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Saying All Muslims are Responsible for Islamic Extremism Ignores the Non-Ideological Reasons for That Violence
Blaming all members of any group for the extreme actions of a few ignores one of the underlying reasons for those actions, which is not the ideology or belifs of the group, but just the sense of empowerment that comes from belonging to something more powerful than those individuals feel.
Are all Christians responsible for Scott Phillip Roeder’s 2009 murder of Kansas Doctor George Tiller for performing abortions? Roeder said he killed in the name of his Christian religious belief.
Are all Jews responsible for Yigal Amir’s 1995 assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, which Amir said he committed in the name of Orthodox Judaism’s views?
Are all Muslims, “even the peaceful ones” as Rupert Murdoch puts it, responsible for the brutal murder-in-the-name-of-Islamic jihad of the staff of Charlie Hebdo or those innocent customers in the Parisian deli? Or the Islamic State’s sickening brutality? Or the butchery by members of Boko Haram who at the same time the Parisian events were occurring were soullessly slaughtering thousands of innocent civilians in the northern Nigerian town of Baga? All violence committed in the name of Islam.
Of course not. To think that these crimes were actually committed in true devotion to the religions the murderers used as their excuse, and to blame the non-violent members of those faiths for not doing more to prevent such extremist violence, is to miss what these brutal acts were really about.
Such crimes - and there have been millions like them through the centuries - are the acts of people lashing out against a world in which they feel powerless, so powerless that only the most heinous and attention-getting violence will satisfy them. And the satisfaction does not come from the killing and violence itself. It comes from the sense of belonging, of being a part of a group - a tribe - that, united, can do more than any individual can. Proving by extreme behavior that you are truly loyal to the tribe establishes that you are a member in good standing, which means the tribe will support you, and protect you. And by acting the way every member of the tribe is expected to act, you are contributing to the social cohesion that gives your group more power than you have alone. Belonging is empowerment. It gives you a sense of control. And that helps you feel safe.
The study of the psychology of risk perception by Paul Slovic and others has found that how afraid we are, or aren’t, has a lot to do with how much control we feel we have. If we face a risky situation but we have a sense of control, the risk will feel less frightening. The less control we feel we have over the situation, the more worried we will be. This is as true of minor risks as it is of the larger matter of how much control we feel we have over our lives in general.
We do lots of things to give ourselves a sense of control. People worried about crime buy guns. People afraid to fly, drive. Affiliating with a group is the same thing, and it’s being done by more and more people all around the world, who for a variety of reasons feel worried by the lack of control they feel over their lives and futures. Hopelessly unemployed young men join extremist groups. People without freedoms join revolutions. People worried that income inequality leaves them less economic control over their lives join political movements. People whose basic personalities make them more comfortable with tradition and the status quo, who feel powerless against the rapid pace of change in our global information age or against increasingly large and invasive governments, affiliate with groups that work to keep things as they are.
We identify with these groups not for their beliefs per se, but also for the empowerment and safety of belonging, an instinctive need for the social human animal that depends on the tribe for safety and survival. And the more powerless we feel the more we band together into our tribes, for the reassuring sense it offers of control and protection.
It was not Islam that drove Cherif and Said Kouachi, and Amedy Coulibaly, to do what they did in Paris, nor an extreme views of Islam alone that inspired them to go to their deaths, supposedly as martyrs, in a hail of police gunfire. It was their need to belong to a group that gave them a sense of power to strike back against a world that felt to them like it had its boot on their necks.
It was not being German that led Adolph Hitler (born in Austria) to form the National Socialist German Workers Party and in the name of a national tribe commit some of the most atrocious crimes against humanity the species has ever suffered. It was to belong, and lead, a group that provided the power that as an individual Hitler always felt he lacked.
It was not to be good loyal Americans that Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols identified with anti-government extremist groups when they bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 2003, killing 169 (including 19 children) and injuring nearly 700 more. Affiliation with such groups empowered them to fight back against The Man. As McVeigh wrote in his autobiography:
I didn't define the rules of engagement in this conflict. The rules, if not written down, are defined by the aggressor. It was brutal, no holds barred. Women and kids were killed at Waco and Ruby Ridge. You put back in [the government's] faces exactly what they're giving out.
