Theories that Support Adversarialism


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We would be hard put to find anyone who thought that this world is so perfect that it cannot improve. Most people would like a better world, a society of justice, unity and peace. However, when any proposal for the construction of such a society is posed, many people counter that it is impossible. When asked why, the most common arguments put forth have to do with the nature of man and society.
The purpose for this presentation is to refute popular beliefs by which selfishness, greed, conflict, aggression, and violence define human nature, and to show that they are no more than options that have become predominant in certain cultures, especially in the Western world that has imposed itself on today’s world. It proposes that the roots of this cultural stock are to be found in medieval Europe, which has gained control of a large part of the world through conquest, colonization and cultural hegemony throughout the past five centuries.
We will see how the arguments that justify and legitimize this culture have been built –through science, philosophy, religion, and the arts– a full-blown myth and belief system regarding the naturalness and inevitability of contest, struggle and hostility among humans, and how this myth has been institutionalized to form our modern social structures.

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Theories that Support Adversarialism

  1. 1. Science versus Peace? Deconstructing Adversarial Theory
  2. 2. Objectives:Performance Objective: By the end of this session,the participants will be able to discuss the weaknessesof various theories that support the adversarial culture.Learning Objs: During this session, participants will:1. Discuss the results of a survey on what people thinkabout human nature.2. Make a list of why many believe that world justice,unity and peace are impossible.3. Develop responses to some of the reasons identified. (c) 2012 - Peter C. Newton-Evans Newton-
  3. 3. Culture of AdversarialismCharacterized by divisionism, conflict,competition, struggle, strife, aggression,violence, and wars.Socio-structural aspects consisting of win-lose relationships.Psycho-structural aspects based on beliefthat win-lose relationships are inevitableand/or beneficial.Current globalized Western culture is aculture of adversarialism. (c) 2012 - Peter C. Newton-Evans Newton-
  4. 4. Culture of PeaceThe opposite of adversarialism: a society ofmutualism, cooperation and mutual aid.A complex concept that continues to evolve anddevelop as the outcome of practice.A growing body of shared values, attitudes,behaviors, and lifestyles based on:• Non-violence,• Respect for fundamental rights and freedoms,• Understanding, tolerance and solidarity,• Co-participation,• Free circulation of information,• Full involvement and strengthening of women.A vast project of multidimensional, world-widescope. (c) 2012 - Peter C. Newton-Evans Newton-
  5. 5. Basic Theses:‘Human nature’ makes us just as capable ofcooperation as competition, of aggression astenderness, of greed as generosity.Which we express is influenced but not determinedby our culture; and can be changed.The world status is a fruit of collective, historicalchoices, greatly influenced by 500 years ofWestern cultural hegemony.Human nature poses no obstacle to exchanging thecurrent culture of violence for a culture of peace,and to building a world of justice, unity and peace. (c) 2012 - Peter C. Newton-Evans Newton-
  6. 6. Group DiscussionSocial dilemmas (win-lose) are destroy-ing our society.The solution is to ‘reboot’ all institutions(as win-win relations).Many people think this is impossible.Question: What arguments do they use? (c) 2012 - Peter C. Newton-Evans Newton-
  7. 7. Epistemological BorrowingWhat is epistemological borrowing?• From physics• From evolution• From ethology• From psychology• From theologyReductionism: whatis wrong with it?What happens whenthe theory changes? (c) 2012 - Peter C. Newton-Evans Newton-
