War Gods?

From: Keith Henson (hkhenson@rogers.com)
Date: Wed 10 Mar 2004 - 06:02:43 GMT

  • Next message: Richard Brodie: "RE: War Gods?"

    Stockholm Syndrome, more descriptively capture-bonding, is a conditionally switched on evolved psychological trait humans have. See http://www.human-nature.com/nibbs/02/cults.html for discussion re this trait and the attention-reward mechanism (awkward terms, I know).

    I need suggestions for what to call the psychological mechanism(s) that induce humans (and chimps) into making organized war on other groups either as a result of being attacked or due to xenophobic memes amplified by privation/looming privation conditions. Shorter terms based on Greek or Latin roots for war or war gods would probably be better. Best suggestions to date have been based off Mars.

    I am not far from having the first draft of this article done. If any are interested in reviewing the draft, send me a note.

    Keith Henson


    Evolutionary Psychology, Memes, The Origin of War, Empowering Women
    (Tentative title)

    By H. Keith Henson


    Our ancestors always lived close to their ecological limit, an unstable upper bound for how many hominids (or lions or tigers or bears) an environment can support. When reproduction pushes populations over the limit or the limit fluctuates down because conditions vary, part of the population will die, typically by starvation. Humans have evolved a psychological response to looming starvation; a mechanism that induced tribes to make war on nearby tribes. The psychological response increases the circulation of xenophobic memes among groups facing privation. Xenophobic memes break down the normal reluctance of humans to attacking other humans and synchronize warriors of one tribe to attack another. Genes inducing suicidal behavior in the (male) members of a weak tribe attacking a strong tribe had a selective advantage because the losing tribe's young females (carriers of those genes) were usually incorporated into the winning tribe. From a gene's perspective this was better than starvation. In war situations self-preserving (rational) behavior has not been favored by selection. I.e., "stupid" decisions should be expected.

    Being attacked turns on a related psychological response, rapidly inducing xenophobia and a fighting response even in groups not facing starvation.

    With appropriate mapping (looming starvation/privation into expected or actual declining income per capita) this evolved psychological mechanism accounts for the origin of most (if not all) historical wars. While war was adaptive for hunter-gatherer level societies, war is poorly adapted for human societies above that level.

    Inherent in this model is a prescription for avoiding wars: keep income per capita rising or at least not falling for *all* human groups. Population growth itself does not lead to wars, but population growth in excess of economic growth does. Empowering women to limit births to a level below economic growth appears to be a key to avoiding wars or ending long running conflicts.

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