April 2, 2004 | David F. Coppedge

The Evolution of Suicide Terrorism

In a letter to the editor of Science April 2,1 Hector N. Qirko (anthropologist, U. of Tennessee) has come up with a Darwinian model to explain suicide bombers.  His ideas build on an earlier model by Scott Atran (CNRS-Institut Jean Nicod, Paris, and Institute for Social Research, U. of Michigan) in a previous issue.2  Qirko elaborates on the model, invoking kin selection, nonkin altruism, inclusive fitness and other Darwinian buzzwords:

Kin recognition is a necessary component of inclusive fitness calculations related to altruistic behavior in many species, and kin are often identified by means of evolved cues that are open to manipulation.  As recognizing kin has been an important problem in hominid evolution, cognitive adaptations to address that problem have evolved.  Relevant literature suggests that cues most applicable to human behavior are close physical association (particularly during development), phenotypic similarity, and the use of kin terms and other symbolic kin referents.  Thus, institutions desiring to maintain and reinforce nonkin altruistic behavior among their members should attempt to manipulate predispositions associated with these cues.

It’s only a start, he admits, but he congratulates Atran for delving into this area of evolutionary psychology: “And while what motivates particular individuals to commit suicide terrorism may be impossible to ascertain, how institutions maintain and reinforce a willingness to do so can be more clearly understood.  Atran is to be commended for his exploration of this question in evolutionary psychological terms.”


1Hector N. Qirko, “‘Fictive Kin’ and Suicide Terrorism,“ Science Vol 304, Issue 5667, 49-51, 2 April 2004., [DOI: 10.1126/science.304.5667.49].
2Scott Atran, “Genesis of Suicide Terrorism,” Science Vol 299, Issue 5612, 1534-1539, 7 March 2003, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1078854].

These guys are dead serious.  They look at suicide terrorism as just another behavior that evolved by natural selection.  They think they are doing us a favor by helping us “understand” how this phenomenon evolved, presumably so we can deal with it in a compassionate and understanding way.  So how would this view influence foreign policy?  If it is evolved behavior, isn’t it also an evolved behavior to fight back?  Neither side can claim to be right; we’re back to the law of the jungle.  Neither can these evolutionary psychologists exempt their behavior from natural selection.  Writing papers in Science, therefore, has no ultimate meaning.
    We bring these examples to your attention to show how utterly wacko certain university professors have become under the influence of Dar-wine.  Don’t blame the bomber, or the one who sent him, when he blows up dozens or hundreds of innocent people in a bus or building.  Personal responsibility is a myth.  Evil does not exist.  The teachings of the Quran and Islamic leaders are only incidental and should not be criticized; the bomber is only doing what Charlie said natural law made him do.
    Somebody send this story to Dennis Prager.  It should make for a lively discussion on his radio talk show.

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Categories: Dumb Ideas

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