An SIUE senior’s research project focused on religion and resources sought to disprove that oil drives conflict between nations, which could help find solutions without bloodshed.
Dakota Tostado, a senior political science major from Collinsville, Illinois, conducted his senior research project on Samuel P. Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations,” which defines civilizations by religion and argues that any conflict between civilization will concern cultural differences.
Tostado sought to discover if resource scarcity, particularly that of oil, drives conflict between nation-states.
“There were a couple of subsets that I found of research that include cultural incompatibility with resource scarcity, but not necessarily with oil, and I researched the worldwide demand for oil and basically shows that the time that I studied, 2010 to 2014, the world demanded more oil than previously before. So I thought that that period of time would be good research, or rather a good time to research, provided that [we] live in a contemporary world,” Tostado said. “It was a test, a statistical test, to determine whether a hypothesis made nearly 30 years ago is still relevant to today.”
Tostado said he found that Huntington was wrong.
“There is little to no relationship statistically between the allocation of oil and interstate conflict. I say little to no because the relationship that was reported from the regressions is very, very, very intestinally significant, but it’s so small that it’s enough to throw it into question,” Tostado said. “So the results basically showed that culture and compatibility is something that we should further look at when it comes to conflict and maybe oil, but just not with the model that I constructed.”
Tostado said his findings are important because if we can understand why two nation-states are desperate or aggravated to the point where they need to engage in interstate conflict, we may be able to provide solutions. He said a lot of political scientists base their research off of problems rather than how to fix them, and that the U.S. does not provide a holistic view on international news as there are conflicts of which we are not aware.
“My dad is actually Hispanic. I’m not from Mexico, but I do try to keep that with me, not only on a personal standpoint, but [an] educational standpoint. I try to view all sides of the data, the information, the possibilities,” Tostado said. “I think it’s important to be holistic, especially as a political science researcher, given that so much of the scientific framework that we utilize as political science researchers is very westernized at its core.”
Tostado said the idea for his research came from wanting to pick a topic relevant to today’s world.
“It was a risky [choice] just because it has been heavily researched upon before, but I felt concerning the circumstances that we live in and the world that we live in and the way that things have transpired since he actually published that work, that it was worth taking risk of doing that research,” Tostado said.
According to Tostado, Huntington looks back at the history of conflict and asserts that superpowers pre–Cold War kept the peace and made sure the rest of the world stayed in line, which he found peculiar because nation-states interfering with the sovereignty of others has been historically documented.
“The way in which it’s been interfered in the past is so much different from the way it’s being interfered with now and for many different reasons, so it does deal with an old political question,” Tostado said. “Does religion really hold as divisive of an effect as we believe it does? Do civilizations hold on to religion as strongly as we believe them to do? Not only that, but can we even begin to clump so many nation states or people just because of their geographic proximity?”
Tostado said he became interested in politics during the 2008 election, because he was moved by how many people were so dedicated to various causes.
“There’s a desire within me to see people do well in life, and not just myself, but other people around me. And I feel that the way to do that effectively is government,” Tostado said. “I don’t believe [the] government [is] evil, I don’t believe [the] government [is] out to get us, [but] that we can make the most of what we have using government if we come together and are willing to put forward the bipartisan or collaborative solutions that we’re willing to do.”
After graduation, Tostado said he wants to be an educator, then move into the public sector and seek public office.
“I want to be that role model for students like me who didn’t know what they wanted to do in their lives, were kind of lost, who didn’t really have that at-home support they needed,” Tostado said. “And I want to be able to help my students succeed.”