[extropy-chat] Back to Causes of War

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Fri Apr 27 03:33:36 UTC 2007

Keith writes

> The thesis just says that humans have psychological traits 
> from our remote past that when activated led to wars in those days.  We 
> still have them and activation of these mechanisms _may_ lead to war in the 
> modern era.

Then we do not disagree.  (Communication may be facilitated if you tried
harder to avoid giving the impression---that several of us got over the
last few years---that population increase or high birth rate was the typical
modern direct cause of war, or almost always the most important factor.
But see my "mediating" remark below.)

> As Azar Gat points out (in the paper I keep citing and nobody seems to 
> read) population density has little to do with the willingness of people to 
> go into war.  Why?  What is important?

I understand you to mean that population density and high birth rate
sometimes tend to lead to war because they so often lead to desperate
circumstances in a population, or, as you put it "grim prospects". In
this sense, it is the circumstances and prospects that are merely
*mediated* by high birth rates and density.

Of course, your quote below applies far more readily to the EEA than
to now.

> I feel it is an incomplete theory. Perhaps a much better approach to
> "going to war" is simply to "migrate".  Find a place where the resources
> are more abundant than they are in the current location and simply move
> there.
> "The benefits of fighting must also be matched against possible
> alternatives (other than starvation). One of them was to break contact and
> move elsewhere. This, of course, often happened, especially if one's enemy
> was much stronger, but this strategy had clear limitations.
> "As we have already noted, by and large, there were no "empty spaces" for
> people to move to. In the first place, space is not even, and the best,
> most productive habitats were normally already taken.
> "One could be forced out to less hospitable environments, which may also
> had been earlier populated by other less fortunate people. Indeed, finding
> empty niches required exploration, which again might involve violent
> encounters with other human groups.
> "Furthermore, a move meant leaving the group's own habitat, with whose
> resources and dangers the group's members were intimately familiar, and
> travelling into uncharted environments. Such a change could involve heavy
> penalties.

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