Peace-Loving Primates

| 4/8/2008 1:34:09 PM

MonkeyThere’s no shortage of justifications for the wars that soil human history. In the documentary The Fog of War, former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara makes the case for “just war” theory as a realistic means of reducing war's human costs. Just war, he believes, should be our goal, because war itself won’t be eliminated in this century.

A recent article in Discover gives the idea of war’s inevitability a second glance. Many scientists believe conflict between primates is a natural activity, an attempt to keep the resources-to-population ratio within reasonable bounds. Discover reports that a group of scientists and anthropologists are upending this aggression-is-destiny view with research showing that  primates are not hardwired to commit violence; rather, they do so in response to environmental and social stimuli. “War is evitable,” one scientist argues, “if conditions are such that the costs of making war are higher than the benefits.”

 Morgan Winters

Image by Rob, licensed under Creative Commons 

bob utne
4/14/2008 9:20:27 PM

what has the utne reader degenerated to?

Geraldine Gamburd
4/14/2008 2:34:57 PM

A suggestion to Jeffery Biss. You could ask some immensely important questions: Do human beings love violence? Are we and if so, how, are we hard-wired? As a retired anthropologist who taught peace studies, I would be interested in reading about that research. GOOD LUCK, Gerry Gamburd

Jeffery Biss
4/14/2008 2:09:58 PM

Have the anthropologists ever studied humans? Humans love violence. Humans hunt because they love to inflict pain, suffering, and death on other living things. Humans do not need meat under any circumstance to sustain life or health yet eat it simply because they don't care about their victim or the pain and suffering they cause in acquiring meat. Most meat eaters simply want someone else to do the dirty work. We are hardwired to commit violence and have an infinite capacity to rationalize it as good and required. If we were truly moral we would end violence as recreation and stop slaughtering other living things to simply satisfy our desire to taste their flesh. If we were truly moral we would see that morality is not about "me" but how "I" affect others. Our ego is fragile and committing violence allows us to feel dominant and special, evolved in a world that continually threatened us. It's time that we accept our obligations as moral beings to do the least harm regardless of how we value the "other". The question is whether we are truly moral or simply rationalizing brutes.

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