Sex and War/ A Book Review

Sex and War

How Biology Explains Warfare and Terrorism and Offers a Path to a Safer World.


Author: Malcolm Potts and Thomas Hayden (two chapters written by Potts’ wife Martha who is a lecturer At UC Berkeley CA).

The book is 457 pages, published on 2008 (as Potts mentioned in his book; it took him more than eight years to gather the materials and write the book)

A spellbinding, eye-opening, spiritual and truly mind-boggling book, it’s a summary of a life journey to explain human behavior through evolution psychology, a science which has been blossoming in the past few years, as seen by an obstetrician and family-planner who’s work took him around the world, in poverty stricken societies and at war zones. Potts a “MB, BChir, PhD, FRCOG, is the Bixby professor at UC Berkeley. A graduate of Cambridge university and trained as an obstetrician and research biologist… He led a medical team into Bangladesh immediately after the War of Liberation in 1972, and he has worked in many other war-torn places including Vietnam and Cambodia, Afghanistan, Egypt, the Gaza Strip, Liberia and Angola.” The book is Coauthored by Hayden, a biologist and “metamorphosed into a professional journalist and writer,” who “writes frequently about science, medicine and culture”. Both authors have many books and articles published in renowned magazines and publications like National Geographic, Nature and Washington Post, but this book, as was mentioned by Potts, was special. It is the crème de la crème of a personal journey into human life, human behavior, and what promotes conflict other than fighting for resources and ensuring sex.
Biology and science in general, is the ladder that humans built over a comparatively short period of human history. Chasing his doubts at times, out of necessities at other times led him to innovation and technology, adding more comfort for a better life, a better health and to human longevity and longer age expectancy. But unfortunately; science also created lethal weapons of mass destruction. Maliciously biological and horrendously chemical, complicating diplomatic solutions in conflicts. Now what is the base of our conflict, our aggression? What is the base of our loyalty to kith and honor of kinship. What promotes love and passion and better communication? And how can science help make this world a safer place?
In light of evolution-psychology and evolution-sociology the author explains why humans tend to continue in their ever-lasting wars. Evil and hatred, as the author explains, are a predisposition in humans, inherited from our animal ancestors. He based his conclusion on research and field studies of the behavior of chimpanzees; male and female tendencies towards aggression, older age groups versus younger age group behaviors and reactions of each towards in-groups and out-groups (belongs to my party or to the enemy). Comparing all that to humans’ behavior in current day events, or even in his personal experiences, and drawing statistics from history to show us amazingly how, among all creatures in the world known to man, we humans not only share most of our gene structure with chimpanzees, we also tend to behave in the same manner to aggression towards our in-group, as well as toward out-groups.
Historical statistics show that most wars in human history were either directly or indirectly related to religion, yet religion is not usually the main cause of wars; people (mostly young males) fight for resources, or to assume power and recognition in the group (a psychological disposition to gain the opposite sex). But nevertheless, its effect to form a bond of kinship and loyalty, solidarity and irrationality within the group is far more dangerous, destructive and prolonged than any other type of in-group behavior. And the author warns us that this disposition to religious in-groups, although not as strong as it used to be in the past, it still exists.
As you can guess; the book was a long time observation through a kaleidoscope with a prism that penetrated into two separated worlds; the world of the animal, and that of human being. And the purpose of that was to better understand human behaviors when dealing with terrorism, and how can we lower the chances of conflict and direct the strategies in fighting terrorism when we better understand the human nature of the terrorists.
As a physician himself; he believes in diagnosing the patient before prescribing medicine. And as an expert in the field of war studies, he explains where did president bush’s “War on Terror” strategy go wrong and why?
But he provides the suggested medicine.

Based on evolution psychology, he acknowledges that good behavior, nobility, charity, honor and national pride are also a predisposition in humans. Albeit later developments in its history. And through this lens he provides his medicine and shows us how science can help.

