Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category


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.


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, and author of Shift: The Beginning of War, The Ending of War.


Sad Thoughts on the New War on Terrorism

September 25, 2014


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


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.”

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.

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.












The Myth of Savage Savages Needs Debunking

January 25, 2014

Judith Hand, Ph.D.

deep_roots-front-bigA recent article entitled “Are we violent by nature?” appeared in the January 19 Los Angeles Times opinion section. Written by Luke Glowacki, a doctoral candidate at Harvard University, it trumpeted a view of several scholars, primarily at Harvard. Glowacki asserts that “scientists have converged on something of a consensus: The human propensity for lethal violence against ‘out-group members’ has deep evolutionary roots.”

romans_vs_barbarians_battleWhat he uses the phrase “lethal violence against out-group members” he is actually addressing the idea of war. He is implying that war has deep evolutionary roots, a fact of enormous significance if true. But is that true? Is there scientific consensus that the biological roots of war go deep?

ShiftCover72dpi-2Actually, there is no such consensus. For example, two recent books directly tackle the myth of savage savages (an apt phrase coined by journalist John Horgan who calls the main propagators of this myth the “Harvard Hawks”): my own book, Shift: The Beginning of War, The Ending of War,

and an edited book by the anthropologist Douglas Fry, published by Oxford University Press, War, Peace, and Human Nature. Both books examine the roots of war and conclude that the practice is a cultural one, of recent origin and that we could abolish it.

War, Peace, and Human Nature - D. Fry (Ed.)

War, Peace, and Human Nature – D. Fry (Ed.)

Two Men Fighting - Francisco GoyaIt’s true that the notion of the peaceful savage is a myth. Even in nonwarring and generally nonviolent cultures, homicide occurs. But it’s overwhelmingly a rare behavior, quite often the result of sexual jealousy, directed at specific individuals, and more characteristic of men than women. It isn’t war.

And remarkably, people from these generally peaceful cultures reporting cases of homicide to early anthropologists who did field studies also reported that men in these societies who committed a killing were punished by execution, sometimes by their own family members, or they were expelled from the group. Acts of lethal violence in even otherwise nonviolent cultures do prove that there is a genetic component to homicide, a point that needs to be conceded and to which the word consensus would apply. But apparently homicide was not tolerated and killers were prevented from (further) reproduction. One can make a good argument that actual killing was, in the phrase of evolutionary biology, “selected against.” Consistently practiced over the millennia of our evolution, execution or banishment could explain the existence of the well-known human aversion to killing another human being.

Bonobo Hugging

Bonobo Hugging

What, then, is the evidence for “out-group killing” as a regular practice among early humans upon which such a theory is based? Or among the few contemporary nomadic foragers still living today? Maybe killing within the group was suppressed, but killing outsiders now and then was embraced as a policy.

Given the written record of war after war, it’s no wonder the generally held worldview is that we have always made war. The but theory that out-group killing (war) has deep genetic roots has no sound basis. It is an extrapolation based primarily

  • on research on chimpanzees (not the other more pacific and equally closely related to us species pictured here, bonobos),

  • on studies of out-group killings in societies using hunter-forager technology but where mobility—the ability to move away from unfriendly neighbors and find fresh resources elsewhere—is severely restricted, and

  • on mathematical models that don’t take into consideration the effects on behavior when mobility is restricted and fresh resources could be had by moving, even with some difficulty, to a new location.

War of Everyone Against Everyone - Hobbs

War of Everyone Against Everyone – Hobbs

Glowacki does a good job of putting this debate about the nature vs. nurture component of human killing and war into a historical context that goes back to the 1600s. The philosopher Thomas Hobbes, for example, argued that our natural state is one of “war of everyone against everyone.”

But recent studies of actual nomadic forager life-ways—the way we lived during hundreds of thousands of years of our evolution by natural selection—are revealing a very different picture.

