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Ending War, Sexual Dimorphism, and Human Destiny: A Biological Perspective

September 4, 2017

Judith L. Hand, Ph.D.

This essay explores the possibility of ending war and a facet of biology called sexual dimorphism. It describes how these relate to creating a more just, secure, and peaceful human destiny. A “better” future.

Two radical changes in the way we organize our lives, guided by both political and biological reality, would substantially advance the creation of such a future. First, we need to craft a maintainable, global peace system. A critical mass of citizens and visionary leaders must commit to securing a global, enforceable peace treaty and a global peace alliance with qualities needed to maintain it. We’ll look at three such peace systems to learn how they work. Second, we need to embrace gender parity governing (koinoniarchy, from the Greek word koinonia, meaning to share). We’ll explore why biological reality dictates that partnership between men and women in governing our lives is central to success.

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Consider the enormous problematic issues listed above. Arguably all are legitimate evils that don’t fit into anyone’s vision of a “better” future. Consider also these threats: a highly contagious, highly lethal natural pandemic; a nuclear war; leakage of large amount of stored nuclear waste into the atmosphere; an out of control computer virus used in a global cyberwar; release of a biological or chemical weapon of mass destruction; collapse of the ocean ecosystem. With the single exception of a highly lethal natural pandemic, every one of these is a potential disaster of our own making.

The essay has two main sections, the first on the potential to end war and the second on human sexual dimorphism, followed by a brief conclusion. But we begin with a broad historical perspective.

OUR CURRENT EXISTENTIAL DILEMMA

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This graph plots estimated numbers of humans on Earth going back nine thousand years. At the far right, roughly 250 years ago, an explosive rise in our numbers begins, attributed mostly to preventing early deaths and increasing food productivity (Daly 2005). Imagine the disruptive social effects of that explosive rise. During hundreds of thousands of years of evolution that shaped our natures, we lived in a world where, when resources ran out or disagreements erupted that might lead to what we call war, rather than make war, some group members could have packed up their meager belongings and moved to an unoccupied place. Moving would have relieved the social pressure, and biologists call that very successful adaptation, dispersal.

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As a result, as the graphic at the bottom right indicates, we occupy ALL habitable landmasses, and in this Scientific American article, the economist Herman Daly described this by saying that we’ve transitioned from an empty world to a full world (Daly 2005). This transition is putting enormous pressures on our affairs. Large cohorts of young men, East and West, fall into crime or a drug culture or are seduced into radicalism. Sweeping tides of refugees and immigrants impact nations across the globe. There are no empty places to which unhappy or starving people can disperse without bumping up against people already present, who are possibly themselves in dire conditions. We’ve created a new, changed environment to which we need to adapt.  I agree with experts convinced that we’ve reached an existential tipping point with respect to the global social order, or improbably but not impossibly to our extinction.

To avoid or survive such catastrophic events, we’ll need money and legions of humans applying ingenuity and sweat. Given the financial, physical, and human capital wasted on wars, avoiding wars would unquestionably be a wise and sane adaptation now. So consider Albert Einstein’s insight that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

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The essay’s subtitle is “A Biological Perspective.” From that perspective, the essay’s primary assumption is that to solve these problems, to get some different results, and shape a “better” future, we need to understand ourselves; we need to look through the lens of biology to answer the question, “What kind of animal are we?”

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We named ourselves Homo sapiens—wise man—but much of our behavior is so harmful, to ourselves and increasingly to the planet, that the word “wise” may not fit us very well. Perhaps a better choice might have been Homo acutus—clever man; without doubt we are very very clever. During hundreds of thousands of years, our ancestors lived as simple bands of nomadic foragers, but they came to possess behaviors that made us one of Earth’s most dominant species. And many of these behaviors weren’t based on carefully thought-out reason. They were the results of natural selection that ensured the survival and reproductive success of those who gave rise to us.

So, still based on biology, a second assumption is that we must embrace the reality that much of our behavior is, in fact, guided not only by learning but by genetically-based, evolved predispositions/preferences/tendencies/urges, whatever you want to call them. I use the terms interchangeably. They are roughly equivalent to what Panksepp calls primary-process and secondary-process affective brain systems that motivate behavior (Panksepp 2010). These “built-in” tendencies powerfully influence many of our social actions (e.g., Polderman et. al 2015), and specifically, with respect to social conflicts and social behavior, were going to examine why and how some of these urges are not the same for our two sexes.

PART 1 – POLITICAL REALITY

We begin, though, not with sexual biology, but with the potential to end war and how that relates to creating a “better” future. First, war is defined as used here. Then we consider whether it is an inescapable facet of what kind of animal we are.

Murder clearly is not war. As used here, revenge killings of specific individuals over personal grievances, things like lethal family feuding, is also not war. We’ll not  eliminate murder or revenge killings any time soon. Both go back deeply into our past, perhaps even before our predecessors became humans. War is when people band together to indiscriminately kill people in another group and the majority of the community’s noncombatants and religious leaders sanction this action. It is a community’s sanctioned killing of people in other groups who have not personally harmed the killers that, as used here, distinguishes war from other forms of killing. For example, two drug gangs killing each other or even outsiders is not what’s being considered because they’re NOT supported by the larger communities where they live, nor by their religious leaders. Gang killings are policing issues.

So, is war inescapable? Or is it actually a cultural late-comer to human behavior?

War – Nature or Nurture?

We begin with the work of anthropologists who’ve studied people called hunter-gatherers or nomadic foragers. These societies are our best window into our deep human evolutionary past; they reflect how Homo sapiens likely lived for hundreds of thousands of years during which we evolved to be what we are today, before we started living in permanent settlements or villages. Doug Fry.001The anthropologist Douglas Fry reviewed literature on many aspects of thirty-five hunter-gatherer cultures (Fry 2006, 2007). If you combine and analyze all of them together, no particular pattern emerges with respect to war. But Fry separated them into two groups: simple hunter-gatherers and complex hunter-gatherers.

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Now interesting patterns do emerge. Eight social variables are listed down the left column. We can compare social characteristics between simple hunter-gatherers, central column, and complex hunter-gatherers, to the right. A fundamental resource difference exists between them having to do with food supply, mobility, and population density that I, and others, believe relates to the emergence of war. Compare primary foods, top left column. Simple hunter-gatherers rely on highly mobile terrestrial game. Or in some cases, like the Hadza of Africa, they rely on insufficiently rich or unreliably available plants. Complex hunter-gatherers rely on marine resources or reliably available plants. The classic example of settled hunter-gatherers were tribes along the north-west coast of the United States and Canada that depended on intertidal edibles and massive salmon fish-runs (Kelly 2013) Consequently, food storage is rare for simple-hunter gatherers but typical for complex hunter-gatherers. Note the effect on mobility: Complex hunter-gatherers are settled or mostly settled. Their food resource is sufficiently rich and stable that they can put down permanent roots.

Settling changed our way of life. It created new environments, which elicited, or triggered, many consequences. Compare effects on population size—low population densities vs. higher population densities. There were also behavioral changes, like attitudes about competitiongovernment.001

Note especially differences in political systems, a feature relevant to this essay. For simple hunter-gatherers the political/social system is “egalitarian.” Egalitarian is not meant in the sense that all individuals are respected equally. They are not (see e.g. Rosaldo 1974). Typically it is meant in the sense that there is no chief or even group of men who lead and can impose his/their will on others. Family units tend to manage their affairs independently and  decisions affecting the entire group (e.g., whether to break camp or decide whether a group memeber should be punished for some serious infraction) are made by mutual consent of all group members, men and women. There is no chief or king. Decision-making on issues that affect the entire group is not patriarchal or matriarchal but by mutual agreement of all group members, men and women: a koinoniarchy.

Now consider WARFARE and note that nomadic, simple hunter-gathers, who arguably most resemble our deeply ancient ancestors, rarely make war. Significantly, some of those cultures have never been recorded as making war. This is consistent with emerging theory that our success is due to our impressive capacity for cooperation — the “humans as cooperators model” — rather than competitively killing each other — the “man the warrior” hypothesis. Significantly this is strong evidence that war is NOT a genetic predisposition. Otherwise all of these people, including the simple hunter-gatherers, would commonly make war. Also remember, because it is important later, that their social system is egalitarian.

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Archaeological findings make clear, however, that once we permanently settled, especially into villages and then towns, warfare emerged and became increasingly common (Dye 2013, Ferguson 2013, Kelly 2013). Now it may seem universal, but war does not occur everywhere. The red dots indicate centers of distribution of over 80 cultures anthropologists classify as internally peaceful/nonviolent/and or/non-warring. They’re NOT utopias. They are human beings who have arguments and conflicts. Sexual jealousy can be a problem, as can general “trouble-makers.” Fry, for example, describes social conflicts and how they are resolved in several “peaceful” societies, even including rare instances of homicide (Fry 2007, pp148-165). But using physical aggression is uncommon, and in the societies described, war is absent.

Some of these societies are fairly familiar, like the Amish, Hopi, and Sami (sometimes called Laplanders, a term they dislike). Notably, Norwegians are included in a list of internally peaceful cultures (Fry 2006, p. 63). Most are totally unfamiliar (like Mardu, and Nubians). Sadly, the existence and nature of nonviolent cultures is, with rare exceptions, not taught in our schools, leaving children to view history as being built around cycles of war, thereby leaving the impression that war is part of what kind of animal we are.

Non-warring religious groups (e.g., Quakers, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baha’i, Mennonites, Hutterites) live within a state-level, warring culture, but they create a way of life that avoids war, or fighting in wars of groups around them. Their existence also supports proof that making war is a bad—arguably evil—cultural phenomenon, not a genetic inevitability.

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So the evidence thus far indicates that war is fundamentally a result of nurture, not nature. We’ll return to this issue.

Essentials of Enduring Peace

A number of books propose that we could end war (e.g., English 2007, Goldstein 2011, Hand, 2006, 2014, Hind & Rotblat 2003, Horgan 2014, Irwin 1998, Myers 2009, Shifferd 2011). But consider a potential chicken and egg problem. Must we first fix things like poverty, social injustice, human rights, or spread the rule of law, and then peace will follow? Many peace activists and lay people operate under some version of that assumption. Or, do we first need to end war, thus freeing the enormous financial and human resources required to achieve those other desired goals?

For the global community to accept the legitimacy and values of and the assumptions supporting war is arguably a—if not the—prime cause of social evils we do not associate with peaceful living. War fosters, for example, widespread social injustice, environmental destruction, cultural devastation, and human butchery. What are those pernicious values and assumptions? Fundamentally, the single, most detrimental assumption is that some groups will dominate other groups by force, and that this is part of human nature. War — domination by force — is thus regarded as inevitable, a belief that cripples any thoughts of ending war. Others are that war is normal, or even desirable: perhaps the elite should rule over the uneducated masses, even if by force. For the global community to tolerate even a concept of a “just war” leaves in place a value system that will always defeat efforts to establish a peaceful, secure, and just future.

Research convinced me this isn’t a case of chicken or egg; that creating that “better” future” requires simultaneous action on many social and technological fronts…. and must include ending war.

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Furthermore, that war is so deeply embedded in our cultures and history that an ending-war campaign can be likened to something as challenging as putting a permanent colony on Mars.

To colonize Mars, thousands of companies and projects must master technological and social issues. But many visionaries believe that, if motivated by sufficient resolve it is doable (Wall 2017). What kind of resolve would be required to move from wishing to create an enduring peace to actually doing it? And resolve to do what? Political and social realities dictate that doing so would involve so many elements that as I worked on this hugely complex problem, I needed a way to focus my thinking. I began to place the actions required to set up an enduring peace (i.e., the end of war) into nine groups or “cornerstones” (Hand 2005, 2006).

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They’re listed here, from “Embrace the Goal” to “Spread Liberal Democracy.” Each of these complex ending-war cornerstone is equivalent to one of those necessary Moon or Mars-colonizing challenges. Thus the use of that metaphor.

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In this logo they are arranged in a circle clockwise, alphabetically. A circle, not a list, because they must be attacked simultaneously. They are complexly intertwined. One affects others.

The first and arguably most basic, in yellow at the top, is Embrace the Goal (Hand 2005, 2006). An end to war won’t materialize simply as a byproduct of doing other good things. Such actions involve both the “good works” of the cornerstones (described below) plus the strategic use of nonviolent, direct action (Hand 2014: 212-215, 217-218, Sharp 2005, Nagler 2003). Belief that ending war is achievable is, however, the necessary foundation underpinning actions of sufficient size, strength, and endurance to reach the goal. For people to even set foot on the path to ending war, they must believe deeply that the goal is achievable. Furthermore, in the face of determined resistance, especially by the war industry, when the going gets hard, many will give up. Others will move on to something more quickly realized. Many individuals and organizations seek to prevent a war or to halt an ongoing war. In 2016, however, only a rare few are focused on ending all war…and they don’t appear to be making progress.

Another essay and a video, “Ending War is Achievable. Five Reasons Why,” (Hand 2017a, 2017b) address this challenge of belief.

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A second ending war cornerstone is in blue to the right of Embrace the Goal. Empower Women (Hand 2005, 2006). Girls and women must be educated and engaged in parity governing and peacemaking. We’ll examine shortly why doing so is essential. This includes attacking things that seriously hinder them: sex trafficking, abuses of prostitution, the use of rape in war, etc. Anyone working on the Empower Women cornerstone, whether they know it or not, also labors in an ending-war campaign.

Next comes Enlist Young Men (2005, 2006). Young men are the single most restless and aggressive members of any society (Daly & Wilson 1988, Hiraiwa-Hasegawa 2005). When they feel alienated, they’re dangerous. Warmongers use them to build armies. We need to make young men part of an ending-war effort (Barry 2011). That means meeting their social needs: to feel inclusion in their societies, to have the means to make a living, to have a sense that they are valued. They must become warriors for and maintainers of the peace. Anyone improving the lot of young men, through education, sports, or work training for example, whether they know it or not, they too are contributing to an ending-war revolution.

Foster Connectedness (2005, 2006) speaks to efforts by politicians, ministers, community organizers, parents, activists, etc. that fight xenophobia, a biological inclination warmongers manipulate to convince people that it’s okay to kill someone who is different. These cornerstone undertakings create a sense of one human family, bound together in a common fate.

At this point you should see a pattern emerging. Each cornerstone embraces multiple world affairs issues, which also happen to be critical to maintaining a war-free future. Ensure Essential Resources (food, water, shelter, health care, education), Promote Non-violent Conflict Resolution (show people how to do it), Provide Security and Order (without those, no peace can endure), Shift our Economies (to something equitable and environmentally sustainable), and Spread Liberal Democracy (and the respect for human rights that it embodies) (Hand 2005, 2006).

home_page_left_panelThe website AFutureWithoutWar.org and the book Shift: The Beginning of War, The Ending of War discuss in detail the significance of all nine cornerstones, and also list some of the legions of organizations and projects that would benefit from sharing the vision of working together for something greater. Arguably, all cornerstone efforts would achieve the greatest impact on the global zeitgeist if everyone working on one of them could see that what they do daily is part of a profound, historical, ending-war revolution. Unfortunately, that magnifying effect of unification eludes us.

To end war permanently, at some point the efforts of each of the ending-war cornerstones must become coordinated. A paper entitled “To Abolish War” (Hand 2010) explains the cornerstones in detail, and outlines how a campaign to end war would function. Leaders will need the support of millions of energized global citizens. The paper suggests how these myriad efforts could be united in a way to provide that required empowering, massive support (see also Hand 2014, Chapt. 12). A closing section, “All Great Projects Require Leaders,” suggests that “Perhaps these coordinators would be hosted by a premier peace institute or a coalition of several institutions. Or perhaps most likely, they would gather around someone’s large dining room or student union table, because they will be revolutionaries.”

No GP to maintain.001The current state of world affairs includes the good news that millions of people of good will are already striving mightily in activities needed to create and maintain a global peace. The bad news is that we don’t have a global peace to maintain. In fact, we often seem speedily headed for dystopia. Thinking back to Einstein’s insight about insanity and doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, what could we change?

First, we could, and should, construct an enforceable, global peace treaty. Eighty-eight years ago the world’s major nations adopted the Kellogg-Briand Pact, named after U.S. Secretary of State Frank Kellogg and French Foreign Minister Aristide Briand. It ultimately had 62 signatories, including the United States, China, and the Soviet Union; too bad it didn’t work (Josephson 1979). Still, it has never been rescinded. It failed to succeed primarily because it didn’t provide adequate tools for enforcement. keynote15-sexwarworldaffairsessay-001

The League of Nations and United Nations were similar efforts. It’s not that we haven’t tried. The United Nations has many critics and dozens of books opine on how to fix its problems (e.g. Müller 2016, Weiss 2016), but it does provide a place to hash out world affairs problems….to work on those cornerstone issues. It has a record of bringing peace to one region or another, and enforcing peace agreements between groups once they’re signed.

But the UN also falls short of establishing an enduring world peace, principally because, so far, like the Kellogg-Briand Treaty, the world’s nations haven’t provided it with sufficient enforcement (monitoring and policing) power. Complex Agreements.001This does not mean, however, that we have to give up the vision or hope for a world based on unity, community, and cooperation instead of war. We could update the Kellogg-Briand treaty and give it sufficient enforcement powers. Complex and enforceable agreements between competing entities can be negotiated when we want to. The 2015 Iranian Nuclear Agreement was signed by 32 nations, including the US, UK, European Union, Iran, Russia, and China. The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, a profoundly positive act of unity and cooperation, was signed by 195 countries.

If we do muster sufficient resolve and negotiate a global peace, what might a global community able to remain at peace look like? In “Life Without War,” Douglas Fry (2012) indicated some guidelines. Note that these do not include the idea of one world government, but rather of global cooperation grounded in self-interest.

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He describes six shared characteristics of three different types of cultures from different time periods who consciously created “active peace systems” (the Iroquois Confederacy, ten tribes of the Upper Xingu River Basin in Brazil, and the European Union). While they make war with groups not a part of their union, the case with both the Iroquois and EU nations, peace between alliance members holds. Fry also points out that when a maintained peace persists over time, the commitment to peace between peace system members becomes a very hard-to-break good habit. For example, at least at this time it is unthinkable that the United States would invade Canada, or even that any members of the EU would invade Britain, even after the withdrawal of the UK from the EU is complete. Note the important reality that a peace system’s success depends not on people who are saints or converted to pacifism, only a willing and determined populace.

These real, not hypothetical, peace systems, current and historical, illustrate what a maintained active peace system includes. His most detailed analysis didn’t cover it, but the United States is pictured because the six shared characteristics also apply to the peace system that is the United States of America.

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An essay and YouTube presentation entitled “Ending War Is Achievable. Five Reasons Why” (Hand 2017a, 2017b) explain and illustrate the six facilitating conditions in some detail.

  • An overarching sense of identity – they expand the “us.”
  • Interdependence among subgroups.
  • Intergroup social ties.
  • Symbolism and ceremonies that reinforce peace.
  • Embrace of values that reinforce peace.
  • Superordinate institutions for conflict management.

First, the alliances find ways to create an overarching sense of shared identity…ways to expand the “us.” They also develop social and economic interdependence among subgroups. They establish intergroup social ties, through things like marriages or shared celebrations. They create special symbolism and ceremonies intended to reinforce the peace they’ve made. They establish, teach, and reinforce values that maintain peace. And finally, they create superordinate institutions for conflict management: some kinds of judicial or negotiating bodies for settling disputes. People hammering out a global peace treaty and peace system able to endure the stresses of time would wisely incorporate all of these basics (Fry 2012, Hand 2017a, 2017b).

Fry’s work is critically important because it points out that active peace systems are not theoretical or Utopian fantasy. They do end the use of war to resolve conflicts. They have existed, and do exist, when people have the will to set them up and maintain them. Kent.001The historian and peace activist Kent Shifferd, in his book “From War to Peace,” describes impressive progress the global community has already made toward a global peace (Shifferd 2011). His YouTube video, “The Evolution of a Global Peace System,” is a succinct, 17 minute summary of 26 trends that enable or facilitate peace—from establishment of supranational parliamentary systems, to a decline in the prestige of war, to the spread of democratic systems, to a rise in planetary loyalty (Shifferd 2012). It sets our current global status into realistic, positive, and hopeful perspective – we are not starting this campaign from ground zero.

PART 2 – BIOLOGICAL REALITY

Most people realize that shaping a better future requires us to take political reality into account. We’ve just covered much political reality about the difficulties of and requirements for ending war. What we now consider, however, is that shaping a better future also requires that we be guided by biological reality. Failure to do so is arguably the most seriously under appreciated—or completely ignored—factor hindering attempts to end war, or to rid ourselves of the social evils listed earlier. To redress this situation we must take a deep dive into a phenomenon called sexual dimorphism. It explains the existence of some evolved, highly significant male/female differences in our social preferences. We’ll look at how those differences relate to creating a “better” future, including one without war.

