IT IS SCIENTIFICALLY INCORRECT to say that war or any other violent behavior is genetically programmed into our human nature. While genes are involved at all levels of nervous system function, they provide a developmental potential that can be actualized only in conjunction with the ecological and social environment. While individuals vary in their predispositions to be affected by their experience, it is the interaction between their genetic endowment and conditions of nurturance that determines their personalities. Except for rare pathologies, the genes do not produce individuals necessarily predisposed to violence. Neither do they determine the opposite. While genes are co-involved in establishing our behavioral capacities, they do not by themselves specify the outcome.


Throughout history there have been writers who claimed that humanity is inherently violent or selfish. Darwin's theory of evolution has been used to justify the claim. In recent years the claim has been expressed in the terms of modern genetics.

These claims have been reviewed and refuted by Seville signatory S.A. Barnett, a scientist who has studied animal behavior and aggression. The claims fail to recognize that while humans are capable of violence and selfishness, we are also capable of non-violent action and cooperation. Instead, the claims usually represent the resistance of the writers to social reforms that are based on the equality of people. The fact that the claims are expressed in terms of Darwin's theory or in terms of modern genetics does not make them any more scientific.

The discoveries of Darwin and of modern genetics have been revolutionary for many branches of science, but they cannot directly explain animal or human behavior. As reviewed at Seville by behavior geneticist Benson Ginsburg and psychologist Bonnie Frank Carter, scientific research on mice, dogs, and wolves shows that their behavior is influenced but not directly determined by their genetic inheritance. Rather than causing behavior directly, their genetic code controls the production of chemicals called enzymes which operate at the level of the body's cells to control their development and function.

In animals, it is possible to do experiments in which genes are moved from one animal to another. As described at Seville, results of such experiments in mice show that the personality is not determined by the genes alone, but depends upon the conditions of nurturance, including both the ecological and social environments. This must be even more true for humans than for mice, since human personality is more dependent than that of mice upon the social environment.