#28 Biology and Ending War (October 2012)
CAN WE DISMANTLE THE WAR MACHINE?
We live in troubled times on a planet filled to the brim with our species. Our burgeoning numbers and alteration of our physical environment have vastly magnified challenges that arguably threaten civilization itself. Our need to change the way we've been living is great.
A good case can be made that the greatest folly of our time is to continue wasting lives and resources that are so desperately needed to meet and conquer these challenges on the grotesque behavior of war. A Future Without War.org is dedicated to ending war, and this newsletter highlights our biology as it relates to the possibility of ending this folly.
Have We Always Made War?
For starters, consider that if we believe making war is a genetically evolved adaptation--something "in our genes"--that we have always made war--then it's rational to believe that actually ending it isn't possible. Unfortunately, such an assumption sets up a self-fulfilling prophecy. Knowing that it is impossible to escape from its grip, we make no sufficient effort to escape. Such is the current self-defeating belief of the overwhelming majority of the global community.
Increasing evidence indicates, however, that cooperation and avoidance of war characterized our ancestors during the roughly 190,000 years we lived as nomadic hunter-gatherers. That we have NOT always made war.
What is some of that evidence? An AFWW article, Origins of War and Human Destiny reexamines the "man-the-warrior" hypothesis. That hypothesis proposes that our remarkable ability to cooperate evolved because it enabled us to make war:
War is Overwhelmingly a Male Preoccupation
At a biological level, there is a straightforward, bottom line reason why making war is a behavior characteristic of males of our species, not females. Male primates can make huge quantities of sperm and any male can potentially father a great many children. Should men loose children as a consequence of war, they can relatively easily father new offspring. So if in our ancient past there were advantages to be gained by males in the making of war....such as gaining status or dominance in their community....their basic reproductive interests apparently were not strong enough to counteract tendencies toward the behavior.
Females of our species, on the other hand, make many fewer eggs, and they can raise only a limited number of children to reproductive maturity. In evolutionary logic, raising children to reproductive maturity so that they can pass on the parents' genes is essential to success. Should a woman loose children due to war, it will be far more difficult, perhaps even impossible, for her to bear and raise more children to the age of reproduction. Thus for our females, making war is hugely counterproductive to their reproductive interests. They have been selected instead to highly prefer social stability.
To explore in more detail how and why these basic reproductive differences create such a profound difference in male and female priorities that it ultimately determines who makes war, namely men, see the essay "Biological Differences Between Men and Women with Respect to Physical Aggression and Social Stability".
To Create a Nonviolent Future Requires the Use of Nonviolent Means
We're not going to be able to kill our way to a future without war. This not only makes logical sense, history of the last roughly 10,000 years makes this fact quite evident.
So is there any evidence that our biology would allow us to successfully use nonviolence? Or are we perhaps biologically incapable of shaping our destiny, doomed to simply accept whatever future random forces of nature and our biology deliver to us, including the use of physical force?
An essay entitled "To Date, Nonviolence Movements Were 'Before Their Time.' Now They Are Poised to Change History" explains why the human community is poised to make a stunning, historical paradigm shift in worldview every bit as large as the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions.
We are, in fact, already in the throes of such a "Great Turning." The only question is where we will end up. Can we shape a future we desire or must we simply blunder forward and hope for the best?
The essay suggests that we can consciously create a shift from cultures steeped in violence at every level to ones that embrace nonviolence....which would include putting an end to that great violence which is war. And that to do so, we must use nonviolent means.
Among other things, the essay explores:
"Our world is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing that we know about living."
Omar N. Bradley
U.S. Army Field Commander, WW II.
A Good Book
Nonviolence: the history of a dangerous idea.
by Mark Kurlansky.
Explores the power of nonviolent direct action.
A Good Movie
Why We Fight - documentary describes the rise and maintenance of the United States military-industrial complex. 2006. Eugene Jarecki - director.
A Future Without War
Believe in it.
Work for it.
And we will achieve it.
These three quick links are to Dr. Hand's core articles on paradigm shift:
To Abolish War
Shaping the Future
Paradigm Shift: Swift and Enduring
How Long Ending War Would Take
Why Women Are the Key to Security
The Nine Cornerstones
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