SOURCE: Science & Spirit

March 02, 2005 12:08 ET

Are We Doomed to Violence?

Science & Spirit Looks at the Roots of Conflict and Prospects for Peace

QUINCY, MA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- March 2, 2005 -- In the last century, approximately 100 million men, women, and children worldwide died from war-related causes, including disease and famine; had our rates of violence been as high in the 1900s as they were in the average primitive society, the total would have been 2 billion. Humanity as a whole is much less violent than it used to be, renowned science journalist John Horgan writes in the March-April issue of Science & Spirit, and we have civilized society to thank.

The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) -- a 1984 congressional creation with a single guiding mandate: nonviolent conflict resolution -- is a product of civilized society. And after the USIP received a twenty-five percent boost in funding this year, many people are optimistic that it will help nations take gradual steps toward permanent disarmament. Horgan suggests that spending one-tenth of one percent of the Department of Defense's budget -- $500 million -- would go a long way toward solving the problem of war.

Along with the search for a lasting resolution to war, some researchers are trying to better understand the roots of violence. "Terror Management Theory" (TMT) holds that terrorism can be traced to the "ever-present specter of death." According to the three social psychologists who developed TMT, reminders of mortality lay the foundation for physical aggression toward people who hold opposing cultural worldviews or belief systems, so "hatred toward those who are different from oneself is rooted, at least in part, in basic fears that are inherent in the human condition."

Also in the March-April issue of Science & Spirit:

--  Pulitzer Prize winner Edward J. Larson takes a retrospective glance at
    Charles Darwin's theory of evolution -- and at the reluctance throughout
    Victorian England to believe that the highly developed minds, morals, and
    emotions of humans follow those of beasts.
--  Engineers Without Borders USA: a Colorado-based non-profit helps
    change lives in the developing world.
--  Can we live forever?  The founders of the Methuselah Mouse Prize, a
    cash award given to the producer of the longest-lived mouse known to man,
    think so.
--  Duke University sociologist Linda George discusses life and longevity.
    
For additional information about the articles featured in Science & Spirit, please contact Laura Mackin, tel: 617-847-5801; email: mackin@science-spirit.org.

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