Science of Peace and Seville Statement on Violence
- 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
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,
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,
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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