Re: War Gods?

From: Chris Taylor (
Date: Wed 10 Mar 2004 - 10:19:02 GMT

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    Actually that last post read a little fierce. I think I need to explain that: My blanket loathing of all things EP (sorry) stems from the fact that if these complex behavioural suites are under genetic control, then more fundamental stuff like sexuality (and a string of nasty dysfunctional behaviours) *surely must be*, which (apart from having been squarely squashed through proper research) opens a rather ugly can of fascists.

    Randy Thornhill is an abhorrent name that springs to mind.

    Anyway I do have solid unemotional objections to EP (like the effect of genetic drift in a world with a much cheaper parallel copying mechanism); but those rational objections become rather emotional when I see what I believe to be nonsense paraded by the media as the reason why bigots and rapists should be unconcerned by their pathetic worldview.

    Cheers, Chris.

    Chris Taylor wrote:

    > This is daft -- the thing you're employing as an established premise is
    > the most contentious thing in there -- you *have* to *prove* that this
    > is a genetically controlled response to have a leg to stand on (which
    > you can't). Otherwise you're just in there with Ted -- swapping ideas
    > about posited black boxes we can't open. If the article had used 'may
    > be' instead of 'is' it wouldn't irk me so.
    > "Humans have evolved a psychological response"
    > "Genes inducing suicidal behavior"
    > "this evolved psychological mechanism"
    > And as for this being the root of (most) war; I think you'll find the
    > greed of the 'haves' at the core of most wars, rather than the
    > deprivation of the 'have nots'. Diamonds, oil, columbo-tantalite,
    > lebensraum when you already have lots of raum for your leben...
    > Anyway seeing as you wouldn't answer my points without my having read
    > the article, I'll try to make time to read it and then pass criticism
    > back if you'll be good enough to point me at the latest draft.
    > I hope there's something empirical to back up what, from the abstract,
    > sounds like an opinion piece. All this stuff about switching things on,
    > and evolved behaviours (and I am assuming you mean classically evolved,
    > therefore genetic and 'hard-wired') is otherwise a just so story -- and
    > frankly I don't care how long it's been out there, or who else 'likes'
    > it (cf. Judaism etc.).
    > Chris.
    > Keith Henson wrote:
    >> Stockholm Syndrome, more descriptively capture-bonding, is a
    >> conditionally switched on evolved psychological trait humans have.
    >> See 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.
    >> ===============================================================
    >> This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    >> Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    >> For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
    >> see:

      Chris Taylor (
      MIAPE Project --
    This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)

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