Re: On the origin of .... war

From: Dace (
Date: Tue Sep 25 2001 - 21:58:59 BST

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    Subject: Re: On the origin of .... war
    Date: Tue, 25 Sep 2001 13:58:59 -0700
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    > <War can adapt to virtually any society. For a rational,
    > materialistic
    > > 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
    > rational.

    Men who fended off predator attacks were surely revered as heroes in their
    tribes. But with the decline of both predators and herd animals circa 12-15
    thousand years ago, those who specialized in hunting and predator-defense
    faced a severe loss of status. War began as make-work for underemployed
    hunters and defenders. Fighting off lions, leopards, and jaguars is
    entirely rational. But dressing up as lions, leopards, and jaguars and
    attacking neighboring tribes is only useful to the attackers and those who
    gain status by defending against them. The point, again, is that what's
    rational for a few warriors in each tribe is not rational for the species as
    a whole.

    > <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.

    Nice little switch there from "material value" to "social value." Taken in
    by your own sleight-of-hand!

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

    Regardless of the behavior of apes, the evidence for human hunting only goes
    back 70 to 90 Kya. There's no presumption involved here.

    Seems like you're a little out of the loop on this one. The "man the
    hunter" idea was relegated to the status of myth back in the 80s. C.K.
    Brain refuted this notion in his book, The Hunters or the Hunted? (1981).
    Years earlier, Raymond Dart had argued that the mixing of bones of numerous
    wild animals with those of our ancestors, revealed the proficiency of
    australopithecine hunting. Brain demonstrated that all these animals,
    including the australopithecines, had been eaten by leopards. Several
    articles on that theme appeared in anthropology journals, including "Man the
    Hunted," by Richard Gould and John Yellen, in the Journal of Anthropological
    Archaeology 6, 1987 (77-102). I recall reading a piece about "man the
    scavenger" in Scientific American in the autumn of '92. That our ancestors
    obtained their brain-building meat from scavenging, not hunting, is no
    longer a controversial point among researchers.

    > <Prior to this we relied on scavenging for our meat. For most of
    > our
    > > 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.

    The human brain reached its current size by 200 Kya. We've been around for
    a long time.

    > <Back when people were catfood, we were a lot more vulnerable to
    > extinction.
    > > 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
    > on.

    Pre-stone age?

    The evidence for tribal warfare goes back 12,000 years and then stops dead.
    Anything beyond that is assumption.


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