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 AFWW Newsletter #28 - October 2012 - Biology and Ending War      
Have We Always Made War?
War is a Male Preoccupation
Creating a Nonviolent Future Requires Use of Nonviolence
Humans are Basically Good
Eternal War is Not Our Inescapable Destiny
About AFWW
Quotable Quote 
"Our world is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing that we know about living." 
Omar N. Bradley
 U.S. Army Field Commander, WW II. 

A Good Book

Nonviolence: the history of a dangerous idea.
by  Mark Kurlansky.  
Explores the power of nonviolent direct action.



A Good Movie


Why We Fight - documentary describes the rise and maintenance of the United States military-industrial complex. 2006. Eugene Jarecki - director.








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A Future Without War

Believe in it.

Envision it.

Work for it.

And we will achieve it.





These three quick links are to Dr. Hand's core articles on paradigm shift:

To Abolish War

Shaping the Future

More Links:




We live in troubled times on a planet filled to the brim with our species. Our burgeoning numbers and alteration of our physical environment have vastly magnified challenges that arguably threaten civilization itself. Our need to change the way we've been living is great.  


A good case can be made that the greatest folly of our time is to continue wasting lives and resources that are so desperately needed to meet and conquer these challenges on the grotesque behavior of war. A Future Without is dedicated to ending war, and this newsletter highlights our biology as it relates to the possibility of ending this folly.



Have We Always Made War?

For starters, consider that if we believe making war is a genetically evolved adaptation--something "in our genes"--that we have always made war--then it's rational to believe that actually ending it isn't possible. Unfortunately, such an assumption sets up a self-fulfilling prophecy. Knowing that it is impossible to escape from its grip, we make no sufficient effort to escape. Such is the current self-defeating belief of the overwhelming majority of the global community.


Increasing evidence indicates, however, that cooperation and avoidance of war characterized our ancestors during the roughly 190,000 years we lived as nomadic hunter-gatherers. That we have NOT always made war. 


What is some of that evidence? An AFWW article, Origins of War and Human Destiny reexamines the "man-the-warrior" hypothesis. That hypothesis proposes that our remarkable ability to cooperate evolved because it enabled us to make war:

  • The blog explains why one man, a science journalist, has changed his mind and no longer accepts the man-the-warrior model.
  • It compares what we know about the conflict behavior of two close relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos, and how these species deal with conflicts. There are huge and surprising differences....we are in several ways more bonobo-like than chimpanzee-like.
  • It describes some key physical characteristics of an incredibly ancient primate ancestor, a female fondly called Ardi. Her bones also strike a blow at the "we have always made war" hypothesis.
  • It introduces an alternative hypothesis to explain the origins of our fabulous ability to cooperate, a "humans-the-cooperators" model. Rather than being so successful because some of us were better at killing off others of us, this model suggests that our ancient ancestors survived and thrived because they were superb at getting along.

So here are bits of evidence that suggest that war is perhaps NOT an evolved adaptation. Read the full article  


War is Overwhelmingly a Male Preoccupation


At a biological level, there is a straightforward, bottom line reason why making war is a behavior characteristic of males of our species, not females. Male primates can make huge quantities of sperm and any male can potentially father a great many children. Should men loose children as a consequence of war, they can relatively easily father new offspring. So if in our ancient past there were advantages to be gained by males in the making of war....such as gaining status or dominance in their community....their basic reproductive interests apparently were not strong enough to counteract tendencies toward the behavior. 


Females of our species, on the other hand, make many fewer eggs, and they can raise only a limited number of children to reproductive maturity. In evolutionary logic, raising children to reproductive maturity so that they can pass on the parents' genes is essential to success. Should a woman loose children due to war, it will be far more difficult, perhaps even impossible, for her to bear and raise more children to the age of reproduction. Thus for our females, making war is hugely counterproductive to their reproductive interests. They have been selected instead to highly prefer social stability. 


To explore in more detail how and why these basic reproductive differences create such a profound difference in male and female priorities that it ultimately determines who makes war, namely men, see the essay "Biological Differences Between Men and Women with Respect to Physical Aggression and Social Stability".

To Create a Nonviolent Future Requires the Use of Nonviolent Means

We're not going to be able to kill our way to a future without war. This not only makes logical sense, history of the last roughly 10,000 years makes this fact quite evident.


So is there any evidence that our biology would allow us to successfully use nonviolence? Or are we perhaps biologically incapable of shaping our destiny, doomed to simply accept whatever future random forces of nature and our biology deliver to us, including the use of physical force?