Migration - Plan A

Migration – Plan A

When serious conflicts occur, including ones involving insufficient availability of essential resources, the preferred option appear to be that some group members to pack up their few belongings and move on.  Dispersal was Plan A, not the  risky behaviors of war and retaliation. What seems to have moved us out of Africa to occupy virtually every habitable niche on the globe is our ability to cooperate, and a preference to avoid killing each other.

Moreover, the typical responses of nomadic foraging people who do maintain a sense of territory—that certain land belongs to their group—is to demand that strangers announce themselves and ask permission to cross the land or to forage on it for a time. Strangers who comply are not killed on sight, they are likely to be given permission because at some time in the future the favor may need to be reciprocated.

So what happens when nomadic foragers, for whatever reason, can’t move away from each other, when they are forced by geography or other circumstances to live beside each other permanently? 

Yawahlapiti Men

Yawahlapiti Men

Their  response, Plan B, is to invent  customs, traditions,  rituals, and shared laws that enable them to resolve conflicts without resort to actual killing. Tribal councils negotiate between aggrieved parties, setting penalties and providing for restitution. Sometimes these customs involve a display of relative force…contests of daring by members of both sides. These force displays may look like “war” to outsiders if they involve two sides brandishing weapons, or throwing spears. But examined closely, the usual outcome is that no one engaging in these displays of relative power is actually killed.  Ritual displaying of power is a common pattern among males of many mammal species, so it’s not a surprise to any biologist to find it present in us as well.

As I propose in Shift, The Beginning of War, The Ending of War, the first human option when faced with severe conflicts (over anything, but especially over life-sustaining resources), Plan A if you will, is to disperse. 

Haudenosaunee Gathering

Haudenosaunee Gathering

The second option, Plan B, is to devise customs and rituals that maintain peace and resolve differences without bloodshed when moving is precluded for whatever reason, depicted here with a tribal council.

Only when our groups take up settled living around a reliable food supply or have access to a reliable food supply (most especially, agriculture and the domestication of animals), and our population numbers begin to grow, and dispersal is no longer a viable option, and negotiations fail, only then do we start to see, among many cultural changes, that we take up war.  War is a last choice—Plan C. It is NOT an evolved adaptation. Contrary to the view that the Harvard Hawks are propagating, humans are not by nature warlike.

In the human deep past, when we lived at low population densities in a planet that was basically empty of human competitors, war was NOT a first choice. And in fact, examination of the fossil record so far indicates no evidence of war before roughly 12,000 YA.  Given that our lineage goes back approximately 200,000 years of a nomadic foraging existence, this makes war a newcomer to the human repertoire….and a cultural invention at that, not a trait built into our genes by natural selection.

Aggression in many forms, from angry words to hitting, kicking, and beating, even by women, are clearly a genetically based aspect of our nature. This sort of fighting is has been seen in all cultures that don’t have strong cultural controls to suppress it. But while war is made possible because we do have a capacity for violence that can be stoked by warmongers, war itself—the indiscriminate killing of people belonging to an “out-group”—is a cultural invention.

Rather than think of ourselves with the old phrase “Man-the-Warrior,” a more apt characterization is arguably “Humans-the-Cooperators.”

What we believe is of profound consequence. If we believe we have always made war, and that war has deep, biologically based roots, it becomes more difficult to believe that we could ever end the practice. Academics do harm to the hope of ending war when they conflate homicide and war, and assert without clearly distinguishing between these two behaviors that there is a scientific consensus that “The human propensity for lethal violence against ‘out-group’ members has deep evolutionary roots.” There is no support for their view, and much evidence against it.

If we make a commitment to eliminate the cultural conditions that are the breeding grounds for war, replacing them with conditions that foster all forms of nonviolent conflict resolution, we can cast war into history’s trashcan. How that amazing feat could be accomplished is the subject of Shift. Arguably, humans-the-cooperators have arrived at a time in history when they resolve to break free from the cultural chains of war.


How to Test a Women-are-Key-to-Lasting-Peace Theory

October 4, 2013

Judith Hand, Ph. D.


