Seville Statement on Violence  

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"Konrad Lorenz stated in his 1963 classic, On Aggression, that human behavior is shaped by four main, survival-seeking animal drives. Taken together, these drives—hunger, fear, reproduction, and aggression—achieve natural selection. E. O. Wilson elaborated in On Human Nature that aggression is, typically, a means of gaining control over resources. Aggression is, thus, aggravated during times when high population densities generate resource shortages. According to Richard Leakey and his colleagues, aggression in humans has also increased by becoming more interested in ownership and by defending his or her property. However, UNESCO adopted the Seville Statement of Violence in 1989 that refuted claims, by evolutionary scientists, that genetics by itself was the sole cause of aggression." --Sholem Stein

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Seville Statement on Violence is a statement on violence that was adopted by an international meeting of scientists, convened by the Spanish National Commission for UNESCO, in Seville, Spain, on 16 May 1986. It was subsequently adopted by UNESCO at the twenty-fifth session of the General Conference on 16 November 1989. The statement, then known as a 'Statement on Violence', was designed to refute "the notion that organized human violence is biologically determined".


Core Ideas

The statement contains five core ideas. These ideas are:

  1. "It is scientifically incorrect to say that we have inherited a tendency to make war from our animal ancestors."
  2. "It is scientifically incorrect to say that war or any other violent behaviour is genetically programmed into our human nature."
  3. "It is scientifically incorrect to say that in the course of human evolution there has been a selection for aggressive behaviour more than for other kinds of behaviour."
  4. "It is scientifically incorrect to say that humans have a 'violent brain'."
  5. "It is scientifically incorrect to say that war is caused by 'instinct' or any single motivation."

The statement concludes: "Just as 'wars begin in the minds of men', peace also begins in our minds. The same species who invented war is capable of inventing peace. The responsibility lies with each of us."

Founding scientists

The following is a list of the scientists who founded the statement:

Dissemination and Endorsements

Once it was drafted and signed by the founding group in May, 1986, the Statement on Violence was disseminated around the world, as described in the newsletter that was issued three or four times a year from 1986 through 1994 as well as two occasions later in 2002 and 2003.

The Statement has been published in over 150 scientific and popular journals, including versions translated into more than 20 languages.

UNESCO decided to disseminate the Statement widely in a decision of the twenty-fifth session of the General Conference on 16 November 1989. In 1991, this led to publication and dissemination of a UNESCO brochure in English as well as in Spanish, French and Arabic. The brochure, with the subtitle "Preparing the Ground for the Constructing of Peace" helped prepare the ground for the UNESCO Culture of Peace Programme.

By the time UNESCO published its brochure, the Statement had been endorsed or disseminated by 75 organizations, including formal endorsements by three of the major social science organizations of the United States, the American Anthropological Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Sociological Association

Practical implications

Belief concerning the relationship between warfare and biology may have practical implications. It has been shown that if one believes that war is biologically determined, they are less likely to engage in activities to promote peace. Conversely, if one believes that war is not biologically determined, one is more likely to work for peace..

In fact, about half of all young people incorrectly believe that war is biologically determined according to international surveys in 1972, replicated by studies in Finland and the United States-. If anything, the proportion may have increased in recent years.


Steven Pinker has criticized the Seville Statement as being an example of the moralistic fallacy. Some scientists believe both evolutionary psychology and neuropsychology suggest that human violence does indeed have biological roots.

Pinker has used the Seville Statement as an example of the idea of biological determinism, the incorrect idea that genes are solely responsible for any of our behaviors. A 2008 article in Nature by Dan Jones stated that "The decades since have not been kind to these cherished beliefs. A growing number of psychologists, neuroscientists and anthropologists have accumulated evidence that understanding many aspects of antisocial behaviour, including violence and murder, requires the study of brains, genes and evolution, as well as the societies those factors have wrought." Evolutionary psychologists generally argue that violence is not done for its own sake but is a by-product of goals such as higher status or reproductive success. Some evolutionary psychologists argue that humans have specific mechanisms for specific forms of violence such as against stepchildren (the Cinderella effect). Chimpanzees have violence between groups, which has similarities to raids and violence between groups in non-state societies. Several studies have found that the death rates from inter-group violence are similar for non-state societies and chimpanzees. On the other hand, intra-group violence is lower in humans living in small group societies than in chimpanzees. Humans may have a strong tendency to differ between ingroup and outgroup, which affects altruistic and aggressive behavior. There is also evidence that both intra-group and inter-group violence were much more prevalent in the recent past and in tribal societies, which suggests that tendencies to use violence in order to achieve goals are affected by society. Reduced inequalities, more available resources, and reduced blood feuds due to better functioning justice systems may have contributed to declining intra-group violence.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Seville Statement on Violence" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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