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mike black
03-15-2008, 01:16 PM
Sounds pretty run-of-the-mill. But interesting. This is the first quarter of the article, 3 more pages at the link.


Has Science Found a Way to End All Wars? (http://discovermagazine.com/2008/apr/13-science-says-war-is-over-now)
Given adequate food, fuel, and gender equality, mass conflict just might disappear.
by John Horgan

Frans de Waal stands in a watchtower at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center north of Atlanta, talking about war. As three hulking male chimpanzees and a dozen females loll below him, the renowned primatologist rejects the idea that war stems from “some sort of blind aggressive drive.” Observations of lethal fighting among chimpanzees, our close genetic relatives, have persuaded many people that war has deep biological roots. But de Waal says that primates, and especially humans, are “very calculating” and will abandon aggressive strategies that no longer serve their interests. “War is evitable,” de Waal says, “if conditions are such that the costs of making war are higher than the benefits.”

War evitable? That is a minority opinion in these troubled times. For several years I’ve been probing people’s views about war. Almost everyone, regardless of profession, political persuasion, or age, gives me the same answer: War will never end. I asked 205 students at the college where I teach, “Will humans ever stop fighting wars, once and for all?” More than 90 percent said no. This pessimism seems to be on the rise; in the mid-1980s, only one in three students at Wesleyan University agreed that “wars are inevitable because human beings are naturally aggressive.”

Asked to explain their views, most fatalists offer variations on Robert McNamara’s remarks in the documentary The Fog of War. “I’m not so naive or simplistic to believe we can eliminate war,” said McNamara, who was the U.S. defense secretary during the Vietnam War. “We’re not going to change human nature any time soon.” War, in other words, is inevitable because it is innate, “in our genes,” as my students like to put it.

This dark outlook seems confirmed not only by the daily barrage of headlines from war-torn regions around the world—Iraq, Afghanistan, Congo—and the seemingly endless threat of terrorism, but also by findings from primatology, anthropology, and other fields. Over the last few decades, researchers in Africa have observed males in rival troops of chimpanzees raiding and killing (video) each other. Archaeologists and anthropologists also keep unearthing evidence of warfare in their studies of prehistoric and tribal human societies.

De Waal acknowledges that “we have a tendency, and all the primates have a tendency, to be hostile to non–group members.” But he and other experts insist that humans and their primate cousins are much less bellicose than the public has come to believe. Studies of monkeys, apes, and Homo sapiens offer ample hope that we can overcome our aggressive tendencies and greatly reduce or maybe even eliminate warfare.

Biologist Robert Sapolsky is a leading challenger of what he calls the “urban myth of inevitable aggression.” At his Stanford University office, peering out from a tangle of gray-flecked hair and beard, he tells me that primate studies contradict simple biological theories of male belligerence—for example, those that blame the hormone testosterone. Aggression in primates may actually be the cause of elevated testosterone, rather than vice versa. Moreover, artificially increasing or decreasing testosterone levels within the normal range usually just reinforces previous patterns of aggression rather than dramatically transforming behavior; beta males may still be milquetoasts, and alphas still bullies. “Social conditioning can more than make up for the hormone,” Sapolsky says.

Environmental conditions can also override biology among baboons, who, much like chimpanzees, seem hardwired for aggression. Since early 1978, Sapolsky has traveled to Kenya to spy on baboons, including Forest Troop, a group living near a tourist lodge’s garbage dump. Because they had to fight baboons from another troop over the scraps of food, only the toughest males of Forest Troop frequented the dump. In the mid-1980s, all these males died after contracting tuberculosis from contaminated meat.

The epidemic left Forest Troop with many more females than males, and the remaining males were far less pugnacious. Conflict within the troop dropped dramatically; Sapolsky even observed adult males grooming each other. This, he points out in an article in Foreign Affairs, is “nearly as unprecedented as baboons sprouting wings.” The sea change has persisted through the present, as male adolescents who join the troop adapt to its mores. “Is a world of peacefully coexisting human Forest Troops possible?” Sapolsky asks. “Anyone who says, ‘No, it is beyond our nature,’ knows too little about primates, including ourselves.”

Ashwin Pande
03-15-2008, 01:19 PM
So their solution is to cut off our balls?

mike black
03-15-2008, 01:21 PM
So their solution is to cut off our balls?

Gloria Steinem was right!

Ashwin Pande
03-15-2008, 01:26 PM
I actually don't think that wars today are in any way related to the aggressive nature in men and women.

