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The End of War by [Horgan, John]
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The End of War Kindle Edition

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Review

"I'm heartened by this thoughtful, unflappable, closely argued book. "The End of War" gives us new ways to understand and resist the specious arguments of inevitabilists and professional weaponeers."
--Nicholson Baker
"Winsomely and persuasively, John Horgan suggests that the world may be headed toward peace. This book is straightforward, drawing on the best scientific evidence available, examining the writings of the best scholars on both sides of these issues. Horgan believes human destiny is not predetermined. Human choices matter. We are encouraged not because of pious idealistic hopes, but because the best evidence demonstrates that the prospects for peace are eminently realistic."
--Dr. James C. Juhnke
"This is a heartfelt and important book, one that largely succeeds: at least, in making its point. Whether it is comparably successful in its deeper goal--changing peoples' minds--is another matter, although let's hope that it is."
--David Barash, "The Chronicle of Higher Education"
"Dialogue like that Horgan has opened here, in my opinion, is where the best pragmatic solutions are likely to emerge."
--"The Philadelphia Inquirer"
Praise for "The End of Science"
"[In this] intellectually bracing, sweepingly reported, often brilliant and sometimes bullying book, John Horgan makes the powerful case that the best and most exciting scientific discoveries are behind us."
--"New York Times Book Review," front page review

About the Author

Director of the Center for Science Writings at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey, John Horgan is a prize-winning journalist who has written for Scientific American, the New York Times, Time, Newsweek, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the New Republic, Slate, Discover, the London Times, the Times Literary Supplement, New Scientist, and other publications around the world. His previous books include The End of Science, published in 1996.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 543 KB
  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: McSweeney's; First Trade Paper Edition edition (17 Jan. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007NLCM2I
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #874,968 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have to say that people like John Horgan are doing science and the public a service in this rather troubled time. I have read “the end of science” and I thought it was excellent and as a result I have read all his books. This book also does not at all disappoint. He uses pervasive argument to explain that war is man made and therefore needs to be eradicated by, who else? He takes to task some of the follies of the current war mongering nations. A highly recommended book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Excellent read, had been looking for other voices promoting a possible different future without war and hoping it was possible, this book has given me that hope.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars 16 reviews
35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Give This to Anyone Who Thinks War Must or Should Always Be With Us 21 Jan. 2012
By David C N Swanson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The best book I've read in a very long time is a new one: "The End of War" by John Horgan. Its conclusions will be vigorously resisted by many and yet, in a certain light, considered perfectly obvious to some others. The central conclusion -- that ending the institution of war is entirely up to us to choose -- was, arguably, reached by (among many others before and since) John Paul Sartre sitting in a café utilizing exactly no research.

Horgan is a writer for "Scientific American," and approaches the question of whether war can be ended as a scientist. It's all about research. He concludes that war can be ended, has in various times and places been ended, and is in the process (an entirely reversible process) of being ended on the earth right now.

The war abolitionists of the 1920s Outlawry movement would have loved this book, would have seen it as a proper extension of the ongoing campaign to rid the world of war. But it is a different book from theirs. It does not preach the immorality of war. That idea, although proved truer than ever by the two world wars, failed to prevent the two world wars. When an idea's time has come and also gone, it becomes necessary to prove to people that the idea wasn't rendered impossible or naïve by "human nature" or grand forces of history or any other specter. Horgan, in exactly the approach required, preaches the scientific observation of the success (albeit incomplete as yet) of preaching the immorality of war.

The evidence, Horgan argues, shows that war is a cultural contagion, a meme that serves its own ends, not ours (except for certain profiteers perhaps). Wars happen because of their cultural acceptance and are avoided by their cultural rejection. Wars are not created by genes or avoided by eugenics or oxytocin, driven by an ever-present minority of sociopaths or avoided by controlling them, made inevitable by resource scarcity or inequality or prevented by prosperity and shared wealth, or determined by the weaponry available. All such factors, Horgan finds, can play parts in wars, but the decisive factor is a militaristic culture, a culture that glorifies war or even just accepts it, a culture that fails to renounce war as something as barbaric as cannibalism. War spreads as other memes spread, culturally. The abolition of war does the same.

