That John Horgan fellow — he’s always going on and on about the end of something or other. This time, it’s about the end of war. There’s a little bit of “duh” about it — modern science can end war, all it has to do is end scarcity, or as it says, “Given adequate food, fuel, and gender equality, mass conflict just might disappear” — but also a good question. Are people intrinsically warlike by nature, or will they favor peace if given the opportunity?
I’m inclined to agree that people would rather avoid war, and that ending resource scarcity (which I’m not convinced that science can do) would reduce the incidence of war, but I think the article ignores one central source of conflict: ideology. Baboons and bonobos don’t seem to have it, but we do, and it can trigger wars for that other resource, human minds. We want people on our side. The Thirty Years War, the American Civil War, the Cold War … were those fought because one side wanted the other side’s food or land or minerals? Or over the spread of ideas that weren’t satisfied by science?
I have a suspicion that if we had a world of peace and plenty, where everyone was brought up to abhor war, and in which there was no biological imperative for conflict, we’d still have people coming up with ideas they’d be willing to die for … and we’d conjure up new tribes out of the contented hordes and set them to battling with one another.