John Horgan: Peace is Possible

Monday, May 28, 2012

John Horgan, science journalist and director of the Center for Science Writings at the Stevens Institute of Technology and author of the new book The End of War, explores whether war is a part of human nature and discusses the answers people have given him to the question: "Is war inevitable?"


John Horgan

Comments [9]

Jessie Henshaw from way uptown

What people tend to miss is the counter-intuitive part.

The greatest cause of war is really when "prosperity" becomes a relentless drive for wealth and power, and naturally over-stresses its environment. That sneaks up on people because we generally want *TWO THINGS* we generally misunderstand the consequences of.

It's defining prosperity as "multiplying prosperity" using your wealth and power to GROW your wealth and power (as people generally do). That naturally leads to "escalating commitment to a failed course of action" if growth becomes habitual and something you need to promise. Using money or power to multiply *your* prosperity invariably pushes over the limits of all your relationships with others quite abruptly. So, the cause of war is hidden, because it's an easy mistake behind what is most generally our most celebrated purpose.

The solution isn't much harder than dealing with the doubt and shame of having our ideals turn out to be so complicit in causing such carnage, though obviously that's not an insignificant task. I've written lots on why growth as a natural process is both the source wealth and needs a new purposes when it strains its world for the wealth to survive.

I was planning to be a physicist but got bored with what physics seemed to be. I had a variety of eye opening experiences that exposed a way to recognize and understand the patterns of nature's explosions of creativity, and how they add or fail to connect with life in the end.

May. 28 2012 10:58 AM
John A.

It was interesting to hear that Horgan wrote the book "The End of Science". Research into that has made things a bit more interesting.

May. 28 2012 10:51 AM
Helen Savage from New Jersey

War is about money and power. They are completely manufactured. There are many people getting rich off of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. There were people who made money off of the war in Vietnam and World War II. It's true of every war. Politicians like war because it's an easy issue to play on people's emotions and control society.

May. 28 2012 10:41 AM
johnson from nyc

As long as men oppress women (by trying to own their bodies, whether by laws or by violence), there will be war.

May. 28 2012 10:36 AM
John A.

The image comes to mind of one ant colony fighting another ant species for domination of a territory. Definitely not human, but definitely not war? Not my conclusion.

May. 28 2012 10:35 AM
Bill Pierce from Trenton NJ

Your conversation begs the point. So far you are discussing innate, heritable, social and individual aggression. Nonsense. War is almost exclusively economic. War is motivated by Hunger, greed and population pressure. Wolf packs and Lion Prides fight for territory and access to game. People do much the same. Great powers fight wars to take and keep resources. Americans take note. If we wish to "Study War no More", we have to learn to share and cooperate. I'm sympathetic to Mr. Horgan but not optimistic.

May. 28 2012 10:27 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Bonobo Sex and Society

The behavior of a close relative challenges assumptions about male supremacy in human evolution


Frans B. M. de Waal

(Originally published in the March 1995 issue of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, pp. 82-88)

"Despite such quid pro quo between the sexes, there are no indications that bonobos form humanlike nuclear families. The burden of raising offspring appears to rest entirely on the female's shoulders. In fact, nuclear families are probably incompatible with the diverse use of sex found in bonobos. If our ancestors started out with a sex life similar to that of bonobos, the evolution of the family would have required dramatic change.

Human family life implies paternal investment, which is unlikely to develop unless males can be reasonably certain that they are caring for their own, not someone else's, offspring. Bonobo society lacks any such guarantee, but humans protect the integrity of their family units through all kinds of moral restrictions and taboos. Thus, although our species is characterized by an extraordinary interest in sex, there are no societies in which people engage in it at the drop of a hat (or a cardboard box, as the case may be). A sense of shame and a desire for domestic privacy are typical human concepts related to the evolution and cultural bolstering of the family."

My comment: we are reverting to bonoboism and we will see how well that works out soon enough!

May. 28 2012 10:25 AM
Rick Evans from 10473

Oh the feminist bonobos vs. chimps trope. I guess war will vanish when all humans are bisexual pedophiles, like bonobos.

May. 28 2012 10:18 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

The female-led bonobos have very small and undesirable territories and relatively few in numbers whereas regular chimps are more widespread. Bonobo territory is poor land that regular chimps don't even want.

May. 28 2012 10:17 AM

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