16 November 2015

Rise of religious terrorism

Today, I read the article from 538. They state how statistic show there is a rise of terrorism inspired by religion in France. The article is nicely done, with robust data analysis and cool data visualization. The high-quality data mining one could expect from that site.
Unfortunately, this article lacks significant insights from social science. And a lack of that contest is making this article dangerous. Just look at the news. Refugee centers are already being burned because one of the terrorists had a forged Syrian passport.
Sadly, great ideas that would make this article less dangerous already exist. I'm talking about an excellent book Thieves of State by S. Chayes. Author marvelously describes what is behind a rise of religion. And the idea behind the book and explanation of the situation in the other areas, not only the Middle East.
My personal experience is in concert with the ideas of that book. I've been through the religious war. And guess how all started? With the crumbling economy, rampant corruption and unemployment rates of more than 11%. The leaders of different sides started yelling that the 'other side' is to blame for the weak economy. Religious leaders blamed a lack of morality and called people back to appropriate services. And people listened because people like neat, black-and-white answers, particularly if those answers paint them as good.
So it is easy to do any data analysis and mining. Hell, I can do stuff those guys at 538 did in one day. It is not a problem. The problem is assuming that people will not twist such results into an excuse for more atrocities. And to combat that, whoever reports data analysis has to put those results in a broader context. Only then, the results will reveal the action that needs to be done to resolve the problem.

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