First, apologies for my first attempt at this. New thoughts and a terrible, incomplete presentation that can only destroy my case. I hope I can make more sense this time around.
Premise: liberalism is not denial of human nature, only the denial of the warrior culture. Secondary premise: Human Biology Denial, same deal.
I’ve had this insight, the Dark Matter analogy that we are antisocialized tenfold to how we are prosocialized, and that basically all human societies are warrior societies, and with that viewpoint, I’d like to weigh in, try to help resolve some stuff.
Safe to say, no organism that denies its biology lives to tell the tale; insofar as the HBD people and I overlap, we do not deny biology, we only deny what some people are saying our biology means. More, maybe only sixty percent accurate:
What I and the HBD folks are denying really, is the “deep roots of war” narrative.
Sixty percent is good in this business, right? The point I’m getting at here is, this is why you can’t make a dent with them (and only a small one with me) when you spell out your theory and your method over and over, because you’ve decided what they don’t like is being told they’re animals and you’re not addressing the real, emotional issue, the “deep roots of war” problem. I think that problem is that we don’t all like the picture of never-ending war – or worse, one that finally does end it all – and there is some unspoken shared social belief that the “deep roots of war” are all that any of this science can show us. It seems that, at least in the minds of the geneticists in my Twitter feed, that us being animals and the “deep roots of war” narrative are inseparable. I’m here to try to tell you, not the case.
I know about the evidences, I know about our long existence as a group creature in competition, and I have some common sense about how our group dynamics affect everything in our lives . . . you know, frankly, my theory has our warring selves as having some deep roots too. What I do not accept is that all that nasty stuff somehow happens “in biology,” that we don’t think it over and decide. Proof that we do it, proof that we did it, proof that we’ve done it for a very long time – you say yourselves, genetics is not determinism, don’t you? None of it proves we aren’t making choices, that we aren’t responsible for the world we make, or that we couldn’t operate differently. There are not two worlds, a biological one where it’s all unconscious and instinctive and another where we can talk and reason. Our reason supports our biology, any other condition would be a fatal mutation. Who do we think is foisting this warring life onto humanity besides us? We talk as though we’re trying our best to be good but you know, whaddayagonnado?
I’ve been working through the logic, and I’ve come to see that all (don’t hold me to 100%, exceptions won’t disprove the rule) human societies are warrior societies. It’s a long story, and I’ve been writing it all down, it’s all in my blog, my entire learning curve that started with not wanting to spank my children twenty-five years ago and has me applying to go to school in my retirement, starting in 2018. The Twitter version, probably only helpful for people who have either been reading me or who are already in the conversation, is that I tried to figure out what “punishment” really was, because the explanations I’d always heard didn’t satisfy me. I had an insight that “discipline” and abuse had a way of looking identical.
When I read of the socialization researchers’ long failure to find evidence that kids become anything their parents wanted (in the Nurture Assumption) it became clear that the evidence for damage and abuse seemed to be the better-established phenomenon, and it wasn’t far from there to wonder what evolutionary advantage abuse could bring us. The overlap appears to be along a vector of “increased incidence of violence,” that function being well understood in both contexts, evolutionary psychology and the old, Leftist regular psychology. That looks like a powerful biological/evolutionary explanation for the human practice of the punishment of children to me, but even if it’s why half of our fathers gave us the consequences, society doesn’t allow that it’s why we do it. We have these stories why we’d be some sort of “bad” without the discipline, and “society’s” idea about it (and Mom’s) is that our discipline makes us more civilized, less violent.
That brings me to the mimic meme.
This belief, this meme, that our kids will be some kind of “bad” without the consequences, this is why we say we do it, but the evidence is all to the contrary. Why we do it is to create the “deep roots of war” ape that we are. Remember, game theory applies: if there is a human warrior society on the planet, then they all are or most must on their way to being selected out. If you believe there is one, you must allow that there are many, that they all are, else how do those peaceful societies defend? Even if you don’t see that as self-evident today, consider our long aboriginal hunter-gatherer past, the situation we evolved in and for. Damn.
That was the Twitter version.
