A Progress Report
|The Message of the Statement||Page 1|
Although the central struggle in the developing world movement to abolish war is political. there is a related psychological struggle that also plays an essential part. Psychologists may have a vested interest when they emphasize the importance of psychological factors, but major political figures have acknowledged them as well. For example, within weeks after his historic meeting with Ronald Reagan in Washington and the signing of the breakthrough treaty to abolish intermediate range missiles, Mikhail Gorbachev included the following comments in an address to the International Forum for a Nuclear-Free World in Moscow:
When disarmament is discussed a common thesis is that man is violent by nature and that war is a manifestation of human instinct. Is war the perpetual concomitant of human existence then? If we accept this view, we shall have to reconcile ourselves with continuous development and accumulation of ever more sophisticated weapons of mass destruction. Such thinking is unacceptable. It is reminiscent of times when ever more sophisticated weapons were invented and used to conquer other peoples and enslave arid pillage them. That past is no model for the future.
The Seville Statement on Violence, written by twenty leading scientists from around the world, in Seville, Spain, on 16 May 1986, challenges the biological pessimism that is so frequently used to explain or even to justify war and violence. It states its position in five propositions that are then elaborated upon: (1) It is scientifically incorrect to say that we have inherited a tendency to make war from our animal ancestors; (2) it is scientifically incorrect to say that war or any other violent behavior is genetically programmed into our human nature; (3) it is scientifically incorrect to say that in the course of human evolution there has been a selection for aggressive behavior more than for other kinds of behavior; (4) it is scientifically incorrect to say that humans have a 'violent brain'; and (5) it is scientifically incorrect to say that war is caused by 'instinct' or any single motivation. The statement concludes:
We conclude that biology does not condemn humanity to war, and that humanity can be freed from the bondage of biological pessimism and empowered with confidence to undertake the transformative tasks needed in this International Year of Peace and in the years to come. Although these tasks are mainly institutional and collective, they also rest upon the consciousness of individual participants for whom pessimism and optimism are crucial factors. Just as 'wars begin in the minds of men,' peace also begins in our minds. The same species who invented war is capable of inventing peace. The responsibility lies with each of us.
In the following pages the progress of the dissemination of the Seville Statement on Violence will be charted. It will be presented in the form of a scientific experiment with methods, results, and discussion, which seems appropriate since most of those involved have been scientists.
On the basis of our experience in disseminating the Statement, it will be argued that it can have a major, positive impact upon 'the consciousness' of individual participants in the task of 'inventing peace'. These participants include political figures, educators, and activists. However, our experience also shows that there is resistance in the mass media and other institutions that must be overcome if it is to have its full potential impact.