RE: On the origin of .... war

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Wed Sep 26 2001 - 14:05:08 BST

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    Subject: RE: On the origin of .... war
    Date: Wed, 26 Sep 2001 14:05:08 +0100
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            <The point, again, is that what's
    > rational for a few warriors in each tribe is not rational for the species
    > as
    > a whole.>
            OK, but that doesn't make war divorced from adaptive behaviour, only
    that it's particular characteristics can be shaped by culture.

    >> That is very wrong. All of those things have social value- they
    >> indicative of the extent of power the winners have over the

            <Nice little switch there from "material value" to "social value."
    Taken in
    > by your own sleight-of-hand!>
            OK, got me there! But social also doesn't mean removed from
    adaptive value. We are social animals becasuse it's adaptive for us to be
    so, and thus social behaviours like wars, can by extension be seen to be
    adaptive also.

            <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.>
            I'll not fault your references here. But pre-tool hunting doesn't
    fossilize, and we know that apes and chimps hunt, without tools. Given
    this, must one presume early modern humans didn't hunt? I'm not qualified
    to say for certain.

    > > <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.>
            Brain size isn't the only indicator of the emergence of modern
    humans. The dates of European cave paintings are thought to have followed
    barely some 5000 years or so after modern humans first entered Europe.
    Other modern human artefacts in Australia suggest up to 70,000 years ago,
    but before that there's just guesstimation.

    >> Pre-stone age tribes in the Amazon and in Borneo have wars-
    >> 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?>

            Yeah, IIRC, until colonists arrived they had no metal or even stone
    tools, only wooden ones. Now they have knives and machetes and so on, coz
    colonists have given them to them.

            <The evidence for tribal warfare goes back 12,000 years and then
    stops dead.
    > Anything beyond that is assumption.>
            Including the assumption that warfare didn't exist before then. We
    have to fill in the gap by asking some questions: a) Do related species to
    ours exhibit warlike behaviour? (Which is a difficult one, like the do
    animals have culture question)- if so that may indicate the propensity for
    warlike behaviour is inherited, and therefore is likely to have been present
    in humans pre 12000bp; b) Are there adaptive benefits to war? i.e. can one
    see things such as improved reproductive success for the victors of wars,
    again this would indicate the possible propensity for it to have existed
    12,000bp; c) are there any notable behavioural or physiological differences
    between humans before and after 12,000bp- here there is behavioural
    difference in the beginnings of agriculture, large scale settlements and so
    on, but this may simply have meant a concomitant increase in scale of
    conflicts that meant evidence of war would be more likely to be preserved in
    the archaeological record. That last one is the $64,000 question. I guess
    our instincts are different as to the answer.


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