The Myth that War is Intrinsic to Human Nature Discourages Action for Peace by Young People
IV. Discussion Page 4

Title Page

I. Introduction
Page 1

II. Methods
Page 2

III. Results
Page 3

IV. Discussion
Page 4

V. Acknow-
ledgements and References

Page 5

Table I. Factors in Peace Activity
Pages 6

Table II. Activity Survey
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Table III. Correlations
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Table IV. Partialed Correlations
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Table V. Three Studies
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Table VI. The Structure of Peace Activity
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These results support the need for a worldwide educational campaign to dispel the myth that war is instinctive, intrinsic to human nature, or unavoidable because of an alleged biological basis. As shown by the results obtained here, such a myth is widespread and constitutes an important obstacle that interferes with the development of activity for peace

The myth that war is intrinsic to human nature is apparently widespread and pervasive. This is indicated by not only our own results, but by the similarity of our results to those originally reported from students in Finland (Wahlstrom, 1985). Future research should be conducted to determine the causal factors that lead to the acceptance of this myth by young people. Such a myth is not supported by most qualified scholars and scientists, who instead agree that there is nothing in our understanding of biology that would support the idea of a "war instinct" or any "biological inevitability" of warfare.

Our data suggest that educational institutions may be partly responsible for the development of the myth that war is intrinsic to human nature. This is suggested by the negative correlation obtained between school norms about peace activity and a student's beliefs about human nature. Apparent1y the students are receiving a contradictory message from the prestigious liberal arts colleges. On the one hand these colleges tend to support peace activity more than community colleges. On the other hand, the students in these colleges are more likely to believe in the myth that war is intrinsic to human nature than students in community colleges. This may reflect the fact that psychology courses and textbooks in the universities tend to emphasize biological factors in personality, intelligence, race and sex differences, and sociology and even history courses and textbooks give increasing attention in recent years to so-called psychobiological" explanations of human social phenomena.

Other possible contributions to the development of the myth that war is intrinsic to human nature need to be examined: for example, the emphasis upon biological determinism in the mass media, and the emphasis upon funding for biological rather than social science research (Adams, 1981).

Our results suggest in not one, but several different ways, that a student's beliefs about human nature and war are significant determining factors in the complex set of causal relationships of activity for peace. 1) This is indicated by the significant correlation between belief and peace activity, whether measured in terms of past activity or future activity. 2) The correlation of belief and activity cannot be explained completely by other intervening variables, since it remains significant after being partialed by other factors such as the subject's attitudes about peace activity, level of anger, and the attitudes of family, friends and school. 3) There is the direct testimony of those who are active, 29% of whom indicate that before they engaged in activity, they had been discouraged by a "pessimistic belief that humans are intrinsically violent and therefore wars are inevitable." As indicated in the results section, the validity of this testimony is supported by internal correlations with other data.

4) In addition to the direct relation of belief to activity. there is an indirect relation through the chain of correlations from belief to attitude to future activity. As suggested earlier, this may reflect a causal chain such that the belief that wars are not caused by intrinsic biological instincts allows for the development of an attitude that something can be done to prevent wars, which, in turn, facilitates the decision to take part in activity for peace. 5) The data obtained in the present study are consistent with similar results obtained in Finland and in a pilot study conducted a year previously in the United States. In all three studies, it was found that a student is more likely to believe that he or she can do something about nuclear war if he or she believes that war is not intrinsic to human nature.

The importance of anger in the motivation of peace activism, as shown in the results of this study, should also be emphasized in a peace education campaign. These findings contradict yet another aspect of the myth that war is intrinsic to human nature, in which it is said that individual human aggressiveness is the biological factor responsible for war. As has been pointed out elsewhere, there is no evidence that such individual aggression is necessary to the motivation of a warrior {Adams, 1983 and 1984; Lagerspetz, 1985). Now, we may say to the contrary, that individual aggression, in the form of anger against those responsible for war, is a positive motivational force in the world struggle to abolish war.

(End of Discussion)

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