Through scientific investigation, we’ve uncovered the secrets of space travel, sequenced the human genome, cured many diseases, and calculated the age of the universe. But I think there’s a lack of truly scientific inquiry into the dynamics of peaceful co-existence.
At the close of the year many hearts and minds fill with hope that the coming year will be one of greater peace and harmony among the peoples of the earth. But what exactly would it take for there to be genuine peace on earth? The answer to this question has eluded us for thousands of years. While the scientific investigation of a host of human problems has led us to some impressive discoveries and markedly transformed the quality of life for millions, there’s yet to be a meaningful scientific exploration into this long hoped for but as yet far from realized dream.
Believing that science and technology hold the keys to solving almost any problem, we humans have conducted empirical research of one type or another on just about every matter of concern to us that you can think of. Through scientific investigation, we’ve uncovered the secrets of traveling to extra-terrestrial bodies, sequenced the human genome, found the cures for many diseases, and calculated the number of years it’s been since the big bang. Along the way, we’ve accumulated so much data that it’s become a real challenge just to sift through it all. But surprisingly, despite our convictions about the power and promise of science, and despite the immense toll of chronic conflict and war, we’ve never really mounted a concerted scientific effort to uncover the secrets of peace. So it’s possible that the answer to the question of what it would take for all of humankind to live in peace and harmony continues to elude us today as it has for tens of thousands of years primarily because we haven’t been seriously and methodically looking for it. Sure, there are anthropological, sociological, and psychological studies that touch on the subject, and there are academic degrees to be had in fields like peace studies or peace and conflict studies, but there’s still relatively little focused exclusively on peace and the factors that make it possible. This gives me some hope that if we really put our minds to it, focus directly upon it, and gather hard data about what contributes to it, we might just end up finding the secret to it. In short, if we seek, we just might find what many have been looking for over much of our tumultuous existence: peace.
I visited one website purporting to be dedicated to the science of peace. In the end, it turned out to be just like several others I’d researched, a more metaphysically and philosophically-oriented forum for promoting human understanding and harmony. Now there’s certainly nothing wrong with an intellectual and esoteric discussion about matters pertaining to peace. But I’ve yet to find a site, journal, university program, or concerned group of investigators pursuing what I would consider to be a truly scientific inquiry into the dynamics of peaceful co-existence. Perhaps there’s a part of us that simply doesn’t want to know the answer to peace. Perhaps we haven’t reached that point in our evolution where it’s even in our best interest to part ways with our more primal, self-serving, competitive, tribal, and exclusionary inclinations, and that’s what’s affecting our motivation. Maybe we’re not seriously looking for how to attain peace because we’re not really ready for it. Maybe we’re too content to merely speculate and dream about it. If any of these possibilities is the case, one wonders what kinds of trials and tribulations it might take for us to eventually have a change of heart and to get really serious about how to make peace a reality.
I’m both somewhat disillusioned and disheartened by what I’ve learned about the paucity of scientific investigation into peace and also somewhat hopeful. I keep thinking to myself how great it would be to really understand why a longstanding dream of many has been so hard to realize and what it is going to take to make it a reality. It’s not like we don’t have mounds and mounds of data to analyze. Our long history of both conflict and peace should provide us with all the data we need. We just need to put our minds to it and study it — not wistfully and romantically but objectively and purposefully. There is no reason the would-be peacemakers among us can’t also be genuine scientists, ready to reckon equally with the provable root causes of conflict and the most likely prescriptions for ensuring harmony and cooperation. I think there’s good reason for hope that a scientific study of peace will eventually yield benefits similar to those we’ve witnessed in so many other areas of our lives. If we truly seek the answers, I know we will eventually find them. First we’ll have to set our prejudices, biases, and philosophical differences aside and objectively analyze the known facts. The answers are most likely already there in the treasure trove of data human history has amply provided. We just have to uncover them, just as we have so many other answers, through rigorous scientific investigation.
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