Sexual Dimorphism

This term comes from the Greek dimorphos, meaning having two forms. Most species of plants and animals—at least some time in their life cycle—reproduce sexually. They have males, which make sperm that are tiny and motile, and females, which make eggs that are comparably huge and non-motile and contain nutrients sufficient to develop into a new individual. Humans obviously fit this pattern.

eg and sperm.001Now, sperm have the equipment and energy for movement but are small. And eggs, which hold nutrients for development of a new individual, are relatively huge and immobile. This massive difference in size, composition, and function has profound biological ramifications, because eggs, having all that nutrient material, are much more expensive to make than sperm. Males can make thousands or even millions of sperm, but in every species, females produce far fewer eggs. This fundamental asymmetry sets up a situation in which reproductive pressures on and strategies pursued by males and females of all sexually reproducing species are very different (Trivers 1972). Anyone who closely observes animals sees these differences played out in many forms of different or competitive male/female behavior, the result of natural selection on the two sexes over time. Observers often refer to some male/female interactions as a “battle of the sexes.”

ext anat.001Sexual dimorphism can occur in three domains: anatomy, physiology, and behavior. It exists in external anatomy (e.g., male/female differences in body shape, color, or size) and internal anatomy (e.g., on TV shows like “Bones” or “CSI,” experts often look at skeletal or dental remains to tell whether a human victim was male or female). Sexual dimorphism in physiology isn’t as familiar. Notable examples are differences in blood levels of the sex hormones, testosterone and estrogen. Another example is that levels of the “social hormone” oxytocin, important to breast feeding and forming social bonds—they’re consistently higher in women (Zak 2012).

But it’s sexual dimorphism in behavior that’s critical to discussing human social affairs. It seems obvious that males and females of sexually reproducing species aren’t going to behave identically with regard to reproduction (Trivers 1972), and looking across the entire animal kingdom we see great behavioral complexities that relate to multitudes of very different species living in widely divergent habitats. Humans are classified scientifically as mammals, because women nourish their newborns and very young with milk from mammary glands, so the discussion that follows focuses on examples taken from mammalian species.

Differences in proclivities that are not directly related to reproduction also occur.

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An elephant herd consists of females and their offspring, including sexually immature males. But when a male comes of age, the females expel him, allowing contact only during breeding season. Expelling males of reproductive age is a built-in proclivity, or preference, that regulates elephant social affairs. Male and female lions can live together, but it’s females that have the proclivity to unite to kill prey to feed the whole pride. Males do participate in hunts, especially of large prey, but the main urges of a pride male are to guard the pride from other males and mate with females as often as possible when the females are in heat. For gorilla families, food consists primarily of green leafy vegetation, and the females’ biological urges motivate them to spend their days eating and caring for their young. They also prefer to let the male determine the direction of the group’s movements: when he moves, they follow. If danger threatens he’s the one with the proclivity to protect the group.

Reproductive Pressures on Women

So, now that we know what it is and what to look for, we can discuss how behavioral sexual dimorphism plays out for us in ways relating to this essay’s subject: creating a better future, a more peaceful, secure, and just human destiny. We’ll consider first how it relates to tendencies to use physical aggression, and then to preferences for social stability. In Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace (Hand 2003) I explain in detail the biological reason for why sexual differences evolved. What follows is a summary.

primates.001Recall that we’re mammals (our females supply milk to our offspring from mammary glands), and we’re primates, closely related to other Great Apes. A number of reproductive traits that are true for other mammals and primates are also true for us. The following are three biological realities that affect women’s proclivities with respect to social conflicts and especially physical aggression.

Reality Number 1. The biological bottom line for all living things is to reproduce. If you don’t reproduce, your genes and the physical and psychological characteristics they govern are eliminated from the game of life. For example, I didn’t have children, so genes influencing my social preferences won’t be passed on. From a biological perspective, successful reproduction is what life is all about because it’s the vehicle by which genes for traits, including psychological ones, are passed to subsequent generations.

Reality Number 2. For female mammals, including female primates, reproducing is a very expensive investment, beginning with production of eggs (as opposed to sperm), and then additionally, investment in time, risks taken, and energy expenditure. What does that mean for women?

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Well, female primates carry an offspring to term, nourishing it from within their body—often for months; for women, nine months. Then they risk the serious hazards of childbirth. Then for a substantial period of time they provide milk from their body for nourishment, something very costly from a physiological perspective. They must protect this offspring, care for it, and in our case, support it for years before it is old enough to reproduce, the earliest at ages roughly between eight and thirteen. If you have children, you likely can relate to that monumental reproductive effort. Finally, after their offspring reproduce, research shows that women in most cultures are still deeply involved in making sure that the offspring of their offspring also survive and thrive: they invest in their grandchildren (Hawkes 2003, 2004). Reproduction is unquestionably for female primates, including us, a very extended, risky, and expensive process that puts enormous reproductive pressures on females. Most especially so for us, since our offspring are born so very helpless.

As a consequence, I argued elsewhere (Hand 2003, 2014) that Reality Number 3 is that the ideal social situation for female primates, including us, is social stability for long periods. Anything that threatens the life of these expensive offspring or their caregiver, for women certainly something like war, has been and remains hugely counterproductive.

Many observed behaviors characteristic of how women respond to conflicts are a reflection of an evolved, strong emotional preference for social stability. For example, with respect to conflicts, women, in general, are naturally inclined towards negotiation, mediation, and compromise. Why would natural selection, over time, favor women thus inclined? Because solutions arrived at by those non-violent means often result in win-win outcomes, which tend to be more socially stable and longer lasting (Ury 1999).

Note, however, that women will urge their men to wage preemptive war if the women can be convinced that they, their children, or their community are under some kind of imminent mortal threat (Hand 2003, 2014).

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For the overwhelming majority of women (not all women, but the overwhelming majority), physical fighting, even in defense of community, is an uncommon behavior. But as fierce defenders of children and community—and that includes their way of life—women will fight, and fight bravely, if necessary (Muir 1992). Women are not by nature pacifists or saints (see e.g. Burbank 1992, Rosaldo 1974). What women are by nature is determined preservationists of socially stable and nurturing communities; women’s strong preference for social stability is an innate preference that influences a wide range of women’s social choices.

women war.001A review in this book (Hand 2003) going back several hundred years shows that strong women leaders have waged wars of defense or preservation. Think of Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher, or Elizabeth the First of England. Some percentage of women in a warring society will likely be political “hawks.” Historically, however, women leaders in power have been overwhelmingly less inclined than male leaders to launch a war of conquest. Elizabeth the first of England is an example of the former protective sort, as evidenced by her mounting a navy that defeated the Spanish Armada. If history can be believed, Cleopatra of Egypt exemplifies the less common woman leader, having a genuine lust for conquest. In short, we can expect that female heads of state are as likely as male heads of state to be strong defenders of their nation, but are less likely than male leaders to start wars.

We have covered, in a compressed summary, how natural selection for reproductive success shaped the fundamental relationship of women to using physical violence, to waging war, and to a preference for living in and creating a socially stable community. Now we turn to two further biological realities, the results of natural selection for reproductive success. These apply to men….and to their relationship to physical violence and war.

Reproductive Pressures on Men

sperm.001Reality Number 4: For male mammals, including male primates, the reproductive game is very different. With only rare exceptions found in one primate family (Callitrichidae), males never invest in offspring as heavily as females do. In some primates, males invest nothing but sperm. Human fathers often become involved in some support and protection of their young (think monogamy), but this isn’t even the case in all cultures…and with only rare exceptions would a man’s investment approach a mother’s investment.

And very importantly, if a man loses an offspring for any reason—from a fight within the community where he lives or in a war—men have the potential to father replacement offspring relatively easily. They simply need to find a woman to impregnate, and they may or may not take responsibility for the years-long care required to bring the child to sexual maturity.

As a consequence of those realities: Reality Number 5 is that for many male primates, including men, maintaining social stability is not as high a priority as it is for females. It is important to men, who have no desire to live in chaos, but not nearly as critical as it is to women.

men fighting.001Actually, the urge to rise in dominance status is, in many primate species, a major evolutionary pressure on males because higher dominance is frequently correlated with greater male reproductive success or survival. There remains some debate on the extent to which this is true for humans (Goldstein 2001, Rueden & Jaeggi 2016). What is unquestionably true, however, is that much of men’s social lives is focused on rearranging the social order to achieve greater social dominance (McMartin 2017). And sometimes this involves using physical violence (in dominator cultures where violence isn’t strongly suppressed). Think of participation in fist-fights, knife-fights, gang wars, and inter-state war itself. These are characteristic of human male behavior in dominator cultures, but in any culture, uncommon to rare behavior for women compared to men.

pygmies.001

Cultural anthropologist Christopher Boehm wrote Hierarchy in the Forest: the Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior (Boehm 1999) He describes life within egalitarian African tribes. Notable is how hard these egalitarian, nonviolent people work to ensure that what they call “upstart males” or females (but mostly males) cannot assert themselves in a way to increase their dominance.

At a minimum, they’re ridiculed. Say a hunter brags about what a big gazelle he brought down. A woman may laugh and say how nice, since what he brings in is usually so puny. If ridicule doesn’t suffice to nip urges to dominate in the bud, “upstarts” can be sanctioned by group shunning for a time. Or even the extreme of ostracism; if he won’t quit efforts to rise in dominance over others, they toss him out.

We, men and women, have inherited from primate ancestors the urge to form dominance hierarchies. This urge for domination—the desire to control others rather than share or compromise as partners—when that desire becomes the overarching passion in a human heart, it becomes a poisoned wellspring of the evil that humans do to each other. It’s the killer of lives and societies, and a generator of war.

For a community to remain stable, tendencies for increasing one’s domination that might result in physical violence, especially killing, must be suppressed one way or the other—using customs, education, laws and even punishment.

Proclivities that Facilitate Building Armies

Other inclinations more characteristic of men can be used to build an army. One is aggressive male bonding.

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This proclivity has always facilitated protecting a group from predation. It’s also key to many forms of hunting. We see the tendency expressed in the male love of aggressive team sports, in young boys who unite to do pranks like draping neighborhood yards with toilet paper, and when angry men form a mob—say after a stolen election or simply after a soccer match. These mobs are unlikely to be composed mostly of women. A warmonger counts on this tendency when he wants to make war and needs to unite men into a force that can kill.

country needs yo.001A third, and admirable, tendency more typical of men can also facilitate building an army: willingness to protect the group … even at the risk of death. A clever manipulator will assert that it is vital that  “our group,” especially women and children, must be protected from some evil other group. For evolved reproductive reasons described above, women are much more psychologically primed to be reluctant to risk death. But when it’s convincingly asserted that the group must be protected, most men find it emotionally impossible to let other men do the risk-taking, fighting, and dying while they stand by with the women. Arguably this can be explained in part by an emotional reluctance to lose social status in the eyes of other men or the women.

three things.001In summary, for the purpose of this essay, human behavioral sexual dimorphism with respect to social conflict versus social stability, the use of physical aggression, and the embrace of war has been compressed and simplified (see this same summary in two different formats: Hand 2017c, Hand 2017d). It should be clear, however, why, for reasons associated with reproductive success, the majority of women in all cultures have a much stronger preference for maintaining social stability than do the majority of men in those cultures. With respect to many social choices we make, these sexually dimorphic differences are a defining aspect of what kind of animal we are.

Human Personality and Group Behavior

We now consider how human personality affects social interactions of many kinds that would be involved in building a better future, not just ending war. To do so we must dig still deeper into biology because humans have many hundreds of personality traits, and research indicates that many, if not most, traits of the sexes overlap. Some, however, overlap more than others. And what’s relevant to group social affairs is when differences between the sexes in personality traits (expressed behavioral proclivities) would make a group of men choose differently from a group of women, and a mixed-sex group choose differently from only men or only women.

These graphs roughly illustrate how overlap works. Imagine that we measure three different personality traits, A, B, and C.

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The range of possibilities for a given trait is plotted on the horizontal axis (like the degree of empathy for other people, ranging from virtually none to acutely empathetic, or personality type ranging from extremely shy to outrageously extrovert). The numbers of persons having a given trait is plotted on the vertical axis in a group having equal numbers of men and women. In each graph, one curve represents measurements of all women, the other represents measurements of all men.

When trait A is measured, an almost perfect overlap exists between the numbers of men and women, with most people measuring somewhere in the middle range. In a given context, with respect to trait A, the majority of both sexes would respond or behave similarly. When trait B is measured, there is some behavioral overlap in the middle of the range, but the majority of men and women behave or choose differently: male and female peak numbers of individuals are not the same. When trait C is measured, we again see some overlap, but the range of variation isn’t the same for men and women, the men’s range being much broader. The women would, in general, be more in agreement with each other than would the men, in general. And note that the vast majority of women would not agree with the majority of men. If we could measure all human traits and plot them similarly, which in reality we can’t, but if we could, there would be many many different graphs for different traits, and for some traits, different graphs in different cultures.

When considering how sexual dimorphism affects social behavior at the group level, we’re not concerned with individuals. We’re asking whether statistically significant differences between the proclivities of the sexes will cause groups to behave differently. And research and common experience shows that men are more likely to use physical aggression that results in killing (Daly & Wilson 1988).

Nature vs. Nurture

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The effect of strongly genetically influenced proclivities on decision-making of groups is clearly relevant to building a “better” future. It is equally essential, however, to consider the nature vs. nurture issue: the role of learning. Isn’t learning what teaches us how to behave, not our genetic inheritance?

Here are two extremely different socialization contexts. What behavior is likely to be learned and expressed by boys and girls raised in a Quaker community compared to the likely behavior learned and expressed by boys and girls raised in the Islamic caliphate of ISIS? At one time it was thought that nurture always trumps nature, but much research has put that idea to rest, at least for biologists. The most powerful studies on the relative influences of nature and nurture have been done using fraternal and identical twins. One recent meta-analysis by seven authors (Polderman et. al 2015) on fifty years of twin studies on over 17,000 traits conveyed an important take-away message: not even one behavioral trait was solely the result of either genetics or environmental experience. The relationship is complex; nurture sometimes is the dominant influence, but sometimes nature is.

The tendencies to avoid physical violence, or improve one’s dominance status using physical violence, or an abiding concern for children and community are going to have complex environmental AND genetic components—learned and inherited influences. Comparative studies indicate, however, that whatever the learning environment, e.g., Quaker or ISIS, the genetic predisposition and observable adult behavior of the two sexes are NOT identical for traits involving use of physical violence or concern for children and a socially stable community (e.g., Butovskaya et. al 2015; Schmitt et. al 2008; Schwartz & Rubel 2005).

Decision-making in Gender-Balanced Groups

To illustrate how male/female differences play out when a gender-balanced group makes a socially critical decision, consider a simple example, using war. Imagine a legislative body of twenty individuals with equal numbers of men and women. They’ve been debating whether to go to war now–or–to let negotiations in Geneva play out a bit longer. Emotions are running high.

vote on war.001The thumbs up and thumbs down illustrate symbolically the percentage of men’s votes. Note the hypothetical, but not uncharacteristic, percentages, with 70% of men in favor of declaring war, but 30% favoring more negotiation. So it’s not that ALL the men would favor war now. Compare that to a corresponding, hypothetical women’s vote: 20% for war now, but 80% favoring extending negotiations a bit longer. It’s not that ALL women would vote against charging into war….just that a greater percentage would.

In this not atypical gender-balanced group, we have 9 votes for war now, but 11 for negotiating some more. This illustrates how giving women a voice in decision-making can add a restraining influence on some characteristically male inclinations. It’s critical to note, however, that this restraining effect on the more aggressive male inclinations will not occur if only a token number of women are included—say only twenty or thirty percent of the total votes. The restraining effect depends on something approaching parity governing. Lesser measures will not prove effective.

In a paper looking at over 100 countries (Dollar et. al 1999), the authors noted that numerous behavioral studies found that women were more trust-worthy and public-spirited than men, are more likely to exhibit “helping” behavior, take stronger stances on ethical behavior, and behave more generously when faced with economic issues. This suggested to them that women would be less likely to sacrifice the common good for personal (material) gain. Looking deeper, they compared rates of government corruption to the percent representation of women in parliament. They found that the greater the representation of women, the lower the levels of corruption. 

The Outcome of All-male Governing

ballpark.001Including women’s voices in decision-making in many contexts—let’s say spending a community’s money on building a community library vs. refurbishing the already present ball park—strongly suggests that having only one sex, in this example only the men, making all our public choices all the time might not always lead to the very best result for communities over the long term. That includes the hypothetical condition of all-female governing; due in part to their deep preference for social stability, a society governed solely women would have its own pitfalls, briefly posited elsewhere (Hand 2003, p. 151).

Recorded history indicates that in the world’s dominant cultures, major social decisions involving governance have overwhelmingly been shaped by men for at least 2-3 thousands years.

great thigns.001

We have created technological masterpieces and  works of stunning beauty, and explored insights into philosophy and religion. We have split atoms and discovered thousands of other worlds. We are indeed clever, surely a species worth saving, and for which we should build the best, most excellently nurturing future we can.

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Also true, however, is that male inclinations, manipulated by warmongers (see below), have given us repeated cycles of war and destruction. There is no reason to believe if we continue to operate under the same reality of male-dominated leadership that these endlessly repeated cycles of war and devastation would cease. Arguably, we may finally engage in one with weapons of mass destruction that may prove to be existentially fatal.

killing.001There is, however, reason for hope. Most men abhor war: actually killing other people. They can love playing at war as children, and war games as teens, even joining together to plan a war when they are adults. We are good at and enjoy working in groups to achieve a goal, especially “winning.” But we do not enjoy killing other people. Normal men must be trained and conditioned to kill another human (Grossman 1995). That natural revulsion is a noteworthy, positive part of what kind of animal we are.

hyperalpha.001Even what we call alpha males — a Nelson Mandela, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Bono, or Mohammad Ali — alpha males don’t support war. But men I call hyper-alpha males are different. The Genghis Khans and Napoleons. Whatever good they may leave in their wake, they are out of control men, virtually  unconstrained by their culture or their women. They’re emotionally driven to dominate all others, whether in a small tribal world or a world that spans continents, and are distinguished by being willing to kill or have others kill for them. They are the generators of war, the initiators of war, the warmongers.

They don’t wear a label that says “warmonger,” but they assemble an army and/or trigger theirs to strike the first blow. Contemporary versions of hyper-alpha men exist on all sides of our current conflicts. Various proximal reasons for why people take up war—what they are fighting about—are summarized elsewhere (Hand 2014), but in essence war is fundamentally the result of otherwise non-warring and even laudible male inclinations, described above, being malignantly manipulated by warmongering leaders in dominator cultures.

The percentage of hyper-alpha males in our populations is arguably very small. I would guess ten percent, or even less? Warmongers are a tiny tail wagging the dog of civilization! To build that “better” future the global community must learn to identify our contemporary warmongers and refuse to elevate them to positions of power, or when necessary, remove them. Not only because they do harm by squandering resources needed to fully develop the cornerstone of a better future, but even more urgently, before they light the fires to ignite a massive, global, and possibly existentially fatal war.

Equality for Women Means Progress for All 

What might we achieve if we shifted to male/female governing partnership in all levels of our lives…to koinoniarchy? As it turns out, we have many real-world examples of what women’s influence might do and has done to move us to a better future.

Consider poverty. Heifer International gives income-producing livestock, like a cow or a hive of honey bees, to people in poverty. When the animals produce offspring, the recipient must pass this gift to a neighbor. Heifer International was among the first to confess openly that best results were achieved when they gave to a woman. She was more likely to use the gift in a way that benefitted her family, and also her community. Finding that men resented stress on “giving to women” and felt “left out,” the project subsequently played down gender preference, shifting to encouraging women and men to share in deciding how to manage the resource.

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Muhammad Yunus, winner of the Nobel Economics Prize for giving micro-loans to poor people, also discovered that women were more likely to successfully create businesses. Too often men tended to spend on things that immediately increased their social status: like frequently paying for all the drinks at the local coffee house or actually buying a car. Women, in general, were also better at repaying loans (Esty 2014). New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff and his wife Sheryl WuDunn, in their wonderful book Half the Sky (Kristoff & WuDunn 2009), tell stories from across the world that unequivocally demonstrate that if a woman is given education or financial means it regularly leads not only to pulling her family out of poverty, her efforts spread to her community’s benefit.

keynote15-sexwarworldaffairsessay-001Here’s another reality with wide applicability: the powerful effect of educating girls. Boys often leave their community, frequently to find work. If there is war, they’re commonly pressed into military service and may die, never to return. Girls are more likely to stay (at least until they marry) and they go home from school and educate their mothers. The mothers grow reluctant for their sons to be dragooned into being soldiers. They begin to see other, positive prospects for both their girl and boy children. The educated women begin to lift the entire community. The education of girls has charmingly been called the “girl effect” (Kananl 2011). Google it and you’ll find numerous groups that have embraced this revolutionary idea.

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In the late twentieth century, books began highlighting positive effects of women as leaders—in government, business, and communities. These are just a few (Fisher 1999, 2005; Freeman 1995; Hudson et. al 2012; Kristof & WuDunn 2010; Madsen & Ngunjiri 2015; Myers 2009; Potts & Hayden 2010; Sandberg 2013; Wilson 2004).

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Academic cross-cultural research has compared different kinds of societies on things like giving public goods, governmental corruption, peace building, and internal and external rates of violence in a society. Andersen and colleagues (Andersen et. al 2008) compared social giving in matriarchal vs. patriarchal cultures in India and found, somewhat surprisingly, that men contributed more to public goods in the matriarchal societies than in patriarchal ones. Perhaps because they can anticipate or trust that their contribution will be put to good use?

