Thursday, December 3, 2009

Nidal Hasan: What's Religion Got to Do with It?

Quick thought of the day:

People who focus on the Fort Hood shooter's religion are doing themselves as well as future crime prevention a disservice. For instance, what would we learn if we focused on Bernie Madoff's religious background? Nothing. In fact, by focusing on his religious background, we would spend less time on relevant issues, such as how to best prevent fraud for all securities customers. In addition, since we can't change someone's religion or legally discriminate against someone on the basis of religion, we cannot implement effective defenses against criminal activity even if we did find a high correlation between a person's religious background and a particular criminal act.

For instance, continuing the Madoff example, even if we find that high-level financial advisors happen to be Jewish (something I highly doubt), what do we do with such information? If we subject Jewish financial advisors to more scrutiny, all we're doing is making it more expensive for them to serve their clients. We're not actually preventing fraud or helping the general consumer avoid fraud.

In fact, focusing on a perp's religion is a triple-loss--it injects irrelevant data into an analysis, skewering any results; castigates religious practitioners who are innocent of any wrongdoing; and causes us to spend less time focusing on relevant data, which we could then use to create new, effective regulations or new methods.

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