Horgan’s Latest Book Looks at What It Would Take to Realize “The End of War”

4/2/2012

In his latest book, John Horgan, the director of the Center for Science Writings at Stevens, sets out to answer one of life’s biggest questions: Can we eliminate war entirely from the world?

In “The End of War” (McSweeny’s Books, January 2012), Horgan – a renowned science journalist – debates the long-held belief of many philosophers, policymakers, military leaders and others that war is a natural part of the human condition by applying to scientific method to understanding why war occurs and what it would take to end it.

“The book is a refutation – drawing upon anthropology, archaeology, psychology, political science and other fields – of the widespread idea that war is a permanent part of the human condition,” Horgan said.

Collected at scientific and military conferences, through interviews with scores of authorities, and from countless books and articles, Horgan’s detailed research attempts to uncover the origins of war by examining dozens of examples of violent and nonviolent conflicts, from warring and peaceful indigenous tribes, to World War I and Vietnam, to the fall of the Soviet empire. The oldest evidence for group violence and warfare Horgan uncovers dates back only 10,000 years, much later than many scientists have claimed. This fact, among other evidence, leads to Horgan’s conclusion that – biologically speaking – we are just as likely to be peaceful as violent. Therefore, war can be solved like a scientific problem.

But how?

We need to view war as a choice and not as a force beyond our control, Horgan asserts. We should seek out and support visionaries and political leaders who are seeking an end to war and militarism, are committed to finding nonviolent means of solving disputes, and are willing to cut back their armies.

Horgan says he is not a pacifist – though he greatly admires leaders like Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. – but he does believe that our goal as a society should be to end war once and for all.

He argues that what is holding us back is entrenched militarism within society, which convinces even the smartest of people that war is rational and that we need to arm ourselves to defend against the inevitable attack from our enemies. In the nuclear era, this logic poses a threat to our very existence.

“The End of War” originated from Horgan’s long obsession with the craziness of war, ever since his childhood during the Cold War era. He also covered war and national security topics throughout his career as a journalist and was discouraged by the widespread fatalism he encountered.

“I was appalled at this belief, and decided to write a book to rebut it,” he said.

He especially hopes young people such as Stevens students embrace the overarching message of his book – that we can and must end war.

“It’s up to them to create a world without war,” he said.

On Wednesday, April 11, Horgan will discuss "The End of War" with Lisa Dolling, philosophy professor and dean of the College of Arts & Letters (CAL), in Babbio Center, Room 122, at 4 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. The Center for Science Writings, which Horgan directs, belongs to CAL.

Horgan has written for the world’s most acclaimed publications, including Scientific American, The New York Times, Time, and The Washington Post, and boasts three other books to his name, including “The End of Science,” a U.S. bestseller.

Thus far, “The End of War” has turned heads in the media and the speaking circuit. Horgan has discussed the book on NPR, MSNBC and Voice of America; it has been excerpted in The Atlantic; it received glowing reviews in the San Francisco Chronicle and the Chronicle of Higher Education; and Horgan has been invited to give talks at Columbia, NYU, Rutgers and other universities.

Learn more about “The End of War” at http://www.johnhorgan.org/.