In a very summarized fashion I would list some of his suggestions here, what can by no means be sufficient to what was mentioned in the book:

– The US could provide proper education, especially to women in poverty stricken, war-ridden and religious-torn areas. Particularly in the societies where women are segregated and education is scarce, like many countries in Africa and specifically in Afghanistan, since the US has an unfinished obligation to end the war there.

– Family planning should be cheap and available to all women (gender equality, equity and empowerment of women; reproductive rights and reproductive health; and partnerships and collaboration). Through education a woman should have the right to have autonomy over her body. Without family planning awareness, women will reproduce more haphazardly and chances of less education per person and more fights over limited resources increase -That tips the balance of young to old ratio (young is less than 30 who are more susceptible to violence as a predisposition) .

– Educated people around the globe have the responsibility of spreading empathy by directing their predisposition of empathy to their limited immediate group, to include out-group members by expanding the notion of in-group to global means, to humanity. Which basically includes spreading the culture of love and fighting the culture of hate no matter what is its sources. And governments and institutions should aid these efforts in their national plans through directed and audited education to promote tolerance and diversity.

And this, the author stressed, will cost a fraction of what the bush administration has already spend with its war strategy on terror.

I advice all to read it.

النسخه العربيه منشوره في المنتدي الليبرالي الكويتي. إضغط هنا

14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. abou9othoum
    Jan 31, 2009 @ 22:45:03

    Sorry really Sorry
    abou9othoum don’t understand English


  2. AyyA
    Jan 31, 2009 @ 23:09:16

    ابو القثم
    اهلا بك في ربوعنا
    البيت بيتك
    و النسخه العربيه تستطيع ان تقرأها في المنتدي الليبرالي و الرابط موجود في نهايه البوست. اما عن ترجمه الكتاب الي العربيه فهذا ما اتمناه من دور النشر و الترجمه ان يهتموا به لتتمكن من قراءته


  3. المتهافت
    Feb 18, 2009 @ 09:29:30

    أنا أعتقد أنه حتى الحديث اذا كان بين الرجال يكون أكثر حدة وعنف ولا يتم خلاله احترام المداخلات ولا يلتزم به بأداب الحوار
    على عكس النقاش الذي تنضم له عناصر نسائية تجدينه دائما يجمح إلى الرقي والأدب واحترام المداخلات

    كتاب جميل.. وهو فرع يحتاج للتطوير والنشر

    شكرا آيا.. وتحية لنشاطك الواسع


  4. you-sif
    Feb 18, 2009 @ 15:36:59

    نعم انا مشتاق وعندي لوعة

    منذ مدة لم أشارك في مكانك الشيق
    لذلك فقد أخذت جولة في محتويات ما فاتني وفي جعبتي الكثير الكثير من التعليقات والتي في معظمها ليست في توافق معك .. ولكنني مشتاق لطرحك الراقي

    موضوع الكتاب غريب حبتين ولكنه يحتوي على أفكار تستحق القراءة للتحليل والتفكير في الفلسفة الانسانية
    تحية لك .. قديمة جديدة


