Evolutionary Biology in the Department of Defense

Question: What kind of work do you do with the Department of Defense?

Lionel Tiger: Well there are very thoughtful people there concerned about the human factor in warfare and in defense.  After all, their job is to defend Americans from bad people who want to come in and blow up airplanes and do all that sort of stuff and it’s a real fear.  It is a real concern as we sadly know, but for example if you look at the general **** doctrine in Afghanistan and in Iraq earlier the first thing was to find out about the people.  Who are they?  They’re not just furniture and so one of the things that it is possible to do in an organization like the Department of Defense is provide some insight into how human beings are likely to behave.  For example, if a whole lot of foreigners come with guns.  They’re not going to like it.  They’re simply not going to like it and so we see recently President Karzai of Afghanistan saying that he is going to join the Taliban.  Well he is tired of these Americans, particularly after President Obama came to visit him to give him a rebuke about his corruption.  What Obama thought was corruption and what Karzai thinks is just being a decent relative to his brother and all the other people that he has got to be responsible for.  So those are some of the issues that are necessary to understand in the world of… in a dangerous world and I don’t see any problem in doing that.

What causes somebody to get on an airplane with a bomb in his underwear?  He has got a belief and he didn’t get that belief from eating a Kit Kat bar.  He got it from some discernible series of events in his life that convinced him that this is what he should do, put him in contact with bomb makers and various associates who provided him the airplane ticket and the like and he ended up as it happened, getting caught, but there was a human trail there that could have been tracked and in future there will be another such event and if we can catch it, good.  If we can’t lots of people will die.

In his work with the government, the professor helps to suss out the underlying motives of our allies and enemies.

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