplane into the World Trade Towers.

                    rdm
                  • Steven D'Aprano
                    ... Well that depends on the specifics. If your cruel and nasty usury ends up killing 300,000 people over ten years (to pluck a number out of the air) then
                    Message 9 of 15 , Apr 4, 2003
                      On Fri, 4 Apr 2003 13:34, Roger D. Masters wrote:

                      > It's also important to use language carefully. Usury may be cruel
                      > and nasty in some cases. It is NOT the same thing as torturing
                      > prisoners or flying an airplane into the World Trade Towers.

                      Well that depends on the specifics. If your cruel and nasty usury ends
                      up killing 300,000 people over ten years (to pluck a number out of the
                      air) then isn't it worse than killing 3000 people in the space of a few
                      hours?

                      The world did not hesitate to allow the USA to strike back at the people
                      who arranged for the planes to be flown into the WTC, but they turn a
                      blind eye at those whose hands are equally bloody but more discrete.



                      --
                      Steven D'Aprano
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