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Education of the Public About Nuclear War
- Health Belief Systems and the Psychobiology of War

The medical community is deeply aware of the possibility of nuclear annihilation and feels an intense responsibility to bring to public consciousness the extreme danger of playing with nuclear fire. It is frustrating to then confront the "what do we do now" question, realizing that we are not politicians. Our expertise is only as physicians.20 But we are students of health belief and denial systems and have some success in surmounting these.' Coupled with our basic background in biology and psychology, we are equipped to make our education effort more sophisticated. There are two main components of this enterprise. One is education about belief systems in general and pseudospeciation in particular. The other studies ways to circumvent our denial systems and resolve conflict without resort to mass violence.

Consider, for example, that some of our youth are paralyzed by fear of the end of the world, because they are exposed to unrelieved death imagery. Some under- ,standing of pseudospeciation might engage them in a pursuit of the kinds of skills that would build paths between the pseudospecies. They might, for example, study foreign relations, international trade and law, or learn to speak Russian.

The remainder of the essay will examine approaches like this, how we can circumvent the anachronismsthe irrational reflex aggressions and immortality questings by pseudospeciation-and build structures that resolve conflict without resort to mass violence.

Superseding Pseudospeciation With Superordinate Goals

Can nuclear weapons or, better yet, war itself, be perceived as a common out-group, a common enemy like "The Martians"? This advances the idea of superordinate goals-objectives of supreme importance shared by competing groups who can achieve this common goal only if they cooperate.4 Two nuclear powers might realize that the risks of their nuclear weapons themselves exceed the threat faced were they both denuclearized and then they might agree to the superordinate goal of denuclearization. A citizenry thoroughly informed of the horrors of nuclear war and the likelihood of extermination could serve such a superordinate cause if both sides participated equally and the dangers of oversaturation with nuclear imagery did not supervene. These dangers are those of disillusion on the one hand, leading to resignation and denial, and, on the other, in the event fascination with war is aroused, of xenophobia, scapegoating and blaming which could even lead to ideas of preemptive first strikes.4 8 These dangers could be minimized if education in belief systems balanced the effort, but the design and expense of such an undertaking would dwarf any experience we have with, for example, the health belief and behavior model.'

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