Looking at more than 100 countries, Dollar, Fisman, and Gatti (1999) found a positive correlation between women’s empowerment and lower levels of corruption. Four other works examined the level of female empowerment, judged by things like levels of women’s education and numbers of women in leading positions in government and business (Caprioli 2005, Gizelis 2009, Hudson et. al 2012, Melander 2005). They all document positive effects when women’s voices are influential.

A 2014 quote from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who knows human societies and who was addressing economic growth, business performance, peace agreements, and social issue legislation, sums it all up: “equality for women means progress for all” (Ban 2014).

Individuality

Before leaving the topic of sexual dimorphism, individual behavior requires attention because of the danger of sexual stereotyping, and because we need to think about what kind of visionary leadership is essential to shape a positive human destiny.

Ying_yang_signSexual behavioral dimorphism that affects behavior displayed by groups is a reality for some traits. It’s the reason why so many cultures recognize a yin and yang, a sun and moon, a “vive la difference.” But individual human beings should be judged and treated individually. Except for identical twins, no two humans inherit identical DNA, nor are they raised in identical environments or experience the same social interactions. Thus the reality for individual personalities is, arguably, uniqueness.

sex traits.001

The above graphic, assembled from a random Internet Google search, lists traits in the United States commonly thought of by many as female and male. Reality is that every person is a complex combination of what their society considers to be male and female traits (Denworth 2017, Joel et al. 2017, Olson 2017). In everyday terms, in differing degrees we all have a female side and a male side.

Consider that some of us are way more in touch with our female side: say a person, boy or girl, who is very emotional, non-assertive, sensitive, a bit too self-critical, but also sweetly nurturing and empathetic. And some of us are way more in touch with our male side: someone, boy or girl, who is aggressive, competitive, very self confident/self-oriented, non-self-critical, in fact rebellious and risk-taking. And some of us display a mixture of traits that can be described as being in touch more equally with both male and female sides. This could be a man who is not only aggressive, self-confident, competitive, and bold, but also self-reflective and empathetic. A woman who is not only nurturing and empathetic, but also independent, competitive, and bold. Human embryonic development is so complex that someone can be born having physical sex characteristics of one sex but feeling the biological preferences and urges of the other sex. Essentially, all societies have available to them, if they choose to take advantage of it, a rich variety of individuals, a massive diversity that can either be embraced or molded into rigid stereotypes (Schmitt et. al 2008).

Leadership

If we want to start a powerful social revolution headed toward a positive destiny, what kind of leaders should we follow? Who should we elect? What personality traits characterize good leaders? Obviously, a leader cannot be shy. He or she must be in touch with aspects of their male side like being assertive, independent, and bold. But wisdom demands that they are also able to be self-critical and reflective, able to change their mind when needed. Stubbornly holding to an unworkable, unfavorable position is fatal to good leadership. And to lead well, rather than be a bully or tyrant, he or she needs to be in touch with traits from their female side like being accepting and empathetic with regard to the people they lead.

Our very worst choice for leaders would be anyone, man or woman, having traits guaranteed to foster continuation of the world’s dominator, warring, patriarchal cultures. Someone aggressive, bold, competitive, non-self-critical, strongly self-oriented and woefully lacking in being accepting or empathetic.

419ynvbpe2l-_sy344_bo1204203200_After writing Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace (Hand 2003), which focused on gender differences, I concluded that parity governing (koinoniarchy) would be a necessary condition underlying any enduring peace. My worry then and now was whether we’ll make the transition to sufficient female empowerment fast enough, especially in roles as decision-making leaders, to counter those ominous, existential trends listed earlier. Or will the unrelenting social urge for domination—so very characteristic of male behavior and pretty much unconstrained in patriarchies—will that aspect of our nature win the existential struggle for human destiny. This is what is now in contention as we face the challenge to adapt to this new “full” world.

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION

To conclude, we return to the two changes proposed at the beginning that we could make to shape a “better” future. First, creation of a global peace system. Political reality is that there is no way to mobilize sufficient world support if the massively overwhelming majority of global citizens don’t believe such a thing is possible and have been given no compelling inkling of a plan for how to achieve it. The existence of active peace systems and international treaties and agreements suggests that we absolutely can assemble a critical mass of citizens and visionary, powerful leaders committed to devising a global, enforceable peace treaty and a maintainable, global peace system.

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Second, gender parity governing. Biological reality is that if women are not empowered to share as decision-makers—in the communities where we raise future leaders and in governing world affairs—cycles of war will endlessly repeat, just with new weapons. A world where women are second-class citizens or worse is a world where male biology is spinning completely out of sane control, and is armed with savagely lethal weapons. Women are a massive reservoir of positive leadership in directions we want to go.

History indicates that if we continue to “do the same thing over and over again” we should expect to continue to create dominator, warring societies and the traits that characterize them (Eisler 1987, 2007). Logic suggests that to get a radically different result requires that we do something radically different. Creating male/female partnership socieities (Eisler 1990) would certainly qualify as doing something radically different! So would creating a global peace system!

Because they bring different approaches to resolving social conflicts, men and women will also bring different approaches to achieving these goals. These changes will result for a time in tremendous social upheaval, something women prefer to avoid. Our history and our biology strongly suggest that neither men alone nor women alone are likely to create an enduring peace. Gender partnership will be essential. Men who have grasped the vision of ending war will be needed to drive the campaign forward. No compromise. Even if for a time it means serious turmoil, maybe even loss of life. There has to be a willingness to engage in struggle, to rebel. Once the campaign is underway and women understand the ultimate vision of peace and stability, however, women will flock to the campaign in great numbers and support it with unflagging courage and determination. We’ll need the kick-ass, no-holds-barred, give-me-liberty-or-give-me-death spirit characteristic of men tempered by the we-all-need-to-find-a-way-to-get-along-and-play-nice spirit more characteristic of women. Women must rise up, and men should support their rising up. Together women and men should demand an end to war and the establishment of a global peace.

Can we change? Do we have the biological capacity to make these changes. Something we know for certain is that, although we don’t always behave wisely, we are supremely adaptable.

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Nearly every challenge we’ve faced in our journey to occupy Earth is a matter of vision and will. Someone had a vision of something better, something new, and was able to motivate enough of us to act. John F. Kennedy had the vision that within ten years we should send men to the moon and return them safely to the Earth, and he was able to instill the will to do it into the hearts and minds of the thousands of people needed to achieve what was to most people a preposterous-sounding goal. The founding fathers of the United States and the European Union were pragmatic visionaries and doers. We are arguably at an historical moment when our need to adapt, to change, is existentially essential

Will we change: can we muster the necessary determination? As a human behaviorist, I know we absolutely have the capacity to create customs, educational systems, and laws to ensure that women share in governing. It’s a matter of vision and will. We absolutely can write a peace treaty with sufficient teeth to enforce it and a global peace system crafted to endure. It’s a matter of vision and will.

So, what kind of adaptation will we make to the new social and ecological world we’ve created? It’s our destiny, our choice.

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MY BACKGROUND

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For anyone wishing it, here are few words about my relevant background. I’m an evolutionary biologist, with a Ph.D. from UCLA. My areas of specialization are in animal behavior, including human behavior, communication, conflict resolution, and gender differences. For my PhD., I studied communication and conflict behavior of Western Gulls and Silver Gulls. I did so at the locations in the photos: the Farallon Islands off San Francisco, on Bird Rock off Catalina Island, CA., in the bird flight cage of the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and on islands in the Gulf of California, primarily Guardian Angel Island. These were some of the most delightful years of my life. I gained insight into conflict resolving behavior by studying how breeding pairs used communication to resolve conflicts.

shift.001The fancy name for the study of animal behavior is “ethology.” Since I’ve been studying war and peace, I’m now officially a Peace Ethologist. And as an undergraduate major in cultural anthropology, I studied non-patriarchal and nonviolent cultures. The perspective I have presented here is that of an evolutionary biologist with a strong background in cultural anthropology. Much of my work on war is in this book. Early chapters describe conditions that resulted in the emergence of war. Understanding when and why we began this form of killing speaks directly to the question of what kind of animal we are and whether or not we could hope to end war.

 

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Why Can’t a Woman be More Like a Man?

April 17, 2017

Judith L. Hand, Ph.D.

Why do our two sexes, in many ways, behave so differently? As Pygmalion’s professor Henry Higgins puts it, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?”

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(Rex Harrison, Audry Hepburn – “My Fair Lady”)

Here’s another, related, question. Is it possible that understanding how and why some sexual differences lead men and women, generally speaking, to make some very different social choice–is it possible that understanding why that happens could help us find solutions to a host of social nightmares? Consider these problems facing us right now….many of them genuine evils.

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To avoid a dystopian future—a hell with all of these raging in full force—we’ll have to deal with these, and many more, under the pressure of ever greater numbers of people trying to make a living and raise healthy, successful, fulfilled children. In too many cases, just trying to survive. How do we do that? Can we do it?

In this essay we’re going to look through the lens of biology at a reality called sexual dimorphism. If we understand and take to heart the implications of sexual dimorphism as it relates to our social behavior, we can take giant steps in the direction of a “better” future. A future that, at minimum, reduces the effects of these social evils, and may actually avoid or eliminate many of them. A future more peaceful, more just, and even environmentally sustainable.

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One of Albert Einstein’s most thoughtful insights is that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Given our biology—if you will, our human nature—it’s not possible to create Utopia. But, could we shift global culture enough to not just avoid ending up living in a dystopia, but actually build an extraordinarily positive future? What behavior might we change to get less violent, more nurturing results than what we’ve produced so far? As we’ll see, understanding some key things about our biology suggests that we need to utilize some natural inclinations of women that differ significantly, in general, from some natural inclinations of men.

A primary assumption of the presentation, which offers a biological perspective, is that to create a more positive future, we need to understand ourselves better. And that means we have to answer the question, “What kind of animal are we?” We named ourselves Homo sapiens—wise man—but much of our behavior is so harmful, to ourselves and increasingly to the planet, that the word “wise” may not fit us very well. A better choice might have been Homo acutus—clever man—because there can be no doubt that we are very very clever.

During hundreds of thousands of years, our ancestors lived as simple bands of nomadic foragers.

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But they came to possess behaviors that made us one of Earth’s most dominant species. And many of these behaviors weren’t based on carefully thought-out reason. They were whatever ensured the survival and reproductive success of the individuals who gave rise to us.

So, still based on biology, this presentation’s second assumption is that rather than our behavior always being guided by reason or wisdom, we need to embrace the reality that much human behavior is, in fact, guided by built-in, genetically-based, evolved predispositions/preferences/tendencies/urges, whatever you want to call them, and that they powerfully influence much of our behavior, sometimes in contradiction to what rational or wise thought suggests would be a better thing to do. And specifically, we’re going to consider how and why—in general—some of these urges are not the same for our two sexes.

The explanation does begin with sexual dimorphism. This reality shapes much of life on Earth, and as we’ll see, that includes us. The term comes from the Greek dimorphos, meaning having two forms. Most species of plants and animals have males which make sperm, which are tiny and motile, and females, which make eggs, which are comparably huge and non-motile, and have nutrients sufficient to develop into a new individual. Humans obviously fit this pattern.

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There are other reproductive possibilities. Some species reproduce asexually, like this tiny water creature called a Hydra that’s sprouting a new hydra out of one side, and single-celled forms like the Amoeba which can divide by pinching itself in half, and even a lineage of female lizards that reproduce without any males. Some, like mushrooms, use spores.

But the vast majority of animals and plants—at least some time in their life cycle—reproduce sexually.

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Now, sperm have the equipment and energy for movement but are small. And eggs, which hold sufficient nutrients for development of a new individual, are relatively very large. This huge difference between sperm and eggs in size, composition, and function has profound biological ramifications for all organisms that reproduce sexually. Because eggs, having all that nutrient material, are much more expensive to make than sperm. Males can make thousands or even millions of sperm, but in every species, females produce far far fewer eggs. This size asymmetry sets up a situation in which reproductive pressures on and strategies pursued by males and females of all species are very different. Anyone who closely observes animals sees these differences play out in many forms of competitive male/female behavior. Observers often refer to some male/female interactions as a “battle of the sexes.”

Sexual dimorphism can occur in three domains: anatomy, physiology, and behavior. It exists in external anatomy, as you see in these male/female pairs (things like color, size, fundamental body shape differences).   ext anat.001  It also exists in internal structures, like skeletons. If you watch TV shows like “Bones” or “CSI,” experts often look at skeletal or dental remains to tell whether a victim was male or female.

Sexual dimorphism in physiology isn’t easy to illustrate because it’s about chemical reactions. Most familiar to you are differences in blood levels of the sex hormones, testosterone and estrogen. Another fascinating example is that levels of the hormone oxytocin—often called the “love” or “cuddle” hormone because it’s important to forming social bonds—they’re consistently higher in women. There are sex related differences in circadian patterns; in humans a whole field, “chronobiology,” considers how sex may influence things like what time of day is best for taking certain drugs because the ideal time may be different for men and women.

But it’s sexual dimorphism in behavior that’s critical to discussing any social affairs. It seems obvious that males and females of sexually reproducing species aren’t going to behave identically with regard to reproduction. But differences in proclivities that aren’t directly related to reproduction also occur.

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For example, during breeding season, Redwing Blackbird males stake out a territory and defend it from other males. In contrast, females scout numerous territories, settle onto one that seems to have good food and hiding places, build a nest, mate with the territory male, lay eggs, incubate them, and rear the young.

An elephant herd consists of females and their offspring, including young males. But when a male comes of age, the females expel him, allowing contact only during breeding season. Expelling males is a built-in proclivity, or preference, that regulates elephant social affairs.

Male and female lions do live together. But it’s the females that have the proclivity to unite to kill prey to feed the whole pride. The main urges of a pride male are to guard the pride from other males and mate with females as often as possible when the females are in heat.

For gorilla families, food consists of vegetation, and the females’ biological urges motivate them to spend their days eating and caring for their young. They also biologically prefer to let the male determine the direction of the group’s movements. When he moves, they follow. If danger threatens, he’s the one with the proclivity to protect the group.

So, now that we know what it is and what to look for, we can consider how behavioral sexual dimorphism plays out for us in ways that relate to this presentation’s subject: getting out of the rut of the past to build a “better” future.

This is an artist’s reconstruction of a male and female of one of our ancestors, Australopithecus. You’ll note right away the significant size dimorphism, which for example also characterized Homo erectus and Homo neanderthalensis.

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Size dimorphism is much reduced for modern humans—and by the way, this is thought by some to be related to the emergence of monogamy.

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What we’ll explore is that our sexes have significantly different behavioral proclivities when it comes to using physical aggression—for any reason—including resolving social conflicts, and also significantly different preferences having to do with maintaining social stability.

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This book describes in detail the biological reason for why these differences exist. At this point, we’ll run rapidly through a succinct summary of that biological explanation. First, recall that we’re mammals, because our females supply milk to our offspring from mammary glands, and we’re primates, closely related to other Great Apes. A number of reproductive traits that are true for other mammals and primates are also true for us.

So here are three basic biological realities that affect women’s proclivities with respect to social conflicts and especially physical aggression. Reality number one. The basic biological bottom line for all living things is to reproduce and have offspring that have offspring. If you don’t reproduce, your genes and the traits they govern are eliminated from the game of life. For example, I didn’t have children, so genes influencing my social preferences won’t be passed on. Successful reproduction is what life, from a biological perspective, is all about.

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Reality number 2. For female mammals, especially female primates, reproducing is a very expensive investment, beginning with production of eggs (as opposed to sperm, as already mentioned) and then additionally, investment in time, risks taken, and energy expenditure. What does that mean? To begin with, female primates carry their offspring to term, nourishing them from within their body, often for months.

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Then they risk the serious hazards of childbirth. Then for a substantial period of time they provide milk from their body for nourishment. Finally, they must protect this offspring, care for it, and in our case, support it for years before it is old enough to reproduce, the very earliest for humans at ages between eight and thirteen. If you have children, you likely can relate to this monumental reproductive effort. And then after their offspring reproduce, research shows that women in most cultures are still deeply involved in making sure that the offspring of their offspring also survive and thrive—they invest in their grandchildren.

This is unquestionably for female primates, including us, a very extended, risky, and expensive process that puts enormous reproductive pressures on females. Most especially so for us, since our offspring are born so very helpless. As a consequence of all of this, reality number three is that the ideal social situation for female primates, including us, is social stability for long periods. Anything that threatens the life of these expensive offspring or their caregiver, for humans certainly something like war, has been and is hugely counterproductive.

Many traits characteristic of how women respond to conflicts are a reflection of their evolved, strong preference for social stability. For example. Women, in general, are more naturally inclined toward negotiation, mediation, and compromise. Why? Because solutions arrived at by those non-violent means often result in win-win outcomes, which tend to be more socially stable and longer lasting.

Note, however, that women will urge the men to wage preemptive war if the women can be convinced that they, their children, or their community are under some kind of imminent mortal threat.

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For the overwhelming majority of women, fighting, even in defense of community, is a last resort. But as fierce defenders of children and community—and that includes their way of life—women will fight if necessary. In fact, military men who have fought with women tell me that if drawn into fighting, women can be vicious fighters.

Women are not by nature pacifists or saints. What they are by nature is determined preservationists of socially stable and nurturing communities. Let me repeat that. Women are not by nature pacifists or saints. This is not what is being asserted. What they are by nature is determined preservationists of socially stable and nurturing communities, an innate preference that influences a wide range of women’s social choices.

A review in this book going back several hundred years shows that strong women leaders have waged wars of defense or preservation. Think of Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher, or Elizabeth the First of England. But historically, women leaders in power have been overwhelmingly less inclined than male leaders to launch a war of conquest.  women war.001  Elizabeth the first of England is an example of the former protective sort, as evidenced by her mounting a navy that defeated the Spanish Armada. And if the history of the period is to be believed, Cleopatra of Egypt is an example of the less common woman leader, having a genuine lust for conquest.

So now, believe it or not, we have just covered, in a very compressed summary, the essential relationship of women to using physical violence, to waging war, and to a preference for living in and creating a socially stable community. Now we turn to two further biological realities. These apply to men.

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Reality number four: For male mammals, including male primates, the biological game is very different, because males never invest in offspring as heavily as females do. In some primates, males invest nothing but sperm. Human fathers often become involved in some support and protection of their young (think monogamy), but this isn’t even the case in all our cultures…and with only rare exceptions would a man’s reproductive investment approach the mother’s investment.

And very importantly, if a man looses an offspring for any reason—from a fight within the community where he lives or in the course of a war—reality number five is that men have the potential to father replacement offspring relatively easily compared to a woman. They simply need to find a woman to impregnate, and they may or may not take responsibility for the year’s-long care required to bring that child to sexual maturity.

As a consequence of those realities: For many male primates, including men, maintaining social stability is not as high a priority as it is for females. Yes, it is important to men, who have no desire to live in chaos, but not nearly as important as it is to women.

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Actually, the urge to rise in dominance status is, in many mammal species, a primary male motivator, because higher dominance has generally, historically, been correlated with greater male reproductive success. Much of men’s social lives is focused on rearranging the social order to achieve greater dominance. And sometimes this involves using physical violence.

Cultural anthropologist Christopher Boehm wrote Hierarchy in the Forest: the Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior. In it he describes life within egalitarian tribes in Africa. What’s relevant here is how hard these egalitarian, nonviolent people work to make sure that what they call “upstart males,” or females, but mostly males, cannot assert themselves in a way to increase their dominance. At a minimum, they’re ridiculed.

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Say a hunter brags about what a big gazelle he brought down. A woman may immediately laugh and say how nice for him, since what he brings in is usually so puny. If ridicule doesn’t suffice to nip urges to dominate in the bud, “upstarts” can be sanctioned by group shunning for a while. Or even the extreme of ostracism; if he won’t quit his efforts to rise in dominance over others, they toss him out.

We, men and women, have inherited from primate ancestors the urge to form dominance hierarchies. This urge for domination—the desire to control others rather than share or compromise as partners—when that desire becomes the overarching passion in human hearts it becomes a poisoned wellspring of the evil humans do to each other. It’s the killer of lives and societies.

Now some other traits more characteristically male than female can be used to build an army. One is aggressive male bonding. Certainly this proclivity has always facilitated protecting a group from predation. It’s also key to many forms of hunting.

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We see the tendency expressed in the male love of aggressive team sports, in young boys that get together to do pranks like draping neighborhood yards with toilet paper, and when angry men form a mob—say after a stolen election or simply after a soccer match. These mobs are very unlikely to be composed mostly of women. A warmonger counts on this tendency when he wants to make war and needs to unite men into a force that can kill.

A third, very admirable trait more typical of men, can also facilitate building an army. This is willingness to protect the group, … even at the risk of death. A clever manipulator will assert that “our group,” especially women and children, must be protected from some evil other group. For reproductive reasons just described, women are much more reluctant to risk death. But when it’s convincingly asserted that the group must be protected, most men find it emotionally impossible to let other men go do the risk-taking, fighting and dying while they stand by with the women. Arguably this can be psychologically explained in part by an emotional reluctance to loose social status in the eyes of other men or the women.

This summary of human behavioral sexual dimorphism with respect to social conflict versus social stability, the use of physical aggression, and the embrace of war has been very compressed and very simplified. But hopefully it’s clear why, for reasons associated with reproductive success, the majority of women, in all cultures, have a much stronger preference for maintaining social stability and avoiding physical violence than do the majority of men in those cultures. With respect to many social choices we make, these sexually dimorphic differences are a defining aspect of what kind of animal we are.

