Will humans ever stop fighting wars? John Horgan, a science writer and director of the Center for Science Writings at the Stevens Institute of Technology, has been asking this question for about seven years. In his words, he has asked “people of all ages and backgrounds – on the Internet, during lectures, at conferences and parties, in restaurants and taxis… whether they think war will ever be abolished.” The overwhelming answer? No. On average more than 9 in 10 people respond that we will never live in a world without war. A reporter for New York Public Radio’s RadioLab recently recorded Mr. Horgan asking passersby this question on a crowded street in Hoboken, New Jersey. You can listen to some of their responses in the clip below. [The entire episode of RadioLab, New Normal, which includes three more cool stories can be heard here for free.]
When asked to explain why they thought war would never be abolished most people cited human nature, claiming that we have an irrevocable tendency toward violent clashes rooted somewhere deep within our biology. This is a deeply troubling idea. But is it true? Is warfare written in our DNA? Or, like so many other social institutions, is it merely something we have invented? A wide range of scientists from primatologists to social anthropologists, archaeologists to biologists have looked for answers to these questions. In this series of posts I’ll look at some of this research and consider how it affects our attitude toward war. Check back soon for updates.