Monday, September 07, 2015

is warfare part of human nature?

LATimes |  It's been argued that warfare is as old as humanity itself -- that the affairs of primitive society were marked by chronic raiding and feuding between groups.
Now, a new study published in Science argues just the opposite.

After reviewing a database of present-day ethnographies for 21 hunter-gatherer societies -- groups that most closely resemble our evolutionary past -- researchers at Abo Akademi University in Finland concluded that early man had little need or cause for war.

Though these so-called mobile forager band societies -- referred to in the report as MFBS -- were not free of violence, researchers said the mayhem was very unorganized and seldom involved rival groups.

In fact, the violence practiced by these wandering societies was overwhelmingly murder, plain and simple, according to Douglas Fry, an anthropology professor, and Patrik Soderberg, a developmental psychology graduate student. 

"Many lethal disputes involved two men competing over a particular woman (sometimes the wife of one of them), revenge homicide exacted by family members of a victim (often aimed at the specific person responsible for the previous killing), and interpersonal quarrels of various kinds; for instance, stealing of honey, insults or taunting, incest, self-defense or protection of a loved-one," authors wrote.
The researchers examined 148 killings and their reported cause. For the most part, the 21 groups were peaceful, but one group in particular stood out for its violence, the Tiwi of Australia. They generated nearly half of the lethal events.

"The findings suggest that MFBS are not particularly warlike if the actual circumstances of lethal aggression are examined. Fifty-five percent of the lethal events involved a sole perpetrator killing only one individual (64% if the atypical Tiwi are removed). One-person-killing-one-person reflects homicide or manslaughter, not coalitional killing or war," the authors wrote.
Only 15% of the lethal events occurred across societal lines, however.