Murderous bastards, us

Humans are predisposed to murder each other, new research suggests, although it remains unclear if it’s down to genetics or other factors.

Researchers from Spain have found that a tendency to bump off members of the same species is particularly common among primates, and have estimated that around 2% of human deaths at the origin of our species were down to such lethal spats.

Myself I think it’s rather higher than that but that’s from those studies of Yanamamo and so on. But what I love is the bloke claiming to show that it’s all wrong:

But Douglas Fry of the University of Alabama at Birmingham in the US, disagreed, saying that: “Gómez and colleagues demonstrate that recent assertions by Steven Pinker and others that violent death in the Paleolithic was shockingly high are greatly exaggerated. To the contrary, the findings show that social organization is critically important in affecting human violence.”

Gómez says the research highlights the control humans have over their situation in life and death. “The main message of our study is that no matter how violent or pacific we were in the origin, we can modulate the level of interpersonal violence by changing our social environment,”he said. “We can build a more pacific society if we wish.”

No one disagrees that we can build a more pacific society. Steven Pinker is insistent that we have in fact built one. Rather, the finding is about how we do so. And returning to that Edenic hunter gatherer fantasy so beloved of the extreme environmentalists would lead to a more violent one… fact, if we were being cheeky, we would start insisting that the consumerist frenzy capitalism makes possible through the system’s efficiency makes for a more pacific society.

15 thoughts on “Murderous bastards, us”

  1. Particularly common amongst primates?
    Isn’t dominance aggression pretty well synonymous with social mammals? The natural number of bulls in any herd of cattle is one. Whether they kill each other is more to do with lethal capability rather than inclination.

  2. Pinker’s book should be required reading. It shows that we are safer from a violent death than at any time in human history. Matt Ridley is good on this as well – it’s essentially trade that has made us more pacific as a species. Sociology professors are twats.

  3. “Sociology professors are twats.”

    Twats become sociology professors? Or sociology causes twats. Interesting thesis to be written there, if you were studying for a sociology degree.

  4. Pacific doesn’t sound right – surely that would simply refer to an ocean adjacent society

    pacific |pəˈsɪfɪk|
    1 peaceful in character or intent: a pacific gesture.

    It’s how the ocean got its name.

  5. ‘Steven Pinker is insistent that we have in fact built one. Rather, the finding is about how we do so.’

    Better find out how to keep the non-pacifists from killing you. Pacifism is suicidal in the real world. One billion people have a book that says they should kill you. Decadent pacifists – the West – don’t recognize that is a problem.

    NK busily works on nukes and rockets. It is happening. I guess the West thinks it must wait til Seattle is blown up before it stops it. Obama told Iran, “Go ahead,” with it’s nuke program. I’m sure he thinks it’s okay for the West to be blown up. We deserve it cos something.

    Human violence is stopped by deterrence, the sure knowledge that if you hurt someone on purpose, there will be dire consequences for you.

  6. The combination of ultra violence and hyper sociability is the only theory which fits the evolutionary facts.
    Large brains are heavy, difficult to pass through the birth canal, and consume disproportionate amounts of energy. So in an ideal we wouldn’t need them.

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