Why are women universally responsible for fewer homicides than men (1)? Universally!


In 1999 the psychologist Anne Campbell reported on her examination of the use of aggression across many societies. Women, it turns out, much more than men, prefer to avoid physical aggression and killing. Campbell pointed out that evolutionarily this serves to protect the women, their families, their close associates, and especially their children from harm, which would be a serious reproductive hazard, a blow to reproductive success. When we’re talking about traits that evolved as adaptations that foster reproductive success were talking biology, not culture (2).

The-First-Sex-Fisher-Helen-E-9780679449096 In that same year the anthropologist Helen Fisher published The First Sex: The Natural Talents of Women and How They Are Changing the World. Here was another exploration of how men and women, considered as groups, might have strong, statistically significant different approaches to a variety of social skills based, not just on culture, but motivated by innate, biologically evolved differences. Fisher made a strong case for why societies need to harness female “natural” inclinations for the public sphere (3).

Exploration of the relationship between women and violence continues and is expanding. In an important new book with the provocative title Sex and World Peace, four authors have assembled data on the relationship of women to community and national security (4). I read it with great pleasure because it’s about time that decision- and change-makers who want to end war and establish lasting peace realize that neither can be done unless and until women become equal partners with men in making decisions about war and peace and how to build and sustain safe and life-affirming communities. 1333465865-sex-and-world-peace

The book’s authors compile a great deal of data—not opinions or anecdotes but researched data—showing that where women are empowered societies fare better in many ways and that violence, including war, is reduced. The authors document strongly this CORRELATION.

But correlation is not causation. The case for women’s empowerment is and can be made MUCH stronger than just showing correlation.

Judith Hand

Judith Hand

My work, much of which can be found in my book Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace (free download) and the essays on my extensive website,, examines from an evolutionary perspective why raising the status of women and their concerns and the empowerment of women at all levels of society does not simply correlate with better social outcomes. I offer a theory for why it is CAUSATIVE!

To find the strongest possible argument for women’s empowerment, we must look to biology as well as culture. I called my theory a “social stability” hypothesis because it says that women bring many predispositions to social living that are evolved (not learned) adaptations which function to foster social stability. This notably includes a greater preference by women to avoid using physical violence. The theory says that as a consequence of our biology, empowering women as equal partners with men in governing is a necessary condition to create positive and lasting change to build socially stable communities and countries. Why? Because a number of women’s evolved proclivities are the antidote, so to speak, for evolved male proclivities for domination that can, if left unchecked, include, among a number of negative things, using physical violence.

wife-frying-pan-husbandAnyone familiar with humans (virtually all of us) immediately will think of facts of life that seem to contradict the idea that women, in general, have an innate, built-in—if you will, hard-wired—preference for avoiding physical violence which is more consistently expressed by them. For example, why do we see that when sufficiently riled, a woman may attack her husband with a frying pan? Or why do women sometimes urge men to make war? I spent a lot of time puzzling over many seeming contradictions such as these.

woman_thinking The key to the puzzle came one day in the shower, where I do a lot of creative thinking. I serendipitously attacked the issue from a fresh angle. I asked two obvious biological questions that, oddly, I’d never asked myself before. Not counting the obvious urge to find a good man, I asked myself, “Biologically speaking, what do women want, and why do they want it?”

WheelerMissionMinistries07-44 To my surprise, a two-part answer immediately rose to my conscious mind: women want safe and stable communities and they want sufficient resources, both being necessary to raise their children. Mind on fire, I hurried out, dried off, and wrote down the questions and the answer. I even made some quick initial mental tests as to how those two biological needs—those female reproductive imperatives—would translate into behavior when it comes to using physical aggression…and maybe even other social behavior as well.

In very general terms what the answer means is that women are geared by natural selection to do whatever is necessary to foster social stability…short term and long term. Anything that would threaten the life of her children or a mother’s own life, certainly war, would be an unacceptable risk to successful reproduction. Thus women would have to continually accommodate the need for social stability (the security of her family and community) with the need for sufficient resources for her offspring.