This might have been true... in pre-historic times but I think as soon as man discovered that land could be owned and other men could fight in your place that aspect of war died away and wars became motivated by greed.

Now if their solution is to shut down the aggressive gene or whatever to make sure soldiers don't fight... that too can't really work. Maybe if we still fought with clubs or fists but with guns all you have to do is pull a trigger and that doesn't need for you to be aggressive... it helps.. but you don't need to be aggressive to push a button and fire a missile.

I declare shenanigans.

Kingsumo
03-15-2008, 01:26 PM
Given adequate food, fuel, and gender equality

This to me seems to be the root of the problem as much as the solution. Those that have the food, fuel and in the case of humans, money, are not going to want to give up what they have so the others can be on equil footing.

While war may be evitable, and even aggression can be tamed, simple human greed is not going to be so easy a thing to give up. Everyone seems to be down for the greater good, as long as they are still left in a stronger position then their neighbors.

Ashwin Pande
03-15-2008, 01:27 PM
This to me seems to be the root of the problem as much as the solution. Those that have the food, fuel and in the case of humans, money, are not going to want to give up what they have so the others can be on equil footing.

While war may be evitable, and even aggression can be tamed, simple human greed is not going to be so easy a thing to give up. Everyone seems to be down for the greater good, as long as they are still left in a stronger position then their neighbors.

These 'scientists' are goddamn hippie commies!

R0cketFr0g
03-15-2008, 01:28 PM
Gloria Steinem was right!
Meathead's wife from All in the Family?

Kingsumo
03-15-2008, 01:34 PM
These 'scientists' are goddamn hippie commies!

:lol: It does sound that way actually

Foolish Mortal
03-15-2008, 01:48 PM
Even if you eliminate the need to go to war for food, water and energy resources, people will still go to war over religious, cultural, and ideological differences.

R0cketFr0g
03-15-2008, 01:51 PM
Even if you eliminate the need to go to war for food, water and energy resources, people will still go to war over religious, cultural, and ideological differences.

Don't forget "because you're fucking ugly."

Ashwin Pande
03-15-2008, 01:51 PM
Even if you eliminate the need to go to war for food, water and energy resources, people will still go to war over religious, cultural, and ideological differences.

I'd say even those wars always have a subtext of land to them.

It's always about empire and land in the end.

Kingsumo
03-15-2008, 01:56 PM
I'd say even those wars always have a subtext of land to them.

It's always about empire and land in the end.

Yup. Even if there were enough livable land for everyone to have their own little slice of home, eventually someone would want more then their neighbor, and they will fight for it. Someone else will feel slighted as they no longer have an equil or larger piece and they will try to expand their domain as well. At which point the weaker lots will form with the stronger and it just goes on from there.

R0cketFr0g
03-15-2008, 01:57 PM
I'd say even those wars always have a subtext of land to them.

It's always about empire and land in the end.

You're totally missing hate for hates sake.

Take these scientists. If I had my finger on the red button they would be done.

Kingsumo
03-15-2008, 02:03 PM
You're totally missing hate for hates sake.

Take these scientists. If I had my finger on the red button they would be done.

*It's three a.m. the red phone rings. RF answers.

Caller: Sir, it's the canadians. They are on the move

RF: Bomb all the god damn scientists in the world.

Caller: Sir?

RF: You heard me! All the scientests. Nuke them all!

Caller: ...

Netley
03-15-2008, 02:19 PM
Fascinating! So it looks like social conditioning plays a larger role in aggression than testosterone.

Perhaps the only reason war is inevitable is because we seem to collectively believe that war is inevitable (self-fulfilling prophecy and whatnot).

Or, as John Lennon said, "WAR IS OVER (if you want it to be)."

Foolish Mortal
03-15-2008, 02:33 PM
I'd say even those wars always have a subtext of land to them.

It's always about empire and land in the end.
Yes, but it's fervor over whatever religious, cultural, and ideological differences is what initially sparks them to want to take their land.

I fully expect that my descendants centuries from now will still have to deal with wars and terrorism. We will always have some disgruntled people who will never be happy with the status quo no matter how good they may have it.

R0cketFr0g
03-15-2008, 02:44 PM
*It's three a.m. the red phone rings. RF answers.

Caller: Sir, it's the canadians. They are on the move

RF: Bomb all the god damn scientists in the world.

Caller: Sir?

RF: You heard me! All the scientests. Nuke them all!

Caller: ...

Exactly.

Foolish Mortal
03-15-2008, 02:46 PM
*It's three a.m. the red phone rings. RF answers.

