Episode 10 - John Horgan

The End Of War

Episode Summary
John Horgan: The End Of War

In this episode, Susan interviews longtime Scientific American writer John Horgan who, drawing from the scientific evidence, counters the conventional wisdom that war is inevitable. John summarizes many of the points in his book that support the conclusion that, biologically speaking, we are just as likely to be peaceful as violent. War is not preordained, and furthermore, it should be thought of as a solvable, scientific problem. John summarizes what we know about human history – that the evidence of violent conflict between humans is just not there for 99% of human history. He makes a strong case for why we should be optimistic that ending war is attainable and what we might focus on to make that happen.

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Show Notes (See below for links to resources and topics mentioned in this podcast)

* Background

o John Horgan is a science writer and a professor

* Classes taught at Steven’s Institute of Technology include a class on war and science

* Author of a book titled: ‘The End of War’

* Shaped by a childhood during the cold war

* Honed his arguments within a military family, his father and his grandfather served in WWII and WWI

* Is it possible to end war?

o His experience has been that 9 out of 10 people believe that it is not possible to end war;

o His book is an attempt to argue otherwise.

o Is war part of human nature?

* This theory is false: war is a recent innovation, war is sporadic

o There is not much evidence that war is an inevitable result of competition for resources or inequality or poverty

o Horgan paraphrases Margaret Mead: War begets war, once war breaks out, it transforms a society, makes it more militaristic and more likely to engage in war in the future

* Some peace activists think we need to eliminate conflict and competition

o Not true, conflict is neither good nor bad, doesn’t necessarily lead to violence

* War is expensive, impractical and leads to lose-lose situations

* The U.S. spends $1 trillion on military

* There is evidence that we are in a period of relatively low war casualties

o Although the Syrian war is a big upsurge

* There are reasons to be optimistic

o Period of decline in violence

o Spread of democracy

* Democracies fight non democracies, but don’t tend to fight other democracies

* As information becomes the valued commodity, this undermines need for violence

o Although as global technology promotes globalism, it can also be used to spread hatred, e.g. ISIS’ use of social media

* Capitalism and commerce can be a progressive force in ending war

o The biggest companies, such as Apple and Google and Walmart, don’t want war; they want goods and capital to flow freely

* Vision of a new anti-war movement, including the traditional left but also including conservatives who worry about spending and religious conservatives who recognize that war is immoral

o Ending war is both a moral and practical imperative

* U.S. defense budget is nearly bigger than all the other countries’ budgets combined.

* Every time we use war we legitimize war and use of force.

o How do we use show of violence in a way that does not perpetuate more violence?

* War is not a force of nature or a natural disaster, it is a human creation.

* If everyone wants the end of war, even people who are making money off it, why is it not ended?

* War is not the inevitable product of differences and competition

o New York is fractious and competitive but the conflict and differences do not result in mass violence.

* You can reach John Horgan through his Scientific American blog: Cross-Check or via email: jhorgan@highlands.com or through his web page: www.johnhorgan.org

* Links to Resources and topics mentioned in this podcast

o John Horgan’s website: http://www.johnhorgan.org/index.htm

o Stevens Institute of Technology: http://www.stevens.edu/sit/

o End of War by John Horgan: http://www.johnhorgan.org/the_end_of_war_112595.htm

o Scientific American’s Cross-Check blog: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/

"The best way to predict the future is to create it".

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