  8. 8. Study Questions: PhysicsHow did classical physics further the develop-ment of the human and social sciences?How did it lead to the worldview for theculture of adversarialism?How have the ‘new physics’ opened the doorto a new worldview?What is the matterwith Social Entropy? (c) 2012 - Peter C. Newton-Evans Newton-
  9. 9. The Legacy of PhysicsMany current sciences were thenbranches of philosophy.Newtonian physics gave them:• A model of scientific study• A coherent epistemology• A ready-made meta-paradigmIt also gave them theories fromwhich to borrow. (c) 2012 - Peter C. Newton-Evans Newton-
  10. 10. Social Physics Physics SocietyAtoms IndividualsCollisions ConflictsMomentum MotivationDirection InterestsMass Power (c) 2012 - Peter C. Newton-Evans Newton-
  11. 11. Philosophical Implications Classical Physics New PhysicsAtomistic SystemicReductionist Non-reductionistMechanicism OrganicismDeterministic Self-determinationMaterialistic Integrality (c) 2012 - Peter C. Newton-Evans Newton-
  12. 12. Social EntropyEntropy: Disorder in a system grows or remains stable.Social entropy: Society will disintegrate and finally collapse.Reason: More individuals, drivers and interests multiplycomplexity of society to unsustainable point and collapse.Collapse: Spend more energy maintaining social structuresthan providing benefits, leads to social disorder.Chardin: Expansion –> complexification –> interiorizationSystems: Not adapting to change –> tension –> turningpoint –> collapse of old system –> rise of new system. (c) 2012 - Peter C. Newton-Evans Newton-
  13. 13. Study Questions: EvolutionHow did the concept of ‘survival of thefittest’ come about, and what are itsadversarial implications?How can ‘survival of the fittest’ beinterpreted to support non-adversarialconclusions?Which applies best to human society:natural or artificial selection? Why? (c) 2012 - Peter C. Newton-Evans Newton-
  14. 14. Survival of the Fittest Darwin: From artificial to natural selection Spencer: Best fit in the “struggle for life” Survival of strongest vs. most adaptable Merged under name of “Darwinism” (over Darwin’s dead body) “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, northe most intelligent, but the most responsive to change.” (c) 2012 - Peter C. Newton-Evans Newton-
  15. 15. Social Darwinism
  16. 16. Non-Adversarial SurvivalHumans: not adaptive physiology but behavior.Individual survival requires community survival.Community survivalrequires mutualism.Adversarialism isjust maladaptive!Violent, conflictivemembers punished. (c) 2012 - Peter C. Newton-Evans Newton-
  17. 17. Artificial SelectionPlant wild species –> reproduce the best.Institutions: no randomly mutating genes.Society building is conscious, deliberate.Adapting structures to change is, too.“Natural selection” is excuse for injustice.Each failed attempt is costly for society.Learn from experience and grow together. (c) 2012 - Peter C. Newton-Evans Newton-
  18. 18. Study Questions: GeneticsHow did genetics support adversarialfindings of evolutionary theory?On what assumptions does socio-biology base its conclusions?What is the problem withgenetic determinism?How does the New Biologyanswer these ideas? (c) 2012 - Peter C. Newton-Evans Newton-
  19. 19. Genetics and adversarial evolution It provided the mechanism by which characteristics are passed from one generation to the next. Genes were attributed adversarial intentionality Richard Dawkins: “The Selfish Gene” (c) 2012 - Peter C. Newton-Evans Newton-
  20. 20. Problems with genetic determinism Double reductionism: gene–man–society (no proof of behavior or social dynamics) Universality of feature proves genetic origin (from gender relations to religious creed) Genetic continuity: from animals to humans (mere analogies; evolutionary distance) Inherited personality: “chip of the old block” (no sure evidence; circular arguments) Genetic capacity: not enough DNA (c) 2012 - Peter C. Newton-Evans Newton-
  21. 21. Problems with SociobiologyEdward O.Wilson, “Sociobiology–The New Synthesis”:• Describes human nature by observing society• Assumes widespread = genetically determined• This nature coded in us through social DarwinismErrors: reductionist, biased, ideological, essentialistLewontin: An “attempt to convince people that life iswhat it has to be and perhaps even ought to be”.Karlberg: A “justification of injustices and inequities”.Name replaced by “Evolutionary Psychology”. (c) 2012 - Peter C. Newton-Evans Newton-
