“Debunking innate aggression”–Daily Metta

June 19:

gandhi-21“No one should dogmatize about the capacity of human nature for degradation or exaltation.”

–Gandhi (Mahatma, Vol. V, April, 1940)

Human beings are naturally violent. It’s our nature. We’ve all heard this a time or two. It’s called “innate aggression theory,” the school of popular psychology that maintains that human beings are just that–innately aggressive and therefore, we have justification for our violence. We’ve heard professors at major universities basing their courses on such a view. And it is somewhat strange, because, guess what? The theory has been scientifically disproved, if not rigorously challenged, for decades now. For example, have you heard of the Seville Statement on Violence? In 1986 UNESCO hosted a forum of scientists, whose purpose was to dislodge some of the dangerous claims and assumptions made by innate aggression theorists. In their words,

Misuse of scientific theories and data to justify violence and war is not new but has been made since the advent of modern science. For example, the theory of evolution has been used to justify not only war, but also genocide, colonialism, and suppression of the weak.

It addresses five of the most nefarious claims about human nature: that we have inherited war from our animal ancestors; that war or any violent behavior is genetically programmed; that there has been a natural selection based on our ability for warfare; that humans have a violent brain; and that war is an instinct in us. Such claims, they maintain, are “scientifically incorrect.”

This was 1986, and such studies have only increased in number. The next time someone makes such an extravagant claim about human nature based on any of these misconceptions, you might feel assured that they have not done their homework.


Experiment in Nonviolence:

Read the Seville Statement on Violence and find one piece of new research that upholds and expands upon its “idealistic” claims.


Daily Metta 250x250Daily Metta 2015, a service of the Metta Center for Nonviolence, is a daily reflection on the strategic and spiritual insights of Mahatma Gandhi in thought, word and deed. As Gandhi called his life an “experiment in truth,” we have included an experiment in nonviolence to accompany each Daily Metta. Check in every day for new inspiration. Each year will be dedicated to another wisdom teacher.