Robert Trivers told me any decent theory can be stated in three or four sentences, and I know I could take a lot out of the above, and I’m sorry to disagree with the genius, but not everything in life is that simple! LOL. The things you get to say when you’re alone, talking to yourself! So, liberalism.
In some sense, we can apply the ubiquitous dichotomy of our politics to any debate, and as such, if conservatism is about what it sounds like, keeping what you have, supporting institutions and such, then we must allow that a nation at war’s conservatives wish to conserve that situation too. And fair enough, in a defensive sense. We are indeed at war, and that is not a good time for getting less warlike. Of course, that’s always the case, it’s never a good time, is it? This is an attribute of warrior society. So, along this vector, what is liberalism?
Liberalism appears to be an attempt by the non-warriors to create a new meme, to create a different sort of society. Sure, it’s the attempt of people within the society who have the comfort to consider it, the few who have gotten a glimpse of a life, at least a personal life without war, and sure, they were lucky. Liberals would like us all to share in that sort of luck – this has always been my own liberal mission statement at least, although I’m sure interpretations are legion. Perhaps liberalism is best encapsulated in the famous phrase that “the arc of the universe bends towards justice,” but I’m sorry. Warrior society says no.
The arc of the human social universe bends towards conflict.
The world described in that quote is the goal, not the present reality, but this is where this conversation turns, this is the pivot point.
This is the social world we’re talking about. The HBD movement is clearly grounded in and aligned with liberalism generally, and the mistake they make is just as the biologists say it is, they’re confusing the world they’re trying to create with the world in front of them – but they are not positioned against human nature. They are positioned against the warrior society. This seems to indicate that some geneticists, some biologists are not actually defending human nature, but possibly the warrior society, I mean if they think they are one and the same and they choose to defend one.
The deep roots of war and human nature, these are not the same things, this is the point and the news from antisocialization theory. There is a human nature, but the deep roots of war life we live is a response to our natures, a secondary effect.
This is the dividing line, and this is the obfuscation the New Atheists and the New Naturists are leveraging: if you’re against the warrior society in a particular aspect, if you think your children aren’t “born bad” and therefore are some sort of blank slates that don’t require discipline, then you’re against “human nature.” If you think crime is a social issue more than it’s an heredity issue because people are some sort of blank slates that can learn and change, then you’re against “human nature” and therefore you’re “against science.” There seems to be some conflation, some overlap between whether people accept a specific version of human nature and whether they accept any version of human nature. Clearly, many HBD people have a version of human nature in mind, not the blank slate at all, many have a rosy, hippy-dippy, sweetness and light version of human nature in their heads – but if they don’t share the New Naturists’ somewhat dark version they are blank slaters, Human Biology Deniers.
No, I’m sorry, the “deep roots of war” folks do not own the rights to human nature, not yet. We can believe in a human nature without having to accept your version, which by the way, smells of some bad attitude like Christian original sin, or some version of evolution infected with original sin, like we are 90% wild beast with a veneer of civilization. Nice try. That is not the only possible nature we may have, even if it gets an automatic pass at your bible college.
The warrior society, when threatened, fights like a cornered badger, again, sorry to complicate matters, that’s almost fair enough, the enemy really is at the gates, usually. So, let’s talk about a few of these New Naturists and see what this all means; again, I’ll start at the end: this logic has explained something to me this morning that I’d been having trouble understanding . . . well, three things. Bill Maher, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins.
There are no innocent voices in wartime. I’m tired of typing it, and of course, there are innocent voices every generation, young, inexperienced people pitching in where they think they’re needed. The point of the expression though, is that war co-opts everything. I’ve been frustrated, I‘d gotten used to the obnoxious attitudes of Maher, Harris, etc., but lately Richard Dawkins is tweeting about FGM and it challenged me to understand it. How can the brilliant Dawkins not know that to complain about reactionary Islamist practices in the middle of these wars only feeds the war? Does he imagine they will stop the bombing and build universities instead? During a time when the anti-Muslim talk in America and England is drowning out all other voices, how can he not know he’s adding to the chorus? Then it struck me.