8082087031_560caf48a6_zFeeling certain I was on the right track, I started applying these two imperatives to a variety of contexts. To my pleased amazement, women’s behavior, even those strange contradictions I mentioned above and many others, made sense. Keep in mind that humans have been living in cooperatively breeding groups for at least 200,000 years. And in such social groups, if a disagreement develops over how to divide up a resource that two women both claim as theirs, a physical fight between the two of them—much more than a verbal screaming match—would more likely rile up and draw close kin and allies into physical fighting. The possible result of a fight could well be that one or both of the women, or perhaps one or more of their children, might be wounded in the ensuing melee.

Wounds can often become infected and, especially lacking modern medical care, result in death or be outright fatal. It would be far more adaptive over the long (evolutionary) haul for the two women to find a way to compromise, perhaps with the aid of an outside third party. Indeed, the outside third party might have a stake in keeping the women from physical fighting because of her (or his) own interest in maintaining the peace. But if the resource in contention was food and starvation or the threat of starvation were at hand, the survival need for food could very well lead the women to physically fight over the resource. So women would not avoid physical fighting in all contexts.

An immediate question arises. Wouldn’t the rule against physical fighting apply equally to men? Yes, provided there is no incentive for men to engage in physical fights. But Homo sapiens is a primate, descended from a primate lineage in which males compete aggressively, including fighting physically, for dominance. That our men still inherit that predisposition is evident; it is something all cultures work to suppress or control.

That our females more strongly than males prefer to compromise rather than fight physically is a trait that likely goes as far back into our lineage as male urges for dominance because early recourse to fighting physically did NOT generally serve the reproductive or survival interests of human females while male/male fighting sometimes, or often, did.

StrikingFirst copy

This same sort of analysis can be applied to conflicts in other contexts. For example, it can explain the phenomenon of soccer moms who vote for preemptive war. “Go to war,” they will say to the men if they can be convinced that their community, where they are raising their children, is in imminent danger (e.g., of starvation or attack). It can explain choices of conservative thinking women who oppose politically progressive causes that would give them more individual power, such as the right to vote or a right to reproductive choice, because they prefer to avoid disruptive social changes in the familiar social order even more than they desire personal power (5).

This preference-for-social-stability-theory can be tested. The eight hypotheses (H) to be tested listed below state that the traits in question are (or are likely to be) more characteristic of women, keeping in mind individual differences and the moderating influence of culture. Although seemingly unrelated by any common function, they all have the potential to produce or foster social stability. The theory predicts that when traits are found that universally show statistically significant differences between men and women, analysis should reveal that some that are more characteristic of women undergird social stability, either immediately or over time.

The first three (H1-H3) are already well documented cross-culturally. They were the facts that stimulated this social stability theory. The remaining five have some support but need further study.

Although learning can reinforce their use, these traits are not learned behavior. Think of the situation being similar to language: the aptitude/inclination for the behavior is innate but learning reinforces and brings it out in full form in a particular culture. What is critical is that all of these inclinations/proclivities would produce the observed behavior because doing them is positively reinforcing to the person acting under their influence (doing so produces feelings of satisfaction), or not doing them is negatively reinforcing (failing to do so produces feelings of disquiet or dissatisfaction).”
H1 – Forms of conflict resolution: More frequent or quicker use of win-win conflict choices of behavior (negotiation, mediation) or compromise that diffuses conflict.
• H2 – Dominance hierarchies: More stable than those of men and formed without using physical aggression.
H3 – Physical violence: Less use of physical violence in interpersonal or community conflicts.
• H4 – Reconciliation: Willingness to more quickly forgive/reconcile over small crimes but harshly or seriously punish violent crime or crimes against women; greater concern to bring about reconciliation between individual fighters or groups.
• H5 – Sympathetic concern: After a fight, more likely to console losers (e.g., with words or friendly embrace), reducing the recipients stress level and facilitating continued group cohesion (6).
• H6 – Budgeting choices: for example, more money spent on things to reduce violent neighborhood crime rather than spending on something that would enhance prestige, like acquiring a sports team for the community or a new city hall building.
• H7 – Foresight: Less emphasis on winning a conflict now in contrast to more emphasis on making sure the solution chosen now will also mean less conflict later (foresight regarding potential conflicts) (this kind of foresight coupled with women’s concerns about having sufficient resources may explain the bias women have for supporting “green” or conservation issues) (7).
• H8 – Justice: less focused on the punitive and more focused on understanding an offender’s problems, which places less emphasis on the letter of the law and more on individual justice based on circumstances (empathy for defendants)

