It was not sufficient to abhor war emotionally. To persuade the
public, Paul also had to find strong intellectual and logical reasons
for abolishing the social institution. Again his researches into
military technology provided the answers.
The social institution of organized violence and war was tremendously magnified by scientific and technological developments in the 20th century. Historical conflicts and enmities among nations and cultural groups became intensified by maldistribution of resources and great power rivalries. In this century alone more than 157 million people have been killed in wars, genocides and related actions. Gigantic sums were squandered on armaments, without a letup of wars and violence throughout the world.
Weapons technology continued to develop at a rapid pace, resulting in armaments of increasingly greater lethality, both to the military and to civilians. Research continued into even more destructive "third generation" nuclear weapons. Similar efforts were directed to making chemical and biological weapons still more deadly. So-called "conventional weapons" were becoming more lethal, with the proliferation of ballistic missiles, high explosive warheads and computer-controlled "smart" weapons. Radio-frequency (RF) weapons threatened to make science fiction's death ray a reality. Even old armaments were modernized, with tanks, artillery, aircraft and ships retrofitted with new, more lethal technologies. The result of this frantic activity was that more and more weapons and killing power were placed in the hands of many irresponsible governments and groups, including terrorists.
Paul was greatly disturbed by the tremendous misapplication and misuse of scientific research to weapons and armaments. Killing and destruction became easier and more affordable. Children barely able to walk found guns kept by their parents and accidentally killed with them. Countries barely able to feed their illiterate citizens were able to assemble massive armies with thousands of tanks and combat aircraft. The nuclear weapons in place were sufficient to destroy all life on the planet. He remembered the Holocaust at Auschwitz. Hundreds of vibrant communities, with scholars, artisans, tradesmen, professionals, all with their families were annihilated by the Nazis. Yet the best German science could not create a blade of grass out of the carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and other abundant elements. Forty years later the scientists still could not create a blade of grass; but they could destroy an entire planet with its billions of humans and trillions of other life forms. Even God took six days to create life on Earth. Modern science, misapplied for military purposes, could now annihilate all life in six hours.
This tremendous and rapidly escalating expenditure and activity was accompanied not by more but by less security. The danger of nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union receded. But there were many actual or potential military conflicts worldwide. A thriving world arms trade contributed to these conflicts.
A second negative consequence of the arms race also became unavoidable. As the militarization of the developing world's countries continued, much of the arms expenditures were by countries least able to afford them. The developed nations also suffered budgetary constraints, which reduced the foreign aid available to developing countries. This diversion of resources from solving world economic, social and environmental problems was then the other extremely negative consequence of the arms race.
Generally most people admitted that the preparation for, and the conduct of wars was harmful. But they saw no way out, for they looked at war as something that existed since time immemorial. To many, it appeared that war and violence was ingrained in human nature. Paul found the answer to these objections. Concerned scientists gathered to discuss this issue. They summarized their best findings in an official statement, which received wide endorsement by scientific societies all over the world. He was able to use this "Seville Statement on Violence" to bolster his arguments for abolishing war.
Believing that it is our responsibility to
address from our particular disciplines the most dangerous and
destructive activities of our species, violence and war; and
recognizing that science is a human cultural product which cannot be
definitive or all encompassing; we, the undersigned scholars from
around the world and from relevant sciences, have met and arrived at
the following Statement on Violence. In it, we challenge a number of
alleged biological findings that have been used, even by some in our
disciplines, to justify violence and war.
Misuse of scientific theories and data to justify violence and war is not new but has been made since the advent of modern science.
We state our position in the form of five propositions.
IT IS SCIENTIFICALLY INCORRECT to say that we have inherited a tendency to make war from our animal ancestors. Although fighting occurs widely throughout animal species, only a few cases of destructive intra-species fighting between organized groups have ever been reported among naturally living species, and none of these involve the use of tools designed to be weapons. Warfare is a peculiarly human phenomenon and does not occur in other animals.
The fact that warfare has changed so radically over time indicates that it is a product of culture. Its biological connection is primarily through language which makes possible the coordination of groups, the transmission of technology, and the use of tools. War is biologically possible, but it is not inevitable, as evidenced by its variation in occurrence and nature over time and space. There are cultures which have not engaged in war for centuries, and there are cultures which have engaged in war frequently at some times and not at others.
IT IS SCIENTIFICALLY INCORRECT to say that war or any other violent behavior is genetically programmed into our human nature. While genes are involved at all levels of nervous system function, they provide a development potential that can be actualized only in conjunction with the ecological and social environment. While individuals vary in their predispositions to be affected by their experience, it is the interaction between their genetic endowment and conditions of nurturance that determines their personalities.
IT IS SCIENTIFICALLY INCORRECT to say that in the course of human evolution there has been a selection for aggressive behavior more than for other kinds of behavior. In all well-studied species, status within the groups is achieved by the ability to cooperate and to fulfill social functions relevant to the structure of that group. Violence is neither in our evolutionary legacy nor in our genes.
IT IS SCIENTIFICALLY INCORRECT to say that humans have a "violent brain." While we do have the neural apparatus to act violently, it is not automatically activated by internal or external stimuli. Like higher primates and unlike other animals, our higher neural processes filter such stimuli before they can be acted upon. How we act is shaped by how we have been conditioned and socialized.
