Talking to the Enemy

Friday, November 05, 2010

Social scientist Scott Atran traces terrorism's root causes in human evolution and history. In Talking to the Enemy: Faith, Brotherhood, and the (Un)Making of Terrorists he touches on the nature of faith, the origins of society, the limits of reason, and the power of moral values. He interviews and investigates Al Qaeda associates and acolytes, and other non-Qaeda groups, such as Hamas and the Taliban, and the communities they live in: from the jungles of Southeast Asia to New York, London, and Madrid.


Scott Atran

Comments [15]

J PICKENS from queens

i hope to finish my thought this time. As i said booze was another story ,folla?an as perone of your shows back a week or so,Pot has parts of is natural System thjat are protective.and last but not least. I have no direct experience with what the juice that comes from a poppy is like. Bot i bo know that wiht all the attention there is on that part of the world where it is grown,i do not see what i see here . I it wre not so we would have whole different geo-politcal reality. so we see how the ideas of this thinker Enrico Finagle have effect Becarefull! no part of a System can be understood at all- when studied only out side it System. That s absurd! Again,If you take sodiom cloride alone and then take it apart again . the sodiom eats up glass and the clorine will kill you real quick! And this with out you don not have to beleive it! So be carefull of Enrico Finagle . JP 177-14 135 ave 11434 jamaica ny

Jan. 22 2011 03:26 PM
gaetano catelli from Oxford, MS (pop. almost 20,000)

i'm glad your guest blamed *America* for the Taliban being in Pakistan. it wouldn't be the Leonbard Lopate Show otherwise.

Nov. 11 2010 11:19 PM

>So when dubya says he approved of
>waterboarding we are only creating

No, we're not "only" creating terrorists. We're also getting useful data...and useless data (leading to ineffective action), and worst-than-useless, that is, data that corresponds more to our fantasies---which are more important to a tortured person than any facts she might know---which lead us to bad action.

It also lets us feel good about making bad people suffer, just like God, even if we can't match His degree and duration of pain. It also reinforces our idea that we are Good Guys, because we're acting like so many of our cinematic Good Guys, good men, who *sob* _must_ perpetrate these horrible acts to Save Lives, _they're_ not playing games with the powerless because it's _fun_, oh no.

And we're creating more terrorists.

Nov. 08 2010 10:53 AM
Dorothy from Manhattan

Leonard - I'm listening for the 3rd time to this interview. I nominate it to be repeated any time there's an opportunity.

Nov. 07 2010 04:07 AM
oscar m from ny

anyone that practices any religion is a terrorist,...humans use the excuse of their god to commit horrific crimes.

Nov. 06 2010 06:21 PM
paul from ny

Mr. Atran made a number of incisive and provocative points but his comments on the Intifada, unfortunately, demeaned the presentation.. He characterized the terrorists as attacking primarily settlers on the West Bank and bombing cafes in Israel as a kind of slight overflow. The reality is that 90 to 95% percent of the attacks took place in Israel and they involved buses, bus stops, discos, and private homes, not just "a few cafes." What a shame that Mr. Atran couldn'i resist being a shil for Arab butchery in an otherwise thoughtful dsquisition.l

Nov. 05 2010 07:41 PM
Gerald Fnord from Palos Verdes, CA

jgarbuz: How can atheists understand deeply religious people? Because we are not so different---'Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto,' which is less filthy than it sounds in Spanglish. I can imagine doing some brave, suicidal, deed against a force I thought evil and implacable; I can be callous in my own life, as in not daily moaning over the condition of the people who labour to make my electronics, so I can imagine myself getting worse and deciding that there are no 'innocent parties' about whom I must, yes, a suicide bomber is not in a different species from me, and I think I can understand him.

Victor: Much as is the case with government, I fear that if all religion vanished from the Earth tomorrow, even worse ones would hold sway next week. The current batch are mostly old enough that they are not _absolutely_ genocidal and obnoxious---I think they are viruses which have "learned" to co-exist with most people most of the time, heretics and witches aside, by a process of selection. The best cure, I think, would be universal prosperity, which is one reason the preachers have always been enemies of progress (true, terrorists are very often not poor, but even so they feel a great deal of sympathy with the oppressed---and the piety induced by poverty helps provide the terrorists with the sea in which they swim).

Nov. 05 2010 01:46 PM
pete from bk

Just b/c you hold an advanced degree does not make you an automatic expert on everything. This is the most half baked piecemeal explanation of the current terrorist crisis I have ever heard. It's almost worse than Kurt Anderson's explanation of the economic crisis which says a lot.

Nov. 05 2010 12:40 PM
amalgam from Manhattan by day, NJ by night


Nov. 05 2010 12:39 PM
Victor from Ramsey, NJ

Excellent interview. One question:

If by miracle, the religion disappears from the face of the earth, will the terrorists disappear also? Are not other factors at work here?

Nov. 05 2010 12:35 PM
Gerald Fnord from Palos Verdes,CA

The description of the terrorists' caring about their families even as they perpetrate barbarities reminds me of the South American torturers who could be heard discussing dinner and school problems with their wives in the middle of a session.

More generally, it's all an illustration of how dangerous people can be when they feel they are doing some Ultimate Good which has no relationship to normal standards of right and wrong. The fact that these people feel that they are doing the best and most important and most un-alienated work of their lives makes them insanely dangerous---claptrap about their being young idiots in search of virgins is part of the problem, and exists simply because many of us are unwilling to consider the possibility that other people with very different ideas actually exist---or else, we don't want to consider the inevitable corollary that _we_ are capable of perpetrating barbarity in the name of Good. (see: waterboarding, slamming, heat-box prisons, and so on)

Nov. 05 2010 12:30 PM
jgarbuz from Queens-

How can anyone who does not believe in any god, or an afterlife able to understand a religious doctrine that is often all the poor have to believe in? How can an educated, secular person possibly understand someone whose only hope for himself and his family is some future promise of Paradise?

Nov. 05 2010 12:28 PM
John from Toronto

thank you for this interview. this is the first time i've heard a rational, objective presentation of terrorist motivation.

Nov. 05 2010 12:25 PM
jgarbuz from Queens-

"Shahida" or Martyrdom in the defense of Islam and Islamic lands, not only gets you into the wornders of Paradise, but makes it possibe for you to interceded for your whole clan (hamullah) in as well! The religious belief in the doctrine of martyrdom, and the promise of rewards in the afterlife is as great and "real" in Islam, as the belief in the "Rapture" and ascent into the bosom of Jesus in the End of Days for The Saved. These powerful religious doctrines should not be overlooked, much less dismissed., They are very real for the Believers.

Nov. 05 2010 12:23 PM

So when dubya says he approved of waterboarding we are only creating terrorists?

Nov. 05 2010 12:17 PM

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