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« Can War End? Students Doubtful | Main | My “Greatest Science Books” Are Greater! »

Will War End? Students in Survey Say: Hell No!

As I said in my previous post, 16 students in my “War and Human Nature” class recently polled classmates at Stevens on whether they think war will ever end. Here are the questions: “Do you think humanity will ever stop fighting wars once and for all time? Why or Why not?” The students surveyed 205 people, including 28 from outside Stevens. Here are the results:

Yes: 13.
Maybe: 7.
No: 185.

In other words, more than 90 percent of the respondents are pessimists who answered no. Here are some typical responses:
“Never! We’re naturally evil people. And it is impossible to please everyone. There will always be a conflict of interest.”
“No, because people don’t learn from the past and their mistakes.”
“No. Man will kill man for the rest of time. Even if man were peaceful with one another, environmental factors will always cause a problem.”
“No, people are always going to hate and try to destroy ‘inferiors.’”
“No. It’s not human nature to fight with each other but it is animal nature. Monkeys fight with each other and because humans are animals to we follow that pattern. For war to end you would need a million things to go right in the world. For war to begin you only need one thing to go wrong. Probability for war is much greater than the probability for peace.”
“No. Even if every religion is meant to be peaceful, there will always be extremists whether it is Christian or Muslim or even Jewish radicals. Even though it is thought religion will ultimately be a key component to bring peace to the world, it actually divides us throughout history."
“No. Human nature is the reason the society falls ever since Adam and Eve committed crime and being driven out of heaven. To go back to heaven again human must repent their crime.”
“No. The Earth’s ability to support life will end before peace
“No, because men are power crazy and women are not in power.”
“No. I think people would just get bored with no war.”

It gets worse. Look at some of the comments offered by the “optimists” who said yes:
“Yes, it's possible, but not in our life time probably. Also it will only happen under the same one religion because one's beliefs are a driving force.”
“Yes. Humanity will end wars once everyone is killed off by one.”
“Yes, because in the future the human species will unite to fight alien species.”
“Yes. War will end when the human race will end.”
“Yes. The fighting will end when there is so much destruction caused by wars that there's nothing left.”
“Yes. When someone (Korea) launches their nuclear weapon. Then we’ll all stop messing with each other and keep it cool.”

So, war will end after aliens invade the earth, or after we have a nuclear war, or after there’s nothing left to fight for, or after we all kill each other, or after we all convert to the same religion. "From this survey," one of my students wrote, "we can conclude that most college students have little faith in mankind."


nigel cook

Thank you! The comments of your students, quoted in this post, very much realist, and not idealist.

One mistaken idea, possibly, is that there can be a unity under "one religion". The problem is that even if you have just one religion to begin with, it will grow divisions with time, because people love to argue with one another over details, interpretations, and which parts are central.

Even in the origins of Christianity, you see that Jesus was a Jew, but he created a new branch of religion instead of changing the Jewish religion! (You can't change prejudices.)

Here are a couple of quotations of Jesus the Prince of Peace instructing his disciples to buy swords etc:

"I have come to set fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! ... Do you suppose I came to establish peace on earth? No indeed, I have come to bring division. For from now on, five members of a family will be divided, three against two and two against three; father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother..." (Luke 12:49-53.)

"You must not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a son’s wife against her mother-in-law; and a man will find his enemies under his own roof." (Matthew 10:21-22, 34-39.)

"Then Jesus asked them ... if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. ... The disciples said, 'See, Lord, here are two swords.' 'That is enough,' he replied." (Luke 22:35-38.)

nigel cook

"War is a continuation of politics by other means." - Carl von Clausewitz.

So maybe, the foundation to getting rid of war is getting rid of politics?

Andrei Kirilyuk

War and Peace

Oh, la-la, and this is America, the most powerful country, people who govern the world, their young, most advanced generation that can profit from incredibly high level of life and all technological achievements. Oh, la-la, mais quelle horreur! It was better not to know. More seriously, I think that their “pessimistic” opinions about total peace possibility are partially due to the fact that they think subconsciously, on the background, that the true war won't touch directly and massively their own, American territory and life. Americans have forgot, nationally, “genetically” what the true war actually is, they think (again, on the background) that those wars that will never end (with or without their soldier participation) will rather be centred somewhere else, far away from their nice sweet home. Actually, they have some practical reasons to think so, and 9/11 event chain finally only confirms it, together with the rest of the world event agenda and real correlation of forces. It would be interesting to make a comparison with a similar “informal” survey results for Russian students because Russia has an “American” scale of ambitions and craziness (actually a much greater one, especially for craziness!). Russians are, in principle, extremely aggressive as a nation and almost cannot live without a “local” war or invasion (also due to their invariable “centralism” and “collectivism”), even when they are the first to suffer from it. But without being sure in it, I suppose that they would be more “wishful” with respect to a possibility of world peace (future prediction results always express hidden wishes!), simply because they had a relatively recent and truly devastating war on their territory. They are also less “bored” by life conditions of lasting, prosperous peace, which involves a deeper, genuine origin of wars, especially modern ones, being the less and less “greedy wars” (small, peaceful countries are often more successful and happy, etc.).