No CompromiseConsider an amusing example that reflects women’s preference for conflict resolutions that can foster return to social stability as quickly as possible. A colleague told this story of an incident she experienced when working at the United Nations. She was observing negotiations between two parties. Both sides wanted to reach some resolution, but it was clear they were not making progress. Noting that no women were at the negotiating table, she suggested to the men that they include some women. The immediate response from the men on both sides was, “Oh no. We can’t do that. The women would compromise.”

Consider also that great male leaders tend to display a number of these traits. All of us as individuals are a complex mixture of traits different societies call male and female. So to speak, we all have male and female aspects to our personalities. To the extent that the above traits are more characteristic of women, it is as if great male leaders can be said to be well in touch with their female side.

cross_cult_signInvestigating these hypotheses won’t be easy. It requires study of very complex behaviors of the two sexes cross-culturally, and setting up appropriate controls. For example, someone might ask concerning reconciliation (H4), “Don’t some male elders exhibit this trait as well? Even more than a young women might?” But it would be inappropriate to compare young women with older males; the preferences or inclinations of young women should be compared with those of young men, and older males with same age females having similar life experiences. If detecting whether such differences exist and whether they are statistically and behaviorally significance were easy, they would already be well known and understood.

empowered-women-031If this social stability theory proves to be robust we can say firmly that women do not bring just “talents” to governing, in all cultures they bring evolved predispositions that shape HOW they (would) govern and to what ends. My research, which is yet another step following Campbell and Fisher in this exploration of the biology of women’s approach to using physical aggression and seeking community stability leads to the conclusion that women’s empowerment will not only be essential to free humanity from the grip of our worst instincts and the behavior they produce, including war. Because of fundamental biological drives of both sexes—particularly with males more preoccupied with dominance/status/control which results in the turmoil of changing the social order and a relative inattention to community—the perpetual empowerment of women will be a necessary condition for maintaining stable, safe communities in a future of enduring peace. Herein lies the strongest possible argument for the empowerment of women.

(1 )Daly, Martin, and Margo Wilson. 1988. Homicide. Hawthorne, NY: Aldine de Gruyter.

(2) Campbell, Anne. 1999. Staying Alive: Evolution, culture and women’s intra-sexual aggression. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 22:203-252.

(3) Fisher, Helen. 1999.  The first sex. The natural talents of women and how they are changing the world.  NY: Random House.

(4) Hudson, Valorie, Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill, Mary Caprioli and Chad F. Emmitt. 2012. Sex and World Peace. NY: Columbia University Press.

(5) Hand, Judith. 2010. Sarah Palin and why all women are not progressive.

(accessed 5 April 2012).

(6) In chimpanzees and children, females provide comfort more often than males – Waal, Frans B. M. de. 2012. The antiquity of empathy. Science 336: 874-875.

(7 Polaskovic, Gary. 2012. Are women greener than men? Los Angeles Times. June 13.  (accessed 13 June 2012).


A press release about Syria from Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire

August 25, 2013


Press release 26th August 2013
Mairead Maguire, Nobel peace laureate, today appealed to the Rt. Hon. William Hague, British Foreign Minister, and M. Laurent Fabius, French Foreign Minister, to stop calling for military action against Syria which, she said, will only lead the Middle East into even more violence and bloodshed for its people.

