Aggression is one human failing that celebrity scientist Stephen Hawking would like to correct as it holds the potential of destroying human civilisation and even wipe humans off the planet.

Hawking expressed his views while escorting Adaeze Uyanwah – London’s Official Guest of Honour – around London’s Science Museum. Uyanwah asked Hawking what human shortcomings he would alter, and which virtues he would enhance if this was possible. To this he replied:

“The human failing I would most like to correct is aggression. It may have had survival advantage in caveman days, to get more food, territory, or partner with whom to reproduce, but now it threatens to destroy us all. A major nuclear war would be the end of civilization, and maybe the end of the human race.”

Hawking believes that empathy is a quality that needs to be magnified as “It brings us together in a peaceful, loving state.”

The professor expressed his views on space exploration as well and dubbed it as a “life insurance”. “Sending humans to the moon changed the future of the human race in ways that we don’t yet understand. It hasn’t solved any of our immediate problems on planet Earth, but it has given us new perspectives on them and caused us to look both outward and inward”, he said.

“I believe that the long term future of the human race must be space and that it represents an important life insurance for our future survival, as it could prevent the disappearance of humanity by colonising other planets.”

Expressing her feeling on meeting with Hawking, Uyanwah said that “It’s something I’ll never forget ..” and added that decades from now when her grandchildren will be learning Hawking’s theories in science class, “I’ll be able to tell them I had a personal meeting with him and heard his views first hand.”

Adaeze Uyanwah beat 10,000 international entrants to win a special trip to London, in which she is shown the sights by celebrity guides. You can check out more photos here.

  • john

    The chances of the human race colonising other planets is zero and our problem Professor Hawkins, is not agression, it’s sin. Celebrity Scientist. aye, That says it all.

  • Arduenn

    @john – “it’s sin”… You mean: doing things that are against the law? Sounds legit.

  • flyingfox

    If one wishes to correct aggression one needs to understand the biological causes for it, its behavioural context and behavioural counterbalances like peacemaking, friendship and love which in the natural state inhibit aggression in appropriate circumstances.

    Aggression is a part of us all. Even academics are aggressive in their own way and it would be hypocrisy say otherwise and we all know that kind of hypocrisy is no stranger to religious fanatics either.

    At the root of all our behaviours is natural selection which exists because self reproducing DNA reproduces more successfully the better it is at reproducing, obviously. OK we are competing for limited resources and winning can be a matter of life and death and that is the reality. For social animals like humans winning has a lot to do with making friends precisely because life isn’t fair and contests of power between groups of equals become a numbers game. Consequently we have all that we need to solve the problems of aggression and live as friends should circumstances permit. In today’s world those circumstances are of our own making.

    In an aggressive world one needs to be aware of reality to survive but we can improve on the past. The numbers game is real but for example, given the right circumstances, democracy can win, because it pleases most of the people some of the time. Its not perfect but its usually better for everyone than war and revolution.

    This is why I think it would help if more people understood the biological basis for our own psyches because this is as close as we have come to understanding our own reality and consequently offers us some chance of finding ways to remedy recurring patterns of violence. Such as the traps of tribal antagonism, since this is like a knee jerk reflex response for the human mind grappling with its group identity when it has no other frame of reference by which to assess its own emotions or clear understanding about the disgrace which such attitudes inflict on us today.

    Nevertheless, even within a scientific context, the greatest obstacle between us and a peaceful cooperative life is ourselves, since understanding others is predicated upon such. One could do worse than starting with “On Aggression”, a book by Konrad Lorenz, a noted ethologist, which is where my journey towards understanding my own and others’ aggression began.