Caller: Sir, it's the canadians. They are on the move

RF: Bomb all the god damn scientists in the world.

Caller: Sir?

RF: You heard me! All the scientests. Nuke them all!

Caller: ...
I thought the Lawyers would be the first ones taken out? :lol:

Kingsumo
03-15-2008, 02:48 PM
I thought the Lawyers would be the first ones taken out? :lol:

That would be more if I got the 3 am call ;)

R0cketFr0g
03-15-2008, 02:49 PM
That would be more if I got the 3 am call ;)

Teamwork my friend, teamwork.

Kingsumo
03-15-2008, 02:51 PM
Teamwork my friend, teamwork.

Exactly. First the lawyers and the scientists, then all those who oppose the Hermit Crab in a Glass Shell.

xyzzy
03-15-2008, 03:48 PM
Even if you eliminate the need to go to war for food, water and energy resources, people will still go to war over religious, cultural, and ideological differences.

War is expensive. I really don't think they would.

I mean, right now, the big destabilizing force out there is terrorism, most of which is religiously based. But the truth is that the terrorists are able to recruit people to do terrible things because their living situations are so bad.

Thudpucker
03-15-2008, 03:51 PM
If the basic idea is make everyone content and they won't be aggressive I don't buy it. Even people who's every need is met have done horrible things, out of boredom if nothing else.

xyzzy
03-15-2008, 03:54 PM
If the basic idea is make everyone content and they won't be aggressive I don't buy it. Even people who's every need is met have done horrible things, out of boredom if nothing else.

You, as an individual, might punch someone because you're bored. But an entire nation of people going to war because they were bored? Seems unlikely to me.

Thudpucker
03-15-2008, 04:01 PM
You, as an individual, might punch someone because you're bored. But an entire nation of people going to war because they were bored? Seems unlikely to me.

History is full of wars that were started by people with no real needs. I was just reading a book about 800 England and the invasions of the Danes. They had no real need of the wealth they took from the Saxons, in fact wealth was one of the less important reasons for the invasions. Far more important was the desire to prove manhood and aquire arm rings thru deeds. Those were armies that went to war, for lack of a better word, because they were bored.

mike black
03-15-2008, 04:03 PM
Yup. Even if there were enough livable land for everyone to have their own little slice of home, eventually someone would want more then their neighbor, and they will fight for it. Someone else will feel slighted as they no longer have an equil or larger piece and they will try to expand their domain as well. At which point the weaker lots will form with the stronger and it just goes on from there.

The point is this - if someone is not in immenint danger, is fat, happy, and making money, they are not going to war.

R0cketFr0g
03-15-2008, 04:05 PM
The point is this - if someone is not in immenint danger, is fat, happy, and making money, they are not going to war.

Invade Iraq much?

Thudpucker
03-15-2008, 04:06 PM
The point is this - if someone is not in immenint danger, is fat, happy, and making money, they are not going to war.

Rome was fat, happy and making money during most of the time it waged war. They kept making war anyway.

xyzzy
03-15-2008, 04:12 PM
Rome was fat, happy and making money during most of the time it waged war. They kept making war anyway.

I think that a lot of that was just momentum. At its peak, Rome didn't even need to fight to acquire territory.

RickLM
03-15-2008, 04:14 PM
Human beings have never stopped warring. That's not going to change.

mike black
03-15-2008, 04:14 PM
Invade Iraq much?

The circumstances around the invasion of Iraq were under the prenteses of pre-imminent threat. (HEY! I spelled imminent correctly! Yay!)


Rome was fat, happy and making money during most of the time it waged war. They kept making war anyway.

Different time. The Romans warred were a show of force and a way to keep people happy, distracting from major failings of the Senate and Caesars. Also, don't forget that once Caesars began running the show, assassinations were very common, and civil wars erupted on a semi-regular basis, as Tyrants often ran the show.

In addition, the borders of the empire were constantly under attack from varying Barbarian tribes at any given point, hence making "peace time" fairly difficult to maintain.

Thudpucker
03-15-2008, 04:16 PM
I think that a lot of that was just momentum. At its peak, Rome didn't even need to fight to acquire territory.

True. But I do think it proves a point. No matter how strong a country is it will prey on those that are weaker. There may be periods of extended peace but eventually there will be war, no matter how fat and happy the populace is.

Netley
03-15-2008, 04:20 PM
Human beings have never stopped warring. That's not going to change.

Not with that attitude.

