the friend online
14 March 2008


Is violence part of our inevitable biology? - preview

Barbara Forbes reports on the recent Quaker Socialist Society Meeting

The Quaker Socialist Society has a track record of addressing questions which are not always within the strict interpretation of 'socialism'
  • At the latest QSS meeting in Oxford on 8 March a series of speakers from very different disciplines met to discuss whether or not violence is part of our inevitable biology, or whether it is a cultural artefact

  • First to speak was John Stein, professor of neuroscience at Oxford University
  • He started off by assuring us that in his opinion, there is no reason for human beings to be violent – even if we have innate violent tendencies, these can be controlled
  • Within a very short time he gave his lay audience a rapid tour of the structure of the brain and the way in which the different parts link up and influence each other, and then explained very convincingly why some people are prone to violent behaviour
  • Research has shown that there could be a genetic disposition to violence caused by weaknesses in that part of the brain which picks up symbols and social signals
  • It is possible to inherit a gene that creates someone whose brain needs a high level of stress and excitement in order to 'feel human'
  • One of John Stein's major concerns is about the way our society is missing out on opportunities to deal with this through nutrition – research programmes in Oxford and in the Netherlands have shown that 'omega 3' supplements have reduced violent behaviour in violent offenders

  • Barbara Forbes

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    Is violence part of our inevitable biology?
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