Sunday, February 07, 2010

Islamic radicalism blamed on "conservatism"

The stupid definition of conservatism as "opposition to change" is still something of a reality-defying mantra among Leftists -- despite conservatives often being major agents of change -- from Benjamin Disraeli to Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. And if George Bush's movement of American power into two countries of the Middle East is not a major policy change, I would like to know what would be. It is Obama who hasn't changed that, for all his talk of change.

The idea of conservatives being opponents of change is quite laughable, in fact. Every single conservative that I have ever met has got a HEAP of things he would like to see changed in the society about him. Conservatives are opponents of the brainless ideas of Leftism but that is far from being opponents of change -- much though Leftists might like to think otherwise.

But, in terms of the stupid Leftist definition, it does make some slight sense to describe Islamic fundamentalists as "conservative" -- though one could argue much more reasonably that Islamists are in fact reactionaries: Far from opposing change they want the major change of a sudden and violent return to 7th century ways.

However you look at it, however, the violent authoritarianism advocated by Islamists has NOTHING in common with the individual liberty orientation of American conservatives. So it is just Leftist propaganda to claim some basic similarity between American Christian conservatives and Islamists. But calling Christian conservatives "Taleban" is in fact a fairly common Leftist form of abuse -- dare I call it "hate speech"?

This is all brought to mind by the following academic journal article:

Arch.europ.sociol., L, 2 (2009), pp. 201-230.

Why are there so many Engineers among Islamic Radicals?

By Diego Gambetta & Steffen Hertog


This article demonstrates that among violent Islamists engineers with a degree, individuals with an engineering education are three to four times more frequent than we would expect given the share of engineers among university students in Islamic countries.We then test a number of hypotheses to account for this phenomenon. We argue that a combination of two factors - engineers' relative deprivation in the Islamic world and mindset - is the most plausible explanation.


It turns out that the "mindset" they identify is religious conservatism. In a summary of the article we read: "Statistical analysis of poll data on US faculty shows that the odds of being both religious and conservative are seven times greater for engineers relative to the odds of a social scientist. Engineering as a degree might also be more attractive to individuals seeking cognitive “closure” and clear cut answers – a disposition that has been empirically linked to conservative political attitudes."

So they explicitly conflate American conservatism with the mindset that drives Jihadists. They also incidentally accept the junk-science claim that conservatives have a rigid cognitive style.

I am not going to comment on any of that right now. I already have a large historically-based paper on what is central to Anglo-Saxon conservatism here and I have a large number of academic journal articles on the claim that conservatives are mentally rigid oversimplifiers here.

But what I have said so far is criticism and there is an old axiom that bad science is driven out only by better science. So I am going to propose what I think is a better explanation of the phenomenon in question. I think it is all "cognitive dissonance"

It seems to me that engineers get intimately involved in a world of great rationality and logic. You can't afford to let ideology dictate your design of a bridge, for instance, or the bridge might fall down. Christians are used to living in both worlds: The secular world about them and their private religious beliefs. But Muslims are not. The engineer's mental world is quite opposed to the intense religiosity and scant regard for rationality that permeates the Muslim world. So the Muslim engineer is put into a situation of great conflict. He is thrown into a mental world that runs counter to all his religious assumptions and ways of thought. And sometimes he relieves the pressure of that -- in psychologist's terms he "reduces his cognitive dissonance" -- by reasserting his Muslim identity in an explosive or extremist way. The violence of his reaction is a testimony to how great has been the dissonance and mental conflict he has been subjected to in an engineering environment

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