It’s not just extremists who do this, of course, and that’s the point. We all identify with this tribe or that (our city/state/nation, gender, race, religion, age group, political or general worldviews, etc.) And while it is fortunately only a few who turn to physical violence to establish their tribal identity, it is this same basic instinct that leads us to demonize others who come from a different nation, or culture, or religion, or point of view. That’s tribal too, and divisive, only without the guns and bombs. There is Us, and there is Them.
Political polarization, virulent nationalism, religious orthodoxy; these are just a few examples of what just played out in Paris – divisive tribal affiliations that lead us to see others as the enemy, producing friction and conflicts and real harm to societies around the world. So before we hold everyone in any group responsible for the actions of the worst its members, lets look past the tribal ID cards those people are carrying and into the mirror, because what we see in these terrible acts is only an extreme reflection of a potentially harmful instinct shared by everyone in the tribe of Homo sapiens.
What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
Scientists find that bursts of gamma rays may exceed the speed of light and cause time-reversibility.
- Astrophysicists propose that gamma-ray bursts may exceed the speed of light.
- The superluminal jets may also be responsible for time-reversibility.
- The finding doesn't go against Einstein's theory because this effect happens in the jet medium not a vacuum.
Jet bursting out of a blazar. Black-hole-powered galaxies called blazars are the most common sources detected by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
Cosmic death beams: Understanding gamma ray bursts<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cu2knVEk" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="c6cfd20fdf31c82cb206ade8ce21ba3f"> <div id="botr_cu2knVEk_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cu2knVEk-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Philosophers have been asking the question for hundreds of years. Now neuroscientists are joining the quest to find out.
- The debate over whether or not humans have free will is centuries old and ongoing. While studies have confirmed that our brains perform many tasks without conscious effort, there remains the question of how much we control and when it matters.
- According to Dr. Uri Maoz, it comes down to what your definition of free will is and to learning more about how we make decisions versus when it is ok for our brain to subconsciously control our actions and movements.
- "If we understand the interplay between conscious and unconscious," says Maoz, "it might help us realize what we can control and what we can't."
Puerto Rico's iconic telescope facilitated important scientific discoveries while inspiring young scientists and the public imagination.
- The Arecibo Observatory's main telescope collapsed on Tuesday morning.
- Although officials had been planning to demolish the telescope, the accident marked an unceremonious end to a beloved astronomical tool.
- The Arecibo radio telescope has facilitated many discoveries in astronomy, including the mapping of near-Earth asteroids and the detection of exoplanets.
Bradley Rivera via twitter.com<p>In 1963, the concave dish was built into a natural sinkhole on the northern coast of Puerto Rico. The location was <a href="https://www.space.com/20984-arecibo-observatory.html" target="_blank">picked because it was near the equator,</a> providing scientists a clear view of planets passing overhead, and also of the ionosphere, which is the uniquely reactive layer of Earth's upper atmosphere where the northern lights form.</p><p>Since its construction, scientists have used the Arecibo telescope to map near-Earth asteroids, detect gravitational waves, study pulsars, detect exoplanets and <a href="https://www.seti.org/goodbye-arecibo" target="_blank">search for alien civilizations</a>, among other projects. Here's a brief look at some of the discoveries and accomplishments made using the Arecibo telescope:</p><ul><li>1964: Astronomer <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Pettengill" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gordon Pettengill</a> discovers that Mercury's rotation period is 59 days, significantly shorter than the previous prediction of 88 days.</li><li>1974: Physicists Russell Alan Hulse and Joseph Hooton Taylor Jr. discovers the first binary pulsar, for which they won a Nobel Prize in Physics.</li><li>1974: Scientists use the telescope to transmit the "Arecibo message" to <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Globular_Cluster_in_Hercules" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">globular star cluster M13</a>. The message, when translated into image form, contains basic information about humanity and human knowledge: the numbers one to 10, a map of our solar system, an illustration of a human being, and the atomic numbers of certain elements.</li><li>1989: Scientists use the telescope to image an asteroid for the first time.</li><li>1992: Astronomers Alex Wolszczan and Dale Frail become the first to discover exoplanets.</li></ul>
The Google-owned company developed a system that can reliably predict the 3D shapes of proteins.