IT IS SCIENTIFICALLY INCORRECT to say that war is caused by "instinct" or any single motivation. Modern war involves institutional use of personal characteristics such as obedience, suggestibility and idealism, social skills such as language, and rational considerations such as cost-calculation, planning and information processing. The technology of modern war has exaggerated traits associated with violence both in the training of actual combatants and in the preparation of support for war in the general population. As a result of this exaggeration, such traits are often mistaken to be the causes rather than the consequences of the process.
We conclude that biology does not condemn humanity to war, and that humanity can be freed from the bondage of biological pessimism and empowered with confidence to undertake the transformative tasks needed in this International Year of Peace and in the years to come. The same species who invented war is capable of inventing peace. The responsibility lies with each of us.
Prepared and signed in Seville, Spain, May 16, 1986, by leading scientists.
When I first learned about your background, which includes 30
years of honorable service in the U.S. Marine Corps, a question
immediately came to my mind. How did you go from a "fighting Marine"
to an advocate of abolishing war?
Joe Burns: When I first entered military service in 1943, we were in the midst of World War II and we were functioning under the Atlantic Charter. The Atlantic Charter included the goal that "all the nations of the world, for realistic as well as spiritual reasons, must come to the abandonment of the use of force." Now, stated plainly that is the abolition of war, that's what 16 million men got into uniform for. I still pursue that goal of abolishing war as the only development that can guarantee the security of the United States and humanity at large. In my last ten years in the Marines I was trained and performed duties as a Nuclear Weapons Employment Officer, and understand the tremendous change in the nature of warfare that demands a major change in human behavior. Your question, incidentally, reflects the myth that military personnel are war lovers; in thirty years of service, I met no one who was genuinely fond of war.
TP: What actions do you recommend to other organizations interested in world peace and related issues?
JB: I think I would recommend to other organizations to broaden their vision to expand their goals to include the abolition of war as the most essential next step for humanity. I would especially encourage environmentally focused organizations to recognize that the most immediate and the most devastating threat to the environment is the danger of nuclear war. I think that the best advice that I could pass on is what I took from Albert Einstein: "Remember your humanity and forget the rest."
Human slavery was one of the most ancient
and despicable social institutions of mankind. As early as 3500 B.C.
-- 5,300 years before the independence of the United States -- the
Sumerians developed laws to protect the slave from the master. With
the rise of Christianity, the coming of the Age of Enlightenment, the
ringing declaration that all men are entitled to "certain Unalienable
Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of
Happiness," one would have thought that the very idea of slavery
would be an abhorrent notion to all Americans. But racism and greed
overcame righteousness and morality. Slavery became a recognized part
of the Constitution, and a dis-United States turned into "half free
and half slave."
This was the state of affairs that William Lloyd Garrison was determined to rectify. From his mother he inherited the religious enthusiasm of the Second Great Awakening, reinforced with the stern moralism of the Puritans. Receiving an informal education as a printer's apprentice, he became well qualified as a journalist to disseminate the ideas of moral improvement and humanitarian reform. His reform concerns included civil rights regardless of race or sex, pacifism and temperance. (After a century and a half, we still have not solved these problems. The struggle for civil rights and women's liberation, and against militarism and drug abuse still continues.) He chose Boston as the base of his activities, because of that city's intellectual community and hospitality to new ideas.
During a sojourn to Baltimore Garrison witnessed at first hand the evils of slavery. The sight of men, women and children on the auction block, in chains and tied to whipping posts made him into an uncompromising opponent of slavery. On January 1, 1831 he began, with but few resources, the publishing of The Liberator in Boston. In his newspaper he called for the abolition of slavery, and the immediate emancipation of slaves with full civil and political rights. But his concerns went beyond the enslaved blacks. The motto of The Liberator: "Our country is the world -- Our countrymen are mankind" expressed the scope of his interest in reform, including the idea that America has a mission to redeem all of humanity from oppression.
William Lloyd Garrison and The Liberator succeeded in becoming the major force in persuading public opinion in the North to turn against slavery. Frequently short of money, even exposed to physical violence, he persisted in an agitation that filled every part of the country. His strategy was the use of moral influence, appealing especially to organized religion -- the churches and pulpits with their power of Christianity. While he rejected violence, he predicted that a war will inevitably follow if slavery will not be abolished. He lived to see his predictions fulfilled -- a great and bloody Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution that forever prohibited slavery. He and his labors represent the best of the moral values of America and humanity. William Lloyd Garrison is a hero whose example we can all emulate.
The word "meme" was invented a decade ago
by Oxford zoologist Richard Dawkins, who devised an ingenious new way
of looking at culture change. Drawing on the analogy of the gene as
the fundamental unit of biological evolution, he posited the
existence of the meme -- from the Greek root meaning "imitation" as
the basic unit of cultural transmission. Like genes, memes can
replicate themselves, mutate and travel from one host to another.
They are literally ideas with a life of their own.
Dawkins speculated that our evolution as a species might be following not just a genetic but a cultural course as well via memes: "a new kind of replicator" capable of causing rapid and dramatic mental change.
If memes are as real and relevant to culture as DNA is to heredity, then we've got a lot of rethinking to do about thinking. The evolution of art, science, music, literature, politics and philosophy might have to be redefined. Instead of people having ideas, ideas would have people.