An essay entitled "To Date, Nonviolence Movements Were 'Before Their Time.' Now They Are Poised to Change History" explains why the human community is poised to make a stunning, historical paradigm shift in worldview every bit as large as the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions.


We are, in fact, already in the throes of such a "Great Turning." The only question is where we will end up. Can we shape a future we desire or must we simply blunder forward and hope for the best?


The essay suggests that we can consciously create a shift from cultures steeped in violence at every level to ones that embrace nonviolence....which would include putting an end to that  great violence which is war. And that to do so, we must use nonviolent means.


Among other things, the essay explores:

  • Examples of successful nonviolent social transformation movements.
  • Why getting women involved will be an essential, necessary key to successfully using nonviolence to change history.
  • Why we have reached a unique historical window of opportunity to actually make this great, positive paradigm shift, a shift that will leave a legacy to benefit all the children and people of earth deep into our future.

Read the full essay   


Fortunately for Us, Humans are Basically Good

A fundamental upon which the entire method of nonviolent social transformation depends---the method we'd need to use to create a worldview shift away from violence--is the fact that virtually all humans are basically good (sociopaths are a tiny fraction of our populations). Nonviolence works because if your cause is just, your refusal to use violence when facing an opponent will allow you to appeal to your opponents' essential human nature, to that "goodness within," and thereby ultimately to win your opponent to your side. You can shift history in a positive direction using nonviolent means.


This works because your opponents will "know in their hearts" that they are on the wrong moral side of the issue. For example, if your struggle is to end war and all people are basically good, virtually all opponents you may encounter along your way would know in their hearts that you, not they, are standing on the moral high ground.


So what is human nature? Is it in fact essentially good? Does it understand, seek, and reward fairness? Or is it, as some religions, philosophies, and economists argue, essentially bad or overwhelmingly selfish?


The Neuroeconomist Paul Zak has written an important book, The Moral Molecule. In it he describes his work with the hormones oxytocin and testosterone. It is oxytocin that Zak calls the moral molecule. His work leads him to the position that we are primed by nature to be pro-social: to be cooperative, to be trusting, to be moral. Deviation from that state, which is the state that results from the flow of the moral molecule oxytocin, is just that....deviation. Our most basic propensity, according to Zak's work and based on the action of oxytocin, is to follow the Golden Rule.


Although The Moral Molecule does not address is the issue of war directly, our understanding of the roles of oxytocin and testosterone in regulating our behavior is fundamental. Read a  full review of The Moral Molecule


A shorter article entitled "Balancing Oxytocin and Testosterone-the Key To Ending War" focuses specifically on how Zak's work relates to a campaign to end war.


Eternal War is Not Our Inescapable Destiny   

A plan of action to accomplish the enormous but worthy goal of ending war is outlined in an essay, "
Shaping the Future."  We are not fated to always engage in this killing and destruction. War is not an inescapable, evolved biological trait. It is not our better selves and need not be part of our legacy to those who follow us. It's time for our generation to begin the hard work to dismantle the war machine, something that could be accomplished in two generations or less from the time we begin in earnest.


About A Future Without War

We want to provide newsletter readers with a reminder about our extensive website, The materials can be a reference for personal use, something to share with friends or colleagues who doubt that it would ever be possible to abolish war, and as thought pieces to stimulate discussions, for example, by your students, a book group, or peace activist organizations. You will find on the site:

  • A Mission Statement
  • Capstone Essay: "To Abolish War"
  • "Overview" Essays - 7 essays explaining the core rationale for why it is reasonable to believe we could abolish war if we make it a priority.
  • "Cornerstone" Essays - 9 essays explaining each of the broad categories of "good works" that we need to attend to simultaneously in any campaign to abolish war and maintain that state into the future.
  • "The Books" - a Table of Contents, reviews, and FREE download of Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace, links to purchase that book and also A Future Without War: the Strategy of a Warfare Transition"
  • A Link to the AFWW Blog
  • A Map of Nonviolent Cultures
  • A Video of Dr. Hand
  • Several Movie and Book Reviews
  • Archives of AFWW Newsletters
  • Links to over 150 Organizations involved in some aspect of the campaign to abolish war
  • Miscellaneous AFWW Essays

These are titles of and links to current Miscellaneous AFWW Essays:

A Future Without War
Believe in it. Envision it. Work for it.
And we will achieve it.

A Future Without War
Contact Info
A Future Without War Dr. Judith Hand P.O. Box 270074, San Diego, CA 92198