  5. AyyA
    Feb 18, 2009 @ 21:10:26

    عزيزي المتهافت
    بصوره عامه المرأه اقل ميلا الي العنف من الرجل بسبب الاختلافات الفزيولوجيه بينهما، و هي الاكثر ميلا الي الحلول السلميه و استخدام العقل في حل المنازعات، هذا نتاج دراسات علميه و احصاءات. و حتي عمر الرجل له دخل في ميله للعنف؛ يعني من يقل اعمارهم عن سن الثلاثين هم اكثر ميلا للعنف، و لذا الاهتمام بهؤلاء، و منذ نعمومه اظافرهم، رجال كانوا ام نساء، يجب ان يلاقي الاولويه من الدول التي تنشد الامن و السلام. و ما يحصل في الكويت اقل ما يقال عنه انه عشوائي. يعني الام تنجب و الخادمه + المدارس النظاميه الداعيه الي ثقافه الكره هي التي تربي. فهل نتوقع سلام في مثل هذا المجتمع؟
    انا اشبه المجتمع الاسلامي -بصوره عامه- بالقنبله الموقوته، سيأتي عليها اليوم الذي تنفجر فيه، و لن نلوم ساعتها الا انفسنا
    و الكتاب بالفعل شيق، و الحلو فيه انه غير متحيز سياسيا او دينيا او حتي وطنيا، بل كتاب علمي صريح بكل معني الكلمه. و جرأه الكاتب علي انتقاد سياسات بوش في حربه علي الارهاب ليس له مثيل مع ان الامريكان متعودين علي النقد و مو جديد عليهم، و لكن هذا الكاتب وضع يده علي المشكله الاساسيه و هي ان الارهاب هو ما نسميه نحن بذلك عندما يكون المعتدي من “الطرف الآخر” و لا نبحث في اسبابه او دوافعه و نحاول التعامل معه بالعقل و المنطق.
    سعدت بمرورك عزيزي و تشرفت بمعرفه بلوغك


  6. AyyA
    Feb 18, 2009 @ 21:20:53

    اهلا وسهلا بالاعدقاء
    امزح معك، فمهما اختلفنا بالرأي لا يستدعي ذلك العداوه و سنظل دائما و ابدا اصدقاء
    هل تعلم؟
    ان من يجارونني بالحديث انا شخصيا لا استفيد منهم، بل من يخالفني بالرأي هو من يحضني علي زياده البحث و الاستفاده الشخصيه حتي لو لم اتفق معهم، و لكنه بدون شك يكون السبب في زياده معرفتي. و كما تعلم فالانسان مهما يبحث و يتعلم في النهايه هو لا يعلم الا القليل، و النقد البناء و المناقشات ما هي الا وسيله نتخذها اولا لزياده فهمنا بالامور و ثانيا للمساهمه في ايجاد حل للاوضاع التي ننتقدها. تعليقاتك عزيزي مهمه عندي مهما كانت


  7. فيصل خاجه
    Feb 22, 2009 @ 13:11:42

    نتمنى من دور النشر والصحف القيام بدورها الأخلاقي بأن يترجموا لنا كتب مفيدة وتضيف لرصيد عقولنا

    بس الحاصل ان أولويتهم لتفسير الأحلام وقصص الينانوه وشعوذة مشعوذينا الأفاضل

    و ….. المخرج عايز كده


  8. AyyA
    Feb 23, 2009 @ 00:56:30

    الاخ العزيز فيصل
    انا اعتقد ان الثقافه العامه هي التي تحددالاولويات. و المشكله الاساسيه عندنا في الكويت و العالم الاسلامي و العربي منه بالخصوص هو التعليم. التعليم المبني علي اساس الخرافه لا يمكن ان ينتج غير الخرافه و تهيء له سوق رائج.

    و اسمح بمناسبه زيارتك لديارنا ان اشكرك علي جهدك العظيم في مقابله المفكر سيد القمني المنشوره في المنتدي الليبرالي
    Assuming that you are the same person, that is.


  9. فيصل خاجه
    Feb 24, 2009 @ 11:14:03

    لا شكر على واجب 🙂

    Yes I am !

    you are doing a great job

    many thanks


  10. المتهافت
    Feb 25, 2009 @ 07:16:08

    نمر علي البلوق بين الحين والآخر ننتضر جديدكم
    أستمري يافتاة (:


  11. AyyA
    Feb 26, 2009 @ 00:14:12

    عزيزي فيصل
    Thanks to you cous.
    Proud of you


  12. AyyA
    Feb 26, 2009 @ 00:15:35

    عزيزي المتهافت
    الجديد في الطريق
    و شكرا علي المتابعه


  13. سما نجوم
    Dec 01, 2009 @ 16:10:10

    ممنوع دخول اقل من +18 سنه


  14. mahamod
    Nov 01, 2012 @ 19:57:53



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