To see how these differences influence social interactions of many kinds, not just conflict and war, we need to dig still deeper into biology because humans have many hundreds of behavioral traits that shape social affairs. Many of these traits are reflections of and expressions of each person’s inherited social preferences. And so far research indicates that the distribution of most traits of the sexes overlap. But some overlap more than others. And what’s relevant to social affairs is when differences between the sexes would make a group of men choose differently from a group of women, and a mixed-sex group choose differently from only men or only women. 

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These graphs roughly illustrate how overlap works. Imagine that we measure three different personality traits, A, B, and C. In each graph, the range of possibilities for a given trait is plotted on the horizontal axis (for example, the degree of empathy for others, ranging from virtually none to acutely empathetic, or personality type ranging from extremely shy to outrageous extrovert). The numbers of persons having a given trait is plotted on the vertical axis in a group having equal numbers of men and women. In each graph, one curve represents measurements of all women, and the other represents measurements of all men.

When trait A is measured, we see an almost perfect overlap between the numbers of men and women, with most people measuring somewhere in the middle range. This means that in a given context, with respect to trait A, the majority of both sexes would respond or behave similarly. Men and women would choose identically. When trait B is measured, we see that although there is some behavioral overlap in the middle of the range, the majority of men and women behave or choose differently. Male and female peak numbers of individuals are not the same. And when trait C is measured, we again see some overlap, but the range of variation isn’t the same for men and women, the men’s range being much broader. The women would, in general, be much more in agreement with each other than would the men, in general. And, note that the vast majority of women would not agree with the majority of men.

If we could measure all human traits and plot them like this, which in reality we can’t, but if we could, there would be many many different graphs for different traits, and different graphs in different cultures. What we would NOT see is that graphs of men and women always overlap perfectly or are always shaped identically.

The point here, is that when considering how sexual dimorphism affects social behavior of groups—the study of human affairs at the group level—we’re not concerned with individuals. We’re asking whether the size of differences between the sexes for a given preference will cause groups to behave differently. So for example, while women can and do use physical aggression including killing, research and common experience shows that, as a group, men are more likely to use physical aggression that kills. Perhaps the starkest comparison in any culture would be the kinds and rates of physical aggression in a male prison vs. kinds and rates in a female prison.

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Now you are likely thinking, but what about learning? Isn’t learning what teaches us how to behave? How do nurture and nature influence our behavior? Imagine two extremely different socialization contexts, a society of Quakers and the Islamic caliphate of ISIS. What behavior is likely to be learned and expressed by boys and girls raised in a Quaker community compared to the likely behavior learned and expressed by boys and girls raised in the Islamic caliphate of ISIS?

At one time it was actually thought that nurture always trumps nature. That learning always trumps genetic influences. But much research has put that idea to rest, at leasts for biologists. The most powerful studies searching out the relative influences of nature and nurture have been done using fraternal and identical twins. A recently published meta-analysis of fifty years of twin studies on over 17,000 traits revealed an important take-away message: not even one trait was just genetic or just environmental.

The tendencies to avoid physical violence, or improve one’s dominance status using physical violence, or an abiding concern for children and community, these traits are going to have both environmental AND genetic components—learned and inherited influences. But comparative studies make clear that whatever the learning environment, Quakers or ISIS, the genetic predisposition and observable adult behavior of the two sexes are NOT identical for traits involving using physical violence or concern for children and a socially stable community.

To illustrate how male/female differences play out when a gender balanced group is making a socially important decision, here’s a simple example using the case of war.

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Imagine a legislative body with parity governing: there are equal numbers of men and women. They’ve been debating whether to go to war now or let negotiations in Geneva play out a bit longer. The thumbs up and thumbs down illustrate symbolically the men’s vote. Note the hypothetical, but not uncharacteristic, percentages, with 70% of men in favor of declaring war now, but 30% favoring more negotiation. So it’s not that ALL the men would favor war now.

Compare that to a corresponding, hypothetical women’s vote: 20% for war now, but 80% favoring extending negotiations. It’s not that ALL women would vote against charging into war….just that a greater percentage would. So in this gender-balanced group, we have 9 votes for war now and 11 for negotiating some more. This illustrates how giving women a voice in decision-making can add a restraining influence on some characteristically male inclinations.

It’s absolutely critical to note that you would not get this restraining effect on male inclinations if only a token number of women were in this deciding body—say only twenty or thirty percent of the total votes. The effect depends on something approaching parity governing. Half measures will not succeed.

In a paper published in 1999 for the World Bank entitled “Are women really the ‘fairer’sex? Corruption and Women in Government,” the authors (D. Dollar, R. Fismond, & R. Gotti) had noted that numerous behavioral studies had found that women were more trust-worthy and public-spirited than men. Women are more likely to exhibit what’s called “helping” behavior. They take stronger stances on ethical behavior. They behave more generously when faced with economic issues. This suggested to the authors that women would be less likely to sacrifice the common good for personal (material) gain. To look deeper, they compared rates of government corruption to the percent representation of women in parliament in more than 100 countries and found that the greater the representation of women, the lower the levels of corruption.

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In many contexts, like how to spend a community’s money—let’s on say building a community library vs. refurbishing the already present ball park—having only one sex, in this example only the men, making all our public choices all the time might not always lead to the very best result for communities over the long term.

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So what might we achieve if we shifted to male/female partnership in governing at all levels of our lives: homes, communities, nations, and the world? As it turns out, we actually have some real-world examples of what female influence might do and has done.

Let’s begin with poverty. The Heifer Foundation gives income-producing livestock, like a cow or a hive of honey bees, to people in poverty. When the animals produce offspring, the recipient must pass the gift to a neighbor. Heifer Foundation was among the first to confess openly that they got the best results when they gave to a woman. She was more likely to use the gift in a way that benefitted her family, and also her community.

Muhammad Yunus, winner of the Nobel Economics Prize for giving micro-loans to poor people, also discovered that women were more likely to spend the money successfully in creating a business. Too often men tended to spend on things that immediately increased their social status…like frequently paying for all the drinks at the local coffee house or buying a flashy car. Women, in general, were also better at repaying the loans.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff and his wife Sheryl WuDunn, in their wonderful book Half the Sky, tell stories from across the world that unequivocally make the case that if a woman is given education or financial means, it regularly leads not only to pulling her family out of poverty, her efforts spread to the benefit of her community.

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Here’s another reality with wide social affairs applicability, the powerful effect of educating girls. Boys often leave their community, frequently to find work. And if there is war, they’re commonly pressed into military service and may die, never to return. Girls are much more likely to stay, and they go home from school and educate their mothers. The mothers grow reluctant for their sons to be dragooned into being soldiers. They begin to see other, positive prospects for both their girl and boy children. The educated women begin to lift the entire community. The education of girls has charmingly been called the “girl effect.” Google it and you’ll find numerous groups that have embraced this revolutionary idea.

Starting in the late-1900’s, books began highlighting the positive effects of women as leaders—in government, business, and communities.

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These are just a few. Academic and popular articles on women’s effects on a wide range of human affairs are simply too numerous to even begin citing.

These are examples of cross-cultural research that compared different kinds of societies on things like giving public goods, governmental corruption, peace building, and internal and external rates of violence in a society.

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Andersen and colleagues compared social giving in matriarchal vs. patriarchal cultures in India, and found that men contributed more to public goods in the matriarchal societies than in patriarchal ones. Perhaps because the men can anticipate or trust that their contribution will be put to good use? Dollar and his colleagues, looking at more than 100 countries, found a positive correlation between women’s empowerment and lower levels of corruption. The last four works examined the level of female empowerment (judged by things like levels of women’s education and numbers of women in leading positions in government and business). They all document positive effects when women’s voices are influential. A 2014 quote from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon—a man who knows the world’s societies, who was addressing economic growth, business performance, peace agreements, and social issue legislation—this sums it all up: “equality for women means progress for all.”

Now before leaving sexual dimorphism, we need to briefly address individual behavior because of the danger of sexual stereotyping. Sexual behavioral dimorphism that effects the behavior of groups is a reality for some traits. It’s the reason why so many cultures recognize a yin and yang, a sun and moon, a vive la difference.

But individual men and women need to be judged and treated individually. Because the reality for individuals is uniqueness. Here are listed traits in the United States commonly thought of as female and male.

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Reality is that every person is a unique, complex combination of what their society considers to be male and female traits. In every-day terms, in differing degrees we all have a female side and a male side. Now some of us are way more in touch with our female side: say a person, boy or girl, who is very emotional, non-assertive, sensitive, a bit too self-critical, but also sweetly nurturing and empathetic. And some of us are way more in touch with our male side: someone, boy or girl, who is aggressive, competitive, very self confident/self-oriented, non-self-critical, in fact rebellious and risk-taking.

And some of us display a balanced mixture of traits that can be described as being in touch more equally with both male and female sides. This could be a man who is not only aggressive, self-confident, competitive, and bold, but also self-reflective and empathetic. A woman who is not only nurturing, and empathetic, but also when appropriate, independent, competitive, and bold.

In fact, the biology of embryonic development is so complex that some people find themselves with sexual organs and physiology characteristic of one sex but possessed with an overwhelming majority of behavioral preferences and inclinations characteristic of the other sex.

Essentially, all societies have available to them, if they choose to take advantage of it, a rich variety of individuals, a massive diversity that can either be embraced or forced into rigid stereotypes.

Now if we want to start a powerful social revolution for that “better” future, what kind of leader should we follow? Who should we elect? What traits characterize good leaders?

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A leader cannot be shy. He or she must be in touch with aspects of their male side like being assertive, independent, and bold. But wisdom demands that they are also able to be self-critical and reflective, able to change their mind when needed. And to lead well, rather than be a bully or tyrant, they need to be in touch with traits from their female side like being accepting and empathetic with regard to the people they lead.

Our very worst choice for a leader would be someone having traits guaranteed to foster continuation of the world’s dominator waring and socially unstable, in some cases pathologic, cultures. Someone aggressive, bold, competitive, non-self-critical, strongly self-oriented and woefully lacking in being accepting or empathetic. Our very worst choice for leaders.

So….. “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” Well, it’s not just culture or upbringing…it’s also biology. The inescapable and powerful effects of biological inheritance.

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And the female half of us brings to our societies two powerful urges: first is a strong preference for avoiding societal violence, and second is an enduring concern for nurturing communities and children’s welfare. These are traits that, in ways we are only beginning to understand, apply unceasing, subconscious pressure that, at the group level, influence women’s decisions about how we should live and what choices we should make.

This 50% of our species that is female has for too long in too many societies been a suppressed or even mistreated class. Women are a massive reservoir of unused, positive leadership talent. There is so much to be gained by passing laws, and providing education to women and girls, and where necessary shifting cultural values so that we ensure their equal participation in all aspects of our civic lives.

If we don’t change what we’re doing, history indicates that we should expect to continue to create dominator, warring societies, and the traits that characterize them. Logic suggests that to get a radically different result requires that we do something radically different!

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Empowering women on a massive scale as decision-makers in full partnership with men, in communities, countries, and across the world, would certainly qualify as “doing something radically different!”

After writing Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace, my first book that focused on these gender differences, I concluded that parity governing, with men and women sharing power, would be a necessary condition of an enduring peace in vibrant, thriving societies. Subsequent research still convinces me that the empowerment of women is a necessary condition for building societies that foster the development of maximum human potential. Not the only condition required, of course, but nevertheless, an essential one. But my worry then and now is whether we can make the transition to sufficient female empowerment swiftly enough?

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Maybe not. Many forces are at work against doing so. We may simply self-destruct altogether…go the way of other species of the genus Homo that once shared with us the top branches of this primate tree—Homo ergaster, Homo habiliis, Homo heidelbergensis, Homo erectus, Homo neanderthalensis. And others. They’re all gone. So far, only we remain.

So I close with a final thought that is also a hope: Can we, will we, Homo sapiens, be wise enough, clever enough, to try something different that offers the promise of creating a culture of peace and the maximum human flourishing that a culture of peace would foster?

Finally, a few words about my background relevant to this subject. I’m an evolutionary biologist, with a Ph.D. from UCLA. My areas of specialization are in animal behavior, including human behavior, communication, conflict resolution, and gender differences. The fancy name for the study of animal behavior is “ethology.” Since I’ve been studying war and peace, I’m now officially a Peace Ethologist, and as an undergraduate major in cultural anthropology, I studied non-patriarchal and nonviolent cultures. Much of my work on gender differences and war is in this book, Shift: The Beginning of War, The Ending of War.

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I invite you to the website AFutureWithoutWar.org. There you can find essays, a free book download of Women Power and the Biology of Peace, links to a YouTube video entitled “Ending War is Achievable. Five Reasons Why,” and much more.

A video presentation of this essay, “Why Can’t a Woman be More Like a Man,” can also be found on YouTube.

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Exploring Sex, War, and World Affairs from a Biological Perspective. How to Build a “Better” Future.

October 4, 2016

by Judith Hand, Ph.D.

The goal of this essay, which explores sex, war, and world affairs from a biological perspective, is to gain insights that can advance efforts by the global community to leave to the future’s children a more peaceful, just, environmentally sustainable, “better” future. It will explain the “why” and “how” of two major changes required to accomplish that goal.

First, we’ll need to establish a maintainable global peace system. We will also need to embrace the principle of koinoniarchy, or gender parity governing, from the Greek word koinonia, meaning to share. We’ll need full partnership between men and women in governing our lives. Not continuation of patriarchy. Not establishment of matriarchy. Rather, a koinoniarchy, where governing is a shared responsibility of both men and women.

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Consider these enormous challenges….many of them legitimately considered to be evils. We’ll explore what might be the result if the global community made two changes with respect to leadership and governance that would have positive affects on all of these issues.

We begin with a broad historical perspective.

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This graph plots estimated numbers of humans on Earth going back nine thousand years. At the far right, roughly 250 years ago, an explosive rise in our numbers begins, attributed mostly to preventing early deaths and increasing food productivity. Imagine what might be the social effects of that explosive rise. Because during hundreds of thousands of years of evolution that shaped our natures, we lived in a world where, when resources ran out or disagreements erupted that might lead to what we now call war, some people could pack up their meager belongings and move to an unoccupied place. This relieved the social pressure, and biologists call that very successful adaptation, dispersal.

As a result, now all places where essential resources of food and water and living space exist…they’re all human populated. We occupy all habitable landmasses. In a 2005 Scientific American article entitled “Economics in a Full World” the economist Herman Daly described this by saying that we’ve transitioned from an empty world to a full world. He describes how that transition is putting all kinds of pressures on our affairs.

We have created a new, changed environment to which we need to adapt. We’re going to have to deal with those above issues, and more, under the pressure of greater human numbers, and with no empty places to which unhappy or starving people can disperse without encountering people already present, and possibly themselves in dire conditions.

I agree with experts convinced that we’ve reached an existential tipping point. Here are some existential threats to the global social order. Or improbably, but not impossibly, to our extinction.

Existential Threats to the Global Social Order

  • A highly contagious, highly lethal natural pandemic.
  • Intended or unintended nuclear war.
  • Leakage of large amounts of stored nuclear waste into the atmosphere.
  • Out of control computer virus used in a cyberwar.
  • Intended or unintended release of biological or chemical WMD.
  • Collapse of the ocean ecosystem.
  • Multiple regional wars over critical resources such as water or rare earth elements.

With the single exception of a highly lethal natural pandemic, every one is a potential disaster of our own making.

To avoid the disasters posed by these threats, and to eliminate or fix the social evils listed above, we’ll need money. We’ll need legions of humans applying ingenuity and sweat. Given the astounding financial, physical, and human capital wasted on wars, avoiding wars would unquestionably be the wise and sane adaptation to make.

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So consider that one of Albert Einstein’s most insightful quotes is that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Given human nature, it’s impossible to create Utopia. But, could we shift global culture sufficiently to both avoid the disaster of some dystopian nightmare, with all of these evils raging in full force, and also build an extraordinarily positive future. One more peaceful, just, and environmentally sustainable future? Throughout this essay I’m going to simply refer to that kind of future as a “better” future.

Recall that the essay’s title says that we’ll be considering sex, war, and world affairs from a biological perspective. From that perspective, the primary assumption here is that to solve our problems and build a “better” future, not only at a global level but in local communities and homes, we need to understand ourselves, and that to do that, we must look through the lens of biology to answer the question, “What kind of animal are we?”

We named ourselves Homo sapiens—wise man—but much of our behavior is so harmful, to ourselves and increasingly to the planet, that the word “wise” may not fit us very well. A better choice might have been Homo acutus—clever man—because there can be no doubt that we are very very clever.

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During hundreds of thousands of years, our ancestors lived as simple bands of nomadic foragers. But they came to possess behaviors that made us one of Earth’s most dominant species. And many of these behaviors weren’t based on carefully thought-out reason. They were whatever ensured the survival and reproductive success of the individuals who gave rise to us.

So, still based on biology, this talk’s second assumption is that rather than our behavior always being guided by reason or wisdom, we need to embrace the reality that much human behavior is, in fact, guided by built-in, genetically-based, evolved predispositions/preferences/tendencies/urges, whatever you want to call them, and these powerfully influence much of our behavior, sometimes in contradiction to what rational or wise thought suggests would be a better thing to do. And specifically, we’re going to consider why and how some of these urges are not the same for our two sexes.

My relevant background includes that I’m an evolutionary biologist, with a Ph.D. from UCLA. My areas of specialization are in animal behavior, including human behavior, communication, conflict resolution, and gender differences. Because I’ll be comparing men and women— the sex part of the essay—I need to stress that my approach is that of a biologist, not a feminist….nor for that matter, a psychologist, sociologist, historian, or political scientist.

For my PhD., I studied communication and conflict behavior of gulls—Laughing Gulls and Western Gulls—a mated pair of the latter pictured here.

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I did so on the Farallon Islands off San Francisco, on Bird Rock off Catalina Island, CA, in the bird flight cage of the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and on islands in the Gulf of California, primarily Guardian Angel Island. These were some of the most delightful years of my life. I gained insight into conflict resolving behavior by studying how breeding pairs used communication to resolve conflicts.

The fancy name for the study of animal behavior is “ethology.” Since I’ve been studying war and peace, I’m now officially a Peace Ethologist, and as an undergraduate major in cultural anthropology, I studied non-patriarchal and nonviolent cultures.

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Much of my work on war is in this book, Shift: The Beginning of War, The Ending of War. This essay, however, considers how our biology relates to a large number of world affairs….not just war. We begin with how evolution shaped some of those powerful instinctive urges by delving rather deeply into biology.

One reality that shapes much of life on Earth is called sexual dimorphism, from the Greek dimorphos, meaning having two forms. Most species of plants and animals have males which make sperm, which are tiny and motile, and females, which make eggs, which are comparably huge and non-motile, and have nutrients sufficient to develop into a new individual. Humans obviously fit this pattern.

There are other reproductive possibilities. Some species reproduce asexually, like the tiny water creature called a Hydra that can sprout a new hydra out of one side, and single-celled forms like the Amoeba which can divide by pinching itself in half, and even a lineage of female lizards that reproduce without any males. Some, like mushrooms, use spores.

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But the vast majority of animals and plants—at least some time in their life cycle—reproduce sexually. Now, sperm have the equipment and energy for movement but are small. And eggs, which hold sufficient nutrients for development of a new individual, are relatively very large. This huge difference between sperm and eggs in size, composition, and function has profound biological ramifications, because eggs, having all that nutrient material, are much more expensive to make than sperm. Males can make thousands or even millions of sperm, but in every species, females produce far far fewer eggs.

This fundamental size and function asymmetry sets up a situation in which reproductive pressures on and strategies pursued by males and females are very different. Anyone who closely observes animals sees these differences played out in many forms of competitive male/female behavior. Observers often refer to some male/female interactions as a “battle of the sexes.”

Sexual dimorphism can occur in three domains: anatomy, physiology, and behavior.

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It exists in external anatomy, as you see in these male/female pairs (things like color, size, fundamental body shape). It also exists in internal structures, like skeletons. If you watch TV shows like “Bones” or “CSI,” experts often look at skeletal or dental remains to tell whether a victim was male or female.

Sexual dimorphism in physiology isn’t easy to illustrate because it’s about chemical reactions. Most familiar to you are differences in blood levels of the sex hormones, testosterone and estrogen. Another fascinating example is that levels of the hormone oxytocin—often called the “love” or “cuddle” hormone because it’s important to forming social bonds—they’re consistently higher in women. There are sex related differences in circadian patterns: in humans a whole field is called “chronobiology” and looks at how sex may influence things like what time of day is best for taking certain drugs because the ideal time may be different for men and women.

But it’s sexual dimorphism in behavior that’s critical to discussing world affairs. It seems obvious that males and females of sexually reproducing species aren’t going to behave identically with regard to reproduction. But differences in proclivities that aren’t directly related to reproduction also occur.

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For example, Redwing Blackbird males during breeding season  stake out a territory and defend it from other males. In contrast, females scout territories, settle onto one that seems to have good food and hiding places, build a nest, mate with the territory male, lay eggs, incubate them, and rear the young.

An elephant herd consists of females and their offspring, including young males. But when a male comes of age, the females expel him, allowing contact only during breeding season. Expelling males is a built-in proclivity, or preference, that regulates elephant social affairs.

Male and female lions do live together. But it’s the females that have the proclivity to unite to kill prey to feed the whole pride. The main urges of a pride male are to guard the pride from other males and mate with females as often as possible when the females are in heat.

