Members Chatham House Forum

Chatham House Forum: Are Humans Psychologically Wired to Fight?

5 June 2018 - 6:00pm to 7:00pm
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Chatham House, London


Dr Mike Martin, Visiting Research Fellow, Department of War Studies, Kings College London; Author, Why We Fight



Following the First World War, institutions were established to ensure that another similar global conflict could never break out. However, the following years have been marked by another world war as well as major conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, Central America, Colombia, the Balkans, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria to name but a few. As armed conflicts continue to dominate the international political agenda, is there a need for a new approach to achieving peace? And are the reasons that people still go to war properly understood?

Mike Martin will argue that morals, religions and ideologies, rather than causing violence, actually help in limiting warfare by facilitating humans to build larger social groups. He will present the case that all too often ideas and values are used to justify or interpret warfare but in reality it is subconscious desires, shaped by millions of years of evolution, that drive people to fight and, what is more, enjoy doing so. What does this mean for traditional conflict avoidance, counterterrorism and conflict resolution policies?

About Chatham House Forums

Each Chatham House Forum considers a question around an important contemporary debate in international affairs.

An expert speaker will offer a polemic in response - providing their answer to this question and outlining the key arguments that have convinced them of their position. The audience then have the chance to query and challenge the speaker’s views in a Q&A session during the second half of the event.

Each event will be followed by a reception with the speaker, allowing attendees to continue the conversation.

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