The Science of Terrorism

I don’t often post political minded comments but I’d like to share some thoughts on how unspeakable acts of terror can occur (rather than just saying “there’s evil people out there”) and then progress to some hopeful thoughts on how it can be eradicated.

Tribal mentality is ‘us’ versus ‘them’. Humans have strong instincts to keep our tribes safe and wipe out others. We know now beyond all shadow of a doubt that other types of early humans existed alongside us and funnily enough none of them are here today — probably because we killed them after we appeared 200,000 years ago in the fossill record. Evidence from a human/neanderthal hybrid found 30,000–40,000 years ago suggests that humans emerged in Europe killed the neanderthal males and had sex with the females (sound familiar?) hence 1–4% neanderthal DNA found within the human genome.

Thanks to our rather large neocortex, humans are creative, curious and often fearful which leads to belief systems and eventually brutality. We find evidence of it everywhere. We dig up medieval girls suffering from ailments like scurvy who have been dismembered, staked into the ground laid to rest under heavy stones to prevent them from rising from the dead. We couldn’t explain the illness so we just murdered them because they are no longer one of ‘us’ and so they must be cursed. Witch hunts still exist today in Indonesia and Africa and they are every bit as brutal as before.

We also see it in sports when fans with a sense of belonging feel the need to do battle with rival fans and kill each other over a ball game.

Tribal mentality also gives rise to racism (race cannot be defined scientifically), fundamentalists and such. These occurences are almost always based on superstitious beliefs (I consider religion and superstition one and the same). And so what helped us dominate the globe before is a blistering thorn in our side today as an advancing space age race.

Prolific extremist groups like the ISIS and the Colorado christians murdering people at abortion clinics exist festering in the dark recesses, closed off from society like ticking time bombs.

Nothing cleans better than light and the advent of social media could be a ray of antisceptic UV the world needs. Social media has been employed to debunk slanted news and may well kill tribe mentality one day in the future. Even the prized daughter of the notoriously hateful Westboro Church, who went on twitter to put out hate, was eventually turned around through online conversations — even at the expense of turning against her whole family.

Some more hopeful news is that religion is slowly dying out. Religious institutions have notoriously based themselves on limiting information.

That’s quite a tough thing to do in the age of increased communications. Like all social economical trends, they are mathmatical by nature. Indeed mathematicians have studied 9 countries all following the same curve towards religious extinction.

That’s why we should be reaching out to extremists. It takes a person with unimaginable grace to do it but there is humanity there still. Misinformed people destroying their lives in the hope of after life glory need saving, not bombing.

If we want to do something other than changing our profile picture then we should all be shining the light of one humanity and seeking out those who are different instead of accumulating in tribes.

My perspective is a unique one due to my international upbringing and I couldn’t be more thankful for it. I don’t have a sports team, a place, or even a country I identify with. I’m just me. I love using our human talents for good by learning and creating and I wish the best for all — including extremists — because the best for them is to snap out of their intellectual ruts before they waste their lives on hatred, murder and suicide.