Are we hard-wired for war?

“There is a story, believed to be of Cherokee origin, in which a girl is troubled by a recurring dream in which two wolves fight viciously. Seeking an explanation, she goes to her grandfather, highly regarded for his wisdom, who explains that there are two forces within each of us, struggling for supremacy, one embodying peace and the other, war. At this, the girl is even more distressed, and asks her grandfather who wins. His answer: “The one you feed.””

Another opinion piece from the New York Times I (also) read in the train to the airport bound for Warwick is about the Hume-an human (supposed) predisposition for war, hence the title “are we hard wired for war?” This question reminded me of my daughter’s philosophy dissertation of last week as war may appear as the ultimate example of the “nature vs culture” debate, wars resulting from societal pressures… until one thinks of the constant fighting in most animal societies, where from ants to chimpanzees, groups within the same species are fighting for supremacy. The paper in itself is rather inconclusive, with good feelings and little folk tales like the above replacing scientific evidence and deeper philosophical arguments (also missing from this post!)

Something I just noticed when looking at both authors (of this tribune and the previous one on traditional Chinese medicine) is that they both mix a Buddhist approach with scientific arguments, Asma with his book Why I am a Buddhist, and Barash with his book Buddhist Biology: Ancient Eastern Wisdom Meets Modern Western Science. It is thus no wonder they entertain the idea of an absence of boundaries between science and religion.

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