From: Keith Henson (email@example.com)
Date: Mon 29 Mar 2004 - 13:59:47 GMT
The author I was responding to said it was ok to repost here.
>Date: Sat, 27 Mar 2004 18:11:31 -0500
>From: Keith Henson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>Subject: Evolutionary origin of wars
>At 05:07 AM 27/03/04 -0500, "Yan King Yin" <email@example.com> wrote:
>>From: Keith Henson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>> >The problem is that win or lose war was adaptive for your genes when we
>> >lived as hunter-gatherers. Thus we have evolved psychological mechanisms
>> >that lead to tribes (or nations) going to war based on economic
>> >issues--currently income per capita though the origin of the mechanism was
>> >game and berries.
>>Aggressiveness probably evolved much earlier in phylogeny.
>Agreed, but aggressiveness is *not* war. War is an emergent phenomena
>where one social group attacks another.
>>I'm not sure how much new genetic traits have accumulated
>>specific to primates or hominids.
>It is clear from Jane Goodall's work (and related studies) that wars
>resulting in genocide of neighboring groups is something chimpanzees
>do. That makes it likely, though not certain, that wars between groups
>of hominids dates back to the time of the split.
>> >Humans who are not facing looming privation/starvation don't start wars,
>> >though they can still be attacked by those with the root cause.
>>Then how do you account for imperialism where it's the
>>powerful nations that initiate wars?
>First, be specific, *which* war? Second, evolutionary adaptions made when
>our ancestors lived as hunter-gatherers can't be expected to be
>particularly adaptive in world so far removed from the Environment of
>Evolutionary Adaptedness (EEA)
>I used "looming privation" above. Because humans (and animals in general)
>respond to differences, you can soak one hand in hot water and one in
>cold, then put them both in warm water. The hand that was in the hot
>water will find the warm cold and the one that was in the cold will find
>the same water hot. Thus you don't need actual starvation; gloomy
>economic outlooks for a people that had been doing well are enough to trip
>xenophobic meme buildups leading to war or related social disruptions.
>Robert Cialdini talks about *relative* economics in _Influence_ as a cause
>for wars and related social unrest such as riots. He cites James C. Davis
>on this topic:
> "The idea that newly experienced scarcity is the more powerful kind
> applies to situations well beyond the bounds of the cookie study. For
> example, social scientists have determined that such scarcity is a
> primary cause of political turmoil and violence. Perhaps the most
> prominent proponent of this argument is James C. Davies, who states that
> we are most likely to find revolutions where a period of improving
> economic and social conditions is followed by a short, sharp reversal in
> those conditions. Thus it is not the traditionally most downtrodden
> people-who have come to see their deprivation as part of the natural
> order of things who are especially liable to revolt. Instead,
> revolutionaries are more likely to be those who have been given at least
> some taste of a better life. When the economic and social improvements
> they have experienced and come to expect suddenly become less available,
> they desire them more than ever and often rise up violently to secure them.
> "Davies has gathered persuasive evidence for his novel thesis from a
> range of revolutions, revolts, and internal wars, including the French,
> Russian, and Egyptian revolutions as well as such domestic uprisings as
> Dorr's Rebellion in nineteenth-century Rhode Island, the American Civil
> War, and the urban black riots of the 1960s. In each case, a time of
> increasing well-being preceded a tight cluster of reversals that burst
> into violence."
>This response is exactly what you would expect to have evolved in
>hunter-gatherers faced with a periodic requirement to reduce their
>population in the face of ecological fluctuations.
>> >The economic connection to wars is *very old* information. But it is the
>> >first time I know about that the evolutionary psychology origin of wars
>> >been understood. It leads to obvious solutions, but they are slow to take
>> >Here's a question for you. If the population simply *had* to be cut way
>> >back (say due to an ice age starting) would war or disease be the better
>>I don't understand what you're trying to imply, but if I die
>>of disease then my 'kinsman' (people genetically related to me)
>>would be most likely to inherit what I've left over.
>Perhaps, though if your shared genes were part of the reason they were
>killed by an epidemic, there might not be anyone related to
>inherit. That's what happened when European diseases (such as measles)
>wiped out the Mound Builders in the Mississippi Valley.
>>in a war and if I lose then my assets will be taken by the
>>enemy, resulting in loss of territory. It would be a very
>>strange theory if you're saying people start wars unconsciously
>>hoping to lose and to have their women marry off the winners.
>That's an incorrect oversimplification of what I am saying. Economic
>reasons (originally access to food resources) are the deep gene based
>reasons people start wars.
>Wars were *conditionally* advantageous to genes. In good times with
>plenty to eat, your genes were much better off raising kids with copies of
>those genes than getting in group fights with hostile neighbors where you
>and your genes may both come to a sorry end. So genes build humans with a
>normal thinking bias we call "rational" and we stay out of such fights
>most of the time.
>But when enough people are successful in raising those kids, the
>environment eventually becomes overloaded and/or there is a glitch in the
>weather. Now these brains built by genes have to switch to an alternate
>behavior, move to new lands (normally impossible in a filled up world) or
>fight neighbors for their resources. This is necessary but it is (using a
>rational mind state) obviously dangerous.
>The genes overcome the normal rational bias against putting yourself in
>danger of being killed by creating brains with the psychological trait of
>responding to and spreading xenophobic memes when times start looking
>bad. Indeed, the word I coined back in 1985 of "memeoid," is
>appropriate. (". . . victims that have been taken over by a meme to the
>extent that their own survival becomes inconsequential.")
[And this memetic "psyching up" for war is most likely the reason humans
can enter the memeoid state. I can't think of any other reason humans
would have a trait like this since the people--mostly young males--who take
part in suicide attacks don't subsequently pass on genes for such a trait.
>Groups who start wars--especially where they people they are fighting are
>more numerous--are optimistic over their prospects to prevail. Outsiders
>would call a lot of them deluded.
>Where the young women come in is through Hamilton's inclusive fitness
>criteria. They have copies of the genes of the warriors who go off to
>glory or death. In tribal days (when all this selection happened) the
>winning tribe usually killed the males of the losers and took the women,
>thus preserving genes that build brains capable of spreading xenophobic
>memes and entering the deluded state needed to go to war.
>PS Writing came along toward the end of the tribal era so some of our
>early written records discuss this common practice. For example Numbers
>31:18. "But all the female children who have had no sex relations with
>men, you may keep for yourselves." and
>Deuteronomy 20:13-14 When the LORD your God hands it over to you, kill
>every man in the town. But you may keep for yourselves all the women,
>children, livestock, and other plunder.
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