Saturday, September 4, 2010

Why are young men often passionate about religion and war? Can women put an end to war?

John Horgan takes 18 seconds to recount the 3 phases of circumstantial religious belief in his life (via Bloggingheads on Facebook):



That's part of a discussion of why young men are often passionate about both religion and war. This segues into a discussion of whether war is inevitable and what factors make war less likely:



Here are the social factors that make war less likely, according to Thomas Hayden (who bases this on the empirical research he did for his book Sex and War):

1. A low ratio of younger (18-34) men to older men.

2. More women engaged in civic life. (This has to be a widespread engagement, not just having a few token women in highly visible leadership positions.)

3. More education for girls.

4. Less unemployed men.

5. "Family planning."

With the exception of #1, those are all good things anyway. What a novel concept: caring about women . . . and men! Let's try it!

14 comments:

Meade said...

As far as I can tell, each of those five social factors is on the rise in industrial countries. That includes the first factor, a declining ratio of younger men to older men due, partly, to war, sex-selective abortion and infanticide.

I have to wonder who will protect the women and non-aborted children from the remaining men still prone to war, rape, and murder.

At what adaptive point in evolution will otherwise antiwar women be compelled to bear and rear sons willing to kill and possibly die for the sake of protecting their beloved mothers and sisters from rapists and murderers?

John Althouse Cohen said...

At what adaptive point in evolution will otherwise antiwar women be compelled to bear and rear sons willing to kill and possibly die for the sake of protecting their beloved mothers and sisters from rapists and murderers?

Even assuming a men-have-to-be-violent-to-protect-women-and-children paradigm, wouldn't the best way to do this be to keep as many men as possible at home rather than send them off to war? So it would still make sense to be generally anti-war.

Ann Althouse said...

I don't get it. What happens when other countries have the most warlike factors and we have the least? Why would that work out well for us?

I mean I can see why we should promote women's rights as a covert national security concept. But if "they" know we're doing that, it will undercut the cause of women's rights.

John Althouse Cohen said...

What happens when other countries have the most warlike factors and we have the least? Why would that work out well for us?

First of all, who are "we"? I think Hayden's talking about the whole world and all of human history, not a specific country or other group of people.

Second, are you implying that the more inclined we are to go to war, the better it is for our national interest? Putting aside whether we should care only about our national interest, that's just not obvious. There are many ways a country can hurt itself by going to war. A few off the top of my head:

1. Your country is hurt in the most literal, direct sense in that its citizens are killed and injured.

2. Someone who's fighting in a war is not at home supporting their spouse and children.

3. If your military is tied up in an existing war, the world can see that you're not well-equipped to fight a new war, which reduces your potential for making credible threats. (You might say being inclined to war also helps make credible threats -- but one phenomenon can have two effects that cancel out, right?)

4. Your credibility is also weakened if there isn't a clear, good rationale for the war. The more arbitrary your military invasion of a certain country appears to other countries, the less deterred those countries are going to be from engaging in behavior so bad that it would provide rational grounds for war.

Ann Althouse said...

"First of all, who are "we"?"

The United States.

"Second, are you implying that the more inclined we are to go to war, the better it is for our national interest?"

I want us, the United States, to defend ourselves against enemies.

As for the rest, obviously, I don't want the wrong wars, but I'm saying that we, the United States, are already so far along in those factors, that we risk becoming vulnerable to those countries that are on the other end of the spectrum. So, we have an interest in moving them to "our" end, because of national security and because of the intrinsic value of respecting women, but if the truth is that they will be less powerful if they emulate us, why would they emulate us?

In other words, it's a more complex "game" than you are willing to take into account.

John Althouse Cohen said...

"First of all, who are "we"?"

The United States.


That's one country out of about 200, which has about 5% of the human population. We naturally care about the United States because we happen to live here, but that's incidental to Hayden's general point about humanity.

"Second, are you implying that the more inclined we are to go to war, the better it is for our national interest?"

As for the rest, obviously, I don't want the wrong wars, but I'm saying that we, the United States, are already so far along in those factors, that we risk becoming vulnerable to those countries that are on the other end of the spectrum. So, we have an interest in moving them to "our" end, because of national security and because of the intrinsic value of respecting women, but if the truth is that they will be less powerful if they emulate us, why would they emulate us?


