Ep. 010:  John Horgan

Show Notes

  • Shaped by a childhood during the cold war
  • Honed his arguments within a military family, his father and his grandfather served in WWII and WWI
  • Is it possible to end war?
    • His experience has been that 9 out of 10 people believe that it is not possible to end war
    • His book is an attempt to argue otherwise.
  • Is war part of human nature?
    • This theory is false: war is a recent innovation, war is sporadic
    • There is not much evidence that war is an inevitable result of competition for resources or inequality or poverty
  • Horgan paraphrases Margaret Mead: War begets war, once war breaks out, it transforms a society, makes it more militaristic and more likely to engage in war in the future
  • Some peace activists think we need to eliminate conflict and competition
    • Not true, conflict is neither good nor bad, doesn’t necessarily lead to violence
  • War is expensive, impractical and leads to lose-lose situations
    • The U.S. spends $1 trillion on military
  • There is evidence that we are in a period of relatively low war casualties
    • Although the Syrian war is a big upsurge
    • There are reasons to be optimistic
    • Period of decline in violence
    • Spread of democracy
    • Democracies fight non democracies, but don’t tend to fight other democracies
  • As information becomes the valued commodity, this undermines need for violence
    • Although as global technology promotes globalism, it can also be used to spread hatred, e.g. ISIS’ use of social media
    • Capitalism and commerce can be a progressive force in ending war
    • The biggest companies, such as Apple and Google and Walmart, don’t want war; they want goods and capital to flow freely
  • Vision of a new anti-war movement, including the traditional left but also including conservatives who worry about spending and religious conservatives who recognize that war is immoral
  • Ending war is both a moral and practical imperative
  • U.S. defense budget is nearly bigger than all the other countries’ budgets combined.
  • Every time we use war we legitimize war and use of force.
  • How do we use show of violence in a way that does not perpetuate more violence?
    • War is not a force of nature or a natural disaster, it is a human creation.
  • If everyone wants the end of war, even people who are making money off it, why is it not ended?
    • War is not the inevitable product of differences and competition
    • New York is fractious and competitive but the conflict and differences do not result in mass violence.


  • John Horgan is a science writer and a professor
  • Classes taught at Steven’s Institute of Technology include a class on war and science
  • Author of a book titled: ‘The End of War’


Contact John

You can contact John via his Scientific American blog: Cross-Check, his email jhorgan@highlands.com or his webpage.