Re: A time for war.

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Sat 19 Mar 2005 - 21:52:41 GMT

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    At 10:10 AM 19/03/05 -0800, Scott Chase wrote:

    >--- Keith Henson <> wrote:


    > >
    > > When Tiawan and China go to war without first having
    > > economic problems,
    > > falling income per capita, or some other situation
    > > that make the future
    > > look bleak, then my prognostication will fail.
    > >
    >I hope it doesn't fail, especially in this case. But I
    >consider it my sacred duty to look for possible holes
    >in your generalizations or cases where they don't

    In that case you should look for a case where tribes went to war who were not economically stressed or were anticipating a bleak future.

    One of the wars I looked at was the American Civil war. Economic conditions in the South were not particularly bad. But the writing was on the wall that slavery was going to be ended one way or another. Overall something like 40% of the income of the entire white population in the South depended on slavery, usually through indirect paths (few owned plantations, but many were involved in commerce that at the bottom rested on agriculture dependent on slaves).

    The people of the South foresaw they were facing a bleak economic future. And indeed that was correct, you could make a good case that it took over a hundred years for the South to recover, far, far longer than the war damage would account for.

    > > Making noise doesn't count as war.
    > >
    >Yet it's still a conflict nonetheless.

    The function of wars which evolved in hunter gatherer times was to cut the population back to the point the ecosystem could feed the social primates. Conflict that isn't producing dead bodies doesn't count as war.

    >And since
    >Taiwanese and Chinese are relatively homogenous wrt
    >cultural and historic backgrounds "xenophobic memes"
    >wouldn't play much of a role in the islander versus
    >mainlander conflict would they?

    The Easter Islanders had far more homogenous cultural and even genetic backgrounds, having been descended from only about 20 people who came to the island. When they got into an economically stressed situation they competed building stone sculptures, then split up into competing groups
    (long ears and short ears) and killed each other with rocks till 90-95% of the population was dead.

    Point being, if people have to kill each other to get the population back into where the ecosystem can support it, they will find a meme that supports calling your relatives from the other side of the island sub-human and making them fair game to kill. Hatred of others, xenophobia, is something our psychological traits develop when we need a war. The particular memes involved arise from either preexisting population splits such as Tutsi and Hutu or they develop out of random noise (short ears/long ears).

    You can make a case from the long time stability of the central highlands of Papau New Guinea where the highly divergent population lived in a state of periodic warfare that having smaller wars more often is better than massive environmental destruction and population crashes.

    I agree with you if you think this is a particularly nasty and depressing view of our species.

    Keith Henson

    "My contention, simply put, is that the evolutionary approach is the only approach in the social and behavioural sciences that deals with why, in an ultimate sense, people behave as they do. As such, it often unmasks the universal hypocrisies of our species, peering behind self-serving notions about our moral and social values to reveal the darker side of human nature."

    --Irwin Silverman, Psychology Department, York University, Toronto, Canada

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