From: Keith Henson (
Date: Tue Jan 08 2002 - 06:18:40 GMT

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    At 08:26 PM 07/01/02 -0500, Wade wrote:
    >Hi Keith Henson -
    > >If you want to actually reduce these low probability events, then getting
    > >people integrated into a tribal structure may be the best
    > >approach. Alienated young men have always been a problem.
    >Yup. And why is that sad but true?

    It may not even be true that a tribal structure would help. Here is some
    of the musing you get from applying evolutionary psychology to such
    events. Consider John Walker, the kid from Northern California who joined
    the Taliban. EP kind of thinking would lead you to understand that he and
    the kid in the light plane were desperate at some level. Not that they
    were by an objective standard, but their internal state seemed bleak to them.

    What makes young men desperate? Understand that we are shaped by
    genes. At best they do a rough job of shaping psychological tendencies,
    but the most likely psychological traits genes would build are focused on
    reproduction. That is, after all, the thing genes are really good at.

    As a guess there are *dozens* of genes involved in shaping psychological
    characteristics. Take a rare combination of genes that construct a person
    who is extremely sensitive to their reproductive prospects--which are
    largely dependent on social status so perhaps they are just highly
    sensitive to their status and prospects for status. (Most males are not
    disfunctionally concerned about their prospects and some don't want to
    reproduce at all--there is a bell curve here.)

    True or false these men perceive their prospects as dismal though they may
    not even verbalize what is driving their angst. This is not unreasonable,
    a substantial fraction of low status males never do have offspring. They
    are not in the tribal environment in which humans evolved, so it is hard to
    predict exactly how such people will react.

    But due to Y chromosome studies we know that over the past 10,000 years or
    so a very few men picked up and moved thousands of miles from their natal
    tribe. Because we can see their genes at all, we know they had at least
    minimal success at obtaining a mate in a tribe far from home.

    Perhaps they gained status in a tribe that adopted them due to skills from
    afar, or perhaps the different genes they brought made them attractive as
    mates. (Ghod knows how many tried and failed.) The drive to migrate a
    long way may be a side effect rather than a selected psychological
    mechanism for all I know but it sort of accounts for what happened to John

    Moving on to the crash kid, in a tribal environment, gaining a lot of
    attention by some heroic act is the obvious way to improve your chances to
    obtain a wife. (Status and sex anyway.) You see someone getting a lot of
    attention and if you are no good at sorting out negative and positive
    attention, you emulate ben Ladin, or rather in this case, the memeoids
    created by ben Ladin and his cult.

    I should mention that it is some kind of misguided Political Correctness
    that has women being inspected at airports. They would be far better off
    putting the effort on men and mostly young men at that. You could even
    ignore young guys with a wife or girlfriend and certainly any with their
    children with them. It is not that chances are zero for these guys to be
    suicide hijackers, just down by a factor of 10,000 or so.

    >What is it about tribalism that also
    >wounds freedom? Or is that a western bias?

    Hard to say.

    Keith Henson

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