This is not an HBD person, is it, Richard Dawkins, but perhaps he’s a liberal. As a liberal, perhaps he does not like to always remember that our countries are at war, because we liberals don’t like to think of humans that way . . . the arc of the universe, right? How to understand this common phenomenon though, other than to imagine that these advocates forget there’s a war on? How else to understand intellectuals talking about Afghanistan as though their public policy problems can be dealt with while the bombs are still flying? It’s the mimic meme. Folks like Dawkins want to chastise Islam, give them a little pain, motivate them to be “better,” and they seem not to notice that we’re already doing a whole lot more to them than that.
These folks, by conflating human nature with the warrior society, do science a disservice by aligning it with the warrior society – case in point, the vapid war rhetoric of Sam Harris disguised as philosophy (see featured image) – same as the Church always has, and against peace. I’m pro-science, and I agree with a lot of scientists about a lot of things, but good science is not what is making some of these names famous, it’s their cultural “contributions.” I know I have to spell it out.
July 14th., 2017
There are many interesting directions to take with this. One point I like to make is how recent is the world we live in. Nation-states with clearly demarcated boundaries of geography and citizenship, specifically of the ethno-nationalist variety, is a modern creation. Ancient people didn’t think that way.
It turns out that even the genetics for light skin (along with hair and eyes) is a relatively recent adaptation, an evolutionary blink of the eye:
The earliest genes for light skin didn’t show up until about 8,000 years ago, more than 30,000 years after humans first arrived in Europe. It still took several more thousand years after that for light skin to spread across the continent. That was a slow process. Even so, the genetically oldest population, the Basque, remain darker-skinned to this day.
Evolutionary pressures were obviously quite low. I suppose this is because humans are so talented at adapting culturally without the necessity of major genetic changes. Plus, epigenetics is able to alter gene expression in diverse ways allowing many possibilities with the same genes.
Now consider this:
There was no major large-scale war in Northern Europe until the collapse of the Bronze Age. Radical changes were happening in diverse societies around 1200 BC. At that point, humans had been in Northern Europe a long time. They managed to develop light skin about 5,000 years before they managed to develop serious capacity for war, at least in terms of what shows up in the archaeological record.
Why is that?
It’s not that there wasn’t violence during the Bronze Age. But apparently it was a different variety than the organized violence of standard warfare, or at least that was the case in Northern Europe. To complicate it further, according to Johan Ling (“Violence, Warriors, and Rock Art in Bronze Age Scandinavia” from Feast, Famine or Fighting?), “the war-related figurative rock art appear and vanish with the Bronze Age (BA). There are, interestingly, no war related figurative rock from the Neolithic era (4300-1700 BC) in Scandinavia.”
So, why is evidence of a large-scale battle only found after the collapse of the Scandinavian societies that made art portraying violence? Even though they were raiding and such, there is no indication that they were overly interested in all-out warfare. As far as we know, the fighting portrayed in their art was mostly ritualistic combat, rarely leading to actual harm and death. It reminds me of some early American elections, as described by Edmund S. Morgan in Inventing the People (pp. 200-202):
“The charges that each side flung at the other in an election were expected to be extravagant. Things were said and done that would not be permitted at another time, and it was bad form to take serious offense at them, though occasionally someone did. At a Maryland election in 1786 one candidate found the other’s denunciation of him so offensive that he challenged him to a duel afterwards. The challenge was accepted, but the person challenged expressed his surprise “that a man should be called out for anything that passed at an election.” 76 Everybody was supposed to know that electioneering invective was not for real.
“Even the violence at the polls, while real enough to intimidate, had something of a ritual quality about it and was not to be held against a man when the election was over. […] Fighting to kill was not part of the script. Seldom do we find any mention of firearms in the accounts of violence. There might be clubs and cleavers but not guns, there might be bruises and blood, but no dead bodies. If anyone was dangerously injured it was by accident. Hence the reluctance of the courts to punish those at fault; election brawls were not to be taken seriously once the election was over.
