Why "Behavioral Politics" And "Islamic Exceptionalism" Matter

"Behavioral politics” can shed light on terrorism's appeal. And why simple appeals to reason might not work. Indeed rationality doesn't work the way many think it does. What makes us tick must matter for how reasoning works. 

Why "Behavioral Politics" And "Islamic Exceptionalism" Matter


1.1 Can “behavioral politics” explain terrorism? What makes us tick surely must matter for how reasoning works.

1.2 Democracy and economics presume “rational choice” models (to some degree).

1.3 But behavioral economics has updated “rationalist delusions.” Countering unempirical presumptions of self-maximization, it maps the motley logics of “supposedly irrelevant factors” that shape behaviour (Richard Thaler).

1.4 As with products, so with policies...do voters rationally, self-interestedly, evaluate policies?

1.5 Few have the training, knowledge, time, or inclination for rational policy analysis (see Dawkins-like “ignoramuses,” & “few maximize”).

2.1 Reason has 3 distinct parts—ends, means, inputs—each dependent on training and other factors, like morality (—>evolved teamwork-rule processor).

2.2. Consider terrorism using that anatomy of reason. Is it irrational (Caplan)? Nihilistic (Obama)? 

2.3 Shadi Hamid in Islamic Exceptionalism reports that many jihadis just seek entry “into heaven."

2.4. That might sound “stupid or irrational to us… [but, like beauty]... rationality… is in the eye of the beholder.” Paradise-seeking has a logic (“though this be madness, yet there is method in it”).

2.5. Like politics, all logic is local (bound to particular assumptions, methods, aims). Secular rationalists can err in assuming Enlightenment-flavored reason appeals universally.

2.6. Hamid detects "a sense of overarching meaninglessness" in Western democracies, and no guarantee of Muslim nations secularizing—Islam can’t be easily quarantined within a private sphere.

3.1 Dismissing terrorists as “mad or bad” risks error. Given their assumptions and aims, they might “logically” seek “purpose” (Peter Bergen) or glamour (Virginia Postrel).

3.2 Most violence seeks a “moral good” (Pinker) (≠ pathological, ≠ self-interested).

3.3 But Pinker’s conclusion—“The world has far too much morality”—is like complaining of too much insulin. You can’t wish away your pancreas or your moral-emotion generator (we can only alter the triggering context, or retrain triggered moral scripts).

4.1 Sadly, terrorism offers a way to “matter” (Masha Gessen).

4.2 Humans have a powerful “mattering instinct”—our evolved “will to matter” is among our strongest drives (Rebecca Goldstein). Humans “cannot stand a meaningless life” (Jung).

4.3 Has secular rationalism offered good substitutes for religion’s historical role as the most powerful mattering-definer? Connecting you, and your loyalties, to something larger? (—>”All Meaning Is Relational.”)

4.4 Orwell, reviewing Mein Kampf, called “Fascism and Nazism… psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life.” Hitler knew humans “don’t only want comfort...they... also want struggle and self-sacrifice”... want to matter.

4.5 Extremist economics can preach loyalty only to self-gain, which worsens asocial “meaninglessness.” Its transactional utterly selfish utility maximization (vs. “relational rationality”) easily errs, like mislabelling slowly collectively self-destructive behaviours as “rational”—>“tragedy of the commons,” misnamed.

5.1 Let’s be clearer about what matters, and what drives our deeds. And deploy reason in “psychologically far sounder” ways, mindful of empirically varying assumptions and aims.

 

Illustration by Julia Suits, author of The Extraordinary Catalog of Peculiar Inventions, and The New Yorker cartoonist.

How New York's largest hospital system is predicting COVID-19 spikes

Northwell Health is using insights from website traffic to forecast COVID-19 hospitalizations two weeks in the future.

Credit: Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The machine-learning algorithm works by analyzing the online behavior of visitors to the Northwell Health website and comparing that data to future COVID-19 hospitalizations.
  • The tool, which uses anonymized data, has so far predicted hospitalizations with an accuracy rate of 80 percent.
  • Machine-learning tools are helping health-care professionals worldwide better constrain and treat COVID-19.
Keep reading Show less

Designer uses AI to bring 54 Roman emperors to life

It's hard to stop looking back and forth between these faces and the busts they came from.

Meet Emperors Augustus, left, and Maximinus Thrax, right

Credit: Daniel Voshart
Technology & Innovation
  • A quarantine project gone wild produces the possibly realistic faces of ancient Roman rulers.
  • A designer worked with a machine learning app to produce the images.
  • It's impossible to know if they're accurate, but they sure look plausible.
Keep reading Show less

Dark matter axions possibly found near Magnificent 7 neutron stars

A new study proposes mysterious axions may be found in X-rays coming from a cluster of neutron stars.

A rendering of the XMM-Newton (X-ray multi-mirror mission) space telescope.

Credit: D. Ducros; ESA/XMM-Newton, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
Surprising Science
  • A study led by Berkeley Lab suggests axions may be present near neutron stars known as the Magnificent Seven.
  • The axions, theorized fundamental particles, could be found in the high-energy X-rays emitted from the stars.
  • Axions have yet to be observed directly and may be responsible for the elusive dark matter.
  • Keep reading Show less

    Put on a happy face? “Deep acting” associated with improved work life

    New research suggests you can't fake your emotional state to improve your work life — you have to feel it.

    Credit: Columbia Pictures
    Personal Growth
  • Deep acting is the work strategy of regulating your emotions to match a desired state.
  • New research suggests that deep acting reduces fatigue, improves trust, and advances goal progress over other regulation strategies.
  • Further research suggests learning to attune our emotions for deep acting is a beneficial work-life strategy.
  • Keep reading Show less
    Surprising Science

    World's oldest work of art found in a hidden Indonesian valley

    Archaeologists discover a cave painting of a wild pig that is now the world's oldest dated work of representational art.

    Scroll down to load more…
    Quantcast