A Marshall Plan for our DNA

Posted: Nov 14, 2003 12:00 AM

"Is War Our Biological Destiny?" That is the question posed in a recent New York Times article by Natalie Angier.

"In these days of hidebound militarism and round-robin carnage . . . it's fair to ask: Is humanity doomed? Are we born for the battlefield -- congenitally, hormonally incapable of putting war behind us? Is there no alternative to the bullet-riddled trapdoor, short of mass sedation or a Marshall Plan for our DNA?

After all, says Angier, our biological ancestors were also prone to war. I know, it probably shocks you that this person implies we evolved from apes and were not brought into being by a Divine Creator. She wrote, "Nor are humans the only great apes to indulge in the elixir." "Common chimpanzees," she says, engage in war and share 98 percent of their genes with humans. The other two percent they share with liberals.
Just kidding . . .

Not to worry! There are researchers studying "warfare, aggression and the evolutionary roots of conflict," who believe our inclination toward war is "by no means innate." These researchers believe that you don't need to be a Pollyanna to conceive of a future "in which war is rare and universally condemned."

And upon what do these enlightened researchers base their conclusions? Well, they have the results of "game theory experiments." It appears that human subjects, "in laboratories around the world," respond by compromising when faced with a risk of everyone losing. Instead of adopting a "cheating strategy" where there is a risk of everyone losing, they cooperate and earn a "smaller but more reliable reward." These "cooperative networks" rapidly reach a point of "fixation."

For those of us unschooled in psychobabble, I think this means that once the participants experience the benefits of cooperation, the process becomes "fixed" or relatively permanent. But that's just a guess.

What can we extrapolate from these findings? That "it's easy to get cooperation to evolve to fixation, for it to be the successful strategy." And what's more, according to these geniuses, "There is no such quantifiable evidence or theoretical underpinning in favor of Man the Warrior."

Oh? How about thousands of years of recorded history, for starters? Or does our actual human experience not compare to these controlled laboratory experiments? In other words, if the neighborhood bully has harassed your kid every day for the last year, you should disregard that as an illusion if some erudite group of professors conducts an experiment showing that bullies are prone to cooperation that eventually evolves to fixation. Yes, and I'm sure the professors will tell us that terrorists are interested in negotiation and cooperation as well -- as opposed to a fixation on WMD.

What a relief to discover, as postmodernists have understood for years, that reality is a social construct! If the bully is fixating on depositing speed bumps on your son's face, you can console yourself with the laboratory results.

The scary thing about this humanistic thought process is that these people actually believe humans can be remolded like laboratory animals into completely peaceful behavior. This delusional idealism is nothing new. Massachusetts legislator Horace Mann, prominent in the 1830s, was instrumental in an education reform movement that eventually led to centralized control of education in this country. He believed that through social transformation in the public schools, "nine-tenths of the crimes in the penal code would become obsolete."

Those peddling the notion that war can be made obsolete have a political agenda as well. That shoe drops in the last paragraph of the Times article, in which Angier quotes Dr. Frans de Waal, a primatologist and professor of psychology (a horrifying combination in my view) at Emory University. De Waal and others, says Angier, believe "the way to foment peace is to encourage interdependency among nations." 

I'm far from an isolationist or protectionist, considering myself a free trader. But there is a dangerous trend in this country to forfeit our sovereignty, from the Supreme Court relying on foreign law, to pressure to join the International Criminal Court, to the drive to cede our authority over environmental decisions to international bodies hostile to America, capitalism and Western Civilization.

These humanistic types just don't seem to understand that sin is part of human nature and wars are not the result of genetics, but of our spiritual condition. If the way to war is through international cooperation to the point of "fixation" on one world government, count me out. This government would probably resort to "mass sedation or a Marshall Plan for our DNA." There are certain things worse than peace.