“From all the evidence it seems clear that brawling, violence, and intimidation were an accepted and expected part of an election and that it was understood they would end when the election ended. The violence of the election was a temporary, one-time thing and was probably not in fact as violent as it seems from the extravagant charges and countercharges that the two sides flung at each other. It was not quite for keeps. It was partly mock violence, partly make-believe, a routine that engaged the participants only temporarily and ended abruptly when the election was over.”
Yet if all we had was a painting of those ‘violent’ elections, we’d likely conclude that they were deadly affairs and not mere symbolic politics. And such a conclusion would be wrong. So, we can’t read too much into rock art portraying what, from our cultural biased view, we would interpret as violence.
We know so little about the ancient world. And I’d add, there is no reason to assume that tribal societies today can tell us anything about the earliest societies. Even the first city-states didn’t seem to fight all that much, certainly not in the way we think of as war today.
It’s hard to even figure out what war meant to them, since according to extant accounts it was mixed up so much symbolic ritual. There is much debate about how much killing actually happened in ancient warfare or even more recent tribal warfare, as there seems to be many differences in the historical and anthropological record. For example, in the most ancient city-states, there was no such thing as a highly organized military with a strict chain of command that would march into war. Presumably, battles were mostly small-scale and short-term conflicts.
I had a discussion about what war would have been like in what Jaynes hypothesises as bicameral societies:
Advanced warfare didn’t become common until the use of the chariot spread in the last centuries of the Bronze Age. And that was long after the first civilizations came on the scene.
Chariot warfare is a possible contributing factor to the collapse of Bronze Age civilizations. All of a sudden mass slaughter became easier to accomplish, not to mention faster form of travel with horses. This paved the way for the larger empires in the following millennia which further increased the potential of high death counts.
Still, that doesn’t really explain what changed. The capacity to kill large numbers of people is not the same thing as the desire or need to do so. The domestication of the horse happened thousands of years before that. Why did large, complex war take so long to be invented and become dominant? People fought before that, but maybe it was a simple change in conditions. Population density was much lower at an earlier time such that there was less opportunity and motivation for conflict.
The first known human settlement with permanent structures is Göbekli Tepe:
And apparently there is no evidence of organized violence. Göbekli Tepe was a temple built during the last Ice Age, prior to settled housing, agriculture, domestication of livestock, and pottery. These early humans organized to build a place of worship before they organized to do much of anything else we associate with civilization, including organized warfare. As Klaus Schmidt put it, “First came the temple, then the city”
“That is to say, and from this point of view, that religion was not merely a result of the transformation from a hunter-gather lifestyle to a more sedentary, agricultural, domicile based life – it was the very catalyst. Or, as Norenzayan puts it, “religion transformed cooperation and conflict”.”
“It is also apparent that the animal and other images give no indication of organized violence, i.e. there are no depictions of hunting raids or wounded animals, and the pillar carvings generally ignore game on which the society depended, such as deer, in favor of formidable creatures such as lions, snakes, spiders, and scorpions. Expanding on Schmidt’s interpretation that round enclosures could represent sanctuaries…”
“Scalping is well attested in the anthropological literature, referring to the violent removal of scalp and hair (44). Scalping is often associated with warfare and trophy-taking; best-known examples are attested in prehistoric North America (45, 46). A special pattern of cut marks on the skull of the victim serves as evidence for scalping. Cut marks often occur in small clusters that form a rough circle around the skull (on the frontal, the parietal, and the occipital) (45). Despite the high fragmentation of the Göbekli Tepe skulls, the preserved fragments did not show the typical arrangement of cut marks associated with scalping.”
“One of the pleasures Clare has working on the cutting edge of archaeology is the freedom to speculate about the hunter-gatherers just before their transition to settlements — a people so focused on daily survival that there was no time, let alone a reason, to wage war. Clare says this period is notable for the lack of evidence pointing to conflict, which may seem surprising.
“”But at the same time other scholars have said for the Neolithic to spread as it did, for this knowledge to spread, it would’ve needed people cooperating and not fighting,” he says. “And I think that’s a nice thought.”
“That’s an almost utopian thought, considering the millennia of carnage that followed, including the blood still being shed in the 21st century, just across the Syrian border, a mere 20 miles away.”