Those who believe that war is in our genes or mandated by overpopulation or for whatever other reason simply unavoidable or even desirable will not be attracted to Horgan's book. But they should read it. It is written for them and carefully argued and documented. Those who, in contrast, believe it is as obvious as breathing air that we can choose to end war tomorrow will find a little sad comedy in the fact that the way we get people to choose to end a long-established institution is by rigorously persuading them that such choices have been made before and are already well underway. Yet, that is exactly what people need to hear, especially those who are on the edge between "War is in DNA" and "War is over if you want it." Most human cultures never produced nuclear bombs or genetically engineered corn or Youtube. Many cultures have produced peace. But what if they hadn't? How in the world would that prevent us from producing it?

Evidence of lethal group violence does not go back through our species' millions of years but only through the past 10,000 to 13,000. Even chimpanzees' supposed innate war spirit is not established. We are not the only primates who seem able to learn either war or peace. Annual war-related casualties have dropped more than ten-fold since the first half of the twentieth century. Democracy is no guarantee of peace, but it is allowing people to say no to war. Of course, democracy is not all or nothing. Some democracies, like ours in the United States, can be very weak, and weaker still on the question of war. What allows nations' leaders to take countries into war, Horgan shows, is not people's aggressiveness but their docility, their obedience, their willingness to follow and even to believe what authorities tell them.

Mistaken theories about the causes of war create the self-fulfilling expectation that war will always be with us. Predicting that climate change will produce world war may actually fail to inspire people to buy solar panels, inspiring them instead to support military spending and to stock up at home on guns and emergency supplies.

I wish Horgan had looked more at the motivations of those in power who choose war, some of whom do profit from it in various ways. I also think he understates the importance of the military industrial complex, whose influence Eisenhower accurately predicted would be total and even spiritual. It's harder to work for the abolition of war when the war industry is behind your job. I think this book could benefit from recognition of the U.N. Charter's limitations as compared with the Kellogg-Briand Pact, in its acceptance of wars that are either "defensive" or authorized by the United Nations. I think Horgan's view of the Arab Spring and the Libyan War is confused, as he thinks in terms of intervention in countries where the United States had already long been intervened, and he frames the choices as war or nothing. I think the final chapter on free will is rather silly, confusing the philosophical point of physical determinism with how things look from our perspective, a confusion that David Hume straightened out quite a while ago.

But Horgan makes a key point in that last chapter, pointing to a study that found that when people were exposed to the idea that they had no free will they behaved less morally, choosing to behave badly, of course, with the very same free will they nonetheless maintained. Being free to choose, we can in fact choose things that most of us never dare imagine. Here's John Horgan's perfect prescription:

"We could start by slashing our bloated military, abolishing arms sales to other countries, and getting rid of our nuclear arsenal. These steps, rather than empty rhetoric, will encourage other countries to demilitarize as well."

Or as Jean Paul Sartre put it -- (Look, ma, no research!) -- "To say that the for-itself has to be what it is, to say that it is what it is not while not being what it is, to say that in it existence precedes and conditions essence or inversely according to Hegel, that for it 'Wesen ist was gewesen ist' -- all this is to say one and the same thing: to be aware that man is free."
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream 18 Mar. 2012
By A. Prentice - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
John Horgan manages to summarize an immense amount of scholarship on the history of violent conflict into a most readable 190 pages. Besides the vast amount of reading, and previous writing, on the topic he has done, he has also interviewed peace activists, anthropologists and other scientists, and military and political leaders. Their reflections add many facets to Horgan's argument that war is not inevitable. But he does not just reach that particular conclusion and sit back; he also emphasizes that neither is peace inevitable; it takes constant and difficult work and effort. Yet the absolute importance of working for peace is clear; from all his research, he concludes:

"Those of us who want to make the world a better place--more democratic, equitable, healthier, cleaner--should make abolishing the invention of war our priority, because peace can help bring about many of the other changes we seek. If you want less pollution, more money for healthcare and education, an improved legal and political system--work for peace."

Horgan is a college teacher as well as a writer, and his style and message seem pitched to the next generation coming along, urging them kindly but firmly to share his optimism and to work towards the goal of putting an end to war. The benefits are incalculable.

From the 1950s fold song by Ed McCurdy,

Last night I had the strangest dream
I'd ever dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars crucial issues raised (that won't be covered much) 4 Feb. 2012
By moby pablo - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Having heard Horgan on the Diane Rehm show, I agree with everything he said and everything in the book (I poured blood on draft files w Father Berrigan in '67)

On listening to the author (John) I called in and said that part of the problem is that the media doesn't cover these issues- that there are peace movements in Israel and Palestine with answers that are not covered. The subject is too controversial in a militaristic country like ours.

