Bad times traits

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Tue 15 Apr 2003 - 02:32:24 GMT

  • Next message: Jeremy Bradley: "Re: Bad times traits"

    I have been looking at the Hutu/Tutsi conflict recently to see what might be done to model it and reading about the conflicts of the North American natives both between tribes and with the settlers.

    Memetics, interesting as it is, does not bring in enough elements to the problem of conflict avoidance, particularly ethnic conflict, to model and make predictions.

    Evolutionary psychology and biology provide some of the background, explaining (in my estimation) the extremely deep roots of human conflict.

    Studies in these areas indicate that economics, the economics of prehistorical tribes, may lie at the root of conflicts.

    Prior to industrial culture, humans and pre humans--like all other animals--always reproduced to the limit the environment could support. Of course the productivity of the environment is not constant, so when natural productivity fluctuates down, population had to go down with it. In the tribal era, warfare seems to have been the method when disease didn't keep the population in check.

    There were *plenty* of violent fluctuations over the past two million years in how many people a given area could support due to the ice ages coming and going. (See William Calvin's recent books for details.)

    So the argument runs that bad economic times (i.e., declining wealth per capita) turns on an *evolved human psychological susceptibility* to social movements that lead to mass killings. Making it easy to work the tribe into a frenzy, killing the neighboring tribe and taking their resources in hard times was almost certainly a powerful, selected survival trait. The ones who were killed or starved (before reproducing) are *not* among our ancestors.

    I don't know if I am the first to make these connections, probably not, but I have not found an article on it yet. It is a remarkably pessimistic view of our origins, much worse than Calvin's thesis that places baseball pitchers at the pinnacle of human evolution. :-)

    If this analysis has a basis in fact, it makes more urgent the widespread concern about reducing population growth. Such a model would provide a rationale for why curbing population (*and* increasing resources faster than population) is so important.

    If readers of this list know where others have similar thoughts, I would appreciate your posting or emailing me.

    Keith Henson

    CC William Calvin

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