Interestingly, the earliest evidence for organized violence wasn’t until a couple of thousand years after Göbekli Tepe. It was a new era following the Ice Age. Humans were developing settlements, agriculture, pottery, etc. It could be simply that they now had something to fight and kill over, in that they had possessions of great enough value to be worth the risk to take by force.
“The Nataruk massacre is the earliest record of inter-group violence among prehistoric hunter-gatherers who remained largely nomadic. […] “These human remains record the intentional killing of a small band of foragers with no deliberate burial, and provide unique evidence that warfare was part of the repertoire of inter-group relations among some prehistoric hunter-gatherers,” she said. “The Nataruk massacre may have resulted from an attempt to seize resources – territory, women, children, food stored in pots – whose value was similar to those of later food-producing agricultural societies, among whom violent attacks on settlements became part of life,” said Mirazon Lahr.”
All in all, there doesn’t seem to be a single pattern of violence or peace for all societies and at all times. Even within the same population, there are changing conditions of social stability and conflict. Plus, conflict isn’t always dealt with through mass organized violence or necessarily violence at all… or else only through symbolic/ritualized violence. At other times, populations can act violently for little if any reason at all. But there does seem to be some general pattern across certain eras, for whatever reason.
It is a mystery. And based on our limited knowledge, it likely will remain a mystery.
based on your attitude it sure will! LOL
You really like all those notions of a peaceful past, huh? I don’t necessarily mind them either, I mean my idea is we make ourselves into this war ape consciously – maybe we only started doing it in the Bronze Age, I’m not certain it’s primal. I don’t need there to always have been war for the processes I’m talking about to be real, and I never mentioned any level of organization or the size of any wars. If it is as old as us and chimpanzees, then the chimp battles that Goodall and others have witnessed are organized enough for my purposes. Some of the views I see when you talk about the ancient world sound more like legend, like the Australian Aboriginal “before time” or something, more of an internal, psychological history and not so much an historical one.
“based on your attitude it sure will! LOL”
I’ve always been attracted to mysteries, but I’ve also always been attracted to knowledge. They go together in my mind. That is because, as people know more, they know more about what they don’t know. It’s just the nature of reality that there will always be more that we don’t know than what we do know. There is no getting around that, whether or not one chooses to acknowledge it.
You seem to have misunderstood my comment. I wasn’t directly disagreeing or contradicting what you wrote. My comment was approaching from an angle, neither arguing against your view nor arguing for the opposite.
“You really like all those notions of a peaceful past, huh?”
Not really, to be honest. If you read my comment carefully, you’d see my point is that there is no conclusive evidence one way or another. We have no reason to assume that humans are inherently violent or inherently peaceful. Going by the evidence, it appears to depend on conditions: environment, resources, demographics, culture, technology, etc. That was the takeaway message from my comment.
If I was nostalgically romanticizing a peaceful past, then I wouldn’t be looking at it as a mystery. The point is that I don’t know, as no one knows. Yet the evidence we do have is intriguing and should be carefully considered, especially when it challenges our cultural biases and ideological assumptions. Mysteries can be useful when they force us think more deeply and broadly, to shake loose the cobwebs in our mind and to consider new possibilities.
It’s obvious from various research that much of what was taken as true in the past has since been proven false, partial, inadequate, or confused. I often cover this issue in my own blog, which of course you read. Take the WEIRD as an example. Almost all of the social science research has been done on WEIRD populations. And almost all the test subjects are a narrow segment of those societies, mostly undergraduates who are white Americans. It turns out that further social science research has shown this is possibly the least representative population on the planet.
That is problematic, considering that almost the entire Western understanding of human nature is based on this research. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of studies done over more than a century, and we are barely coming to terms with the implications. A ton of research will have to be redone to see if the same results will be found in other populations. So far, it has been found there is more diversity in human societies than was originally believed. This is because culture, language, etc has more influence over human cognition and behavior than was previously understood.
Much of the mystery involved is simply our present state of ignorance. Not all of that ignorance is inevitable. We simply got caught up in a reality tunnel or, to put it in a different way, a memetic mind virus took hold.