Indeed, one of the cited “pessimistic” student answers gets it right, the true reason of “military craziness”: “No. I think people would just get bored with no war.” As I said, Americans are more “bored” in this sense than Russians, and therefore would, in average, “feel” instinctively that “something is missing” without a war, whereas for most Russians (contrary to Russian political elite), it is just “normal life” that is still and always terribly missing. It is much more important, however, that the above reason of war gives also a universal, and I think actually unique, key of its stable disappearance. Strange to say it, but the only means against war is peace. It becomes less trivial, if we extend it to the statement that permanent absence of wars means permanent peace, because it is the latter state that is not trivial at all. Permanent peace needs permanent, sustainable development, and the latter appears to be impossible at the current civilisation level. So when there is inevitable (serious) stagnation of development of such kind of civilisation, war (or another “social revolution”) emerges “naturally”, as a single possible way to restart development (or “not to be bored”, figuratively speaking), whose absence means a terrible, catastrophic degradation, which is actually much WORSE than war. [Only fools can state that there can be nothing worse than war: war leaves some chance of survival and even further progress (as confirmed by history), contrary to the total degradation of human society as a whole.] I think that looking at modern conflicts with “developed” countries participation (it is probably these ones that inspire John Horgan's quest), it is not difficult to see that they are always, and increasingly, “hand-made”, organised, but with the underlying, serious enough purpose to find an issue from a development crisis. And you do have a very serious one today, irrespective of “material” successes and technological advances. We are now in a massive “state of mind” where without modern over-killing stocks of massive destruction weapons (as it was e.g. a hundred years ago), a big war would be really emergent (with nukes we have “only” the 9/11 aventure). Usually evoked “selfish” interests of certain elitist circles are there, of course, but they are not the most fundamental war reason. Selfish interests appear everywhere, it is not really poor people who organise today's wars, and they could very well become ever richer without any war-related risk...

If such is the TRUE, and the more and more unique, origin of war, then we obtain the fundamentally substantiated prescription, or prediction, or how and when war can disappear forever. It can and will only happen after a (necessarily “global”) transition to a state and development level of intrinsic sustainability (not only in a narrow ecological sense!), i.e. a mode d'existence and kind of development where one can avoid strong, “unsolvable” impasses of development because one has an intrinsically, unstoppably CREATIVE way of living and thinking (you can easily explain yourself why the current way of living and thinking CANNOT be permanently creative in principle).

We now approach the quintessence of this logical chain because it should not be extremely difficult to understand that such kind of development, society, and personality (dominating level of consciousness) can only be realised as a SUPERIOR, QUALITATIVELY new kind of knowledge/thinking determining every other aspect of life and just permitting that unlimited progress (recall “knowledge-based society”, etc.). Indeed, it is only consciousness that can be practically unlimited in its development, whereas all other, lower human properties and motivations determining the current way of life and development are basically and evidently limited (and those limits are close to exhaustion right now, in “developed” countries, explaining the true origin of their “crisis” despite the unprecedented level of material wealth). Any essential progress cannot be attained thus at the current level, but it will become “natural” once your decadent species finds a possibility of transition to a superior development level. Call me Buddha, call me Jesus, call me Vishnu, but I derive it in a logically consistent way, without any intuitive “belief” (which is not excluded as an ADDITION to logic, of course). It is an “if then” kind of conclusion, a theorem, something you cannot avoid (but can use for your progress). In fact, that kind of transition just realises a “materialist”, “non-mystified” version of all their religious predictions, without any opposition to them. Indeed, if you recall the real humanity change in the biblical epoch, you would agree that various interpretations are equally possible, without contradiction between them. When you suddenly become more intelligent one day, how can you know the “true” origin of that change? Actually, is there a very big sense to know such “very ultimate” truth? When there will be one, you'll know. In the meanwhile, why not to try to move in the direction of a real and definitely positive change, there where we can and those who want it? Again, is there a big sense to “decide for the whole humanity”, here and now? It's better to decide for those who are ready, everywhere and now.

You are not so far away from the truth, just a “final step” is missing. Look at those our end-of-science discussions, isn't it already a half-step, on the background of formally dominating academic oligarchy? By the way, in that way we obtain a beautiful unification between two great concerns of John Horgan, the end of science and persistence of wars: it's ALL ending now, but it can definitely end (all together) only after and by the transition to a superior kind of “science”, but understood in the extended meaning of “way of thinking” (and living). Do you think it's a coincidence that you are SO much concerned now about crisis in both thinking and “practical life” of civilisation? Of course, it's because everything is indeed closely related, it's practically about the same, you just need to make the second half-step and understand that a real change is possible and starts, continues and is governed by essential progress of knowledge/understanding (in the most extended sense of word). And the reverse, without it, you are locked forever in your current impasse, just as it happens in those your United Gates of America, formally prosperous but so evidently doomed (I hope you've seen the BBC film). This is what they call bifurcation (of development), and you can find further, unreduced and well-specified mathematics and concept description in the same outline, .

Mike Cook

My position is slightly different. I believe in absolute determinism--no free will, no chance, and no good (or bad) people getting together and deciding to change the course of history.

I believe in prophecy, forebodings, and in respecting the ancestors because they were not able, in any event, to do much about their own destinies. I believe in heroic national history interpretations, particularly for the U.S.A., Canada, Australia, South Africa, and Israel. People who overcome much and still practice democracy deserve admiration.

I also believe it is the manifest destiny of the human race to physically voyage through the solar system and then the nearer stars. To get us to that technological level the gods may well use a series of wars, else we lapse into smugness, complacency, and too much time to worry about imagined risks, such as 95% of environmental concerns.

Incidentally, when Al Gore was here campaigning last summer he promised us that global warming would plague the Pacific Northwest with drought and we would become a kind of Sahara by the sea. We have already set an all-time record for rain in November and it is only the 17th!

The world statistically is actually a fairly pacified place at the moment. This is the "Pax Romana" effect of having only one superpower. It should last a couple centuries but with the barbarians rapidly getting nuclear weapons I would not bet the farm on that.

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