Why Humans Fight (3-30-14)

What makes us go to war? Why do we often see it as a kind of sacred undertaking?  One theory is found in Barbara Ehrenreich's book, Blood Ties: Origins and History of the Passions of War. Dumbarton's Howard Morland--an activist and free-lance writer-- was on hand March 30 to explain the author's views.

According to Ehrenreich, our propensity for war is linked not to innate aggressiveness, as Freud suggested, but to early humans' fear of predators in the wild.  Further, the emotional passion invested in war goes beyond war's usefulness. 

Morland traced human evolution from early life to modern day humans. "The main cause of death for our closest relatives--the apes--was the leopard," he pointed out. When the heavy axe was replaced with finely sharpened tools, humans became predators instead of prey. (However, ocean species are both prey and predator). Blood sacrifice became a common and well-accepted practice, though only men were allowed to sacrifice.

As Morland traced human evolution up to Homo Erectus, he regaled his audience with shots of a couch potato, a hacker, and other undignified personalities. His own interest in the subject of religiosity and war began
in pilot training for the Vietnam War. Said Morland: "Around me I heard 'this may not be a good war but it's the only war we've got'."

Dumbartonians offered additional reasons to Ehrenreich's for why we go to war--for example, love of "extreme" experiences, a sense of community or camaraderie, and an unwillingness to accept that lives may have been lost in vain.

--By Ginny Finch