RE: On the origin of .... war

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Mon Sep 24 2001 - 11:12:58 BST

  • Next message: Robin Faichney: "Re: Dawkins was right all along"

    Received: by id LAA04423 (8.6.9/5.3[ref] for from; Mon, 24 Sep 2001 11:45:42 +0100
    Message-ID: <>
    From: Vincent Campbell <>
    To: "''" <>
    Subject: RE: On the origin of .... war
    Date: Mon, 24 Sep 2001 11:12:58 +0100
    X-Mailer: Internet Mail Service (5.5.2650.21)
    Content-Type: text/plain
    X-Filter-Info: UoS MailScan 0.1 [D 1]
    Precedence: bulk

            <But from the point of view of human survival and propagation
    generally, war
    > could hardly be more irrational. As a meme, war exists for its own
    > benefit,
    > not for ours.>
            I can't agree with this, or Ehrenreich's take (thanks for the quote
    though, always interesting to see efforts at application of memetics).

            War is different to interpersonal or inter-familial conflict only in
    terms of scale. I'm not saying there's a cultural element here, but the
    attempt to argue that war is entirely cultural smakc of wishful thinking,
    the 'if only we could deprogramme ourselves of the war meme, we'd all live
    in peace' kind of wish. But it won't happend, as long as there are
    resources to fight over.

            <War can adapt to virtually any society. For a rational,
    > society such as ours, war will certainly involve control over resources.
    > But in general war is about honor and glory, not anything remotely
    > rational.>
            And how does honour and glory pay out for those that receive it?
    They are awarded with improved social status, access to more and better
    resources etc. etc. Again, from an adaptive point of view this is entirely

            <As Lawrence Keeley points out, in War Before Civilization, the
    "goods" which
    > tribes try to obtain through war usually have no material value, such as
    > scalps, skulls, hands, penises, and captives for human sacrifice.>
            That is very wrong. All of those things have social value- they are
    indicative of the extent of power the winners have over the losers. In
    Fiji, the old cannibal tribes all generally believed that in order to go
    into the afterlife the body needed to remain intact on death, so in tribal
    wars, the winners would eat their captives as a sign of contempt and denying
    them their ascent to the afterlife. Now that's a cultural dimension to a
    basic biological drive to get rid of one's competitors.

            <Lewis Binford puts the origin of hunting at about 70,000 to 90,000
    > ago.>
            Was Binford aware of hunting behaviour in great apes when he made
    this presumption?

            <Prior to this we relied on scavenging for our meat. For most of
    > history, modern humans did not hunt.>
            That's entirely wrong as well. Cave paintings dated to at least
    30,000 years ago at places like Chauvet and Alta Mira (spelling) indicate
    quite clearly a hunting based culture created those paintings.

    > <We were prey animals, not predators. Even when hunting did appear, its
    > methods weren't applied to warfare until
    > about 15,000 years ago. >
            We've been over this point. Large scale conflict was unlikely
    before the first large agrarian communities, but into tribal conflict is
    more than likely.

            <Patriarchy is a recent innovation, arising at the same time as
    > Even in the last 15,000 years, women have not been universally
    > subservient.
    > There are ebbs and flows in patriarchy.>
            Doesn't change the point about gender differences being apparent in
    human society. Knowing the status of women in pre-recorded history is
    completely speculative.

            <Back when people were catfood, we were a lot more vulnerable to
    > We couldn't afford luxuries like war, human sacrifice, religion, class
    > division, etc.>
            Nor then, could we afford sitting around in big pow-wows conducting
    negotiations over how to divvy up the territories fairly between tribes.
    Pre-stone age tribes in the Amazon and in Borneo have wars- tribal
    conflicts. This must indicate that early human social groups had wars as
    well. They also have belief systems and rituals, social hierarchies and so


    The University of Stirling is a university established in Scotland by
    charter at Stirling, FK9 4LA.  Privileged/Confidential Information may
    be contained in this message.  If you are not the addressee indicated
    in this message (or responsible for delivery of the message to such
    person), you may not disclose, copy or deliver this message to anyone
    and any action taken or omitted to be taken in reliance on it, is
    prohibited and may be unlawful.  In such case, you should destroy this
    message and kindly notify the sender by reply email.  Please advise
    immediately if you or your employer do not consent to Internet email
    for messages of this kind.  Opinions, conclusions and other
    information in this message that do not relate to the official
    business of the University of Stirling shall be understood as neither
    given nor endorsed by it.

    =============================================================== 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:

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Mon Sep 24 2001 - 11:58:20 BST