Has Science Found a Way to End All Wars?

John Horgan in Discover:

Iraq2Frans de Waal stands in a watchtower at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center north of Atlanta, talking about war. As three hulking male chimpanzees and a dozen females loll below him, the renowned primatologist rejects the idea that war stems from “some sort of blind aggressive drive.” Observations of lethal fighting among chimpanzees, our close genetic relatives, have persuaded many people that war has deep biological roots. But de Waal says that primates, and especially humans, are “very calculating” and will abandon aggressive strategies that no longer serve their interests. “War is evitable,” de Waal says, “if conditions are such that the costs of making war are higher than the benefits.”

War evitable? That is a minority opinion in these troubled times. For several years I’ve been probing people’s views about war. Almost everyone, regardless of profession, political persuasion, or age, gives me the same answer: War will never end. I asked 205 students at the college where I teach, “Will humans ever stop fighting wars, once and for all?” More than 90 percent said no. This pessimism seems to be on the rise; in the mid-1980s, only one in three students at Wesleyan University agreed that “wars are inevitable because human beings are naturally aggressive.”

More here.