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Sid Tafler

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Is war inevitable? Is it a natural state of human affairs or an aberration, absent from our distant past and perhaps, our future as well?

Human history is splattered with blood. 160 million people died in dozens of wars in the 20th century alone.
Although armed conflict still dominates the headlines, fewer people are fighting and dying in wars. Apparently, there were fewer war deaths in the last decade than any other in the last 100 years.
Go way back to prehistory, and you see little if any evidence of war. The living sites of Stone Age people are remarkably free of mass graves, fortified sites and depictions of war on cave art. Also missing are images of shields, which always rise as defensive weapons when people are attacked with spears. We can't say for sure there was no warfare 20,000 or 50,000 years ago, just that there is little or no sign that there was.
So can we abolish war, just as we seek to abolish slavery or smallpox? Or will we still keep fighting each other to settle our differences, with ever-more sophisticated weapons and techniques?

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  • Apr 10 2012: I'm reading Steven Pinker's 700 page book right now, and it's an incredible piece of work. His hypothesis that violence has declined dramatically is proven with countless lines of evidence, and every "kitchen table" truism about humans always being violent, wars will never end, etc, needs to be questioned and discarded.

    RH is completely right about war being choice. Pinker specifically contrast our defensive, aggressive nature with our "better angels" nature, and shows how a number of huge civilizational factors have steadily removed the need for us to choose the worse of our natures, and empower us to act form our better natures.

    The evidence is so compelling, I'd love it if his 700 pages could be condensed down to make it easy for everyone to understand the evidence.

    There's no "perhaps" that we are moving in the right direction - it's a trend that started 5,000 years go, when we started trading tribal life (where a third of all males die from an act of violence) for states and governance.

    (from wikipedia...) Peter Singer positively reviewed The Better Angels of Our Nature in The New York Times. Singer concludes: "[It] is a supremely important book. To have command of so much research, spread across so many different fields, is a masterly achievement. Pinker convincingly demonstrates that there has been a dramatic decline in violence, and he is persuasive about the causes of that decline."[6]
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      Apr 10 2012: Good points Guy. Perhaps in the future, historians will write
      that we had a few thousand aberrant years, with lots of war and killing,
      but many thousands of years before and after with very few wars.
      You can walk down the street or
      into a store in perhaps 99% of the villages, towns and neighbourhoods
      in the world and have nothing to fear.
      Some of us may be carnivores, most of us eat plants or animals, but I doubt it is in our
      nature to kill other humans. We are like wolves, efficient hunters and killers, but a wolf very rarely
      kills another wolf.

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