The End of War will probably not be covered by the NY Times, the Washington Post, nor any major media outlets.

Our peace groups are not covered in this militaristic society- but we know about them- Code Pink, ANSWER, Occupiers, etc.

Established media- tv, radio (except for Democracy Now) and all major newspapers do not have time for such truths as- Bradley Manning who exposed our soldiers killing civilians sits in jail while another soldier- Wuterich- who killed civilians in Iraq gets a few months.

To me, the established media is not fair and balanced and has blood on its hands. The more all the anti war stuff that has come out since WW I (yes it was around before (Rob' Lowell- Conscientious Objectors) but REALLY smothered then)- the better!

David Swanson's War Is a Lie- and S Brian Willson's book, Blood on the Tracks are also good books on the subject- and Swanson has written an review here.

My country has been at war since I was born (1941). We males here - and around the world- are definitely wired for violence- if we weren't already from centuries of sneaking up on animals in the forest.

Having served prison time for a nonviolent protest (of Vietnam) I think about our male programming and the violence/nonviolence crossroads a lot.

Thoreau on John Brown:

" I do not wish to kill or be killed.

But I can foresee circumstances

in which both these things would be by me unavoidable.

It was John Brown's particular doctrine that

a man has a perfect right to interfere by force with the slave holder,

in order to rescue the slave. I agree with him.

I shall not be forward to think him mistaken in his method

who quickest succeeds to liberate the slave."

Despite our programming- I believe even we men have a "fellow feeling" component that abhors killing another. Yes we spent long centuries in the woods and on savannahs traking and killing our food- perhaps, we grew to enjoy it a bit- altho- those enjoying might be, as they are today- sociopaths. Let the generals wrestle it out naked in a ring? I note that children and women are less likely to kill- but I cannot say we are wired to kill- just programmed by our political non leaders and other fundamentalists.

Another issue seldom addressed in this society (and here again, you can figure out why)- the issues so ably raised by Karl Marx- of class struggle and which are so pertinent today (almost makes one want to pick up the gun). I am afraid the ruling calss will fight to protect its hegemony.

While strict non-violence may be next to impossible, it is the first thing to try (and seldom is-in any society). I see it as difficult but beautiful- like ballet.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars war as invention 21 Feb. 2012
By Tyler Volk - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
John Horgan's book, The End of War, has given me new language for thinking about the problem. I had been one of those optimists who thought that someday war can and will be terminated. Thanks to this book I am much better prepared to reason why. For me the vital realization gained is that war is an invention. It has been invented many times over, for different functions (a cogent discussion of these different functions is a crucial contribution of this book). Sure, war taps into deep biological proclivities, which is one explanation for how it is easy to continually re-invent and also spread like an infection. In the end, though, war is an invention, a social technology. And that means, thankfully, it can be un-invented, dismantled, and made obsolete with more advanced social inventions, such as better mechanisms for creating and maintaining peace, which, as John Horgan rolls out in his reasoning, not only should become a global, collective goal, but also is achievable.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A short book, great for starting a converation. 5 Feb. 2012
By A. H. Seipel - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Horgan has a knack for making you want to argue with him. He also has a penchant for painting sweeping pictures of humanity. In The End of War, his fifth book, this science writer uses these skills to tackle the idea that war is an irrevocable part of the human experience.

Horgan confronts and refutes some of the most popular explanations of war - resource scarcity, the demonic male, etc. - and settles on the idea that war is predominantly supported and sustained by cultural behaviors and values. He successfully supports all of his assertions with scientific data, but don't be surprised if you are left with a few nagging questions about why we fight. (I found myself wishing Horgan had included data on the psychology of threat perception in individuals and groups.)

Whatever you think about the reasons we fight, it's hard to disagree with Horgan on this point: "...[W]ar causes immense suffering, and it diverts vast amounts of human energy, intelligence, and resources away from other dire problems." Horgan is careful to distinguish war from other kinds of conflict, and if I have one major point of disagreement with him, it is that I believe we will have to tackle the roots of conflict itself before we can abolish war. The lines between interpersonal disputes and disputes involving organized groups, as well as those between lethal and nonlethal responses to conflict, are simply too thin. As Horgan wrote this book specifically to "provoke you into talking to others about their views on these questions," I feel no shame in adding that thought to my review of this short, but important, book.
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