Now that our troops are finally leaving Iraq (and will soon, hopefully, be departing from Afghanistan), it’s time to reflect on the fact that the 20th (and now the 21st) centuries have been so filled with fighting. Interestingly enough, scientists tell us that humans are not DESIGNED to go to war: When it comes to "fight or flight," we are programmed for "flight." This is what has led to our continuance as a species.

The English king Henry VIII had 6 wives, but no sons. His daughter Elizabeth eventually inherited the throne and ruled very successfully, but he beheaded most of his wives because none of them could produce a son (this was before humans realized that men are the ones who are responsible for the sex of a child). High-testosterone men having only daughters is still called the "Henry the 8th Syndrome." Biologists speculate that this may be a kind of protection for our race, so that these men don’t pass on their aggressive tendencies to a son, who would in turn increase the collective desire for battle among his colleagues.

There’s a hormonal reason for this too. Stress (in both sexes) produces the horrible hormone Cortisol, which lowers the testosterone (and libido) of males. Researchers conclude that this means that we are not designed for war, but for avoiding it, because when men are under stress, their testosterone (and thus their fighting spirit) drops. The military knows this, which is why they train soldiers to obey orders without question, so that under stress, they will behave automatically.

So many of us remember our high school and college history classes as being taught in terms of the wars that were fought throughout the years, all around the world. But the people who retell history in this way have got it all wrong: We’re still around because of the wars we DIDN’T fight.

Let’s just hope to heck we can remember that in the future.

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  1. Anne is absolutely right: we
    Anne is absolutely right: we are around because of the wars we didn’t fight. Specifically, one war, World War III. I very well remember the days of the Cold War, and how close we came to a nuclear exchange during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and again when the Regan Administration floated its plan to ‘harden’ industrial sites against nuclear attack, suggesting to the Russians that they might lose unless they shot first. Fortunately, Reagan realized how dangerous the idea was and torpedoed it in time.

    As far as ‘fight or flight’ is concerned, right again. When armies are fielded without motivation, the only way to get them to fight is pure fear. During WWII, the NKVD had units behind Russian lines who routinely machine gunned anybody they saw running from the conflict. They had to.

  2. We have now a permanent
    We have now a permanent war-based economy. Steven Beschloss, in his article, “American Empire,” states that military spending more than doubled from 2000. We now have more than 766 military bases in more than 40 countries, housing more than half a million personnel, covering nearly 1,100 square miles of foreign land. China, in contrast, has not dissipated its resources in interventionist policy, instead it secures trade agreements to build up its economy. Is anyone else tired of this interventionist policy, or am I the only one?

  3. Some good insights, but there
    Some good insights, but there is quite a bit of evidence that shows LOW testosterone has more to do with aggression than high.

    1. @Orson, as to the low/high
      @Orson, as to the low/high levels of testosterone affecting aggression, please take into account, that there is “compensation” action from the limbic system, always. And always toward survival. When speaking of high /low anything, how do we even establish what is “norm”? Conditioning is taught and sensitization/desensitization comes from culture, religion, etc etc. I am a lay person obviously speaking here, but hormonal levels is one marker, only one of a very complex issue. It is a wonderful conversation that includes looking at “short man syndrome’ or even Joseph Goebbels overcompensation from his club foot and Hitlers purported missing testicle. But then perhaps that is another subject altogether, the making of a dictator, And then we can always ask the other question on the effects of high/low estrogen…Amelia Earheart anyone? See, now I have totally confused myself!

  4. I don’t think that Henry VIII
    I don’t think that Henry VIII is a very good example, since he DID have a son, Edward VI. Edward only lived to be about 15 years old, and succeeded Henry VIII to the throne, although for a very short period of time. Also, of Henry’s wives, only two were executed, Ann Boleyn and Katherine Howard. He divorced two others, and Edward’s mother died not long after he was born. Henry’s last wife ended up being his widow. Edward was succeeded by his half-sister Mary, and when she died, by his other sister, Elizabeth. I am not sure why this has been labeled Henry VIII Syndrome?

  5. I both agree and disagree.
    I both agree and disagree. Yes we are predisposed to flight; however, we are also predisposed to protect. before the first war there was a man or homonid standing between his children and any threat. It’s the same urging that mankes people good cops and soldiers. we were taught as soldiers that our presence was formost to deter agression from others and if necessary return agression to others (GW screwed that up) We were also taught that war is not an end in itself it is merely a means to a political solution (again W screwed it up).
    as for all the wars in recent times i way gain perspective. the last several decades have closed the books on care free killing. it took 40+ years to bring kemire rouge to trial for killing one million civilians, it took one year to bring charles Taylor in Liberia to court for war crimes of much less magnitude. the tyrants are exposed and held to account. Even fifty years ago the ruanda massacre would have never been told but now its news. this isnt just about retribution or punishment its about consciousness. if you believe in a global consciousness then these tyrants are being bombarded with energy of condemnation (not hatred, thats useless). so yea there are wars and yea people die, but i believe we are closer to the end of this cycle than to its beginning.

    Desert Storm

  6. Lord, the bad history being
    Lord, the bad history being put forth here…Mary was NOT be-headed. She died from what many experts believe was cancer (She was carrying such a large tumor, that she thought at first she was pregnant). She was called ‘Bloody Mary’ because she had so many protestants executed.

    At a web-site where facts can be so important, I find it disturbing that people are using what they think is history to prove a point.

  7. Yes, Cosmic Librarian, you
    Yes, Cosmic Librarian, you are correct. My bad! Mary Tudor, was the “Bloody Mary.” I was thinking of Mary, Queen of Scots (Catholic), who was Elizabeth’s cousin. Mary, Queen of Scots, did have a botched be-heading, which was quite bloody, nonetheless. This “bad data,” scared me for a few moments, and I felt I’d jumped into a parallel universe, with a slightly different history–ONCE AGAIN! I will endeavor to do fact checking, especially with historical data, before I go posting again, and for that lesson, I thank you Mr./Ms. Librarian.

  8. Thank you for your diary
    Thank you for your diary entry Anne. I love it! Henry VIII must have eaten a lot of meat in his lifetime, because men that eat a primarily meat-based diet, tend to have female offspring (this has something to do with the hormones in the meat). Men that eat a primarily plant-based diet, with some meat, of course, tend to have male offspring. My mom pushed tons and tons of fruits and veggies into our diet, and my dad ate all of it. That could explain why they had 3 daughters and 3 sons. As far as wars, I honor our troops, but it’s time for all of this war stuff/spending to end. It’s the 21st Century now, and that’s sooo passe, and “so 20th Century.” People are seeing the light, waking-up, and listening to you Anne; and, you’re totally correct with the fact that we’re programmed for flight, not fight. And we will survive as a species, if we can learn to solve our differences in a better way besides war. War is important, in rare cases, but in or nation, now, we’ve got a blank-check for endless war, and our policies, as such, need to end–and, end really, really soon!

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