Statesmen understand human nature. Why not psychologists and social scientists?
Most psychologists don’t like human nature, or at least not the idea of it. Clinicians, life coaches, and corporate motivators dislike it because it implies unchangeability. Anyone who took college psychology knows how to modify behavior, from direct instruction to manipulative advertising.
And then, what fool surveying the huge variety of human personalities, needs, and tastes would dream of trying to characterize all that as one thing? Well, some fool might, but not the philosophers, evolutionists, historians and political leaders who have long used the phrase. They’ve always meant something complex, varied, and big-but not limitless.
Barack Obama, for instance. Read more
Is Barack Obama an evolutionary psychologist?
Since I criticized President Obama’s speech last year in Cairo (and even “rewrote” it) and later pointed out the names and deeds of those who did not get the Nobel Peace Prize because he did, I think it’s only fair that I resume this blog after a long hiatus by writing about his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in December.
I have to say that it stunned me. Read more
Prof. Mari Fitzduff, who I’m honored to call a friend, set me thinking the other day when she commented on a proposed speech I wrote for President Obama to substitute for the one he gave in Cairo. But before I share our exchange, you need to know that Mari is the director of the Conflict and Coexistence Program at Brandeis University, where she moved after many years as director of INCORE, the International Conflict Research Institute in (as she always says it to avoid taking sides) “Derry/Londonderry,” Northern Ireland. In that role she played an important part in the years and years of mediation that finally brought a blessed end to that terrible conflict. Read more
Our innate fear and contempt of strangers often turns ugly. Now it’s China’s turn.
A charismatic president who blends two major races has had a healing effect on the wounds of a secular racial conflict in the United States. At the moment he is in Ghana visiting and speaking—eloquently as always— Read more
At the end of their second century, two strange, brilliant men shape our lives
February 12, 1809 was a great day in the history of the human species, since two of its best specimens took their first breaths that day on two sides of the Atlantic. Both those infants grew into odd boys.
Why we need a science of war and terror
Today I will try to address some of the comments about biology and violence that were provoked by my recent postings, and perhaps clarify how I think about these things. It is right to ask whether we gain anything from saying that humans are innately violent,
A wise man with a provocative theory of violence may help us understand and save ourselves.
I just returned from a meeting in Paris (alright, a meeting followed by a marvelous three-day vacation) at which, along with some very pleasant wining and dining, I spent several days talking about imitation and violence. What do these two seemingly separate things have in common? According to René Girard, everything.
War is always a shock to the heart, but it should not be a shock to the mind.
In the past few days, war has broken out between Russia and the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, a shocking yet somehow predictable outcome. Right after the collapse of the USSR,
Obama and McCain have different ideas about war. Neither may be able to prevent it.
Is war a permanent part of the human condition?
I’ve been interested in this question since high school, when an inspiring teacher named Dora Venit spent two years confronting me with the grotesque facts of history. It was not very long after the Holocaust, and the height of the Cold War.