Thudpucker
03-15-2008, 04:21 PM
The circumstances around the invasion of Iraq were under the prenteses of pre-imminent threat. (HEY! I spelled imminent correctly! Yay!)



Different time. The Romans warred were a show of force and a way to keep people happy, distracting from major failings of the Senate and Caesars. Also, don't forget that once Caesars began running the show, assassinations were very common, and civil wars erupted on a semi-regular basis, as Tyrants often ran the show.

In addition, the borders of the empire were constantly under attack from varying Barbarian tribes at any given point, hence making "peace time" fairly difficult to maintain.

Things may change but I don't think people do. What you say about Rome can and does apply to us now, for example. Instead of barbarians at our border we have terrorists ploting to destroy us.

There will always be those looking to take what any country that is strong has, and any country that is weak will always have something the strong want to take in return. That's just how it is.

RickLM
03-15-2008, 04:21 PM
True. But I do think it proves a point. No matter how strong a country is it will prey on those that are weaker. There may be periods of extended peace but eventually there will be war, no matter how fat and happy the populace is.



I agree, strong countries either prey on weaker ones (USSR-Afghanistan) or they go into weak countries in the position of "the world's policemen", as happened with Rome, Britain, the U.S., etc.

mike black
03-15-2008, 04:27 PM
I agree, strong countries either prey on weaker ones (USSR-Afghanistan) or they go into weak countries in the position of "the world's policemen", as happened with Rome, Britain, the U.S., etc.

Where did you get that Rome & Britain were acting as "Police Men"?

RickLM
03-15-2008, 04:28 PM
Where did you get that Rome & Britain were acting as "Police Men"?


They were never putting down rebellions anywhere, or maintaining their empire?

mike black
03-15-2008, 04:30 PM
They were never putting down rebellions anywhere, or maintaining their empire?

Oh, I get it! You mean "World's Policemen" as in "Imperialists". I see. :roll:

Thudpucker
03-15-2008, 04:39 PM
Oh, I get it! You mean "World's Policemen" as in "Imperialists". I see. :roll:

the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molotov-Ribbentrop_Pact

It's not at all impossible that events like this could happen again.

xyzzy
03-15-2008, 04:43 PM
True. But I do think it proves a point. No matter how strong a country is it will prey on those that are weaker. There may be periods of extended peace but eventually there will be war, no matter how fat and happy the populace is.

Strong countries prey upon weak countries because it's cheap. The OP is looking at war through the lens of cost/benefit analyses. When people have very little, the potential benefit is high and can lead to war. When the cost of war is very cheap, that too may lead to war. But when the cost is high and the benefit is low, war is unlikely.

Kingsumo
03-15-2008, 05:00 PM
The point is this - if someone is not in immenint danger, is fat, happy, and making money, they are not going to war.

I understood the point, and I consider it one with a lot of merit. I just don't think the odds of ever getting to that level are likely, and I don't think it could hold indefinately. Eventaully something will happen to tip the scale (either natural or though interference) and it will snowball from there.

Even the main example cited above with the apes. What would happen if you introduced a couple more male apes into the mix? They would attempt to assert themself as alpha, and there would be struggle.

Thudpucker
03-15-2008, 05:05 PM
Strong countries prey upon weak countries because it's cheap. The OP is looking at war through the lens of cost/benefit analyses. When people have very little, the potential benefit is high and can lead to war. When the cost of war is very cheap, that too may lead to war. But when the cost is high and the benefit is low, war is unlikely.

That still goes back to what I was thinking earlier. It's my belief that no matter the state of prosperity people find themselves in one group of people will always find a reason to go to war with another. If need be they will invent one, things like cost and benifit won't deter war forever I don't think.

xyzzy
03-15-2008, 05:07 PM
That still goes back to what I was thinking earlier. It's my belief that no matter the state of prosperity people find themselves in one group of people will always find a reason to go to war with another. If need be they will invent one, things like cost and benifit won't deter war forever I don't think.

Forever? Maybe not. But you don't think it would affect the rate of incidence at all? I think it's a major factor. Of course people do crazy shit, but that doesn't invalidate the basic premise.

Thudpucker
03-15-2008, 05:11 PM
Forever? Maybe not. But you don't think it would affect the rate of incidence at all? I think it's a major factor. Of course people do crazy shit, but that doesn't invalidate the basic premise.

Oh, I think it will affedct the rate of incidence. I think a reduction in the amount of wars and an extending of how long peace lasts is entirely achievable and worth working towards.