Tuesday, July 18, 2006

"Where War Lives: A Journey into Human Nature"

For those who live close enough to the University of New England, I'm sure the following lecture would be well worth attending.

David Livingstone Smith, Ph.D.
"Where War Lives: A Journey into Human Nature"
Nov 30, 2006, 6 p.m.
St. Francis Room, Ketchum Library, UNE, Biddeford, Maine
Free and open to the public

Description: "In this presentation I will explore the evolutionary and psychological roots of war and genocide, with a view towards identifying what it is about human nature that makes it possible for us to treat our fellow human beings with such extraordinary brutality. I will argue that our penchent for war is a product of evolution and is deeply imbedded in our human nature. However, killing does not come easily to us: our lethal ferocity towards members of our own species is matched by equally powerful inhibitions against killing that are also part of our evolutionary heritage. In taking the lives of others, we also do violence to ourselves. As a result, psychiatric disorders are common among soldiers. In order to go to war, we must find a way to overcome our natural reluctance to kill members of our own species. In a remarkable act of self-deception, we activate psychological systems originally evolved to deal with non-human dangers in a prehistoric environment, viewing 'the enemy' not as a real human being, but as a predator, prey or a vector of disease. This presentation will be accompanied by illustrations, some of which may be disturbing."

David Smith is the expert on lying and deception whose work I used in the first part of my series on the subject.


Blogger Chris Weimer said...

Not sure about Dr. Smith, but Dr. Roy F. Baumeister explained this phenomenon very well in his book Evil: Inside Human Cruelty and Violence. I highly recommend it.


Blogger Gary said...

On a closely related note, one of the most intersting books I've EVER read was Richard Rhodes' Why They Kill: The Discoveries of a Maverick Criminologist. Rhodes chronicles the life and work (and implications of the work) of Lonnie Athens, a man who discovered through extensive research that there are certain activities which ALWAYS occur before a person becomes transformed into a violent criminal.

You'll have to check it out to see what I mean. Towrds the end of the book Rhodes explores how the overall theory pertains to behavior in war and the military.


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