“I don’t necessarily mind them either, I mean my idea is we make ourselves into this war ape consciously – maybe we only started doing it in the Bronze Age, I’m not certain it’s primal.”
Here is one point that caught my attention. I should have made it clear, but I wasn’t sure what it meant.
The early Bronze Age wasn’t particularly violent, as far as I know. But the late Bronze Age became increasingly violent, until nearly all of the major civilizations fell over like dominoes. I suggested that this might have to do with chariots. Jaynes connected it to the breakdown of the bicameral mind and connected this to certain cultural factors, such as the spread of writing systems.
Whatever the case, Northern Europe apparently had something different going on. In the last centuries of increasingly serious warfare in the Bronze Age world of the Mediterranean and Levant, there is no evidence of major warfare in Northern Europe. The first large-scale battle of professional fighters didn’t happen until that very moment when the Bronze Age was coming to an end. Before that, why didn’t any of the mass organized violence further South make its way North?
I have no answer for that. It was the same period of time. Maybe there was something different about the cultures or environments. It’s not that the North lacked violence, but it seems to have been more common varieties of violence, not warfare. Then after the Bronze Age ended, even the portrayals of violence in Scandinavia stopped being made. Scandinavians were long-distance traders and so maybe the disruption of trade routes caused them to become more isolated.
The point is that even at around the same time there were diverse patterns of violence and non-violence from one place to another. What was actually going on and why is unclear.
“I don’t need there to always have been war for the processes I’m talking about to be real”
Another point I’d make is the following. There doesn’t always need to be any single thing for the multiple processes (shown in the known evidence) to be ‘real’. When speaking about what is ‘real’ in terms of human nature, we are speaking of vast complicated potentials that can and do express in innumerable and unpredictable ways, sometimes in completely opposite ways.
“I never mentioned any level of organization or the size of any wars.”
I brought that up for a reason. It’s partly a limitation of the data. When looking at the records (historical, archaeological, and anthropological), it’s easier to find evidence for the most obvious forms of violence. A group of people killed with weapons and buried together can be seen when the bones are dug up. But if ancient people regularly beat their children, it likely wouldn’t be easy to detect.
Even though you didn’t bring it up, that doesn’t lessen its significance to the discussion. No large-scale violence that was organized and hence intentional has yet to be found prior to 10,000 years ago. That is a a massively fascinating fact.
We have found communal burial caves Neanderthals used, the oldest organized activity by hominids in the world. And those Neanderthals lived short brutal lives, because of the dangerous animals they hunted. But there is no evidence that Neanderthals fought with each other or fought with humans. The only evidence we do have is that Neanderthals, humans, and other hominids occasionally had sex for hundreds of thousands of years.
“If it is as old as us and chimpanzees, then the chimp battles that Goodall and others have witnessed are organized enough for my purposes.”
We’ve discussed this before.
The chimps Goodall observed were living in area under the stress of immense violence from civil war and poaching, along with the further stress of ecosystem destruction. These chimps weren’t living under normal conditions. It’s like basing your understanding of human nature on the observations of humans in a war zone. The probability that those chimp battles were normal chimp behavior is fairly low.
Just across the river, there are the genetically similar bonobos. They live not only in a different place but under different conditions because of the humans in that area. There social structure, relationships, and behavior is also different — besides being non-aggressive and non-violent, they are matriarchal and sex-obsessed. We as of yet no genetic explanation for these differences, as the genetics differences are so minute. It’s possible that most of these differences are some combination of epigenetics and what in humans we would call culture, as influenced by different factors.
This connects to something else we’ve discussed. The non-violent Piraha maybe unsurprisingly have lived in a non-violent area partly because contact with outsiders has been minimal which has allowed them to maintain their traditional culture, lifestyle, and natural resources. And the nearby violent Yanomami maybe unsurprisingly have lived in a violent area because of it being a border region between two countries and because of gold miners invading their territory. In his book Yanomami Warfare, R. Brian Ferguson wrote:
“Although some Yanomami really have been engaged in intensive warfare and other kinds of bloody conflict, this violence is not an expression of Yanomami culture itself. It is, rather, a product of specific historical situations: The Yanomami make war not because Western culture is absent, but because it is present, and present in certain specific forms. All Yanomami warfare that we know about occurs within what Neil Whitehead and I call a “tribal zone”, an extensive area beyond state administrative control, inhabited by nonstate people who must react to the far-flung effects of the state presence.”
