Can science help us cope with terrorism? Certainly it can help us to better understand why people commit acts of terror. There are many theories out there that seem so far entrenched within the spectrum of common sense that some might argue it’s not necessary to dig deeper – religious extremists and repressed populations to give two glaring examples – but our intuitions about the world and human behavior have on too many occasions turned out to be flawed in the face of empirical evidence.
Obstacles Obscuring A Scientific Understanding Of Terrorism
If we can better understand the psychological and sociological reasons to acts of terror it would at least offer us, on the face of it, the opportunity to address these issues. Thus far drone strikes, occupying Middle Eastern countries, and a perpetual state of war doesn’t seem to be the epitome of an idyllic response to terror threats.
The below video touches on the difficulties in the scientific community when it comes to studying terrorism. Researchers need to be able to interview sources, in this case ones that happen to be terrorists, or have terrorist connections, and maintain their source’s anonymity.
If a researcher learns of an immediate threat to human life, it does seem prudent that this information should be given to the authorities, but barring that particular scenario, if they are not allowed to have an open discourse with these people, and have their trust and confidence, then what insight into their nature and motivations can be gained? It creates quite the obstacle and conundrum.
This video also touches on a tuberculosis epidemic in North Korea and how science can bridge the communication and humanitarian gap between the most unlikely of bedfellows.
The rise of tuberculosis (TB) in North Korea has been swift. According to a 2012 report by the World Health Organization, reported cases went from fewer than 50 per 100,000 people in 1994 to 380 cases per 100,000 people in 2011. Today, the incidence of TB in North Korea is second only to that in sub-Saharan Africa.
But ongoing efforts show promise, including the establishment in 2010 of the National Tuberculosis Reference Laboratory. Built with the help of the Stanford University-led Bay Area TB Consortium and the country’s Ministry of Public Health, it provides a rare example of scientific collaboration between the United States and North Korea. The collaboration was made possible, Stone reported, by Christian Friends of Korea (CFK), a humanitarian organization that has been supplying aid to North Korea for 18 years. [ aaas.org ]
Of course one of the main reasons for the horrendous epidemic of tuberculosis in North Korea is the fact the masses are starved and malnourished. It’s then interesting to consider the government’s willingness at all to cooperate with the US, or even designate their own scientific resources to addressing the issue, but the actions of governments, as with people, can often be incongruous.
What this video, and the surrounding article, does highlight, is that science is the finest tool we have to understanding the world we live in, reasoning ways in which to apply this understanding, and in bridging the gaps between people in times of crisis in the spirit of humanity.