  22. 22. New Biology’s AnswersDNA is a self-organizing force, not blindlyled by natural selection.Organisms experience and respond to theirenvironment, but also create it.Symbiogenesis: organisms were formed bysymbiotic relations turned permanent.Natural selection adjusts population levels,but usually does not destroy gene base. (c) 2012 - Peter C. Newton-Evans Newton-
  23. 23. Seville Statement on Violence“It is scientifically incorrect to say thatin the course of human evolution therehas been a selection for aggressivebehavior… Violence is neither in ourevolutionary legacy nor in our genes.” (c) 2012 - Peter C. Newton-Evans Newton-
  24. 24. Study Questions: EthologyIs there a ‘killer instinct’ in human beings?Do humans beingshave any instincts?Do humans havea ‘violent brain’? (c) 2012 - Peter C. Newton-Evans Newton-
  25. 25. Do we have a killer instinct?Evolutionary distance from animals too greatHunting is not murderWar is unique to humansMost youth are peaceful‘Training’ changes thisNation-states impose warEven this is relatively new in human history (c) 2012 - Peter C. Newton-Evans Newton-
  26. 26. Are there any human instincts?Depends on common or scientific definition:• “A repetitive pattern of specific and often complex behaviors, common to entire species, automatic, irresistible, unalterable, not due to learning”Man has no behaviors that meet this definition!Reflex: simple, automatic reaction from spinalcord or local nervesBiological predisposition: innate, more complexbehavior that requires learning to express itselfDrive: biological need that grows until satisfied (c) 2012 - Peter C. Newton-Evans Newton-
  27. 27. The Violent Brain ‘Limbic center’ lets us feel fear and anger A normal person has full control over it Surrounded by many control functions Pathologies heighten feeling; lose control Not define human nature by pathology Most brain centers for peaceful activities”It is scientifically incorrect to say that we havea ‘violent brain’… There is nothing in our neuro- physiology that compels us to react violently.” (c) 2012 - Peter C. Newton-Evans Newton-
  28. 28. Behavior and Fitness Effect on Effect on Effect on Behavior actor receiver SocietySelfishness More fitness Less fitness 0 sumCooperation More fitness More fitness + sum Little less Much more Altruism + sum fitness fitnessVengeance Less fitness Less fitness – sum (c) 2012 - Peter C. Newton-Evans Newton-
  29. 29. Study Question: Good/EvilWhat are possible consequences (positiveor negative) of the beliefs:• that human beings are evil or sinners by nature?• that we are inherently good?Is there an alternative approach?What might be some of its potentialconsequences? (c) 2012 - Peter C. Newton-Evans Newton-
  30. 30. Borrowing from TheologyFrom fatalism to determinismFrom original sin to geneticsThe problem with innategoodnessThe alternative of a doublehuman nature… (c) 2012 - Peter C. Newton-Evans Newton-
  31. 31. Generosity Cooperation SolidarityDouble Human Compassion Higher Tolerancia Nature Truth Love Nature Mind Hatred Lies Greed Violence Lower Aggressive Nature Competition Selfishness
  32. 32. Myths of OriginSay where we came from and howTimeless: cover past, present, futureGive us an identity: good or badDefine prospects: empower or limit usSome contemporary examples:• Creation myth in Book of Genesis• Evolution myth in (Neo-)DarwinismWe need an empowering myth of origin (c) 2012 - Peter C. Newton-Evans Newton-
  33. 33. The ‘Proof by Assertion’ Fallacy“A lie told often enough becomesthe truth."(Joseph Goebbles, NaziMinister of Propaganda)
  34. 34. Science & Socio-cultural RealityScience justifies historical eventsScience legitimizes thestatus quoScience reinforces socialattitudesScience can be a sourceof socio-cultural changeIt’s up to us… (c) 2012 - Peter C. Newton-Evans Newton-
  35. 35. THE ENDOr just the beginning? (c) 2012 - Peter C. Newton-Evans Newton-
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