For a good overview:
Why is it surprising that non-violent conditions tend to create non-violent behavior and violent conditions violent behavior? To me that doesn’t seem like a radical insight. And there is little mystery involved, even as mystery can be found in other aspects.
“Some of the views I see when you talk about the ancient world sound more like legend, like the Australian Aboriginal “before time” or something, more of an internal, psychological history and not so much an historical one.”
Well, it’s just what we know. Don’t argue with me. Argue with the historians, archaeologists, etc. It’s just what the evidence shows. What we do with the evidence is another issue. But dismissing the evidence as ‘legend’ because it is inconvenient to your WEIRD worldview is not helpful.
I share your WEIRD worldview, as it is also what I was born into. I shared many common WEIRD beliefs about human nature and society, until I started studying it all more thoroughly. Much of what I’m discussing here is material that I came across in recent years. For the first several decades of my life, I was as ignorant about all of this as anyone else. Coming across new info shook up my world and challenged so much that I took as true. I’m still in the process of coming to terms with it all and still the challenging info keeps coming, as researchers have pushed the boundary of knowledge further and further, with no end in sight.
We are in the middle of a paradigm change and no one can be sure what new compelling paradigm will form. It could turn out that both of us are wrong about many things. It’s more clear at this moment what we don’t know. But it’s hard to assess what is true according to what we don’t know.
A year from now, new findings could turn everything on its head, forcing us to reassess and reinterpret large swaths of data. As scientists realize precisely what they don’t know, they are turning their attention to these former blindspots, these areas of ignorance and confusion. That is what happened with linguistic relativity. Some evidence showed that the status quo view didn’t fully make sense and so they began looking for ways to study what had been previously ignored. They had to first realize there was something unknown before they could about trying to know what was actually going on.
When we see a lack of evidence of violence at the earliest human construction, that absence of evidence is not simply a mystery but an invitation to further knowledge. If the earliest humans figured out to organize to build things before they learned how to organize to kill each other, that is an important detail. Either further evidence will corroborate this or challenge it. But it makes clear that there is something of relevance going on here that we don’t understand and that might further challenge what we assume we know.
Göbekli Tepe has already done that. It was assumed that religion followed and hence was caused by humans creating permanent settlements, agriculture, pottery, etc. The possibility that religion or whatever we are to call it came first is one of the greatest discoveries ever made. It forces us to rethink not only what is religion and civilization but what does it mean to be human. That this site also lacked evidence of violence further throws our assumptions into the air.
This are serious. This is the stuff of science, not of legend. Even the experts in these fields aren’t entirely sure what to make of it all.
I really don’t see us as disagreeing. We are just coming from different directions. Nothing I’ve said is necessarily problematic toward your views on violence and warrior culture. We both generally agree about the issues of behaviors, violent or otherwise, in relation to cultures and social conditions. Of course, the devil is in the details and that is where it gets complicated. It’s also in the details where it gets most interesting.
Besides the diversity of behaviors (and cognition) seen in the anthropological examples, we know there is even much diversity in modern industrialized societies. Even comparing WEIRD societies, rates of various kinds of violence (homicides, suicides, police brutality, child abuse, etc) varies to a great degree. And we know that not all societies have an equal tradition of aggression at the political level, such that not all countries have a pattern of oppressing their own people and/or attacking other countries.
Looking at countries around the world, what is the reason that some became aggressively militaristic and imperialistically expansionist while others didn’t? Some of the greatest empires were started by geographically small countries. What is in a culture or the larger conditions that causes or contributes to this happening? Or consider this. In the US, there isn’t higher rates of overall crime than many European countries. Where the US diverges is violent crime. Criminal acts, in the US, are more likely to end in victims being hurt/killed or in the criminals being hurt/killed by police. Why is that?
