An environmental shift from an Earth where humans had plenty of room to disperse to new places with fresh resources rather than fight is a new reality for humanity. This shift to a crowded “full world” is an ecological reality that arguably challenges us to adapt, or die. Meaning, to continue our forms of governing and social behavior as these have been in the past may ultimately cause our extinction from potential known and unknown phenomena (nuclear or biological or chemical warfare, a global pandemic, rampant environmental destruction that causes a collapse of civilization, or from the as yet unknown and unanticipated).
If you pick up and begin to read this book it’s possible you'll feel a disturbing, urgent sense of an existential need for humanity to forge a more just, secure, and peaceful human destiny—that we’re living our lives in a context that begs for radical change.
Many millions of us are asking ourselves and our leaders, “Is there a way to ensure that we don’t cause the collapse of civilization? Can we build a “better” future? Are tragic cycles of war, destruction, and carnage inescapable? Must we continue to ravage the environment and endure violence in our homes and communities?”
We can seek to find answers to such questions from many different viewpoints: historical, religious, political, sociological, psychological, and philosophical. In War and Sex and Human DestinyI provide a perspective on these deeply felt concerns that emerges from my background. It’s an approach generally unfamiliar to most people: biology—with a supporting role for studies from anthropology.
What follows is written for anyone who thinks and cares about humanity’s future. But especially it is written for those of you who are deeply concerned about what the future holds for your children and grandchildren.
By academic training I study how Earth’s organisms evolved by natural selection (and chance) over many millennia to become what we observe today. I’m an evolutionary biologist. As an undergraduate I had taken all the basic requirements for an anthropology major; I’ve always been fascinated by human behavior. But in my junior year the single anthropology professor left on sabbatical, so I switched my major to the field in which I had already taken many classes—biology. I left for graduate school having taken all the basics: Evolutionary Theory, Ecology, Embryology, Genetics, and Anatomy.
It now seems like a very long time ago that I began graduate studies in biology in the zoology department at UCLA. I was a Masters student in “whole animal general physiology.” Those were the days before processes of specialization chopped biology fields into a plethora of compartments. Masters students in general physiology took required classes in many subjects: viz. statistics (hated it), cell physiology, neurophysiology, genetics as applied to physiology, and the chemistry and anatomy of basic body organs from the cellular to the whole body level.
When I returned some ten years later to seek a Ph.D. in Animal Behavior (a happy marriage and ten years of teaching high school biology intervened), I specialized in communication, conflict resolution, and gender differences. I focused primarily on birds and primates…including that most amazing primate, Homo sapiens.
Two papers I wrote at that time are pointedly relevant to writing War and Sex and Human Destiny. (Hand 1985, 1986) Both addressed the issue of social conflicts and how they’re resolved, often by one individual or one group dominating another individual or group. But I discovered that sometimes animals’ conflicts can be resolved using behaviors we call egalitarian. These papers were based on fieldwork I did on seabirds called gulls; I set up camps on several Pacific islands, and also worked a year in Washington, D.C. at the U.S. National Zoo as a Smithsonian Post-doctoral Fellow. Despite the fact that the male is always bigger than the female, mated gulls of the species I observed used egalitarian behaviors to accommodate their differences during times of conflict.
Once again life intervened. Prevented from securing a tenure-track university professorship (the reasons why aren’t relevant here), I switched to my second career choice, writing fiction. I published several novels, always featuring a strong woman as the central character, partnered with a strong man. In one of these stories, Voice of the Goddess, I used my background in biology and anthropology to portray a nonviolent, women-centered and goddess-worshipping island culture. This was inspired by the Minoan culture of Bronze Age Crete. My heroine was their High Priestess. (Hand 2001) Her romantic interest was a warrior from a mainland, patriarchal, warring culture inspired by what we know about Mycenaean culture.
To promote the story I gave a talk entitled “If women ran the world, how might things be different?” The point of the talk was to point out why, because of natural selection, our two sexes, as groups, do not have the same reproductive priorities or responses when it comes to conflicts. As a consequence, our two sexes also do not respond the same to prospects of and the realities of war. If women did, indeed, run the world, I explained, there would be no war. If our dominant societies were matriarchies (all-female governing) rather than patriarchies (all-male governing) the world would reflect female preferences for conflict resolution…and as we will see, those preferences are strongly predisposed to avoid physical violence of all kinds, including war. (BTW: historically we’ve never had even one culture that was a matriarchy).
A friend who is a gifted book editor said if I would turn the talk into something book length she would drop everything to edit it….because she had never heard anything like what I was saying. I was making the case, from biology, that if we wanted it badly enough to make appropriate social changes, we could eliminate war. She thought that I had a strong case for a worthy cause, and I hope to convince you, as a reader, to agree with her.