For gorilla families, food consists of vegetation, and the females’ biological urges motivate them to spend their days eating and caring for their young. They also biologically prefer to let the male determine the direction of the group’s movements. When he moves, they follow. If danger threatens, he’s the one with the proclivity to protect the group.

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So, now that we know what it is and what to look for, we can consider how behavioral sexual dimorphism plays out for us in ways that relate to this talk’s subjects: war and world affairs. This is an artist’s reconstruction of a male and female of one of our ancestors. You’ll note right away the significant size dimorphism, which also characterizes Homo erectus and Homo neanderthalensis.

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Note that size dimorphism is much reduced for modern humans—and by the way, this is thought by some to be related to the emergence of monogamy. What we’ll explore for this essay on warfare and world affairs is that our sexes have significantly different behavioral proclivities when it comes to using physical aggression—for any reason—including resolving social conflicts.

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This book describes the biological reason for why that’s so in detail. The goal of the essay at this point is to move rapidly through a succinct summary of why this difference exists by dipping deeply into biology. First, recall that we are mammals, because our females supply milk to our offspring from mammary glands, and we are primates, closely related to other Great Apes. A number of reproductive traits that are true for other mammals and primates are also true for us. So here are three basic biological realities that affect women’s proclivities with respect to social conflicts and especially physical aggression.

Reality number 1. The basic biological bottom line for all living things is to reproduce and have offspring that have offspring. If you don’t reproduce, your genes and the traits they govern are eliminated from the game of life. For example, I didn’t have children, so genes influencing my social preferences won’t be passed on. Successful reproduction is what life, from a biological perspective, is all about.

Reality number 2. For female mammals, especially female primates, reproducing is a very expensive investment, beginning with production of eggs (as opposed to sperm) and then additionally, investment in time, risks taken, and energy expenditure. What does that mean?

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  • To begin with, female primates carry their offspring to term, nourishing them from within their body, often for months.
  • Then they risk the serious hazards of childbirth.
  • Then for a substantial period of time they provide milk from their body for nourishment.
  • Finally, they must protect this offspring, care for it, and in our case, support it for years before it is old enough to reproduce, the earliest for humans at ages between eight and thirteen. If you have children, you likely can relate to this monumental reproductive effort.
  • And then after their offspring reproduce, research shows that women in most cultures are still deeply involved in making sure that the offspring of their offspring also survive and thrive—they invest in their grandchildren.

This is unquestionably for female primates, including us, a very extended, risky, and expensive process that puts enormous reproductive pressures on females. Most especially so for us, since our offspring are born so very helpless.

As a consequence of all of this, reality number 3 is that the ideal social situation for female primates, including us, is social stability for long periods. Anything that threatens the life of these expensive offspring or their caregiver, for humans certainly something like war, has been and is hugely counterproductive. Many traits characteristic of how women respond to conflicts are a reflection of their evolved, strong preference for social stability.

For example, women in general are more naturally inclined towards negotiation, mediation, and compromise. Why? Because solutions arrived at by those non-violent means often result in win-win outcomes, which tend to be more socially stable and longer lasting.

For the overwhelming majority of women, fighting, even in defense of community, is a last resort. But as fierce defenders of children and community—and that includes their way of life—women will fight if necessary. In fact, military men who have fought with women tell me that if drawn into fighting, women can be courageous, and can even be vicious, fighters. Women are not by nature pacifists or saints. What they are by nature is determined preservationists of socially stable and nurturing communities.

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In this book, Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace, a review going back several hundred years shows that strong women leaders have waged wars of defense or preservation. Think of Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher, or Elizabeth the First of England. But historically, women leaders in power have been overwhelmingly less inclined than male leaders to launch a war of conquest.

Elizabeth the First of England is an example of the former protective sort, as evidenced by her mounting a navy that defeated the Spanish Armada. And if the history of the period is to be believed, Cleopatra of Egypt is an example of the less common woman leader, having a lust for conquest.

We have just covered, in a very compressed summary, the essential relationship of women to using physical violence and to waging war. So we now turn to two further biological realities. These apply to men. Reality number 4: For male mammals, including male primates, the biological game is very different, because males never invest in offspring as heavily as females do. In some primates, fathers invest nothing but sperm. Human fathers often become involved in some support and protection of their young (think monogamy), but this isn’t even the case in all our cultures. With only rare exceptions would a man’s investment approach the mother’s investment.

Very importantly, if a man looses an offspring for any reason—from a fight within the community where he lives or in the course of a war—men have the potential to father replacement offspring relatively easily compared to a woman. They simply need to find a woman to impregnate, and they may or may not take responsibility for the years-long care required to bring that child to sexual maturity.

As a consequence of those realities, for many male primates, including men, maintaining social stability is not as high a priority as it is for females. Yes, it is important to men, who have no desire to live in chaos, but not nearly as important as it is to women.

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Actually, the urge to rise in dominance status is, in many species, a primary male driver, because higher dominance has generally, historically, been correlated with greater male reproductive success. Much of men’s social lives is focused on rearranging the social order to achieve greater dominance. And sometimes this involves using physical violence.

Cultural anthropologist Christopher Boehm wrote Hierarchy in the Forest: the Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior. In it he describes life within egalitarian tribes in Africa. What’s relevant here is how hard these egalitarian, nonviolent people work to make sure that what they call “upstart males,” or females, but mostly males, cannot assert themselves in a way to increase their dominance.

At a minimum, they’re ridiculed. Say a hunter brags about what a big gazelle he brought down. A woman may immediately laugh and say how nice for him, since what he brings in is usually so puny. If ridicule doesn’t suffice to nip urges to dominate in the bud, “upstarts” can be sanctioned by group shunning for a while, or even the extreme of ostracism: if he won’t quit his efforts to rise in dominance over others, they toss him out.

We, men and women, have inherited from primate ancestors the urge to form dominance hierarchies. This urge for domination—the desire to control others rather than share or compromise as partners—when that desire becomes the overarching passion in human hearts it becomes a poisoned wellspring of the evil humans do to each other. It’s the killer of lives and societies.

For a community to remain stable, tendencies for increasing one’s domination that might result in physical violence, especially killing—those tendencies have to be nipped in the bud one way or the other—using customs, education, laws, and punishment.

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Some other traits more characteristically male than female can be used to build an army. One is aggressive male bonding. Certainly this proclivity has always facilitated protecting a group from predation (bears, lions, wolves). It’s also key to many forms of hunting (mammoth, buffalo). We see the tendency expressed in the male love of aggressive team sports, in young boys that get together to do pranks like draping neighborhood yards with toilet paper, and when angry men form a mob—say after a stolen election or simply after a soccer match. These mobs are very unlikely to be composed mostly of women. A warmonger counts on this tendency when he wants to make war and needs to unite men into a force that can kill.

A third, and very admirable trait more typical of men, can also facilitate building an army. This is willingness to protect the group, even at the risk of death. A clever manipulator will assert that “our group,” especially women and children, must be protected from some evil other group. For reproductive reasons just described, women are much more reluctant to risk death. But when it’s convincingly asserted that the group must be protected, most men find it emotionally impossible to let other men go do the risk-taking, fighting, and dying while they stand by with the women. Arguably this can be explained in part by an emotional reluctance to loose social status in the eyes of other men or the women.

This summary of human sexual dimorphism with respect to social conflict, physical aggression, and war has been very compressed and very simplified. But hopefully it’s clear why, for reasons associated with reproductive success, the majority of women in all cultures have a much stronger preference for maintaining social stability than do men. With respect to many world affairs, this sexually dimorphic difference is a defining aspect of what kind of animal we are.

Now, to understand how these differences influence social interactions of many kinds, we need to dig still deeper into biology because humans have many hundreds of behavioral traits, and so far research indicates that many if not most traits of the sexes overlap. But some overlap more than others. And what’s relevant to social affairs is when differences between the sexes would make a group of men choose differently from a group of women, and a mixed-sex group choose differently from only men or only women.

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These graphs roughly illustrate how overlap works. Imagine that we measure three different traits, A, B, and C. The range of possibilities for each is plotted on the horizontal axis: like, say, the degree of empathy for others, ranging from virtually none to acutely empathetic, or personality type ranging from extremely shy to outrageous extrovert. And the numbers of persons having a given trait is plotted on the vertical axis in a group having equal numbers of men and women. In each graph, one curve represents measurements of all women, and the other represents measurements of all men.

When trait A is measured, we see an almost perfect overlap between the numbers of men and women, with most people measuring somewhere in the middle range. This means that in a given context, with respect to trait A, the majority of both sexes would respond or behave similarly.

When trait B is measured, we see that although there is some behavioral overlap in the middle of the range, the majority of men and women behave or choose differently. Male and female peak numbers of individuals are not the same.

And when trait C is measured, we again see some overlap, but the range of variation isn’t the same for men and women, the men’s range being much broader; the women would, in general, be much more in agreement with each other than would the men, in general. And note that the vast majority of women would not agree with the majority of men. If we could measure all human traits and plot them like this, which in reality we can’t, but if we could, there would be many many different graphs for different traits, and different graphs in different cultures.

The point here, is that when considering how sexual dimorphism affects social behavior of groups, we’re not concerned with individuals. We’re asking whether statistically significant differences between the sexes will cause groups to behave differently. And research and common experience shows that men are more likely to use physical aggression that results in killing. Perhaps the starkest comparison in any culture would be between the kinds and rates of physical aggression in a male prison vs. kinds and rates in a female prison.

Now you are likely thinking, but what about learning? Isn’t learning what teaches us how to behave? How do nurture and nature influence the behavior we see? Imagine two extremely different socialization contexts, a society of Quakers and the Islamic caliphate of ISIS. What behavior is likely to be learned and expressed by boys and girls raised in a Quaker community compared to the likely behavior learned and expressed by boys and girls raised in the Islamic caliphate of ISIS?

At one time it was actually thought that nurture always trumps nature. That learning always trumps genetic influences. But much research has put that idea to rest, at leasts for biologists. The most powerful studies have been done using fraternal and identical twins. Here is just one recently published meta-analysis of fifty years of twin studies on over 17,000 traits.

Meta-analysis of the heritability of human traits based on fifty years of twin studies. Tinca J C Polderman, B. Benyamin, C A de Leeusw, P F Sullivan, A van Bochoven, P M Visscher & D Posthuma. Nature Genetics 47: 702-709 (2015).

An important take-away message from this work is that not even one trait was just genetic or just environmental. The tendencies to avoid physical violence, or improve one’s dominance status using physical violence, or an abiding concern for children and community, these traits are going to have both environmental AND genetic components—learned and inherited. But comparative studies make clear that whatever the learning environment, Quakers or ISIS, the genetic predisposition and observable adult behavior of the two sexes are NOT identical for traits involving using physical violence or concern for children and a socially stable community.

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Consider a simple example showing how male/female differences play out when a mixed group is making a socially critical decision, using the example of war. Imagine a legislative body with parity governing: there are equal numbers of men and women. They’ve been debating whether to go to war now or let negotiations in Geneva play out a bit longer. The thumbs up and thumbs down illustrate symbolically the men’s vote. Note the hypothetical, but not uncharacteristic, percentages, with 70% of men in favor of declaring war now, but 30% favoring more negotiation. So it’s not that ALL the men would favor war now.

Compare that to a corresponding, hypothetical women’s vote: 20% for war now, but 80% favoring extending negotiations. It’s not that ALL women would vote against charging into war….just that a greater percentage would. So in this mixed group, we have 9 votes for war now and 11 for negotiating some more. This illustrates how giving women a voice in decision-making can add a restraining influence on male inclinations.

It’s absolutely critical to note that you would not get this restraining effect on male inclinations if only a token number of women were in this deciding body—say twenty or thirty percent of the total votes. The effect depends on something approaching parity governing. Half measures will not succeed.

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In many contexts, like how to spend a community’s money—let’s say on building a community library vs. refurbishing the already present ball park—having only one sex, in this example only the men, making all our public choices all the time might not always lead to the very best result for communities over the long term.

And recorded history indicates that in the world’s dominant cultures, major social decisions involving governance have overwhelmingly been shaped by men for at least 2-3 thousands years. We know exactly what the world would look like when men govern, pretty much without any meaningful female input. We’ve done great things. Created technological masterpieces, works of stunning beauty, mind-boggling advances in science, and much much more. We are indeed clever. And I believe, a species worth saving and for which we should build the very best, most nurturing future we can.

But we also know that unrestrained male inclinations have given us repeated cycles of war and destruction. Needless to point out, this does not seem very wise. Nor do we have any reason to believe that if we continue to operate under the same reality of male-dominated leadership this endlessly repeated pattern of cycles of war would cease. Arguably, it may prove to be existentially fatal.

Finally with respect to sex and war, consider that most men abhor war, that is, actually killing other people. They can love play fighting and war games, even planning a war….but not actually killing other people. Men must be trained and conditioned to kill other people. Even what we call alpha males—men like the American president John Fitzgerald Kennedy, singer and activist Bono, the athlete Mohammad Ali, and South Africa’s Nelson Mandela—alpha males don’t love war.

Men I call hyper-alpha males, though, are different. They are out of control males, unconstrained by their culture or their women. Men such as Alexander of Macedonia, Rome’s Caesar, Attila the Hun, Genghas Khan, France’s Napoleon, and Germany’s Hitler. Hyper-alpha males seek to dominate all others, whether in a small tribal world or a world that spans continents, and they are distinguish by being willing to kill to do it – they are the generators of war, the initiators of war, the warmongers. They kill or have others kill for them. We have contemporary versions of these hyper-alpha men on all sides of our current conflicts.

War is fundamentally the result of unconstrained male biology running wild. But my best guess is that the percentage of hyper-alpha males in our populations, the warmongers, is maybe…maybe… 10%. Warmongers are a tiny tail that has been wagging the dog of civilization for way too long! We need to learn to identify them and leash and muzzle them before they light the fires to ignite a war.

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So what might we achieve if we shifted to male/female partnership in governing at all levels of our lives: homes, communities, nations, and the world? As it turns out, we actually have some real-world examples of what female influence might do and has done?

Let’s begin with poverty. The Heifer Foundation gives income-producing livestock, like a cow or a hive of honey bees, to people in poverty. When the animals produce offspring, the recipient must pass the gift to a neighbor. Heifer Foundation was among the first to confess openly that they got the best results when they gave to a woman. She was more likely to use the gift in a way that benefitted her family, and also her community.

Muhammad Yunus, winner of the Nobel Economics Prize for giving micro-loans to poor people, also discovered that women were more likely to spend the money successfully in creating a business. Too often men tended to spend on things that immediately increased their social status…like frequently paying for all the drinks at the local coffee house or buying a flashy car. Women, in general, were also better at repaying the loans.

NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff and his wife Sheryl WuDunn, in their wonderful book Half the Sky, tell stories from across the world that unequivocally make the case that if a woman is given education or financial means, it regularly leads not only to pulling her family out of poverty, her efforts spread to the benefit of her community.

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Here’s another reality with wide social affairs applicability, the powerful effect of educating girls. Boys often leave their community, frequently to find work. And if there is war, they’re commonly pressed into military service and may die, never to return. Girls are much more likely to stay, and they go home from school and educate their mothers. The mothers grow reluctant for their sons to be dragooned into being soldiers. They begin to see other, positive prospects for both their girl and boy children. The educated women begin to lift the entire community. The education of girls has charmingly been called the “girl effect.” Google it and you’ll find numerous groups that have embraced this revolutionary idea.

Starting in the late-1900’s, books began highlighting the positive effects of women as leaders—in government, business, and communities. Listed here are just a few.

  • The First Sex. The Natural Talents of Women and How They Are Changing the World. 1999. H. Fisher.
  • Women as Global Leaders. 2015. S. R. Madsen & F. W. Ngunjiri (eds.).
  • Closing the Leadership Gap. Add Women, Change Everything. 2004, 2007.  M. C. Wilson.
  • Why Women Should Rule the World. 2009. Dee Dee Myers.
  • Half the Sky. Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. 2010. N. D. Kristof & S. WuDunn.
  • Sex and War. How Biology Explains Warfare and Terrorism and Offers a Path to a Safer World. 2010. M. Potts & T. Hayden.
  • Lean In. Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. 2013. S. Sandberg.
  • Women as Global Leaders. 2015. S. R. Madsen & F. W. Ngunjiri (eds.).

Academic and popular articles on women’s effects on a wide range of human affairs are too numerous to even begin citing.

The following are examples of cross-cultural research that compared different kinds of societies on things like giving public goods, governmental corruption, peace building, and internal and external rates of violence in a society.

  • Andersen, S., E. Bulte, U. Gneezy, & J. A. List. 2008. “Do women supply more public goods than men? Preliminary experimental evidence
    from matriarchal and patriarchal societies.” American Economical
    Review.
  • Dollar, D., R. Fisman, & R. Gatti. 1999. “Are women really the ‘fairer’sex? Women and corruption in government.” World Bank Development Research Group.
  • Gizelis, T-I. 2009. “Gender empowerment and United Nations
    peacebuilding.” International Peace Research.
  • Caprioli, M. 2005. “Primed for violence: the role of gender inequality in predicting internal conflict.” International Studies Quarterly.
  • Melander, E. 2005. “Gender equality and intrastate armed conflict.” International Studies Quarterly.
  • Hudson, V., B. Ballif-Spanville, M. Caprioli, & C. F. Emmett. 2012. Sex and World Peace. NY: Columbia University Press.

Andersen and colleagues compared social giving in matriarchal vs. patriarchal cultures in India, and found that men contributed more to public goods in the matriarchal societies than in patriarchal ones. Perhaps because they can anticipate/trust that their contribution will be put to good use?

Dollar and his colleagues, looking at more than 100 countries, found a positive correlation between women’s empowerment and lower levels of corruption. The last four works examined the level of female empowerment (judged by things like levels of women’s education and numbers of women in leading positions in government and business). They all document positive effects when women’s voices are influential.

The last phrase from a 2014 quote from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon—a man who knows the world’s societies–addressed economic growth, business performance, peace agreements, and social issue legislation. He sums it all up: “equality for women means progress for all.”

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Now before leaving sexual dimorphism to look at war, we need to briefly address individual behavior because of the danger of sexual stereotyping. Sexual behavioral dimorphism that affects the behavior displayed by groups is a reality for some traits. It’s the reason why so many cultures recognize a yin and yang, a sun and moon, a vive la difference. But individual human beings need to be judged and treated individually. Because the reality for individuals is uniqueness.

Listed above are traits in the United States commonly thought of as female and male. Every human being is a unique, complex combination of what their society considers to be male and female traits. In every-day terms, in differing degrees we all have a female side and a male side.

Now, some of us are way more in touch with our female side: say a person, boy or girl, who is very emotional, non-assertive, sensitive, a bit too self-critical, but also sweetly nurturing and empathetic. And some of us are way more in touch with our male side: someone, boy or girl, who is aggressive, competitive, very self confident/self-oriented, non-self-critical, in fact rebellious and risk-taking.

And some of us display a mixture of traits that can be described as being in touch more equally with both male and female sides. This could be a man who is not only aggressive, self-confident, competitive, and bold, but also self-reflective and empathetic. A woman who is not only nurturing, and empathetic, but also independent, competitive, and bold.

In fact, the biology of embryonic development is so complex that some people find themselves with sexual organs and physiology characteristic of one sex but possessed with an overwhelming majority of behavioral preferences and inclinations characteristic of the other sex. Essentially, all societies have available to them, if they choose to take advantage of it, a rich variety of individuals, a massive diversity that can either be embraced or forced into rigid stereotypes.

Now if we want to start a powerful social revolution for that “better” future, who should we follow? Who should we elect? What traits should we look for in leaders? A leader cannot be shy. He or she must be in touch with aspects of their male side like being assertive, independent, and bold. But wisdom demands that they are also able to be self-critical and reflective, able to change their mind when needed. And to lead well, rather than be a bully or tyrant, they need to be in touch with traits from their female side like being accepting and empathetic with regard to the people they lead.

Our very worst choices would be individuals–man or woman–having traits guaranteed to foster continuation of the world’s dominator waring cultures. Someone aggressive, bold, competitive, non-self-critical, strongly self-oriented and woefully lacking in being accepting or empathetic. Our very worst choices!

So in summary, after writing a book that focused on the gender differences we’ve just covered, I concluded that parity governing (men and women sharing power) would be a necessary condition of an enduring peace in vibrant, thriving societies. My worry then and now was whether we’ll make the transition to “sufficient female empowerment” fast enough to counter those ominous trends listed earlier. Or will the unrelenting social force of urges for domination, a primary driver of male behavior, win the struggle to shape human destiny.

Now we move on to consider how war relates to world affairs. First, to avoid confusion with other forms of killing, “war” as used here needs to be defined. Murder is not war. Revenge killings of specific individuals over personal grievances, things like lethal family feuding, is not war as used here. War is when people band together to indiscriminately kill people in another group and the majority of the community’s noncombatants and religious leaders sanction their actions. It’s the sanctioned killing of people in other groups who have not personally harmed the killers that distinguishes war as used here from other forms of killing. For example, two drug gangs killing each other is not what’s being considered, because they are NOT supported by the larger communities where they live, nor by their religious leaders. Gang killings are policing issues.

So now, is it logical to think that we will make significant and lasting headway on dealing with the enormous social challenges listed earlier if the world’s countries are expending massive but limited financial and human resources on the current war, planing for the next one, or digging themselves out of the last one?