“Even though you didn’t bring it up, that doesn’t lessen its significance to the discussion. No large-scale violence that was organized and hence intentional has yet to be found prior to 10,000 years ago. That is a a massively fascinating fact.”
– yes, it is, it absolutely is. I plan to think about it sometime in the near future. 😉
“This connects to something else we’ve discussed. The non-violent Piraha maybe unsurprisingly have lived in a non-violent area partly because contact with outsiders has been minimal which has allowed them to maintain their traditional culture, lifestyle, and natural resources. And the nearby violent Yanomami maybe unsurprisingly have lived in a violent area because of it being a border region between two countries and because of gold miners invading their territory. In his book Yanomami Warfare, R. Brian Ferguson wrote: . . . ”
– I hear all this, but it can also be explained as competition stress due to a tightening of resources, same as drought, when modern humans and their wars are crowding chimps and aboriginals (I know. Recycled “aboriginals”).
– feel your life-force, Benjamin. Come with me to the biology side!
“Well, it’s just what we know. Don’t argue with me. Argue with the historians, archaeologists, etc. It’s just what the evidence shows. What we do with the evidence is another issue. But dismissing the evidence as ‘legend’ because it is inconvenient to your WEIRD worldview is not helpful.”
– I am, I’m arguing with them, I attempted to say that, ‘some of the views’ should have said ‘some of the authors,’ I guess. I know you’re just throwing it out there. To be clear, I do think some of these ‘culture makes the man’ guys make a fundamental error in thinking that we could have been so different such a short time ago, I’m afraid it’s the sort of thing the bible prepares one for: God had a hand in the world in the past, we had a different sort of mind in the past, a few thousand years ago was somehow another world . . . all that sounds like a Jungian, “before time” sort of concept to me. I’m keeping an open mind, more open than I talk, but that’s my assessment of pretty much all of it right now. Sorry.
“If you read my comment carefully, you’d see my point is that there is no conclusive evidence one way or another. We have no reason to assume that humans are inherently violent or inherently peaceful. Going by the evidence, it appears to depend on conditions: environment, resources, demographics, culture, technology, etc. That was the takeaway message from my comment.”
– yeah, I can’t agree. It sounds like the question you’re answering is about nation states at war in an organized way, and maybe on a short time scale, some generations bloodier than others, some centuries bloodier than others . . . Not putting words in your mouth, just forming my response and letting you in on what I think I hear to explain my answer. I’m thinking more in evolutionary terms than cultural, like I say, I’m a biologist now, in my heart. So first, selection can be quick, but it doesn’t often stay mute over the long term, and there are inherent conflicts, resources and breeding that mean competition – which, yes, one of my ‘loose associations’ maybe – and “competition” and “war,” I do treat those as synonyms. There are other ways for humans to compete with one another, but if you’re not competitive in a fight, your are in serious danger of being selected out. Again, these sorts of forces, selection, this conversation applies with or without culture of almost any sort.
“Almost all of the social science research has been done on WEIRD populations. And almost all the test subjects are a narrow segment of those societies, mostly undergraduates who are white Americans. It turns out that further social science research has shown this is possibly the least representative population on the planet.
That is problematic, considering that almost the entire Western understanding of human nature is based on this research. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of studies done over more than a century, and we are barely coming to terms with the implications. A ton of research will have to be redone to see if the same results will be found in other populations. So far, it has been found there is more diversity in human societies than was originally believed. This is because culture, language, etc has more influence over human cognition and behavior than was previously understood.”
– yeah, you know, I haven’t read or paid any attention to any of that, you may have noticed. LOL – I don’t listen to anyone regarding human nature, I think I am the SME for that. If it’s social science, I suppose they’ll teach it to me when I get back to school. My ideas about it, again, come from the biology I’m reading these days, you know, brain science, primatology, evolutionary psychology, and from my own ruminations. You’re right, that is one big reason all that social science needs to be re-done.
– hey, I’ll SEND, in case of accident and carry on reading your comment