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Science of Peace and Seville Statement on Violence

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  • Mike Abkin
    In 1986, a group of scientists met in Seville, Spain, and issued a statement refuting assertions by others that scientific knowledge shows humans to be
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 22, 2006
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      In 1986, a group of scientists met in Seville, Spain, and issued a statement
      refuting assertions by others that scientific knowledge shows humans to be
      inevitably violent and warlike -- an argument we in the Department of Peace
      campaign are often confronted with.

      This is a very important statement, the first I've heard of it though
      apparently disseminated by UNESCO and the peace education community. Thanks
      to Michael Nagler for sharing it yesterday at the Science of Peace
      Colloquium hosted by the Institute of Noetic Sciences.

      The Seville Statement is reproduced below and can be found, with related
      links, at:

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      At the Science of Peace colloquium yesterday, IONS brought together
      scientists from many disciplines (nuclear physics, social psychology,
      neuroscience, cellular biology, clinical psychology, and consciousness
      studies) to explore what science can say about peace. The meeting opened
      with a 10-minute preview of a documentary in production called "The Science
      of Peace" and the day's sessions were filmed for material to use in that

      There was so much inspiration and insight that emerged during the day that I
      couldn't begin to relate all of it -- may have to wait for the movie. A
      couple of nuggets I came away with were (all evident in scientific

      * Love matters and can be studied scientifically.

      * The world is one, and we are not just in communication with one another
      and nature but indeed in communion with all.

      * Yes, we are hardwired for violence. We are also hardwired for peace. And
      we are also hardwired to be able to choose.

      * All organisms, even bacteria, live in community with one another and with
      all of nature. It is only the human species that says we are separate.

      * It's the wave in the underlying information field that matters more than
      matter and energy. Inner peace is not a calm, static pond but rather the
      agility to surf with the wave.

      * Competition, in the Darwinian sense, actually means working together for
      the whole to survive, in a positive-sum game. It's true -- I just looked in
      the dictionary and found that the origin of the word "compete" means "to
      strive together" -- not against, but together.

      And much, much more. We'll have to wait for the movie!


      Seville Statement on Violence, Spain, 1986

      Believing that it is our responsibility to address from our particular
      disciplines the most dangerous and destructive activities of our species,
      violence and war; recognizing that science is a human cultural product which
      cannot be definitive or all-encompassing; and gratefully acknowledging the
      support of the authorities of Seville and representatives of the Spanish

      we, the undersigned scholars from around the world and from relevant
      sciences, have met and arrived at the following Statement on Violence. In
      it, we challenge a number of alleged biological findings that have been
      used, even by some in our disciplines, to justify violence and war. Because
      the alleged findings have contributed to an atmosphere of pessimism in our
      time, we submit thatthe open, considered rejection of these mis-statements
      can contribute significantly to the International Year of Peace.

      Misuse of scientific theories and data to justify violence and war is not
      new but has been made since the advent of modern science.For example, the
      theory of evolution has been used to justify not only war, but also
      genocide, colonialism, and suppression of the weak.

      We state our position in the form of five propositions. We are aware that
      there are many other issues about violence and war that could be fruitfully
      addressed from the standpoint of our disciplines, but we restrict ourselves
      here to what we consider a most important first step.

      IT IS SCIENTIFICALLY INCORRECT to say that we have inherited a tendency to
      make war from our animal ancestors. Although fighting occurs widely
      throughout animal species, only a few cases of destructive intra-species
      fighting between organized groups have ever been reported among naturally
      living species, and none of these involve the use of tools designed to be
      weapons. Normal predatory feeding upon other species cannot be equated with
      intra-species violence. Warfare is a peculiarly human phenomenon and does
      not occur in other animals.

      The fact that warfare has changed so radically overtime indicates that it is
      a product of culture. Its biological connection is primarily through
      language which makes possible the co-ordination of groups, the transmission
      of technology, and the use of tools. War is biologically possible, but it is
      not inevitable, as evidenced by its variation in occurrence and nature over
      time and space. There are cultures which have not engaged in war for
      centuries, and there are cultures which have engaged in war frequently at
      some times and not at others.

      IT IS SCIENTIFICALLY INCORRECT to say that war or any other violent
      behaviour is genetically programmed into our human nature. While genes are
      involved at all levels of nervous system function, they provide a
      developmental potential that can be actualized only in conjunction with the
      ecological and social environment. While individuals vary in their
      predispositions to be affected by their experience, it is the interaction
      between their genetic endowment and conditions of nurturance that determines
      their personalities. Except for rare pathologies, the genes do not produce
      individuals necessarily predisposed to violence. Neither do they determine
      the opposite. While genes are co-involved in establishing our behavioural
      capacities, they do not by themselves specify the outcome.