Maguire said:

Arming rebels and authorizing military action by USA/NATO forces will not solve the problem facing Syria, but indeed could lead to the death of thousands of Syrians, the breaking-up of Syria, and it falling under the control of violent fundamentalist jihadist forces. It will mean the further fleeing of Syrians into surrounding countries which will themselves become destabilised. The entire Middle East will become unstable and violence will spiral out of control.

Contrary to some foreign governments current policies of arming the rebels and pushing for military intervention, the people of Syria are calling out for peace and reconciliation and a political solution to the crisis, which continues to be enflamed by outside forces with thousands of foreign fighters funded and supported by outside countries for their own political ends. Having visited Syria in May, 2013, after leading a 16 person delegation I returned convinced that the civil community, with groups such as Mussalaha, who are working on the ground building peace and reconciliation, can solve their own problems if their plea for outsiders to remain out of the conflict is honoured by the international community.

During our visit we met with all sections of the community, most of whom are sick of violence and death and want peace and reconciliation and a political solution. We met with the Syrian Prime Minister and 7 other government ministers, and we were assured that the Government did not use sarin gas on its own people, and they invited the UN to send in inspectors to see what was happening. Currently there is an International Commission of Inquiry on Chemical Weapons in Damascus staying at Four Seasons Hotel, which is less than ten minutes from the areas where the chemical weapons were allegedly used. The western media, particularly vocal being the British and French Foreign Ministers, are accusing President Assad of using chemical weapons on his own people but have no proof of this accusation, rather some things point to rebels as the ones who used such weapons.

The question must be asked, what would it benefit Assad to use sarin gas in the vicinity of visiting international UN inspectors and in his own environment and neighbourhood where it would affect his soldiers, etc., personally, I do not believe the latest accusations against the Assad government using sarin gas, and in order that the world can hear the truth, I would appeal to the International Commission of Inquiry to go into the areas in question immediately and report as quickly as possible. In the meantime I appeal to the Foreign Ministers of Britain and France to encourage, as the Syrian people wish, dialogue and negotiation as a way forward.

We all remember the fear, panic and lies spun by the British and American governments, and others that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and it was not true. Let us learn the lesson of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya where so many millions have been killed in invasions and war, and many continue to die in violence. Violence is not the answer, let’s end this ‘war on terror’ and give nonviolence and peace a chance.

Mairead Maguire
Nobel peace laureate
peace people, 224 Lisburn road, Belfast. Bt307NW. N. Ireland


How Do We End War? An Action Plan

June 23, 2013

Judith Hand, Ph.D.


For over ten years I’ve studied war. And I’ve concluded from my perspective as an evolutionary biologist that if we want it bad enough and make the choice to act, we can end war.

Pollaiuolo - Men in Battle

Pollaiuolo – Men in Battle

I’m not referring to ending conflict, which is clearly not possible. Nor am I talking about other ills that grow from the use of violence, such as murder, rape, and domestic abuse. These behaviors can be found even in cultures that do not make war, or societies that are nonviolent or relatively so (think of the Amish, Quakers, and even Norwegians). I’m talking about ending war, where groups of men take up weapons and bond together to go kill, indiscriminately, men who belong to another group.

Red HOW word around questions.

And a fascinating pattern emerges when I speak with long-time, dedicated peace activists, people who have spent years struggling to end war. In one way or another they ask me the same question. Not, can we end war? They believe we can and have been trying mightily to do it. The question they ask is, how?

They are stymied. How do we do it? How can we do something to defeat this behemoth that no activists from generations before us were able to defeat? A monster that they themselves have been striving to defeat. How do we dismantle an entity having tentacles that reach into virtually every aspect of our lives? That provides employment for many millions of global citizens. That reaches even into our homes, to take from us our sons to serve, and if necessary to die, in its wars.