So by a circuitous route, War and Sex and Human Destiny is an outgrowth of a talk to promote a novel. Waging wars is obviously contrary to creating a peaceful future. Logically, to create a “better,” peaceful future, a way to end war for any reason must be found. Moreover, in the process of rejecting the use of physical violence to resolve major conflicts between states, religions, and political groups, an added benefit could be that we simultaneously foster a movement to embrace nonviolence in our homes and communities as well. Even the process of making a concerted effort to end war, let alone actually ending war itself, could very likely have salutary effects on many aspects of human social life.
As we proceed, we’ll explore how and why two radical social changes, guided by both biological and political/social realities, would substantially advance the creation of a warless future. A blog and YouTube video, “Ending War is Achievable. Five Reasons Why” explores why this time in history uniquely offers the opportunity to do so. (Hand 2016) The first radical change would be to craft a global “peace system” that works. In 2012, in an article entitled “Life Without War,” anthropologist Douglas Fry highlighted characteristics shared by alliances of people who created peace systems that ended war within their alliance. (Fry 2012; this link has the article, but you need to scroll down to reach it) Examples Fry used included the United States, a peace union of many separate states, the European Union, a peace union of many diverse countries, and six tribes that lived in a river basin in Brazil. Thus, at least under some conditions an end to war has been achieved. It is a realistic, not just Utopian, human possibility.
A consideration of the formation of the European Union provides an encouraging timeline for how long assembling a working peace system might take…and it’s not hundreds of years as many people posit, often as a reason, or excuse, to think that there is no point even thinking about making the effort. The EU was founded after the disaster of WWII with the explicit goals of ending the barbarity and destruction of the wars that had plagued those nations for centuries. Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister, believed there could be a kind of United States of Europe. Many other influential men shared this vision, notably among them Robert Schuman, Konrad Adenauer, Jean Monnet, and Alcide de Garperi. The union was founded on many treaties, beginning in the 1950’s and continuing until today.
This process of ending war was accomplished in much less than two generations and has maintained the peace for seventy some years. An interesting, and positive, phenomena that happens when you set up a peace system is that, while it may be challenging to maintain it at first, if it is maintained long enough it can become almost self-sustaining. For example, it is now difficult to imagine France invading England, or the United States invading Canada.
A brief description of the six traits Fry found to be shared by such peace systems is in the Appendix. His work is especially significant and positively reinforcing because it makes clear that active peace systems are not theoretical or Utopian fantasy. They exist now and have existed in the past when people have the will to set them up and maintain them.
When thinking globally, however, about the prospect of ending war, we find that extreme difficulties are experienced daily in our current attempts to do so. The United Nations, like its predecessor the League of Nations, fails to succeed. Not entirely for lack of desire, but primarily because of inability to agree on mechanisms sufficiently robust to enforce the peace. (Müller 2016, Weiss 2016) These failures certainly provide a basis for anyone’s legitimate skepticism.
But there are also significant victories to celebrate. Historian and peace activist Kent Shifferd describes impressive progress the global community has nevertheless made, despite the admittedly daunting barriers, toward a global peace; we would not be starting a movement for a war-free future from ground zero. (Shifferd 2011, 2012)
The second radical, necessary social change, a principle subject of this book, would be to embrace what is often called “parity governing,” or koinoniarchy, from the Greek word koinonia, meaning to share. This refers to the condition wherein men and women share, as partners, in making decisions about how to run our lives: in communities, nations, and international relationships. Note that the United Nations does not operate by parity governing; it’s a patriarchy, meaning that ambassadors and members of the Security Council are overwhelmingly men (all-male governing). (UN News Center 2016). This, de facto, means that decisions made there and the means of making those decisions reflect male proclivities and preferences. The material that will be explored in the section to follow on Sex can inform speculation about how the working of the UN might change if the sex ratio of its decision-makers was more gender balanced. But before we look at how sex and human biology relates to the need for parity governing when it comes to ending war, we must first take up the issue of war itself.
Fry, D. (2012). Life without war. Science, 336, 879-884. Hand, J. (1985) Egalitarian resolution of social conflicts: a study of pair-bonded gulls in nest duty and feeding contexts, Z. Tierpsychologie, 70, 123-147. Hand, J. (1986) Resolution of social conflicts: dominance, egalitarianism, spheres of dominance, and game theory, Quarterly Review of Biology, 61 (2), 201-220. Hand, J. (2001) Voice of the Goddess, Cardiff, Ca, Pacific Rim Press. Hand, J. (2016) Ending war is achievable. Five reasons why. https://wordpress.com/post/afww.wordpress.com/1356 (accessed 12 February 2018). Müller, J. (2 June 2016) Reforming the United Nations: a Chronology, Leiden, Netherlands, Brill Nijhoff. Weiss, T. G. (2016) What’s Wrong with the United Nations and How to Fix It, 3rd Edition, Cambridge, UK, Wiley. Shifferd, K. (2011) From War to Peace: A Guide to the Next Hundred Years. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company. Shifferd, K. (2012) Evolution of a global peace system. Available on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=f1HMRAZNQd8. (accessed 29 May 2017). UN News Centre. (2016) Feature: A conversation with female ambassadors about the UN Security Council. http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53474#.WhmvY7aZOCc (accessed 25 November 2017).