Skip to main content

Full text of "Man In The Modern World"

See other formats

TT 7HENEVER we tend to become completely absorbed in an
VV enterprise or an idea, it is a good thing to stand off from it
now and again and look at it from the most dispassionate point of
view possible. War is no exception. Quite rightly, all our major
efforts must to-day be devoted to the urgent business of making sure
that we win the war and win it as quickly as possible. We are for
most purposes immersed in the war; however, it will not merely do
no harm, but will actually be of service, if now and again we try to get
outside it and to look at it as objectively as we can in long perspective.
The longest possible perspective is that of the biologist, to whom
man is a single animal species among hundreds of thousands of others,
merely one of the products (albeit the latest and the most successful)
of millions of years of evolution.
How does war look when pinned out in the biologist's collection?
In the first place, he is able to say with assurance that war is not a
general law of life, but an exceedingly rare biological phenomenon.
War is not the same thing as conflict or bloodshed. It means some-
thing quite definite:an organized physical conflict between groups
of one and the same species. Individual disputes between members
of the same species are not war, even if they involve bloodshed and
death. Two stags fighting for a harem of hinds, or a man murdering
another man, or a dozen dogs fighting over a bone, are not engaged
in war. Competition between two different species, even if it in-
volves physical conflict, is not war. When the brown rat was acci-
dentally brought to Europe and proceeded to oust the black rat
from most of its haunts, that was not war between the two species
of rat; nor is it war in any but a purely metaphorical sense when
we speak of making war on the malaria mosquito or the boll-weevil.
Still less is it war when one species preys upon another, even when
the preying is done by an organized group. A pack of wolves attack-
ing a flock of sheep or deer, or a peregrine killing a duck, is not
war* Much of nature, as Tennyson correctly said, is " red in tooth
and claw"; but this only means what it says, that there is a great
deal of killing in the animal world, not that war is the rule of life.
In point of fact, there are only two kinds of animals that habitually
make warman and ants. Even among ants war is mainly prac-
tised by one group, comprising only a few species among the tens
of thousands that are known to science. They are the harvester ants,