Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Lecture Video: Scott Atran - For Friends and Faith

Scott Atran was our Science & Religion Lecture Series speaker at Hampshire College on March 25th. His topic looked at political, religious, and social motivations for violence. In particular, he looked at motivations of suicide bombers and the conflict in the Middle East. If you want to know how terrorism cells are formed, check out his long and detailed description of the group that was responsible for the terrible 2004 Madrid train bombings (you have to be patient to get all the details). This is all the more relevant when we are all trying to understand the transformation of Faisal Shahzad, a seemingly well-settled immigrant from Pakistan, into the Time Square bomber. This is a thought-provoking talk even if you end up disagreeing with his conclusions. Here is the video of his talk For Friends and Faith: Understanding the Paths and Barriers to Political Violence (video of Q&A and abstract for his talk is below). Enjoy!

For Friends and Faith: Understanding the Paths and Barriers to Political Violence from Hampshire TV on Vimeo.

And here is the Q&A video:

Q&A with Dr. Scott Atran from Hampshire TV on Vimeo.

Abstract
Many creatures will fight to the death for their close kin, but only humans fight and sacrifice unto death for friends and imagined kin, for brotherhoods willing to shed blood for one another. The reason for brotherhoods-- unrelated people cooperating to their full measure of devotion--are as ancient as our uniquely reflective and auto-predatory species. Different cultures ratchet up these reasons into great causes in different ways. Call it love of God or love of group, it matters little in the end... especially for young men, mortal combat in a great cause provides the ultimate adventure and glory to gain maximum esteem in the eyes of many and, most dearly, in the hearts of their peers. This century's major terrorist incidents are cases in point.

Dr. Scott Atran is a research director in anthropology at the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris, France. He is also visiting professor of psychology and public policy at the University of Michigan and presidential scholar in sociology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York City. Dr. Atran's books include Cognitive Foundations of Natural History: Towards an Anthropology of Science, In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion, and The Native Mind: Cognition and Culture in Human Knowledge of Nature (co-authored with Douglas Medin).
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Please check out videos of earlier lectures at our Hampshire College Lecture Series on Science & Religion website.

Also, here are few earlier posts about Scott Atran's work:

5 comments:

RBH said...

Thanks for posting that. I keep meaning to read Atrans; maybe this will stimulate me to get off my duff and do so!

Snuze said...

Thank you for sharing. He made a wonderful case for the reasoning behind such events.

Dr. M. Akbar Hussain said...

Another random comment:

Dear Salman, isn't this something you had been looking for your entire blogging life?

Check Dr. Craig's experiment on "Synthetic Biology" at this (and several other) link(s):

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/science/biology_evolution/article7132299.ece

Enjoy!

Salman Hameed said...

Thanks Akbar. I think a few steps are still missing in fully functioning synthetic life, but its getting close.

Oh - and no I've not been waiting for this. Life on Mars or Europa is what I have been really waiting for "[my] entire blogging life" :)

emre said...

Having read his book "In Gods we Trust", I would never have guessed the man has such a good sense of humor. I really enjoyed this vid! It corrected some of my assumptions too. I had overestimated the influence of religion, and underestimated the importance of social networks.