In 1987 a group of 20 psychologists, ethologists, sociologists, behaviorists and anthropologists from a dozen countries issued the "Seville Statement on Violence."
This document suggests that the last 5,000 years of interminable warfare throughout recorded history, along with uncounted ages prior, have led to some harsh yet faulty conclusions about Homo sapiens.
The statement rejects the idea of violence being genetically programmed into mankind’s nature, disclaims humanity’s supposed inclination to make war owing to our animal ancestry, denies an innate predisposition to aggression, and disavows that evolution has selected bellicose traits as a particularly advantageous survival strategy.
Among scientific theses this manifesto is remarkable in that it might be said to contain some modicum of opinion, politics, and sentiment — along with its resolution running mostly counter to the major historic events in the annals of every nation and era.
Such an extraordinary view of the indisputably blood-stained chronicle of humankind has nonetheless made quite a bit of headway in the scientific community. It was immediately endorsed by the U.N. (UNESCO), has been published in 20 languages in 150 scholarly and popular journals, and been confirmed by 75 of the world’s foremost scientific organizations.
There are dissenting voices though who consider that the "Seville Statement" may tend to stray closer to rose-colored utopianism rather than scientific law, and that objection is buoyed by conflicting data in human biology.
Neurologists, for example, have established the hypothalamus, septum and amygdala — the limbic system of the human brain — as organic centers of aggression.
Biologists also know that the limbic system is modulated by chemical transmitters and hormones; changes in serotonin or testosterone levels, for instance, can heighten or reduce combativeness.
Geneticists also don’t rule out pugnacity being wired into the human genome. In 2014, a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Molecular Biology explored the possibility of certain variants of the MAOA and CDH13 genes causing impulsive and violent behavior—acting as so-called "warrior genes."
The research paper noted a large percentage of the population — 40 percent to 50 percent — possesses that genetic pattern. There are many other contentious debates in genetics regarding inherited aggressive characteristics though, sufficient to indicate that there isn’t anything approaching surety in this matter.
Aside from biological imperatives which conceivably might rely on violence as one of nature’s impetuses driving human behavior, there is also the eons-long duration of mankind’s nurturing experience as apex predator which could contribute toward the same results.
Bands of humans, emulating animals which hunt in packs, were far more efficient hunters than lone stalkers. Cooperative hunting must surely have been the seminal model for the very similar warband to fight off human adversaries and interlopers.
There is more than just supposition, however, regarding the age-old roots of formalized warfare. Neolithic cave art in Spain — Levantine art — painted some 10,000 years ago, depicts skirmishing archers and even military-style maneuvers.
And, from Jebel Sahaba in Egypt bordering the Sudan, the graves of 59 skeletons have been excavated at perhaps the oldest putative battlefield cemetery on Earth: the fallen interred 13,000 years in the past.
Since those 59 people were slain in Upper Egypt, inestimably large numbers of other human beings have met their end in all the wars, skirmishes and personal violence that has occurred over the entire planet.
More than one hundred million people were dispatched due to warfare in the 20 th century alone. Counting from the year the "Seville Statement" was announced, asserting that humanity really has little stomach for collective killing, some 10 million individuals are tallied as the victims of the 160 wars that have raged from 1987 to the present.
Supporters of the principles articulated in the Seville Statement have written reams of papers on the theory and doctrine that upholds their position based on any number of optimistic constructs.
Unfortunately, though, those tenets point to exceedingly few cultures — primitive or modern — to have exhibited conformity with the idyllic model of the human race as simply noble but misunderstood, nor answer with complete certitude concerning the genesis and understanding of armed conflict.
Ideologues may conclude that there is much of the angelic and altruistic in humanity and that the theft, slaughter, brutishness, competitiveness, invasion, oppression, expulsion and genocide that are very clear hallmarks of what has transpired in the main all over the world in every epoch should somehow be counted as a misinterpretation of the true nature of our species.
That is certainly acceptable for philosophers, but anathema for scientists.
Science doesn’t pick sides, nor hope for the assumed good, nor oppose the implicit bad, nor publish statements toward any of those ends. Nor does it weaken a society’s primal will to self-preservation by diminishing the deep-seated conviction in the vital necessity of its armed forces.
That’s called either politics or religion.
David Nabhan is a science writer, the author of "Earthquake Prediction: Dawn of the New Seismology" (2017) and three previous books on earthquakes. Nabhan is also a science fiction writer ("Pilots of Borealis," 2015) and the author of many scores of newspaper and magazine op-eds. Nabhan has been featured on television and talk radio all over the world. His website is www.earthquakepredictors.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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