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Full text of "Man In The Modern World"

WAR AS A BIOLOGICAL PHENOMENON

be enslaved and brutalized, as with Poland or Greece to-day, whole
cities smashed, like Rotterdam, the respurces of large regions de-
liberately destroyed, as in the Ukraine. The more total war becomes,
both intensively, as diverting more of the energies of the population
from construction to destruction, and extensively, as involving more
and more of the countries of the globe, the more of a threat does it
become to the progress of the human species. As H. G. Wells and
many others have urged, it might even turn back the clock of civiliza-
tion and force the world into another Dark Age. War of this type
is an intra-specific struggle from which nobody, neither humanity at
large nor any of the groups engaged in the conflict, can really reap
any balance of advantage, though of course we may snatch particular
advantages out of the results of war.

But it is one thing to demonstrate that modern war is harmful to
the species, another thing to do something about abolishing it. What
has the biologist to say to those who assert that war is inevitable, since,
they say, it is a natural outcome of human nature and human nature
cannot possibly be changed?
To this the biologist can give a reassuring answer. "War is not an
inevitable phenomenon of human life; and when objectors of this
type talk of human nature they really mean the expression of human
nature, and this can be most thoroughly changed.
As a matter of observable fact, war occurs in certain conditions and
not in others. There is no evidence of prehistoric man's having made
war, for all his flint implements seem to have been designed for hunt-
ing, for digging, or for scraping hides; and we can be pretty sure that
even if he did, any wars between groups in the hunting stage of human
life would have been both rare and mild. Organized warfare is most
unlikely to have begun before the stage of settled civilization. In
man, as in ants, war in any serious sense is bound up with the exist-
ence of accumulations of property to fight about.
However, even after man had learned to live in cities and amass
property, war does not seem to have been inevitable. The early Indus
civilization, dating from about 3000 B.C., reveals no traces of war.
There seem to have been periods in early Chinese history, as well as
in the Inca civilization in Peru, in which war was quite or almost
absent.
As for human nature, it contains no specific war instinct, as does the
nature of harvester ants. There is in man's make-up a general aggres-
sive tendency, but this, like all other human urges, is not a specific