John Horgan examines how Americans seem to have a completely different attitude toward war than we did thirty years ago. He takes us on a stroll through Hoboken, asking strangers one of the great unanswerable questions: “Will humans ever stop fighting wars?” Strangely, everyone seems to know the answer. Robert Sapolsky brings us farther afield – to eastern Africa, where a population of baboons defies his expectations of violent behavior. Robert is surprised to feel hopeful for a gentler future, but then primatologist Richard Wrangham asserts that their aggressive nature is innate, unchanging, and hanging over them like a guillotine.
Fascinating, as this show always is.
I’m curious about the mostly unexplored reasons why we humans feel so differently about the inevitability of war than we did 30 years ago.
And Wrangham makes a good point about genetic inherence—I wouldn’t expect these baboons to be genetically more peaceful, but the environment seems to be prevailing in Sapolsky’s population. “Nature versus nurture?” As ever, the answer would seem to be “Both.”
Archaeologists studying the rise of farming have reconstructed a crucial stage at which we made the worst mistake in human history. Forced to choose between limiting population or trying to increase food production, we chose the latter and ended up with starvation, warfare, and tyranny.
Hunter-gatherers practiced the most successful and longest lasting lifestyle in human history. In contrast, we’re still struggling with the mess into which agriculture has tumbled us, and it’s unclear whether we can solve it. Suppose that an archaeologist who had visited us from outer space were trying to explain human history to his fellow spacelings. He might illustrate the results of his digs by a twenty-four hour clock on which one hour represents 100,000 years of real past time. If the history of the human race began at midnight, then we would now be almost at the end of our first day. We lived as hunter-gatherers for nearly the whole of that day, from midnight through dawn, noon, and sunset. Finally, at 11:54 p.m., we adopted agriculture. As our second midnight approaches, will the plight of famine-stricken peasants gradually spread to engulf us all? Or will we somehow achieve those seductive blessings that we imagine behind agriculture’s glittering facade and that have so far eluded us?
[In late August] we talked about a disturbing report by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. […]
Now, at the close of that conversation, we asked our listeners to tell us more about how these findings might be playing out in their own lives, and folks reached out to us with very revealing and emotional stories […]:
“I am 38 years old. My dad is 58 years old, and he has been a functioning alcoholic/drug addict my entire life, and listening to your segment made my eyes open really wide. It’s very difficult for the children, but you know, as you grow older you start to accept people for how they are and you find a way to accept them on terms that you can deal with.”
A pair of otherwise distinguished physicists have suggested that the hypothesized Higgs boson, which physicists hope to produce with the collider, might be so abhorrent to nature that its creation would ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make one, like a time traveler who goes back in time to kill his grandfather.