[ExI] Evolutionary psychology and wars was beheadings etc

Keith Henson hkeithhenson at gmail.com
Tue Mar 3 18:48:50 UTC 2015

On Sat, Feb 28, 2015 at 4:00 AM,  Mirco Romanato <painlord2k at libero.it> wrote:

> Il 26/02/2015 03:40, Keith Henson ha scritto:
>> Think about it.  Why do people have wars at all?  What is the purpose?
>>  We share the war trait with chimps, but humans are not in war mode
>> with everyone one else all the time like chimps are.
> These chimps are Physicians, Engineers, talk many languages and travel
> many lands.

And all of them are descendents of hunter-gatherers who spent at least
a million year in an environment where periodic wars thinned out the
population when they ran into resource limits.

> You comparing them to chimps is disingenuous. Chimps do not formally go
> to war,

Correct. Chimps are in war mode all the time.  One of the startling
things Jane Goodall discovered was that male chimps engage in
genocidal campaigns against the males of every other group they are in
contact with.

> do not convert the individuals of the other tribe, do not ponder
> about the right way to go at war and if the reasons to go at war are
> good or not, right or not, permissible or not.
> It could be reassuring, for an highly intelligent person, to classify
> these people as "chimps" or "chimps like". But "chimps like" behavior is
> not a protracted effort lasting years, decades or centuries.

Humans are different from chimps in that we are in war mode only part
of the time where it's fairly obvious that chimps have been in war
mode for a substantial part of their evolutionary history.  Chimps are
in war mode all the time, humans only some of the time, and bonobos
(it seems) are never in war mode.  What ultimately keeps bonobo
populations in check is not clear.

> It could be reassuring to think the reason to go at war are poverty,
> desperation or hopelessness, but this do not make it true.

I don't find it particularly reassuring.  If you have a better
evolutionary explanation for why humans engage in wars, please voice

> A chimps like behavior would last few days/weeks, at most. Would exhaust
> itself pretty fast and would be aimed to the neighbors, not far away
> people.

Wars can happen across a range of time scales.  Consider Rwanda (very
fast) or Cambodia (slower).

> A Saudi would not travel from England to Africa, along windings
> ways, to reach Libya, just guided by his monkey brain. He would not go
> in a self sacrificing mission alone to kill his enemies.

I don't get the reference, but granted, humans are different from chimps.

> Resource limits are, often, a poor excuse to a war.

I never said resource limits are an excuse for war, I said they are
fundamentally _causal_.  If you disagree, tell us what is causal.

> Because people are
> not chimps. Because wars during historic times are not waged by a
> chimp's minds. Who did it was selected out of the gene pool thousands
> years ago already. Because very high functioning sociopaths can be only
> on the top and also them dislike to have other sociopaths near.

The model includes a strong tendency to follow irrational leaders.
Under conditions of incipient starvation, it is better to attempt the
kill neighbors than to sit there and have half the tribe starve.  Win
the war and you take the neighbor's resources.  Lose and the tribe's
female children get incorporated into the winner tribe.  On average
the genes do better than starving by going to war.  It's a
straightforward analysis that has been published on this list.

>> It's hard to think of a section of the world with higher population
>> growth or poorer resources prospects than that section of the middle
>> east.  It is no wonder they are trying to kill all the other human
>> groups.
> Poverty never caused killing sprees. If it did, there would be a
> massacre every day in the US and in Europe.
> Envy, hate, rage, gluttony are better explanations.
> But, as much as disagree with your conclusions about the causes, there
> is any solution to this problem?
> I suppose, if poverty is the cause, showering them with money or
> material goods should tranquillize and sedate them. But apparently don't.

Can you cite a test case?

> Any other suggestion?
> What is the solution when a horde of killing monkeys start ravaging the
> countryside and start showing up in the mall or in the university
> offices (like it did in Virginia Tech)?

Virgina Tech was one deranged guy unless you have different data.

>> To go into war mode humans have to be infested with a meme set that
>> dehumanizes the other group(s).  IS certainly has that, but remember
>> that the causality runs from the environmental signal to an amplified
>> xenophobic meme.
>> Before you think I am particularly picking on the Arabs, the pre WW II
>> Germans were in a similar spot, and they had a  similar response as
>> did the Cambodians and the Rwandans to similar signals.
>>> Basically, the IS is the Nazism of Islam.
>> Evolved human behavior is mechanistic.
> In reality, it appear that a few Nazis took ideas from Islam and then
> Islam (Muslim Brotherhood) took ideas from Nazism. It is a cross
> pollination chimps are not famous for.
> IS are the talking the talk and walking the walk Muslims.
> The majority is just talking the talk (with other Muslims) and let
> someone else walking the walk.

The particular meme set is not important.  Pope Urban's words as
reported by  Robert the Monk are perhaps the most honest statement of
antiquity about the reason for wars.


> Mirco

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