Initial Plowshare Offering

I am struggling for an analogy. Perhaps you can help me. “Flip sides of the same coin”, does not really get it.

“They will beat their swords into plowshares”, Isaiah 2:4 (a little something for the Intelligent Designers crowd that seem to have a sudden interest in ScienceBlog) describes it perfectly. There is even a passage that describes the reverse of this reverse engineering: “So all Israel went down to the Philistines to have their plowshares…sharpened”, I Samuel 13:20. The Hebrews were not going to help the Philistines harvest. But this analogy might be a bit dated for contemporary readers.

There has been no convincing argument that war either is or is not intrinsic to humankind. Jonathan Haas makes a convincing argument that we are not doomed to war necessarily. But, in his paper “War and the Evolution of Culture”, you can almost hear the pleading in his voice for a solution to war ( The fact that he sees that in a manipulation of the systemic precursors of war is especially appealing to us here, and speaks to the dire imperative to model and simulate the preconditions of war. But he misses the point in the sense that whether or not we personally have a devil and an angel on each shoulder, our town and group and nation most certainly does have its devil.

Gandhi reminded us that wars are really wars inside the hearts of men. Would we be happy to just prevent general wars? Would skirmishes be okay? Can you prevent world wars without preventing less organized violence? I personally would be pretty despondent if our goal was eliminating war from the hearts of men. That might be too grandiose to be much fun. I feel strongly that our first priority should be preventing the worst of group warlike behaviors. Preventing the Verdun’s and holocausts and rapes of Nankin would be a worthwhile start. Don’t you think?

War is all around us. Yet we people are shocked when the actual shooting starts. In retrospect survivors question the judgment of the victims who stayed put. We think, “I would never be caught in that. I would leave before things got bad.”

Surprise! War is in your all around you where you sit and read. Every minute of every day that you are in civilization, you are wrapped in war. The culture of war and the culture of peace are interdependent and reflect each other directly. War IS peace. Peace IS war. Perhaps not in the way Orwell meant. But then again, maybe so.

There is a program on American TV, History Channel called Tactical to Practical. It is an interesting series that looks at the conversion of military technology to civilian use. Or does it? I quote from their website: “They say necessity is the mother of invention, and few situations rival military necessity. What is surprising is how often solutions to military problems turn out to be useful in everyday life.” It misses the fact that there is a two way street here, and that we all live on that street.

My wife and I just bought a Roomba to vacuum up our cat hair drifts automatically. The iRobot company makes a military model ( BTW look for their IPO ( Perhaps you will make money on their plowshares?

I remember hearing that the U.S. Interstate system was designed to accommodate military vehicles (I believe Eisenhower had a military background).

Antibiotics might make most peoples’ lists of benign products, but World War II provided the impetus for the mass production of penicillin and streptomycin.

Emergency medicine, my field you know, grew directly out of the Vietnam experience (

The internet was and is a military technology.

I still need an analogy. Perhaps I need not look further than my name. The early human precursor who gathered a pile of stones had two things, each suited for war and peace. That pile of stones was a pile of potential projectiles, and it was a wall.

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1 thought on “Initial Plowshare Offering”

  1. Once hominid proto-humans achieved apex food-chain status, there was no external force selecting for greater intelligence. They only needed to be smarter than the average bear or tiger to retain the apex slot. But in times of shortage, some of the proto-humans survived by stealing from their neighbors, probably killing them. The ones who survived to pass on their genes were either successful agressors or successful defenders, both surviving in large part because of superiority of intelligence. So the explosion of growth of the human cortex was a result of the selective force of the ensuing arms race during lean times, to outwit one’s opponents whether playing the role of agressor or defender. True, given novel pressures in the external environment, intelligence would be selected for, but the environment really doesn’t change as rapidly or frequently as an enemy. Therefore most of the development of human intelligence came about in response to the selective pressure of warfare.

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