Has a Bogus Theory of War Kept Obama from Being a Peace President?

John Horgan writes for Scientific American:

Once again, Barack Obama, the world’s most powerful military leader, has propagated an erroneous claim about the origins of war.

Speaking in Hiroshima on May 27, the President says: “Artifacts tell us that violent conflict appeared with the very first man.” World War II, he adds, “grew out of the same base instinct for domination or conquest that had caused conflicts among the simplest tribes.” [Italics added.] When accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, the President made similar claims. “War,” he said, “in one form or another, appeared with the first man.”

Obama has embraced the popular idea that war—not just aggression, or interpersonal violence, but lethal group conflict–is deeply rooted in our evolution and nature. This thesis has been propagated by such prominent scientists as Jared Diamond, Richard Wrangham, Edward Wilson and, most notably, psychologist Steven Pinker.

As evidence, deep-rooters cite the group violence of chimpanzees, our genetic cousins, and of “primitive” tribal people such as the Yanomamo, hunters who dwell in the rain forests of Amazonia.

[…] The preponderance of evidence shows that war, far from being an ancient, innate behavior, was a cultural innovation—an “invention,” as anthropologist Margaret Mead put it–that emerged relatively recently in our prehistory, toward the end of the Paleolithic era.

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