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Is War Inevitable?

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February 18, 2012 09:42:43 PM
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Wayne Fellows

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War will end if and when we have international law and the institutions necessary to enforce it. The alternative is a final nuclear war.

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February 18, 2012 08:40:27 PM
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Gary Rosenberger

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Just look at the visceral hatred that Republicans have for Democrats (and vice versa to a lesser degree, I think). People brand themselves in ways that are exclusive and isolating and, ultimately, hostile.

It's not just in the world of politics but in the world of dog runs, where dog owners form into cliques that are quite hostile to each other.

Hard to see how people will get away from this kind of "group think" from which all hostility arises.

Okay, here is another example. Look at how much the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street have in common and yet they each consider the other to be the enemy.

Having said that, I hope the author is right and that I am wrong.

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February 18, 2012 05:53:39 PM
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Steven Pinker

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As I argue in a recent book which is (in part) complementary to John's (The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined), I think that the causes of war -- human avarice, short-sightedness, vengeance, dominance, tribalism, and self-deception -- will always be with us, but that wars may not be (at least, not in the sense of big interstate wars that kill a lot of people -- local skirmishes and small civil wars that blend into turf battles and mafia-like feuds will be with us a lot longer). The more institutionalized the practice (as in human sacrifice or chattel slavery), the easier it is to abolish, and big interstate wars are highly institutionalized, hence the decline we've seen since 1946 could very well continue until the practice no longer exists.

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February 18, 2012 02:37:35 PM
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Tom

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No. War in not inevitable.
Since war requires coordinated state planning, this means that there is always time for a rational cost benefit analysis and the international community should be able to make peace the more beneficial outcome.
Of course some wars are wars of ideology, but these can be derailied where intervention is early enough. Again, the international community could play a role in doint this.

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February 17, 2012 03:29:45 PM
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Florence Morris

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I just finished listening to The Bad Show episode of radiolab
(http://www.radiolab.org/2012/jan/09/).
I am almost finished listening to War and Peace on Audible.com. I would say war is inevitable since there will always be people who think or feel they ought to kill for whatever reason.

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February 17, 2012 02:11:01 PM
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Barbara Himber

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Yes. With burgeoning populations globally, people will go to war to gain resources like water, fuel, food. Even if our planet was decimated, survivors would fight each other for control or territorial advantage. They would have to fight to defend themselves from groups of marauders with criminal intent. I agree with one guest who suggested that more women in positions of power would ameliorate man's instinct to go to war.

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February 17, 2012 01:52:12 PM
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Judith Hand

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Is War Inevitable? Absolutely not!
As a species, we do possess evolved traits that make us susceptible to making war. The actual behavior, though, is context dependent. It is not a genetic trait like hair color or aspects of our physiology that are inevitably expressed. It only emerges under certain conditions of our physical and social environment. And if we decide to embrace a culture that rejects war, we are perfectly capable of putting an end to it. Ending war is a matter of knowledge (understanding what conditions bring it on) and will (deciding to change our cultures in ways that suppress urges to dominate others using violence). The vast majority of people on this planet would love to live without war…they just need to find a way to escape the cultural rut we have dug for ourselves.
I have built an entire website devoted to the proposition that we can create A Future Without War (www.AFutureWithoutWar.org). And if we had a united and powerful global will to do it, I give reasons and examples to explain why we could accomplish that astounding feat in two generations or less.
The site’s background perspective is heavily biological, behavioral, anthropological, and primatological. You will find there essays, blogs, a link to a video explaining the causes of war and how to end it, and much more.
In short, what you will find there is knowledge and hope.

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February 17, 2012 12:21:27 PM
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Chip Hauss

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War is not inevitable.

I don't know if we have a tendency toward violence "built into" us genetically. I hope not, but sometimes I think so.

But, war is not inevitable in at least two ways.

First, as scholars have been finding for a decade or more, the number of wars is down. Still too high. Still too bloody. But down.

Second, going to war is a choice made by societies and governments. It's a choice we don't have to make.

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February 17, 2012 11:37:50 AM
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Peter Tassone

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As long as we keep propagating like insects and we keep believing that financial wealth is the key to self fulfillment,we will continue on a path of self-destruction, and war will be part of that picture. But eventually war will devolve from disagreements between countries to global "class warfare". Those who are in control now will continue to gain more control until it all blows up in their faces. And we will all pay the price.

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February 17, 2012 11:16:01 AM
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War is not inevitable. I was distressed that in your recent program on this subject both your guest and most callers made arguments for and against the inevitability of war based mainly on unexamined notions of “human nature.” Neither biological not theological essentialism is of any real use in addressing this question. Moreover, both evolutionary psychology and sociobiology, the fields to which much of your discussion appealed, amount I think to little more than cocktail party chatter between soft covers: fields in which real empirical data are replaced with speculation piled on speculation. The only discipline that can yield real insight into the inevitability of warfare is history. Serious study of history is all the more essential in the United States, because American public life is acted out against a background of historical ignorance so total that it amounts to willful collective amnesia. Before college, most Americans study only American history, and a version of American history so distorted by exceptionalism and triumphalism that it leaves them badly prepared not only for undergraduate study of history but for citizenship. If Americans had more real history in their heads, they would never have tolerated the Bush-Cheney administration’s starting two illegal wars based on nothing but lies. History shows that no war is categorically inevitable, even if there arrives a point on the road to every war at which it ceases to be preventable—for example, arguably, the Third Reich’s invasion of Poland. Thus war itself as a phenomenon is not absolutely inevitable. We must remember that resorting to war always represents failure: a political failure, always, and often too a diplomatic, economic, social, cultural, or military failure. John Lennon was right: war is over, if we want it.

