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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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