      IT IS SCIENTIFICALLY INCORRECT to say that in the course of human evolution
      there has been a selection for aggressive behaviour more than for other
      kinds of behaviour. In all well-studied species, status within the group is
      achieved by the ability to co-operate and to fulfil social functions
      relevant to the structure of that group. 'Dominance' involves social
      bindings and affiliations; it is not simply a matter of the possession and
      use of superior physical power, although it does involve aggressive
      behaviours. Where genetic selection for aggressive behaviour has been
      artificially instituted in animals, it has rapidly succeeded in producing
      hyper-aggressive individuals; this indicates that aggression was not
      maximally selected under naturalconditions. When such experimentally-created
      hyper-aggressive animals are present in a social group, they either disrupt
      its social structure or are driven out. Violence is neither in our
      evolutionary legacy nor in our genes.

      IT IS SCIENTIFICALLY INCORRECT to say that humans have a 'violent brain'.
      While we do have the neural apparatus to act violently, it is not
      automatically activated by internal or external stimuli. Like higher
      primates and unlike other animals, our higher neural processes filter such
      stimuli before they can be acted upon. How we act is shaped by how we have
      been conditioned and socialized. There is nothing in our neurophysiology
      that compels us to react violently.

      IT IS SCIENTIFICALLY INCORRECT to say that war is caused by 'instinct' or
      any single motivation. The emergence of modern warfare has been a journey
      from the primacy of emotional and motivational factors, sometimes called
      'instincts', to the primacy of cognitive factors. Modern war involves
      institutional use of personal characteristics such as obedience,
      suggestibility, and idealism, social skills such as language, and rational
      considerations such as cost-calculation, planning, and information
      processing. The technology of modern war has exaggerated traits associated
      with violence both in the training of actual combatants and in the
      preparation of support for war in the general population. As a result of
      this exaggeration, such traits are often mistaken to be the causes rather
      than the consequences of the process.

      We conclude that biology does not condemn humanity to war, and that humanity
      can be freed from the bondage of biological pessimism and empowered with
      confidence to undertake the transformative tasks needed in this
      International Year of Peace and in the years to come. Although these tasks
      are mainly institutional and collective, they also rest upon the
      consciousness of individual participants for whom pessimism and optimism are
      crucial factors. Just as 'wars begin in the minds of men', peace also begins
      in our minds. The same species who invented war is capable of inventing
      peace. The responsibility lies with each of us.

      Seville, 16 May 1986

      David Adams, Psychology, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT., U.S.A.

      S.A. Barnett, Ethology, The AustralianNational University, Canberra,

      N.P. Bechtereva, Neurophysiology, Institute for Experimental Medicine of
      Academy of Medical Sciences of the U.S.S.R., Leningrad, U.S.S.R.

      Bonnie Frank Carter, Psychology, Albert Einstein Medical Center,
      Philadelphia (PA), U.S.A.

      José M. Rodriguez Delgado, Neurophysiology, Centro de Estudios
      Neurobiologicos, Madrid, Spain

      José Luis Diaz, Ethology, Instituto Mexicano de Psiquiatria, Mexico D.F.,

      Andrzej Eliasz, Individual Differences Psychology, Polish Academy of
      Sciences, Warsaw, Poland

      Santiago Genovés, Biological Anthropology, Instituto de Estudios
      Antropologicos, Mexico D.F., Mexico

      Benson E. Ginsburg, Behavior Genetics, University of Connecticut, Storrs,
      CT., U.S.A.

      Jo Groebel, Social Psychology, Erziehungswissenschaftliche Hochschule,
      Landau, Federal Republic of Germany

      Samir-Kumar Ghosh, Sociology, Indian Institute of Human Sciences, Calcutta,

      Robert Hinde, Animal Behaviour, Cambridge University, Cambridge, U.K.

      Richard E. Leakey, Physical Anthropology, National Museums of Kenya,
      Nairobi, Kenya

      Taha H. Malasi, Psychiatry, Kuwait University, Kuwait

      J. Martin Ramirez, Psychobiology, Universidad de Sevilla, Spain

      Federico Mayor Zaragoza, Biochemistry, Universidad Autonoma, Madrid, Spain

      Diana L. Mendoza, Ethology, Universidad de Sevilla, Spain

      Ashis Nandy, Political Psychology, Centre for the Study of Developing
      Societies, Delhi, India

      John Paul Scott, Animal Behavior, Bowling Green State University, Bowling
      Green, OH., U.S.A.

      Riitta Wahlstrom, Psychology, University of Jyväskylä, Finland

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