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In one year alone, 2009, military spending by the top ten countries was well over one trillion US dollars, and the world is presumably doing the same or more every year.

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Note the percent of discretionary tax money—that is, excluding the mandated funding for social security and health care that takes up over 50% of taxes—that the United States devotes annually to the Defense/War Department, the top half in red. Compare it to what’s devoted to international relations and world hunger, the small green and white wedges on the bottom left. Those are efforts that are key to avoiding war. What does this suggest about our goals, vision, and efforts? Because the world’s resources are not limitless. They simply are not! And remember, the numbers of us requiring, at minimum, food, water, and shelter will continue to grow for decades.

Here are seven books, mine among them, that make the case that we could end war.

  • Irwin, R. A. 1988. Building a peace system: exploratory project on the conditions of peace. Expo Press.
  • Hind, R. & J. Rotblat. 2003. War no more. Eliminating conflict in the nuclear age. Pluto Press.
  • English, J. J. 2007. The collapse of the war system. Development in the philosophy of peace in the twentieth century. Saor-Ollscoil Press.
  • Myers, W. 2009. Living beyond war: a citizen’s guide. Orbit Books.
  • Hand, J. 2014. Shift: The beginning of war, the ending of war. Questpath Publishing.
  • Horgan, J. 2014. The end of war. McSweeneys.

Arguably, this is an idea whose time has come? Interestingly, there’s much agreement among them on what to do.

Joshua Goldstein, Professor of International Relations and an interdisciplinary scholar on war and society, poses a potential chicken and egg problem when thinking about how to end war. Must we first fix things like poverty, social injustice, human rights, and spread the rule of law then peace will follow? Many peace activists are operating under that assumption, as are a lot of lay people. Or, do we need to end war first, so we have the financial and human resources needed to actually achieve those other desired goals?

Which comes first: the chicken or the egg? In Winning the War on War Goldstein makes the case that accepting the legitimacy and values of and the assumptions supporting war is the prime cause of many social evils that we do NOT associate with a “better” future. So in Gender and War he writes, quoting another expert, “‘….if you want peace, work for peace.’ ….if you want justice … work for peace.’”

Why does he say that working for peace is what we need to do to secure justice? What are those values and assumptions that support war? Fundamentally, the most pernicious assumption is that some groups will dominate other groups by force, and that this is unavoidable, or somehow normal, or worse yet, legitimate, or in some cases even desirable. Goldstein’s point is those values and assumptions directly contradict values and assumptions that accompany the goals of equality and justice. So, he argues, for the global community to tolerate war or even the notion of a “just war,” leaves in place a value system that will always always, repeatedly and endlessly counter any efforts to establish and maintain a peaceful and just “better” future.

Rather sadly, my research convinced me that this isn’t a case of chicken or egg. It’s not a case of fix major problems and peace will follow—or—end war first, then you can fix things. I concluded that securing that “better” future” requires simultaneous action on many fronts, social and technological, and including ending war. And furthermore and rather obviously, that ending war will be an enormously complex challenge. War is so deeply embedded in our cultures and history that I liken an ending-war campaign to something as challenging as putting a permanent colony on the Moon or Mars. Very complex. Very difficult. But doable, given sufficient resolve by the global community.

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It would be foolish to try to underplay the difficulty. But let me explain why I use that building-a-colony-on-Mars metaphor. Like establishing a Mars colony, an ending-war campaign involves many elements. So many that I needed a way to focus my thinking. As I worked, I began placing actions required to set up an enduring peace (i.e., the end of war) into these nine groups or “cornerstones,” from “Embrace the Goal” to “Spread Liberal Democracy.”

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They’re summarized in this logo, which unfortunately has errors but is good enough for illustration. The cornerstones are arranged in a circle clockwise, alphabetically. In a circle, not a list, because they must be attacked simultaneously, not sequentially.…mostly because they’re complexly intertwined. One affects others.

The first and arguably most basic, in yellow at the top, is Embrace the Goal. You can’t end war if you don’t embrace the goal and begin working to make it a reality. An end to war isn’t going to materialize by happy accident. While there are at this time, 2016, many groups and organizations around the globe seeking to prevent a war or halt an ongoing war, there are only a rare few specifically focused on ending all war…and they don’t appear to be making much progress.

Belief that ending war is achievable is a necessary starting point for the profound social shift that’s being proposed. It’s the essential foundation. Because for people to have the necessary resolve to even set out on the path to meet the complexities of ending war, they have to believe deeply that the goal is achievable. Without that belief, they’ll quit when the going gets hard. Move on to something simpler, something more quickly realized. And most assuredly, the weight of history and the financial profit to be had by the war industry would ensure that the campaign would not only be complex, but strongly resisted, and would likely get harder the closer the effort was to success.

[A separate presentation with the title “Ending War is Achievable. Five Reasons Why,” addresses this challenge of belief. If you’re interested you can listen to a slide show on YouTube (Ending War is Achievable. Five Reasons Why.) or read the material in essay form (Ending War is Achievable. Five Reasons Why.]

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A second essential is in blue to the right of Embrace the Goal, the necessity to Empower Women, which involves many efforts. Educating girls and women, engaging them in parity governing and peacemaking. It also includes ending sex trafficking, abuses of prostitution, the use of rape in war, and so on. Anyone working on Empowering Women, whether they know it or not, is also a part of something larger: a campaign to create and maintain an enduring peace. In fact, given women’s strong preference for social stability and non-violent forms of conflict resolution, Empowering Women should be one of the very highest-priority items on the “to do” list. Certainly not just an afterthought.

Next comes Enlist Young Men. Young men are the single most restless and aggressive members of any society. When they feel alienated, they’re dangerous. They’re the fodder warmongers use to build armies. We need to make young men part of an ending-war effort. That means meeting their social needs: to feel inclusion in their societies, to have the means to make a living, to have a sense that they are valued. We need to acknowledge them as warriors for and maintainers of the peace. Anyone working on any aspect of how to improve the lot of young men, through education or sports or work training, whether those citizens know it or not, they’re also contributing to the ending-war revolution.

Foster Connectedness speaks to efforts that fight xenophobia, a trait manipulated by warmongers to convince people that it’s okay to kill someone who is different. These are projects that create a sense of one human family, bound together in a common fate. Community organizers, who teach how to work together for the common good. Politicians who stress the power of unity and the importance of inclusion. Teachers and parents who teach values of sharing not only within their family, but with others.

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At this point you should see a pattern emerging. We could continue around the circle and find that each cornerstone embraces dozens of projects dealing with some aspect of world affairs, which also happen to be critical to permanently ending war. Ensure Essential Resources (food, water, shelter, health care, education), Promote Non-violent Conflict Resolution (show people how to do it), Provide Security and Order (without that, nothing good can endure), Shift our Economies (to something equitable and environmentally sustainable), and Spread Liberal Democracy (and the respect for human rights it propagates).

To put a permanent colony on the Moon or Mars, thousands of companies and projects will work to master the required technological and social issues: getting funding out of the government, building the rocket, designing and constructing habitat elements, selecting and training astronauts, figuring out how to resupply, and so on and on. Each ending-war cornerstone is like one of those necessary Moon or Mars colonizing challenges. Thus my use of the metaphor. Essays on the role of all nine cornerstones and the legions of organizations and projects already involved around the world are on the website AFutureWithoutWar.org.

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Arguably, the efforts embraced by all of the cornerstones, would achieve the greatest impact on the global zeitgeist if everyone could be led to see that their work, what they are doing daily, is part of a larger, profound, shared, historical, ending-war revolution. A shared sense of unity of purpose would fuel a synergistic multiplication of empowerment and effectiveness that would bolster every last one of the projects embraced by the cornerstones….provided they see themselves as working together and reinforcing each other, part of something bigger, and grander. This unification of vision and shared effort is something that remains to be achieved.

As it turns out, efforts to colonize Mars—a dangerous world of inadequate gravity, no oxygen, and cosmic radiation—are already under way.  So we’re going to consider now some steps we could take to achieve the much less difficult objective of ending the use of war on Earth. Here is the most important take-away at this point. The picture you should see of the current state of world affairs is the profoundly good news that we already have thousands of efforts and millions of people of good will striving mightily in activities that are key to creating and maintaining a global peace, a peace that is essential to making that “better” future a reality: the people working on these cornerstones.

What we don’t have is a global peace to maintain. The cornerstone activities are absolute essentials for maintaining a global peace, but by themselves they clearly do not bring about a global peace. In fact, despite these kinds of efforts for many years, it sometimes feels like we’re resolutely headed for perpetual war. Reality is that the full pacifying effects of all these efforts are continually thwarted! So, referring back to Einstein, what could we change to get a different result? First, we could set up an enforceable, global peace treaty.

Eightly-eight years ago, the world’s major nations adopted such a treaty. You may know about it, although not many people do. The Kellogg-Briand Pact, named after US Secretary of State Frank Kellogg and French Foreign Minister Aristide Briand, ultimately had 62 signatories, including the United States, China, and the Soviet Union. Too bad it didn’t work. Note that it remains in effect. Never rescinded. It failed to succeed primarily because it didn’t provide for enforcement.

Perhaps it was assumed that all nations would, of course, see the worth of avoiding war and so they would voluntarily abide by the treaty. Instead, the general, sad result has been for nations to continue to start and fight wars, but for a variety of reasons they don’t declare war. The United States, for example, hasn’t had a formal declaration of war since 1941, against Germany and Japan, but it has certainly fought a lot of undeclared wars since then.

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The League of Nations and United Nations were later, similar efforts. It’s not that we haven’t tried. We still have the United Nations, and it does provide a key, important place for countries to hash out world affairs problems. It has a record of bringing peace to one region or another, and of working to enforce peace agreements between groups once they’re signed. But the UN also falls short of establishing an enduring world peace because, so far, the world’s nations haven’t provided it with teeth strong enough to enforce a global peace system. For many reasons, the major powers aren’t willing to relinquish their sovereignty to an enforcer, and that includes that they don’t want to give up their ability to start a war if it suits them. The 2003 invasion of Iraq and Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea are our latest examples.

We clearly know how to negotiate complex and enforceable agreements between competing nations when we want to, even if for political reasons we don’t call them treaties. The 2015 Iranian Nuclear Agreement was signed by 32 nations, including the US, UK, Iran, Russia, France, Germany and China. The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement was signed by 195 countries.

If we were to negotiate a global peace, what might a global community able to maintain the peace look like? Do we have no clue? Actually, in May 2012 in an article with the title “Life Without War” in the journal Science, the anthropologist Douglas Fry laid out some guidelines. Let me say that these do not include the idea of one world government, but rather of global cooperation. He presented shared characteristics of groups from very different cultures who consciously created “active peace systems.”

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Looking for commonalities across very different cultures reveals the features key to success of any peace system. He focused on 10 tribes of the Upper Xingu River Basin in Brazil (running N/S and highlighted in pink), The Iroquois Confederacy in what is now the United States (different colors for the five original tribes), and the European Union (all in blue). He didn’t include it in his detailed analysis, but the United States could very well have been included because the shared traits also apply to the peace system that is the United States of America.

These are the six characteristics, which you can read about in his paper. The blog and YouTube presentation entitled “Ending War Is Achievable. Five Reasons Why.” also explain and illustrate them. People hammering out a global peace treaty would certainly want to stress the importance of these basics to the maintenance of any active peace system.

  • Overarching sense of identity – expanding the “us.”
  • Interdependence among subgroups.
  • Intergroup social ties.
  • Symbolism and ceremonies that reinforce peace.
  • Values for peace.
  • Superordinate institutions for conflict management.

Fry’s work is especially important by pointing out that peace systems are not theoretical. They are not a Utopian fantasy. They do end the use of war to resolve conflicts. They have existed, and do exist….when people have the will to set them up and maintain them.

So…..if we keep doing “business as usual,” is it sane to expect a future of anything other than perpetual war and widespread social injustice? Here are two things we could change.

First, embrace the principle of koinoniarchy – of parity governing, where women and men are partners in deciding world affairs at all social levels. A world where women are second-class citizens or worse is a world where unrestrained male biology is currently spinning completely out of sane control, and is armed with savagely lethal weapons.

Second, we should assemble a critical mass of citizens and visionary, powerful leaders who commit to securing a global, enforceable peace treaty and a global peace system with qualities needed to maintain it. For the global community to continue to accept war is to abandon us to a future of perpetual war, the not impossible consequences of which could be a new dark age or something worse.

With sufficient will, it can be done. After World War II a visionary group of European leaders said, “Enough!” and did the heavy lifting to create the European Union. That peace system has maintained the peace among its formerly warring members for 70 years and counting. A global peace would alter, for the better, the global community’s image of itself and what human life on Earth can be. It would provide the emotional and intellectual space and financial resources to pursue all of the projects embraced by the cornerstones.

The goal of this talk, including the exploration of sexual dimorphism and the role of women to peace, has been to explore “what-if” the global community made a couple of major changes with respect to leadership and governance. So rather than a tidy conclusion, we end this exploration with three big questions. Can we change? Meaning, do we have it within our biological capacity to make these two changes. Will we change? Meaning, can we muster the determination to do it.

One thing we do know for certain is that, although we don’t always behave wisely, we know we are supremely adaptable. Think of the human story so far! Starting from those tiny nomadic bands in Africa, we crossed towering mountains and vast oceans, and with relatively humble tools, we’ve occupied all the continents. Our intellect is a marvel of the universe, allowing us to split atoms and discover thousands of other worlds. Our capacity for cooperation enabled us to send men to the moon and back, many times.

Nearly every challenge we’ve faced in our journey to occupy Earth is a matter of vision and will. Someone had a vision of something better, something new, and was able to motivate enough of us to act. Think of John F. Kennedy who had the vision that within ten years we should send men to the moon and return them safely to the Earth, and was able to motivate the thousands of people needed to achieve what was to most people a preposterous-sounding goal.

As a human behaviorist, I know we absolutely have the capacity to create laws and customs and educational systems to ensure that women govern as equal partners with men. It’s a matter of vision and will.

We absolutely can write a peace treaty with sufficient teeth to enforce a global peace. It’s a matter of vision and will.

We can build an enduring global peace system that embraces the beliefs and values needed to maintain it. It’s a matter of vision and will.

So the final question is, What kind of adaptation will we make to the social world we’ve created?

It is, after all is said and done,  our destiny, our choice.

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Ending War is Achievable. Five Reasons Why.

July 25, 2016

by Judith Hand, Ph.D.

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A meme can be an idea or belief that spreads throughout a culture by non-genetic means. This essay is about an idea powerful enough to radically transform human history. If this meme spreads across the globe by word of mouth and social media and captures the minds of a critical mass of global citizens and powerful movers-and-shakers, it can usher in a social paradigm shift every bit as profound as the Agricultural, Industrial, and Digital Revolutions.

Have you ever wondered what the future will look like? For you? Or maybe for the future’s children or grandchildren? Specifically, do you fear it will be forever blighted by war?

Let’s start with a little survey, asking two questions. First, do you think it’s possible humans can build a permanent base on the Moon? Here’s question two: Based on your life experience, do you think it’s possible that we could end war? This isn’t “would you like us to end war?” Rather it’s “Do you believe it is, in fact possible?” Not a lot of rational thought, please…just, what is your first, gut response?

Most people believe that putting a base on the moon is a possibility. In contrast, the vast majority of people asked these questions say they don’t believe ending war is possible. So, if you’re a skeptic about ending war, you absolutely aren’t alone.

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This skepticism, that we can’t end war, is the single biggest barrier to doing it. We can’t accomplish any great feat, including putting a permanent colony on the Moon, if we start out “knowing” that it’s not possible. Great feats are accomplishd when at least one person has the vision of something and the belief that it can be done, one way or the other.

Keep an open mind, and  hopefully what follows will convince you that the answer to whether or not we can abolish war is “yes. It IS possible.”

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I’ll mention later how I was drawn into the study of war, but my background prepared me for it in several ways. I’m an evolutionary biologist, with a Ph.D. from UCLA. What’s relevant to the study of war is that my areas of specialization are in communication, conflict resolution, gender differences, and primate behavior (including human behavior). The fancy name for the study of animal behavior is “ethology.” Since I’ve been studying war and peace from this perspective for the last 15 or so years, I’m am now also officially a Peace Ethologist. Additionally, as an undergraduate major in cultural anthropology, I studied non-patriarchal and nonviolent cultures.

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I put the results of my work on war and peace into this book. Also relevant is that I’m a published novelist, which I mention briefly later.

Lest we wander astray into other aspects of human lethal behavior, WAR needs to be defined as I use it. Murder is not war. Revenge killings of specific individuals, if you will, feuding over particular grievances, is not war.  War is when people (overwhelmingly men) band together to indiscriminately kill people in another group and the community’s noncombatants and religious leaders sanction their actions. It’s the sanctioned banding together to kill indiscriminately that distinguishes war from other forms of killing. We’re NOT going to erase murder and revenge anytime soon…these go way way back into human experience, maybe even before we became humans. We’re only considering the potential to abolish war.

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Now imagine a Star Trek Future. In the TV show’s first year or so we were never on Earth. But what we knew about the Starship Enterprise’s crew was that on their home world there was no money, no poverty, and no war. They were clearly using their resources to invent and do fabulous things, like mounting starships to explore the galaxy. What we’re considering is whether that kind of Gene Roddenberry vision of an amazing and positive Homo sapiens future is completely out of the question?

Although we’ll be exploring the potential for a positive future, what is presented here is presented against the backdrop of the belief of many that it’s entirely possible onrushing violent movements like ISIS, or a mistaken triggering of a nuclear war, or some totally unpredictable event like a global pandemic could plunge us into a new “dark age” or “Mad Max” future of perpetual war. We are arguably in a race against time and possible misfortune. To stop what we don’t want and build what we do, realism, not wishful thinking, is required. So we’ll be seeking enlightenment and examining positive potential, with the understanding that nothing is guaranteed.

Six kinds of evidence are presented to support the view that we can end war:

  • First we tackle immediately the idea that war is “part of human nature,” a genetically determined, inescapable trait. Something we could only eliminate, for example, if we performed generations of selective breeding for less violent males. To put that idea to rest we look first at cultures that tell us about our deep evolutionary past, namely those of nomadic foragers…often referred to as hunter-gatherers.
  • Then we look at internally peaceful, more complex state-level cultures, ancient and modern.
  • We then review six key historical shifts that set us up to end war.
  • We consider the existence of and facilitating conditions for peace systems.
  • Some examples of rapid cultural change serve to counteract the notion that ending war would take hundreds of years.
  • Finally, we’ll look at a few of an impressive number of recent historical changes that are already moving us in the direction of a global peace system.

So we begin with the nomadic foragers to tackle the issue of genetic inevitability. This is because these people are our best window into our deep human past; they reflect how Homo sapiens likely lived for hundreds of thousands of years of behavioral evolution, before we started living in settlements or villages. These were the eons during which we evolved to be what we are today.

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The anthropologist Douglas Fry did an analysis of the anthropological literature on many aspects of hunter-gatherer cultures, 35 of them. If you lump them all together, no particular pattern emerges when it comes to war. BUT Fry separated them into two groups, what he called simple hunter-gatherers and complex hunter-gatherers.HG Table.001

If you separate them, some interesting patterns do emerge. This table lists 8 social variables down the left column: things like food storage and population density and slavery. We can compare these traits between the simple hunter-gatherers in the central column and complex hunter-gatherers to the right. There’s a fundamental, critical resource difference between them having to do with food supply and mobility that I believe relates to the emergence of war. Compare primary foods, top left column. Simple hunter-gatherers rely on highly mobile game. Complex hunter-gatherers on marine resources or plants, with the result that food storage is rare for simple-hunter gatherers, but it’s typical for complex hunter-gatherers.

Note the effect on mobility: The complex hunter-gatherers are settled or mostly settled. They have a food source sufficiently rich and stable that they can settle down. The classic example of settled hunter-gatherers were tribes along the north-west coast of the United States that depended on massive salmon runs. This settling down changed our way of life in ways that produced many consequences. For example, effects on population size, low vs. higher population densities; the non-acceptance of competition as a desired trait vs. the encouragement of competition. Note especially that for simple hunter-gatherers the political/social system is egalitarian, not hierarchical, meaning that men and women have equal social status. Later in the essay we’ll return to the importance of male/female egalitarianism.

What’s relevant at this point is to look at WARFARE on the bottom left and note that nomadic, simple hunter-gatherers, who arguably most resemble our ancient ancestors, rarely make war. In fact, and most significantly, some of those cultures have never been recorded as making war. This is consistent with the emerging theory that our success as a species is due to our impressive capacity for cooperation — the “humans as cooperators” hypothesis — rather than competitively killing each other — the “man the warrior” hypothesis. Also, this is our first evidence, and strong evidence, that making war is NOT a genetic predisposition. Otherwise all of these people, including the simple hunter-gatherers would commonly make war.

Now you might be thinking, “Well, sure they don’t make war, because their life-styles are so simple there’s nothing, not even stored food, to fight over. All civilizations have made war, right?” Actually, there’s evidence to suggest that that assumption isn’t true. Which brings us to the Minoan culture.

CreteInTheMed.001The Minoans lived in the Bronze Age on the Mediterranean island of Crete, approximately one thousand six hundred years, BCE. Perhaps you’ve been to Crete. If so, you may well have visited what tour guides call the Palace of King Minos.