That's a very good point that Hayden seems to totally ignore. He wants to send a message: Let's have more education for girls and more engagement in civic life by women -- it will make us less likely to go to war! But this is making a lot of assumptions about how much people value (a) empowering women and (b) avoiding war. His message (assuming it's widely disseminated to lots of countries -- which is presumably the goal of an author who goes on the internet to promote his book) could be counterproductive.

I want us, the United States, to defend ourselves against enemies. ... In other words, it's a more complex "game" than you are willing to take into account.

Well, I didn't say that being inclined to go to war obviously makes us less safe. I said it's not obvious that being inclined to go to war makes us more safe. I wasn't trying to express an unwillingness to consider any factors. We both realize it's complex. The question is how to balancing all the factors correctly. It's an open question who (you or I or someone else) has done the best job of balancing all the complex factors correctly.

Ann Althouse said...

"Inclined" is a loaded word. The question is whether we are willing to do what needs to be done ... before it's too late and vulnerable to warlike enemies.

John Althouse Cohen said...

"Willing to do what needs to be done ... before it's too late and vulnerable to warlike enemies" is a loaded phrase.

Synova said...

Divining the future is always sort of... chancy.

Isn't it?

kentuckyliz said...

Women contracepting reduces war?

Perhaps it makes war unnecessary as our enemies await the inevitable demographic suicide.

Muslim fertility and emigration to the EU and USA and Canada--

what Lepanto stopped, we in our collective actions hand over the keys.

Fletch said...

Why are young men often passionate about religion and war?

That's who we (the "male" Homo sapiens sapiens) are!

Our entire evolutionary development ensures that any human's first allegience will always be to the "tribe"- however any individual human chooses to define it.

You also see it in sports- the word "fan" is derived from "fanatic". (Ever seen a soccer
'hooligan' or Eagles fan up close- after a loss?)

You also see it in "Team Red/Team Blue" politics. (Name your poison...)

You also saw it in the "East Coast/West Coast" rap thing. (Biggie/Tupac.)

(Notice, "young men" tend to be the dominant actors in all these areas... you might call it "testosterone poisoning".)

Nico said...

I don't really buy the notion that women are not warmongers. Historically the women of a beaten nation lose their men, their male children, then they and their daughters get raped and enslaved. Now, if there's a shortage of fighting age men, society might not be interested in war - but is that due to the moral superiority of the then-dominant women, or is it due to lack of men to fight with??

Also, what's the difference between #1 and #5? Causation: #5 is a cause of #1.

I get the feeling that mostly you're just interested in this evil American empire no longer being such a war-happy nation. That'd be naïve.

Nico said...

The problem with commenting from a phone is that you might get calls on it, and since those lil, itty bitty keyboards/on-screen keyboards suck... To finish my thought:

If #5 is a cause of #1 and #1 is bad, why are you for #5? Note: I don't mean that contraception is bad. Nor that family planning is bad at the micro level. But too often people who speak of family planning do it writ large -- they specifically want a lower birth rate. The birthrate should be something that is sustainable with the technology of the future (go ahead, tell me that's insane; you know you want to) and high enough to sustain our economy.

Of course, if we didn't believe in fairies, er, I mean, inter-generational debt + low birthrates, then we could afford a lower birthrate without sacrificing standards of living. But we do believe in fairies, so we need a higher birthrate to make up for that silliness.

Verification words: supponm, and now, beepfor.

John Althouse Cohen said...

If #5 is a cause of #1 and #1 is bad, why are you for #5? Note: I don't mean that contraception is bad. Nor that family planning is bad at the micro level. But too often people who speak of family planning do it writ large -- they specifically want a lower birth rate. The birthrate should be something that is sustainable with the technology of the future (go ahead, tell me that's insane; you know you want to) and high enough to sustain our economy.

It's a good point that #5 goes against #1. But I didn't mean to say that a low ratio of 18-to-34-year-old men to 35-and-older men is "bad." Honestly, I was getting ready to head out the door but wanted to get the blog post up first, and I wanted to efficiently point out that most of the list is good regardless of whether it reduces war. #1 was the one thing I didn't want to specifically say this about. So I just said that (aside from #1) the list sounds like stuff I'd want to have in a society anyway. With #1, the main thing I was thinking about is that Europe's elderly population is growing far out of proportion with its young population. Since I think this is a big problem for Europe, I wasn't about to endorse it the way I was endorsing #2-5.