Discover magazine refused to print this letter:
April 9, 2008
Letter to Discover magazine:
Theories on the cause of war were examined by John Horgan in the April Discover. When chimpanzees engage in organized coordinated assassination, we are shocked and blame it on their nature. But when humans engage in massive killing of tens of thousands, we attribute it to events, as if people were NOT motivated by similar misguided instincts which create, spark, and propel war. This carnage wont be stopped by staying stupid about its ancestral origins. And as to blaming "belligerent males" for war, women were (and still are) indispensable in reproducing them.
Jerry Simpson (Santa Cruz, California)
COMMENT BY JERRY SIMPSON: "Originally I wrote a longer version. Then I edited it down to this short letter, thinking the shorter version would increase the chance of getting it published in Discover magazine. Not so. Instead they published two namby-pamby letters more acceptable to the public."
Here's a longer version--not sent:
April 8, 2008
Letter to Discover Magazine:
Theories on the cause of war were examined by John Horgan in your April Discover.
When chimpanzees engage in organized coordinated assassination, we are able to call it "war," albeit small scale war, which we then ascribe to their nature. But when humans engage in massive killing, we still debate whether it is our nature. Those who deny human nature as the cause of war list the anti-war traits of compassion, cooperation, reconciliation, interdependence, grooming, play, and sex. But these "loving" traits make war possible, because war is collective and requires bonds between people. Our loving nature, which includes the capacity for great grief, is integral to our capacity for great slaughter.
Some deniers of innate human nature also point to religion as a force against war. But the biological evolution of our INNATE gullibility and our INNATE herd instinct and our INNATE magical thinking--in other words, religion--facilitates ritualization of death and thereby facilitates war by teaching that a soul escapes death, which in turn facilitates one group replacing a neighboring group, even if the price is carnage for themselves.
A warrior's self-sacrifice, greased by religion, can increase the social status and reproductive success of his surviving kin. Thereby his demise can preserve his warring traits in the gene pool. (There is an evolutionary basis for suicide bombers, unfortunately.) If he survives combat, his genetic traits are more directly perpetrated. Of even greater importance is the relation between rape and war in human evolution. But as to blaming only belligerent males for war, women were (and still are) indispensable in voluntarily reproducing them--along with their sheepish brethren. Leaders and followers are the same problem.
Despite long periods of peace in prehistory, the temperament to replace a neighboring group had a clear selective advantage. That temperament still operates today in common racism, and in racism's many equivalencies.
As a species, we devote large amounts of science to make war successful but no real science to make war unsuccessful. If you want peace, you must study war--as a species-specific activity, and find species-specific solutions. One such solution is portrayed in Report from Iron Mountain, a little book which is universally condemned by peace activists.
The more pressing issue is this: Why do educated people deny the obvious existence of this problematic human nature? By ascribing war (and racism and rape) to external conditions and/or to individual malfeasance, those who deny "human nature" are ultimately ensuring the continuance of war (and racism and rape).
War wont be stopped by staying stupid about its ancestral origins.
Jerry Simpson (Santa Cruz, California)
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