Knossos.001This is an artist’s reconstruction of that impressive architectural work. Perhaps it was a palace. Perhaps it was a temple complex. Many experts believe these were the people of the mythical, wonderful Atlantis.

I mentioned earlier that I’m also a novelist, and it was my story about the Minoans (Voice of the Goddess ) that drew me into work on war and peace. We haven’t deciphered much of their written language, but numerous lovely pieces of art and artifacts indicate that they were a sophisticated, state-level culture of the kind that some anthropologists call women-centered: that is, women were prominent and powerful. Their chief divinity was a goddess.

MinoanArt.001Their art shows they were lovers of nature. And most significantly for this essay, we have no compelling evidence that they engaged in war. This is what intrigued me. In two books (Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace and Shift) I present evidence for their lack of war, and reasons why and how they could have achieved a state-level without war. A key reason, I believe, is that women, for reproductive reasons, have a strong preference for social stability. A much stronger preference than men’s. I explore the reasons for this female preference in essays, books (see Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace and Shift), and talks. Surely a desire to avoid social turmoil and in particular, physical conflicts, would have had a powerful impact in this culture where women were influential. It was most probably expressed and reinforced through their religion.

It’s notable that over a thousand years BCE, while people on the mainland were living in crude villages, this palace or temple complex had flush toilets. The Minoans had at least one paved road which ran 5 miles to their main port. They built a water aqueduct. A strong case can be made that manufacture and trade, not war, were basic to building this sophisticated culture.

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Crete is strategically placed on Mediterranean trade routes, and products of Minoan origin are found all around the Mediterranean. Frankly, debates rage over whether they made war or not, because all historical records—that is, written records—do indicate that all state-level cultures practiced war. This is one reason why some people argue that war is inevitable.

But for the Minoans, there are no artifacts depicting war, or a king, or humiliation of enemies, or slavery or human sacrifice. There are, in fact, no depictions of domination. If they reached a sophisticated, state-level without war, Minoans would be, so far, historically unique. But the written record may not tell the whole truth of our ancient past.

That’s why ongoing research is so intriguing at sites of two other ancient cultures with no deciphered written language, and so far no evidence of war, but much evidence of trading:

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the Harappa in the Indus Valley between India and Pakistan, and the Caral on the west coast of Peru. If these and others, like the Minoans, built sophisticated cultures on manufacture and trade, not war, that also tells us that war is not a genetically encoded inevitability. It’s worth noting that it would also support the theory that what has made our species so successful is our astounding capacity for cooperation, not killing each other. Now at this time, the hypothesis that the rise of civilizations was first based on trade, as opposed to war, is very speculative. So to advance beyond speculation, let’s look to the world we live in.

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The red dots on the map indicate the centers of distribution of over 80 cultures that anthropologists classify as nonviolent/and or/non-warring. They’re NOT utopias. They have arguments and conflicts. But using physical aggression…even things like pushing and shoving…is rare to never.

AmishToNorwegians.001You may know some of their names: Amish, Hopi, Sami/Laplanders, and Norwegians. Note especiallly the very twenty-first-century Norwegians.  Other societies that live without war are faith communities: Jehovah’s Witnesses, Quakers, Baha’i, Mennonites, and Hutterites. Non-warring religious groups live within a state-level, warring culture, but they create a way of life that avoids war. There are others less familiar all around the world. Again, these are not utopias, or perfect humans. The point here is that their existence is another example showing that making war is a very very bad—arguably evil—cultural phenomenon, but not a genetic inevitability.

So bottom line, war is overwhelmingly a result of nurture, not nature. There is some genetic component: virtually every human trait has some genetic component. Just standing upright and being able to hold anything, including a weapon, has a genetic component. Part of my work is to find out what genetic traits and environmental conditions make us vulnerable to calls for war. But this presentation isn’t about why we make war, but reasons to believe that we can end it. So, we now move forward to consider why the time we live in uniquely presents the opportunity to do so.

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Remarkable events, beginning roughly 700 years ago, have given us an open time-window of opportunity. These changes created conditions that offer the hope that we can succeed in bringing off what would be a monumental, historical, paradigm shift away from dominator cultures and war, a shift that people of good will who had tried before us could never achieve.

The first two changes brought the enlightenment in the Western World, the Renaissance and Reformation. The reformation in particular encouraged persons to think for themselves…beginning with their approach to the divine. They could talk to God directly, without an intermediary. With the Renaissance, the individual came to be viewed as something of worth, not just an obedient tool or possession of a king or of a state. The effect of both of these massive shifts in thinking about individual behavior and worth allow now for the possibility that people can think for themselves, and if they choose, reject a ruler’s call to war.

The next big change was introduction of the modern Scientific Method. Beginning roughly 350 years ago, this way to search out truth unleashed -ologists: primatologists, sociologists, anthropologists, and so on. The work of thousands during these intervening 300 some odd years has allowed us at last to figure out why we make war and very recently, how to set up peace systems, something we’ll examine shortly.

A third big change was a return to the ideal of democratic/republican government. Democratic government provides the possibility that free people can refuse to elect or follow a leader inclined to go to war. Especially important, in a liberal democracy the votes of women equal men’s.

The 4th big change was women getting the vote. This trend started only slightly over 100 years ago, first in New Zealand. We now have powerful women heading up NGOs, businesses, and even governments. This is part of a “feminization” trend that arguably began with the Romantic Period in Europe. You may have read the book by Harvard neuropsychologist Steven PinkerThe Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. Pinker also points to feminization as one of 5 key factors facilitating declines in violence in the last several hundred years. Certainly giving women the vote puts real political power in their hands. This is very very different from centuries that preceded ours.

This was followed by the introduction of reliable family planning in the 1960s, which further empowers women to participate in governance. It also facilitates reduction in family sizes which is key to getting a hand on totally out of control population growth that can otherwise lead to conflicts over scarce resources.

And finally we have the birth of the Internet – this tool facilitates global connectedness in ways we couldn’t have imagined, not even ten years ago. It’s used by criminals and terrorists to facilitate their agenda. But everyone wishing to abolish war can also use it for advancing their agenda. It is a powerful global force multiplier.

To sum up, literally hundreds of thousands of good people before us have worked, and many have died, to bring us to this unique window of opportunity. Our time—this moment right now—is absolutely different, in key ways that provide an opportunity for global abolition of war. What we need to do is seize this day before it is too late, and key to doing that is spreading the idea that ending war is possible. The current, virtually global meme is that war is inevitable. We need to replace that defeatist meme with a powerfully positive new one.

Now something else that has changed very recently is that scholars have developed an understanding of what have been called “peace systems.” In a May 2012 issue of Science, Doug Fry, in a paper entitled, “Life Without War,” (scroll down to find the article) presented research looking for shared characteristics of groups who consciously created an alliance designed to prevent wars between them. They created “active peace systems.” He wanted to know if these have features in common that maintain peace. It’s important to note that some of these groups make war with communities that aren’t part of their alliance, but that within the peace system, peace holds. Also, from a number of peace systems, he picked three with very different cultures for detailed comparison.

Looking for commonalities among very different cultures allows us to ferret out features that are key to success of any peace system. The three alliances he focused on were4Maps.001

  • 10 tribes of the Upper Xingu River Basin in Brazil,
  • the Iroquois Confederacy in what is now the United States, and
  • the European Union.

Although he didn’t include it, he could have added the United States, because as you’ll see when we go through the shared traits, they also apply to the US.

Six general kinds of factors are associated with all of these peace alliances. These factors are not so much responsible for MAKING the peace, but for ensuring that it endures.

Longhouse.001First, they develop ways to tackle xenophobia by creating an overarching sense of shared identity: it is essential to tackle the “us-versus-them” mentality, because us-versus-them inevitably fosters conflicts. They devised means to “expand the us.” For example, the Iroquois tribes pictured their union as a shared longhouse…the symbolism of being one family.

EUSymbols.001Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister, and other influential European men believed there could be a kind of United States of Europe that could end vicious and destructive cycles of war, and they acted on that belief. The European Union fosters shared identity with EU passports, automobile license plates, currency, an EU parliament and EU flag, etc. This peace system has worked for 70 years. The stresses they are now suffering, from things like the finances of Greece or influx of Syrian and other refugees, is a serious test of their union…will it disintegrate or strengthen? Only time will tell. The British recently held a referendum in which they voted to leave a union that has worked to keep peace between these nations.

A second key to keeping the peace is the existence of interdependence among subgroups. People from the different groups need to depend on each other. Doug Fry reported a fascinating case in which two tribes lived in very similar environments and had similar resources. Their lives were sufficiently simple that each tribe was perfectly able to make anything they needed. Both, however, made a distinctive, and highly prized, type of pottery. They recognized that a practice that tied them together and prevented fighting was exchanging goods at big meetings, including exchanges especially of the pottery. So they purposely refrained from making the distinctive pottery of the other group because they realized the importance of interdependence. Note that conscious choices and decisions are being made by all these people as they forge their alliance.

The European Union founders decided to build economic and political interdependence by incrementally integrating the national economies. The first step, in the 1950’s, was placing coal and steel—critical resources—under supranational control. That initiated an agenda of cooperation and unification they’re still working on. The British exit, if it does occcur, will have potentially alarming implications for splintering of the entire union.

A third feature essential to maintaining peace is establishment of intergroup social ties. One of the most prevalent is intermarriage. Among non-warring nomadic foragers, both men and women frequently marry outside their small band, so that everybody has kin and trade partners and friends in other groups. Bonds of kinship and friendship discourage violence between groups. The practice of intermarriage was true for the Iroquois and the 10 river tribes. In some peace systems, ceremonial marriage unions or ceremonial adoptions between groups are performed to decrease chances that conflicts will result in war.

Fourth, they create shared symbols and ceremonies. These reinforce unity, and serve as a reminder of their commitment to peace. All the 10 tribes of the Xingu peace system, for example, participate in mourning deaths of chiefs and inaugurating new ones. Fry provides a quote: “We don’t make war; we have festivals for the chiefs to which all of the villages come. We sing, dance, trade and wrestle.”

LongHouseTreeofPeace.001The “long-house” drawing symbolically represented the Iroquois Confederacy as one family. They also created a “Tree of Peace” symbol, first as a reminder of unity. The roots also symbolized their vision and hope that the peace should spread beyond the confederacy. The eagle on the tree top symbolized that they must remain vigilant to any threats to the peace; their wise and foresightful founders believed, probably rightly, that if a society takes peace for granted they will eventually lose it.

A fifth characteristic of these systems is that they foster values for peace. Fry points out that some value orientations are more conducive to peace, and that what people express and think is important if peace is to endure stresses over time. And given bitter prior hostilities between groups, they may have to make a conscious effort to foster peace-enhancing values. For example, in the 10 tribes of the Xingu peace system the role of warrior is shunned—they have a shared expression, ‘peace is moral, war is not.’ Furthermore, Fry points out that over time, shared spoken and practiced peace-promoting values become internalized and eventually, self-sustaining: it’s no longer imaginable, for example, that the United States would invade and begin killing people in Canada, or the British in France.

The Iroquois also made the peace value explicit. This is an Iroquois quote: “Thus we bury all the weapons of war out of sight, and establish the ‘Great Peace.’ Hostilities shall not be seen nor heard of any among you, but ‘Peace’ shall be preserved among the Confederated Nations.” Their alliance endured over several hundred years, until ended by the American Revolution.

The EU was founded after the disaster of WWII with the explicit goal of ending the barbarity and destruction of war, and peace related values serve as the EU’s uniting moral compass (democracy, social equality, human rights, respect for the law). This is a EU quote: “Promoting these values, as well as peace and the well-being of the Union’s people are now the main objectives of the Union.” Many aspects of EU behavior reflect this peace commitment to “all of the people’s well-being” (e.g., free health care systems, free university education, accessible child-care, and so on). When there is general well-being in a society there is less social turmoil and a vastly reduced desire to be led into a war. When any part of the population does NOT feel their well-being is fostered—as is increasingly true, for example, for some groups of Muslims in France and Belgium—anger can lead to violence within the country.

Recall that a trait of non-warring hunter-gatherers was an egalitarian social system. All members of the tribe had equal status. They lived with a sense of fairness, that we are all equal. Well, in our current vast, hierarchical, complex societies like the EU we certainly cannot go back to that condition. But the principles of equality and fairness and the need for the people’s well-being to be met are still operational for us emotionally. Developing and maintaining conditions that foster a sense of equality and fairness within countries and between them will be a necessary condition to keep a global peace system from eventually unraveling.

Finally, humans will always have conflicts, including serious ones within and between groups, over religion and economics and their vision of what the future “ought to be” and so on. If a peace system is to hold, it must create some kind of superordinate institutions to resolve conflicts through nonviolent means: negotiation, mediation, and adjudication.

For example, in the United States, conflicts are not resolved by taking up arms against each other. Frequently by going to court. And the final word comes from the Supreme Court. In essence, in complex societies, higher levels of government than just the local ones can be created to decide what is best for the whole. Regulations and laws are created to which everyone agrees to follow. This is what’s called the “social contract.” People voluntarily give up the right to total freedom to do whatever they want whenever they want it in order to live in peace, as opposed to living in some kind of Wild West where the fastest gun or biggest army imposes the will of some on others. The Iroquois Confederacy established a Council of Chiefs of all their nations. Many chiefs could attend, but only one from each nation, could vote. This was their version of a Supreme Court.

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Recall that while tribes of the confederation didn’t make war with each other, they might get into wars with tribes that weren’t members of the alliance. Here it’s important and relevant to point out the role of women among the Iroquois. They were equals and had powerful voices. For example, although women couldn’t serve on the council, they could nominate, elect, and impeach their male representatives. The women could also decide between life or death for prisoners of war, they could forbid the men of their houses to go to war, and they could intervene to bring about peace. My work on male and female biology indicates that it is critical to recognize and never underplay the important influence of women within working peace systems.

Consider that in 2014, 37% of members of the EU Parliament were women. As of 2016, virtually all countries of the EU had a higher percentage of women in their national governments (e.g., Sweden 43.6%; UK 29.4%) than did, for example, the United States (19.4%) or Russia (13.6%). There is increasing interest in and ongoing research on just how tight the relationship is between empowerment of women in a society and that societies’ rates of all kinds of violence, including war. Recall that in non-warring hunter-gatherer societies women had social status equal to men’s, whereas in warring societies they did not.

So, the comparative study of peace systems in widely different cultures is a 4th reason for encouragement that we can end war because we now clearly understand that 1) peace systems exist – and have worked for long periods, and 2) we know what is required to create one and make it sustainable. Given that knowledge, we have a good idea how we need to proceed.

Now a complaint often heard is that ending war, could we do it, would take forever. Hundreds of years. Even thinking about doing it is impractical because of so many other pressing issues. Simply put, this protest isn’t true. Humans are capable of profound, rapid social changes.

For ten centuries in China the definition of feminine beauty depended upon a woman’s feet being extremely small. Ideally, no longer than 3 inches. In 1911, the new Republic of China government banned foot binding, and though it was done in secret for years, it’s now defunct. A practice of a thousand years changed in less than 100.

Australia had a mass shooting in 1996 that killed 35 and wounded 23, and 12 days later their conservative government adopted strict laws banning many weapons and highly regulating others and the context in which weapons can be owned. They then experienced a massive and rapid decline in gun deaths.

Consider the Christianization of much of South America, often in less than one generation. Sadly, not always without the use of violence. Still, though many Christian ideas were simply graphed onto the indigenous religions, many long used behaviors changed or values shifted. More modest clothing, sex before marriage became a sin, no head-hunting, religious worship inside a church, etc.

During a question session after a talk about Mongolia someone asked the speaker if it was true that Mongolians switched from a Communist political system to a secular democracy within only 1 year, and the speaker confirmed that that was in fact the case.

You yourself, with a little thought, could likely come up with many other examples of swift social change. We CAN change, and change quickly. It’s a matter of human will. Of believing it can be done, deciding to do it, and then taking the necessary action.

Now, it’s one thing for groups here or there to create a peace system, but the big question is whether we could establish a GLOBAL PEACE SYSTEM. That would be the end of war. Not the end of human violence. And we would still need to vigilantly contain anyone threatening the peace. But we can now consider some recent historical changes moving us in the direction of a global peace. And there are two very positive things to keep in mind as we do:

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1. First, allow yourself to be impressed by how much has already been accomplished. If we hadn’t already created or done these things, we’d have to invent or do them now.
2. Second, feel good about what these accomplishments say about our longings, about what the majority of us really want. The media constantly deluge us with talk of terrorists, and war-mongering dictators, and threats of a middle east atomic war, and on and on. Patriarchy, and the wars associated with it, is still strong in so many places. But this is NOT what the vast majority of human citizens of earth want. It’s not who we are at our best. We do have “better angels of our nature,” and we need to embrace that.

Also note that the changes to be described are mostly TRENDS! None is perfected and they never will be because they’re human endeavors, which are never perfect. And some are detectable now for the most part only in developed nations. So as you consider them, be thinking of them as potent TRENDS for us to build on.

Kent.001The ardent peace advocate and historian, Kent Shifferd wrote From War to Peace and put its basics into a superb YouTube video called “The Evolution of a Global Peace System.” The video lists, and explains with examples, 26 shifts in global collaboration that move us toward a global peace.

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We’ll not consider all 26. You can easily check them out by viewing the roughly 18 minute video. But to provide a feeling for what’s changing, I’ll highlight 9 of these global happenings. You’ll probably immediately sense how each is a step moving toward creating conditions having the potential to end war, permanently:

First, the emergence of supranational parliamentary systems tasked to keep the peace:
The United Nations, being chief among them. Other examples:
The European Union (EU),
The Organization of American States (OAS),
The African Union (AU)
And others.
These all monitor regional disputes and engage in peace-building.

The creation of International Law and Treaties that deal with instruments of war such as land mines and nuclear weapons, and set rules of engagement: Geneva Convention, Kellogg-Briand Treaty, Outer Space Treaty, Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, International Treaty to Ban Landmines. Most recently the Iranian Agreement on Development of Nuclear Weapons

The rise in International Justice in such bodies as
The International Court of Justice in The Hague, the International Criminal Court, Regional courts in Europe and Latin America.

Yearly there are hundreds of global conferences aimed at creating a peaceful and just world. Here are some notable examples: Earth Summit Rio (1992), International Indigenous Commission, UN Conferences on Sustainable Living, UN Conference on Women Beijing (1995), Rotary World Peace Conferences, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom The Hague (2015), World Council of Religious Leaders. Etc., etc. etc.

We have experienced the rise of Thousands of Non-governmental Organizations Having a Global Outlook. They have environmental, humanitarian, peacemaking and peacekeeping objectives – they reflect an emerging global citizenship – one people, one planet, one peace. Examples: Habitat for Humanity, Heifer Foundation, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Global Zero, Doctors Without Borders, World Vision, Clinton Global Initiative, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Project Concern International.  These organizations act without regard to race, religion, nationality, and so on. They are the kinds of organizations anyone can join or support financially if they want to be actively involved in working toward a global future without war

Globally, thousands of institutions provide courses, majors, minors, higher degrees and practical training in non-violent conflict resolution. Examples in San Diego, California, alone: Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, San Diego City College Peace Studies Certificate and Associate Degree, Alliant University Institute for Violence, Abuse, and Trauma, San Diego State University program in International Security and Conflict Resolution, Tariq Khamisa Foundation, San Diego Peace Resource Center.  Such organizations and projects are found in cities and communities on virtually every continent. The hunger to end war, and willingness to do what’s necessary for success, is strong and rapidly growing. It’s waiting to be harnessed in a shared effort to end war.

The growing trend toward decline in the prestige of war. War used to be considered a noble and glorious enterprise. Unfortunately, a great many movies arrange to still make it out to be. But in the real world there is a growing sense that war is a destructive and barbaric trap to be avoided…if for no other reason that, except for the war industry, it’s now seen as bad for business. And highly important, there is more knowledge among soldiers and citizens about networks of war profiteering – just who benefits from wars? We can look forward to a time when men, and women, who are trained as defenders and peacekeepers — the police of our global peace system — will be as honored as warriors who in earlier times were trained to invade and kill.

Sustainability movements work toward reducing consumptive excesses that create shortages, poverty, pollution and all kinds of environmental injustice. All of these lead to social unrest, a common fuel for war; making the environment sustainable is key to maintaining any global peace. Now, many groups are working on this, and, if all goes well, the shared threats created by global climate change could cause the entire global population to begin to pull together. Across the globe we may decide that resources devoted to war and cleaning up after war can be put to much more urgent, civilization-saving uses.

The trend toward peace oriented religion is particularly hopeful – some religious leaders have turned away from using their religion to justify war and instead use religion to foster peace and a sense of human oneness. Listed here are some notable examples: World Council of Religious Leaders, Christiantiy of Thomas Merton, Jim Wallace of Sojourners, Pax Christi, Buddhism of Dalai Lama, Judaism of Jewish Peace Fellowship, Jewish Voice for Peace, Islamism of Muslim Peace Fellowship, Muslim Voice for Peace. And most recently, that the Catholic Church has begun to consider whether the “just war” concept has become obsolete. Warmongers use religion to foment the will to kill other people. A trend toward rejection of war by religious leaders is potentially an enormously powerful, positive shift.WorldGlobe.001Finally, our ability now to look down at earth from outer space, with no borders visible, enhances our sense of oneness, that we are all citizens sharing this extraordinary blue and white living globe, our only home in the vastness of the universe. That God-like perspective serves to decrease xenophobia, a trait that unfortunately fosters tendencies toward war.

