Scott Atran

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Scott Atran (1952-) is an anthropologist specializing in terrorism and radicalization at France’s National Center for Scientific Research, the University of Michigan and John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He is Director of Research, ARTIS Research and Risk Modeling and Research Director in Anthropology. He is also Visiting Professor of Psychology and Public Policy at the University of Michigan and Presidential Scholar in Sociology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of Columbia University.

In his work on terrorist motivation, he has written a book, Why We Talk to Terrorists, and recommends communication. Atran wrote that "using knowledge friendship, kinship and discipleship has been very successful in Southeast Asia, and shows promise for Afghanistan and Pakistan."[1] In particular, he emphasizes that not all groups using terrorist tactics are alike. With such a perspective, it may be possible to turn terrorist groups, specifically the Taliban and al-Qaeda, into enemies. [2] He has testified that radicalization of individuals is, for al-Qaeda, more important than direct action. "The threat today is from a Salafist viral social and political movement, for which al-Qaeda has been a symbol, that abuses religion in the name of defending a purist form Sunni Islam, and which is particularly contagious among Muslim youth who are increasingly marginalized — economically, socially, politically — and are in transition stages in their lives, such as immigrants, students, and those in search of friends, mates and jobs." [3] Still, there are well-educated but not necessarily well-trained self-radicalized threats (e.g., Nidal Hasan, the accused shooter at Fort Hood).

He opposes intelligent design. [4]


  1. Scott Atran (December 13, 2009), "Op-Ed Contributor: To Beat Al Qaeda, Look to the East", New York Times
  2. Scott Atran (26 October 2010), "Turning the Taliban Against Al Qaeda", New York Times
  3. Scott Atran (10 March 2010), Pathways to and From Violent Extremism: The Case for Science-Based Field Research, Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee, Senate Armed Services Committee
  4. Scott Atran (11 May 2007), Unintelligent Design,