A second question is a partner of the first: why, they ask me, do I think we can achieve something men and women of good will from previous generations could not? What has convinced me that we might actually do such an amazing thing?

My conclusions are based on my research:

  • into war,
  • into our biology as it relates to using physical aggression,
  • into the power of nonviolent direct action to bring about social transformation,
  • and on my expertise as a behaviorist.

I have written extensively about my results and conclusions at the website

PaulMasson - NoWineBeforeItsTimePerhaps my most succinct essay on why we can do this now is a blog. It explains why our time differs from preceding epochs in ways that give us, if we grasp the chance, a window of opportunity to make this hugely historic shift from war. It is entitled “To date nonviolence movements were ‘before their time.’ Now they are poised to change history.

The blog provides an introduction to the nature of using nonviolence for social transformation, beginning with a review of the work of three powerful users of nonviolence: Alice Paul, Mohandas Gandhi, and Abdul Ghaffar Khan.

And then it explains the two reasons why the people of our time are finally ready to seriously explore the possibility that we need a transformation. This is firstly because a critical mass of global citizens know “in their bones” that what we are doing is not working. They grasp with deep unease that we desperately need a new way to live with each other.

Earth “Global Village”Our time is hugely different because our global home is now “full.” From our isolated beginnings in Africa we now occupy all niches on the planet that are readily habitable by humans. It is no longer possible to escape from each other by emigrating to a frontier, moving to a place with fresh resources and unoccupied land. Our backs are to the wall, and we are floundering as we spend huge resources on war that are desperately needed for along list of critical needs.

YinYangAnd a second reason our time is radically different is that we have finally figured out that excluding women as leaders and decision-makers has upset a balance between approaches to conflict resolution. We have significantly eliminated the part of us that favors compromise over fighting in ways that have plunged us into roughly 10,000 years of war after war after war. The rise of powerful women around the globe has begun to restore balance in our approaches to resolving conflicts. The addition to the public space of women as decision-makers and trendsetters is establishing real and consistent power behind forces that seek compromise, negotiation, and peace with justice rather than expending resources on war. The forces of ying and yang are being balanced so that they equally share in decision-making. This change in the status of women is in its infancy, but it is accelerating at an astonishingly rapid rate.

These two enormous changes in our reality make us willing to open minds to the idea of change. We are more willing to consider the way of nonviolence.


But the question of “how” still remains. How do we move the global community from the cultures of violence in which we now live to a future in which physical violence, particularly in the form of war, is no longer standard practice? Two essays on my website explore “how to end war” in detail (“To Abolish War” and “Shaping the Future.”)

Moreover, I’ve distilled the essence of all of this research into an Action Plan for initiating a focused campaign to end war. The Action Plan provides 1) specifics for how to assemble the necessary leadership, 2) a shared unifying vision, and 3) a strategy and tactics to shape a paradigm shift that would rival in magnitude the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions. I’ve called it The Nonviolence Revolution.

The Action Plan is built around “Constructive Programs” (such as peace education, work to shift our economies, reaching young men so that they become part of the solution) that are grouped into nine cornerstones, and “Obstructive Programs” using nonviolent direct action to directly tackle the war machine, the goal being to dismantle it piece-by-piece.

An companion essay, “Dismantling the War Machine,” offers more detail of how to take on the war machine using the lever of people power.

ACT Business Services Logo

The mechanism for the “how” is based on a successful approach pioneered by the International Committee to Ban Landmines (ICBL) (see the book “Banning Landmines”). This approach works to unite individuals and organizations with a great many diverse interests into common cause and has been called “massively distributed collaboration.” It is a way to coordinate and direct people power so that we end war and in the process create safe, secure communities for our children and the children of humanity’s future.

There is a “how.” There is hope. The choice is ours. It’s time to accept the challenge to act and begin the work. Check out the Action Plan and make your own decision as to whether you think it might actually work, and if you’d like to get on board.