In short, the entire list of 26 trends puts our current status into realistic perspective – we’re not starting from ground zero. We need to see clearly how much we have already done that is part of creating an enduring global peace.

So here are four closing thoughts. First, I hope you’ve been persuaded to see:

1) that war is not “in our genes” – it is a cultural phenomenon and culture can change.

2) that we’re poised in a unique time in history that makes ending war possible, if we set up a global peace system that can endure.

3) that the global community, if sufficiently motivated, could set up a global system remarkably quickly in historical terms, and

4) that as much as we have growing forces working to create a future of perpetual war—a few of us can make a lot of money with perpetual war—there are also forces at work that reflect a striving to free ourselves from war so we leave to the children of the future a world of great positive potential. A critical mass of global citizens willing to be mobilized to focus on actually ending war already exists.

So we come back to the beginning of the essay. Unless we believe achieving a goal is possible, we can never achieve it. And a very real potential for ending war does now exist. Our species has the ability to create something like a Star Trek Future….if we want it badly enough and act in time.

So now, what of all of this relates to each of us? What if anything, for example, can you do?  organizatons.001There is so much! First, if you aren’t doing so already, you can lend your efforts to work on some essential component of creating a war-free future. It’s easy to get involved. Ask friends who are involved what they are doing. Or check out “Peace Organizations” on the Internet at Wikipedia: it lists hundreds. You can take your pick of whatever aspect of the campaign engages your passion, and dig in.

womengirls.001You can encourage the entry of more women, especially the younger women, into leadership roles at all levels in our communities, from the grassroots up. In our own country. In world government. In science, education, law. In all aspects of human endeavor. Tell them they have power, and they should use it. Having more women involved will make a huge difference in the direction the global community will move.

Support and spread appreciation for global efforts and institutions, like the United Nations and the International Criminal Court. The UN for example has problems, it does need reforming, but by caring reformers who understand its profound importance.

Support efforts that will enhance, not destroy, the middle class in a country…creating and maintaining a middle class is one of the most powerful equalizing tools available to us.

What about elections? Never vote for a warmonger – learn how to recognize one: he is a would-be leader who thinks too quickly of using military force. Someone who says that on day one they will “go over there and kick ass,” or suggests that the solution is to “carpet bomb them,” or suggests that “I am the one who will save our women and children or our way of life by destroying those evil others.” Such individuals are dangerous to peace.

conversations.001And maybe most important, don’t let people in conversations get away with saying that ending war is impossible. In fact, insert into conversations that it’s possible and hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people, whether they know it or not, are already working on it. Make clear that the media aren’t telling us the whole story about what’s happening in the world, and that there is a positive side. You can be a participant in spreading this powerful, history-transforming meme. If you get involved, you can have the satisfaction of being part of what is one of the greatest causes in human history.

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If you have children or grandchildren, you can tell them that you’re working on fixing the future for the better for them and their children. A version of a saying from the French writer and poet Victor Hugo is perhaps overused. But it’s also a spot-on relevant closing for this essay:

Nothing is stronger, even than armies, than an idea whose time has come.

This is one such idea: Ending war is achievable.

This essay is also available for viewing as a video on YouTube: https:www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSbIUYL22Cw&t=260s

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My Journey to the WILPF 100 Yr. Anniversary in The Hague

October 16, 2014

Judith Hand

The story of why I’m coming to The Hague with enormous enthusiasm and hope is a long one, in a way the fulfillment of my life journey. When I was a young girl, my hero was Wonder Woman. I was a feminist before the phrase “Women’s Liberation” was invented. When I picked a profession, I chose to be something still uncommon for a woman at the time…a scientist…specifically a biologist. My area of specialization was animal behavior, including human behavior, and I had a sub-specialization in gender differences.

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Sewell-Belmont House–Washington, D.C.

Fast-forward decades and many life changes later to 1999 when my first novel, Voice of the Goddess, was published. That book led me to study war, and why women treat war differently than do men. This led to publication in 2003 of my nonfiction book, Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace. Not long thereafter I flew to Washington D.C., hoping to visit my senators and congressman to give them a copy, and as I approached the Hart Senate Office Building, I stumbled upon the absolutely delightful Sewell-Belmont Museum, a quaint, brick, multi-story building right next door to the senators’ offices.

I was thrilled to have found the home and offices where Alice Paul, another hero of mine, and her confederates planned and lobbied for a Constitutional Amendment to give all women in the U.S. the vote. And for the first time, on a banner on the wall of an upstairs room, I learned about a group of women who, in 1915 in the Hague, had founded something they called WILPF—the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

US Delegation to The Hague - WILPF

US Delegation to The Hague – WILPF

How fabulous! I thought. My studies of archaeology, anthropology, and biology—pursued from the perspective of an evolutionary biologist—had led me to conclude that unless women become full partners with men as leaders in human affairs, it will never be possible to end war. Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace explained why. My most recent book, Shift: The Beginning of War, The Ending of War, explores why in even more detail. Nearly 100 years ago this group of women in the Hague had apparently been quite serious about doing so.

I Googled WILPF and was further delighted to discover that WILPF lived! That it has hung on through the years, setting up projects internationally, a key to whether or not women would eventually be positioned to lead a successful campaign to end war.

Disappointingly, in 2002, when I explored womens’ activities globally, they were still mostly asking for help. Help in dealing with rape, human trafficking, post-war reconciliation, urging men to make treaties to end various wars, and so on. I despaired, thinking it would probably take 20-30 more years for women instead to realize they must do it themselves…they must step into leadership roles. To my profound joy and some amazement, only 8 years later womens’ approaches to problems had changed a hundred percent. Educated and practical women clearly had gotten the message, having decided that power is not given, it must be grasped. And a growing number of women were moving into power positions that, if they would unite, would enable them to move a campaign to end war forward.

But still, my sense was that the numbers of empowered women globally, although growing at a rapid pace, was still too small, too quiet compared to the voices advocating for war. How long would this movement take to reach critical mass, I wondered. Another ten years? Maybe 15? Or if the world fell into fatal disarray, perhaps never?

Judith Hand - IHEU - Oslo, Norway

Judith Hand – IHEU – Oslo, Norway

But by 2011, I concluded, with excitement, that contrary to my anxieties that negatives forces also at work would win the race for the future, the numbers of highly empowered women reached critical mass. Women, I believe, have reached sufficient numbers to bring the world to a tipping point. Now it is only necessary that these women find a way to unite, to have a single voice with sufficient clout to insist and win the changes needed to create a global peace system.

Women are poised to give the dream of the women who founded WILPF, and that visionary Eleanor Roosevelt, and Bertha von Suttner, that woman who had encourage Alfred Nobel to have a Prize for Peace, women can make the dreams of these sisters come true.

I’m coming to the Hague hoping that this will the moment when the world’s women do find that united voice. The awarding of the latest Peace Prize to a young woman, Malala Yousafzai, could not be more symbolic. Because it is the young women who must see this ending-war campaign to its conclusion, I believe in two generations or less, and who will be responsible for maintenance of a war-free future for all the children to come.

WILPF’s campaign to end war and give us an enduring peace has been 100 years of hard, foundation-laying work. Now it’s taking off big time. What an exciting moment in human history this is! And what a profoundly exciting meeting of minds and hearts this conference in the Hague in 2015 will be!

Judith Hand, Ph.D., is the Founder of  A Future Without War.org, and author of Shift: The Beginning of War, The Ending of War.

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Sad Thoughts on the New War on Terrorism

September 25, 2014

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When I allow myself even a moment to think about it, I’m incredibly saddened, depressed with the thought that the trillions of funds that will be spent on this brand new and bottomless war on terror against ISIS and others won’t be available to spend on slowing climate change and preparing for the worst that it will do to us. Really? Is this to be our fate? A few violent men run amok in the thrall of a violent belief and we’re all going to suffer for it? So I quickly suppress the thought (I do this several time a day). It’s just too painful.

Yes, they must be stopped. Ignoring them is not a viable option. But the ideal way to stop them would not be by killing in return but for the people of the faith they claim to belong to to, the Sunni imams and Sunni believers, to mount the most powerful nonviolent protest against them they can muster…forbid any cooperation with them in any form. What if the entire world community would refuse to buy their oil, or transfer their funds? What if all the Germans had simply refused to cooperate in any form with Nazis.

Nonviolent takes great courage, sometimes even the willingness to die if necessary, but it can work. But no. What we decide to do instead is feed the war machine, make it bloated with wealth taken from the mouths of children. Maybe, I think, it is too late for us to save ourselves. We will be lost to our dark side after all. Then I quickly suppress that thought as well and go back to writing about how we have the power to end war if we choose (I do this several times a day).

Judith Hand
Founder: A Future Without War.org
http://www.afww.org

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Peace Systems and Enduring Peace

May 8, 2014

Judith Hand, Ph.D.

ShiftCover72dpi-2There are myriad reasons—psychological, proximate, and ultimate (biological)—for why we make war. We’ve indulged in this deeply embedded, very bad cultural habit for a very long time, so skeptics are on solid ground to believe that ending it may not be, most likely isn’t, possible. But in Shift: The Beginning of War, The Ending of War I explore how we CAN end war, if we choose to. No biological barrier prevents us from breaking this habit; as with all bad habits, including one as deeply engrained as war, breaking free is a matter of will.

Once we resolve to act, two kinds of efforts will be required for success, admittedly more simply said than done. We must:

  • stop doing or tolerating things that engender wars (like picking warmongers as our leaders or tolerating poverty). And,
  • do things that would prevent wars (like empowering women so we have parity governing, or establishing and fostering liberal democracies that include such characteristics as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, separation of church and state, and most especially, promotion of human rights and dignity).
The War Machine

The War Machine

We’d be engaged in a titanic struggle with an ancient monster having many tentacles: in our history, our mythologies, our economics, and our daily lives. To prevail we need a blueprint for how to subdue the beast. How can we consistently resolve serious disputes between nations or between ethnic groups and so on without killing each other? How do we move hearts and minds into a future culture where the idea of slaughtering people in another group for any reason has become absolutely unthinkable?

As it turns out, we don’t have to invent that blueprint from scratch. There are known basics that can guide our planning. Throughout history some people—led by visionary individuals in close touch with their innate moral compass, and arguably, also in touch with good sense—some people have found ways to achieve the goal of peace. People who created “peace systems.”

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What do such systems look like? In an 18 May issue of a 2012 paper in the prestigious journal Science, anthropologist Douglas Fry wrote an article with the title “Life Without War.” He defines “peace systems” as neighboring societies that do not make war on each other, and points out that they exist on several continents.

First he lists peace systems found in Australia, Canada, India, Malaysia, Greenland, and The United States, the latter itself an example of a peace system; people living in the 50 states of this confederation do not make war to resolve their serious disputes: they take them to courts of law and ultimately to the Supreme Court.

Then he compared three very different systems, looking for shared characteristics: the Iroquois Confederacy of Upper New York State, the Upper Xingu River basin tribes of Brazil, and the European Union. From this comparison he hypothesizes that six features are critical to the creation and maintenance of any peace system:

  1. An overarching social identify,
  2. Interconnections among subgroups,
  3. Interdependence,
  4. Nonwarring values,
  5. Symbolism and ceremonies that reinforce peace, and
  6. Superordinate institutions for conflict management.

These societies are not Utopias, not close to it. They may even make war with outsiders to their union. But they found ways to avoid warring among themselves. Our quest would be to build a global peace system, guided by these critical necessary conditions.

Fry’s important paper should be read and thoroughly digested by anyone who wants to build and maintain an enduring peace. It can be found online for free by registering with the journal Science.

Nine AFWW Cornerstones

Nine AFWW Cornerstones

In Appendix III of Shift, I compared nine cornerstones I identify as being key to ending war and maintaining peace with the six factors Fry hypothesized as being critical.

The objective of making this kind of comparison is to indicate commonalities derived independently by different investigators. The process spotlights the most obvious key elements of success. Appendix II of Shift added to this search for commonalities by presenting a similar comparison with the recent book by Harvard psychologist Stephen Pinker, The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence is Declining.

What follows is from Shift’s Appendix III, the comparison with Fry’s Science paper.

Five of Fry’s six characteristics of peace systems overlap with or are embraced by one or more Shift cornerstones. For example, in his discussion of “overarching social identity” he takes on the question of “us-versus-them” mentality that can foster conflicts and willingness to use violence against the “other.” He describes methods used by his three peace systems to “expand the us” to encompass a sense of common identity. The methods, not surprisingly given the great diversity of societies involved, are unique to each setting. Logically, a campaign to end war will have to devise methods suitable for creating a global sense of social identity.

Unity - clasped wristsThis corresponds to the work done and institutions embraced by the Shift cornerstone “Foster Connectedness.” Links to just a tiny few of already existing groups working on this issue are listed on an AFWW “Foster Connectedness” web page. The spirit this encompasses is perhaps most familiarly expressed in the Coke jingle

“I’d like to teach, the world to sing,in perfect harmony.”

That same spirit was part of the intention of the reestablishment of the Olympics in 1896, which have become, sadly, politicized but could be refurbished to truly unite the global community in the shared celebration of human achievement. There are many creative ways, already known and to be invented, to foster a global sense of oneness.

World Peace Prayer Ceremony

World Peace Prayer Ceremony

Addressing “intergroup ties,” he points out that intergroup bonds of friendship and kinship discourage violence. He describes how peace systems use ceremonial unions, fictive and genuine inter-marriage that establishes a sense of kinship, economic partnerships, and personal friendships to create such ties. The World Peace Prayer and Flag Ceremony, first begun in Japan and pictured here in Los Angeles, is an example of how shared ceremonies could bind the world in a permanent peace commitment. These practices are, again, ones being advanced by Shift’s Foster Connectedness cornerstone organizations.

Unknown“Interdependence” in Fry’s paper refers primarily to economic interdependence and its power to promote cooperation. People who trade with each other, especially if they depend on this trade, are less likely to make war with each other. Is the WTO, for example, perfect? No. No human organization is perfect. It can, of course, be improved upon. But it provides a forum for resolving serious resource disputes without killing each other. Many regional trade organizations serve a similar function. For us to have global peace, success will require that a balance be struck between local sustainability and developing and maintaining crucial trading interdependence between people and nations at the regional and global level.

red_cross-crescent256The idea of Interdependence, moreover, includes engaging in cooperation for any kinds of beneficial reasons. For example, in the dry desert of Australia’s west, local hunter-gatherer groups reciprocally allow other groups access to water and food on their “territory” in lean times, because a time will come when they may be the needy ones. Although the International Red Cross and International Red Crescent still reflect the separateness religion has often brought upon us, groups like them work to alleviate suffering and respond to disasters irrespective of natural borders.

Something quite fascinating is that some peace systems tend to specialize in production of particular trade goods that they exchange in order to create interdependence. Sometimes they even specifically refrain from producing their own version of “luxury” items that they could make for the specific reason that they understand that trading with the other group, that makes that item which they desire but do not themselves make, is essential to keeping the peace. Organizations like some listed under the Shift cornerstone “Shift Our Economies” are stressing the importance and potential power of creating many kinds of strategic interdependence.

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Fry begins his discussion of “nonwarring values” by pointing out the obvious fact that some value orientations are more conducive to peace than others, and that peace systems live by “nonwarring values.” In the Upper Xingu tribes, for example, the warrior role is shunned: peace is considered moral, war is not. Fry describes the means by which peace-promoting values were enshrined by the Iroquois Confederation. In the case of the European Union, he describes how actualization of the values of democracy, social equality, human rights and the rule of law serve as the EU’s moral (value) compass. Many of the organizations focused on the Shift cornerstone “Spread Liberal Democracy” also place emphasis on the pacifying effect for large, modern societies of these facets of liberal democracies. And organizations of the Shift cornerstone “Promote Nonviolent Conflict Resolution” teach the values and skills of living in peace. So again we have commonality between Fry’s assessment of what it will take to move us beyond war and two more Shift cornerstones.

State Funeral

State Funeral

Fry illustrates a need for “symbolism and ceremonies that reinforce peace” citing participation of all the Upper Xingu tribes in ceremonies to mourn the deaths of deceased chiefs and inaugurate new ones. Pictured here was a ceremony in Serbia to honor deceased members of the royal family, attended by dignitaries from other countries. Joint ceremonies help unify the Xingu tribes, again fostering connectedness and creating a sense of common identity. For the global human community today, we should also promote a sense of shared destiny.

The Iroquois League was symbolized by a powerful symbol of unity and peace, the Tree of Life. The tree’s white roots represented the desire for peace to spread beyond the confederacy. Clearly the Iroquois understood that peace requires work to maintain it; an eagle perched on top of the tree reminded the tribes to remain vigilant to the threats to peace. As describe in Shift, a campaign, built around the shared goal of creating safe, secure, and healthy places for all children, would likewise need to create an appropriate, unifying symbol to represent the intention to build and maintain such a peace for the children of all generations to follow us. The campaign should also invent ceremonies to celebrate its creation.

European Court of Justice

European Court of Justice

If a life without war is to be won and maintained, there must be “superordinate institutions for conflict management.” Fry points out that there are many different ways to manage conflicts between groups, and that one key is to create higher levels of governance. He describes the Council of Chiefs of the Iroquois Confederacy. He describes higher levels of governance created by the EU, such as the European Court of Justice, its exterior pictured here. The commonality is that many of the organizations working on the Shift cornerstones “Provide Security and Order” and organizations working to “Promote Nonviolent Conflict Resolution” are also concerned with these issues. The United Nations and International Court of Justice are steps we have already taken in the right direction.

Fry concludes that creating a planetary peace system would involve many synergistic elements “including the transformative vision that a new peace-based global system is in fact possible….” Here the commonality is with the Shift cornerstone “Embrace the Goal.” Although at this time only a relatively few organizations are focused on ending all war, the time is ripe for many more to emerge.

Two Shift cornerstones that Fry’s analysis does not directly, or even very indirectly, touch upon are Empower Women” and Enlist Young Men.”

Islam's Great Peace Warrior

Islam’s Great Peace Warrior

First, the challenge of making restless young males part of the solution—making them supporters of building this peace system—is arguably the least appreciated element of creating a future without war. It’s hard to find organizations dedicated to that cause. The importance of recruiting young men into an effort to end war is seldom mentioned, I believe, since the general assumption is that we will never end war so thinking about the specific problem of how to include young men as part of the process of ending war and/or what to do with them when war is absent has no relevance. The concept of peaceful warriors, like the thousands of men recruited by Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the Muslim Gandhi, is something to be considered as a campaign to end war contemplates how to engage young men in positive ways.

Fry also doesn’t acknowledge the importance of empowering women, although women were powerful in the Iroquois Federation and women certainly have influence and the vote within the European Union. Biological facets of our problem are not generally stressed by most scholars, the emphasis being placed on culture rather than biology. Furthermore, it is virtually universally recognized that war is a male behavior, and so how women figure in is not thought to require consideration.

Screen-Shot-2012-10-26-at-2.56.47-PMThis biologically-based issue is, however, now coming into the discussion. Many organizations are focused on empowering women in a variety of ways. The recent book Sex and World Peace, edited by Valerie Hudson, documents compellingly a strong relationship between the empowerment of women and reduced levels of wars and violence. But is the relationship merely a correlation, or is it causative? Many scholars are cautious, like Yale University professor Nicholas Sambanis. Mara Hvistendahl quotes him in her 2012 Science article “Gender and Violence” as thinking that perhaps what has been called a “woman effect” on peace and stability is perhaps “a proxy for other, more fundamental things, like cultural differences, rule of law, [and] institutional development.” In other words, Sambanis is expressing the view that perhaps the fact that empowerment of women in a society is strongly related positively to its level of peace is simply a correlation. One goal of Shift is to make explicit the importance of very different biological traits of men and women (in general) as these relate to war, and to stress that women’s influence on peace is, in fact, a critical, causative factor. Parity governing needs to be understood as a necessary condition to ending war and even more critically perhaps, to ensuring that peace once achieved endures.

Summing up, if we decide to pursue a warless future with sufficient will, we have actual examples and models to learn from. They encourage us to know that we can succeed. The following are the commonalities between Shift cornerstones and common elements that Fry discovered:

  • We must foster personal and cultural connectedness.
  • We must foster economic interconnectedness (as part of fostering connectedness in general and related to shifting our economies appropriately)
  • We must foster human rights (by whatever means, but most readily by spreading mature liberal democracy)
  • We must foster behaviors and institutions that promote nonviolent conflict resolution.
  • We must foster the rule of law (part of providing security and order and promoting nonviolent conflict resolution)
  • We must embrace the goal.

The challenge now for the global community is to put these essentials in place on a global basis ASAP, and never let them slip into disuse.

If you’d like to be inspired and encouraged, treat yourself to a video documentary entitled “The Evolution of a Global Peace System.” Based on historian Kent Shifferd’s book From War to Peace, it should be widely publicized and appreciated. This 24 minute video is inspiring, not because of razzle-dazzle, but because it compellingly documents over 20 remarkable, hopeful trends of the last 100 years, many of them key elements of any peace system. They reflect evolution toward a planetary loyalty and sense of human oneness that will be critical to seizing a prize for humanity that no generation before us ever came close to.