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.]

RadioLab New Normal Clip

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.

Part 1: Chimpanzee Warfare?

Q&A with Primatologist John Mitani

Part 2: In Search of the Origins of Warfare in the American Southwest

Part 3: The Psychology of Killing and the Origins of War

  3 Responses to “Why We Fight”

  1. One would hope that as humans continue to evolve; as the influence of religion declines; as the nations of the world become more integrated, that war will be viewed as a totally negative and non-productive event and that there is a growing realization that there are now better ways to resolve differences, where, for the first time, the consequences of our actions can be better foreseen and controlled.

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