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February 17, 2012 11:14:28 AM
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Michael Shermer, Publisher of Skeptic magazine, columnist for Scientific American

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War is not inevitable, and in fact, has been in decline for millennia. Prehistoric peoples were far more murderous than states in percentages of the population killed in combat. For example, on average, nonstate societies kill around 15 percent of their people in wars, whereas today’s states kill a few hundredths of a percent. Even in the murderous 20th century, about 40 million people died in war out of the approximately six billion people who lived, or 0.7 percent. Even if we include war-related deaths of citizens from disease, famines and genocides, that brings the death toll up to 180 million deaths, or about 3 percent. Over the past five centuries the European Great Powers have been at war with one another almost continuously up to 1945. Since then there have been 0 Great Power wars. Can you imagine France invading England today? Or Germany invading France? What was once commonplace is now unthinkable! The data are overwhelmingly in support of the hypothesis that war is in decline, and no amount of anecdotal examples your guests will trot out to paint their doomsday scenario can trump the long term data trend.

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February 17, 2012 11:09:03 AM
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Ann Finkbeiner

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I don't think war is going to stop dead once and for all. But I think it's going to get rarer. I don't begin to have the evidence that Horgan and Tom Hayden and the rest of your authors have. My only reason is that with the astounding ramp-up in global connectedness, war is going to increasingly feel like circling the wagons and shooting inward.

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February 17, 2012 11:03:53 AM
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B. Kosmider

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I am left gobsmacked by the questions: 'Is War Inevitable?', as if one has a choice in the matter. It is unlikely that anyone asked this question, who came of age in WW II in this nation, would ever answer no. Yes, conflicts have become more defuse, with the 'enemy' less clear, but evil exists, it always has and always will.
The question of whether 'war' is inevitable is flawed and rhetorical: defense of freedom is something that is necessary, continuous, and will always involve costly sacrifice. I imagine that anyone having faced the seemingly unstoppable victories of Axis Germany and Japan in the first years of WW II would have regarded the question as almost ridiculous. It will always be necessary to fight to live free, or die as a slave.

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February 17, 2012 10:56:01 AM
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June in Manhattan

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War is crime - theft and murder - on a mass basis. As long as individual humans continue to be capable of - and commite - crime on an individual basis we shall continue to be capable of - and commite - crime on a mass basis.

Individual criminals justify their crimes with bogus reasons (often the result of rampant egotism). Leaders of mass crimes do the same - Hitler with the bogus threat of invasion by Poland to justify that invasion; Bush with the bogus threat of WMD's to justify invading Iraq.

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February 17, 2012 10:40:59 AM
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matthew

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War is conflict. conflict is endemic in human society ie. Road Rage ,Domestic Violence, School Yard Bullies,Murder.
When that disappears from the world I'll entertain the concept of the end of War. Until then ,keep dreaming.

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February 17, 2012 08:59:32 AM
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Amanda

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Evolution is inevitable. We will stop fighting wars when we have evolved past whatever it is that allows/encourages us to do it now.

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February 17, 2012 02:43:55 AM
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Lee Evans

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The driving force of mankind is greed, which may sound religious, and in its essence I imagine it is.
The "1%'ers" are manipulating civilization in such a way that the industrial military complex is a lucrative one, it maintains a large working force, and advances science, it allows the few to remain powerful and undermines the "foot soldiers", or perhaps better said, the poor.
It remains a dangerous and yet inevitable means to perpetuate the wealth and power of the few, to reap "rape" the resources of the planet and will ultimately, of course become its downfall.
Few wars have had legitimacy that have been fought by the US. Since WWII, perhaps the only ethical war fought was Korea, and that too is "arguable". I've become very cynical and appalled that our country (now a "torture" nation) has forfeited its character and morality, lied to its citizens and become a vicious empire with little regard of the human devastation and loss of "democracy" it has left in its wake. Yes war is inevitable, either because the countries we have devastated will desire retaliation, or the very people within will rise up once again rebellion, because of the lust for power and the greed of the few.

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February 17, 2012 12:13:19 AM
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Stan

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War will end humanity before humans end war.

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February 16, 2012 09:19:58 PM
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Peter Romersa

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Yes, war is inevitable! The first so-called "classic" text in the "Great Books of the Western World" is the Illiad & the Odessy" by Homer. It is a tale of war. As long as we refuse to meditate, refuse to pray, and love our brethren, war we be forever. For example, I could make a list of all the people in history that have been executed and persecuted such as Hitler, Sadam Hussien, Bin Lauden, Laughner, Kasinsky, Manson, Pol Pot, Edee Amin. These are terrible people, whom we have nothing better to do with them than to kill them

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February 16, 2012 04:19:49 PM
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Brian Whalen

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YES - Conflict is a part of our existence. War is an Extreme form of conflict. So as long as We have one World, many people & a materialistic culture there will continue to be conflict and sometimes WAR.

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