[extropy-chat] War Is Easy To Explain - Peace is Not

Keith Henson hkhenson at rogers.com
Thu Mar 15 16:05:35 UTC 2007

At 10:02 AM 3/15/2007 -0400, gts wrote:


>Okay, but the long-term historical trend in that statistic tells us as
>much about the human propensity to make babies as it does about the human
>propensity to make (or fall victim to) war. In this thread I don't think
>we're very interested in the human propensity to make babies.

War and the human propensity to make babies are parts of the same picture.

Have *any* of you read the Azar Gat paper?

"It is not that people consciously 'want' to maximize the number of their 
children; although there is also some human desire for children per se and 
a great attachment to them once they exist, it is mainly the desire for sex 
- Thomas Malthus's 'passion' - which functions in nature as the powerful 
biological proximate mechanism for maximizing reproduction; as humans, and 
other living creatures, normally engage in sex throughout their fertile 
lives, they have a vast reproductive potential, which, before effective 
contraception, mainly depended for its realization on environmental 

. . .

"Resource competition is a prime cause of aggression, violence, and deadly 
violence in nature. The reason for this is that food, water, and, to a 
lesser degree, shelter against the elements are tremendous selection 
forces. As Darwin ([1871] 428-30), following Malthus, explained, living 
organisms, including humans, tended to propagate rapidly. Their numbers are 
constrained and checked only by the limited resources of their particular 
ecological habitats and by all sort of competitors, such as cospecifics, 
animals of other species which have similar consumption patterns, 
predators, parasites, and pathogens."

. . .

"The human - like animal - tendency for maximizing reproduction was 
constantly checked by resource scarcity and competition, largely by 
cospecifics. This competition was partly about nourishment, the basic and 
most critical somatic activity of all living creatures, which often causes 
dramatic fluctuations in their numbers."

>The real question, at least the question on my mind, is whether global
>peace has really been on the increase over all of recorded history after
>adjusting for the huge growth in human population. I'd like to believe it
>is -- and my intuition suggests very strongly that it is -- but I'm afraid
>your statistic is not much help in proving it.

"The somewhat better data which exist for primitive agriculturalists 
basically tell the same story as those for the hunter-gatherers. Among the 
Yanomamo about 15 percent of the adults died as a result of inter- and 
intra-group violence: 24 percent of the males and 7 percent of the females 
(Dickemann 1979: 364). The Waorani (Auca) of the Ecuadorian Amazon hold the 
registered world record: more than 60% percent of adult deaths over five 
generations were caused by feuding and warfare."

State level societies are an outcome of agriculture.  Such societies tend 
to suppress fighting inside their bounds and concentrate it on the 
edges.  But where population growth exceeds the ability of the ecosystem to 
support them, the excess population is burned off in wars.

Keith Henson

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