University Professor of Sociology Emeritus
Former director Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences
Dr. Smelser’s talk, The Nature of the Terrorist Threat and Dilemmas Involved in Responding to It, explored the implications of the fact that terrorism poses a unique type of threat–rare events perpetrated in the context of extreme uncertainty and maximization of surprise. Several dilemmas of preparing, warning, responding, and recovering were explored. Reference was made to the role of science and technology, always, however, in the context of human and organizational factors.
During 2001-2002, Smelser, a National Academy of Sciences member, assumed responsibility for organizing the contribution of the National Research Council (NRC) to the understanding of contemporary terrorism from the perspective of the behavioral and social sciences. He chaired two panels on the topic and edited the two corresponding reports from the NRC.