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June 2002 * Historically Speaking21 Doyne Dawson A Darwinian View of Warfare There are probably few who now remember that the United Nations saw fit to designate 1986 as the "International Year of Peace." Perhaps the mostlasting resultofthis proclamation was to inspire a score ofsocial scientists to assemble for an international conference in Spain where they drafted the "Seville Statement on Violence ."1 This document, modeled on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) 1950 Statement on Race, was later adopted by UNESCO, and has been endorsed by the American Anthropological Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Sociological Association, and literally dozens ofotherprofessional organizations ofsocial scientists around the world, and has remained a sort ofsemi-official ideological brieffor the international peace movement to the present day. The United Nations, indefatigable on behalfofcauses that do not cost much, proceeded to proclaim the year 2000 yet another International Year ofPeace, and the entire decade 2001-2010 the first "International Decade for the Culture of Peace." As the International Decade for the Culture ofPeace would appear to have got offto a rocky start, another look at the Seville Statementmaybe timely. The stated purpose ofthis short text was to "challenge a number of alleged biological findings thathave been used ... to justifyviolence and war." Among other heresies it was declared "SCIENTIFICALLY INCORRECT to say that war or any other violent behavior is genetically programmed," or "that in the course ofhuman evolution there has been a selection for violent behavior," or "that humans have a 'violent brain.'" The Seville Statementwas directed against the revival of Social Darwinism, then generally known as "sociobiology," whose impact on the social sciences and historical studies was justbeginningto be felt. The new Darwinism appeared to challenge a set of assumptions about human nature, sometimes labeled the "Standard Social Science Model," which had long held credal status in the minds ofleftwing academics: that human nature is utterly unlike the rest ofthe animal world, thathuman culture is almost totally free from biological constraints, that both are indefinitelymalleable and therefore theoreticallyperfectible. Hence the Seville Statement took it for granted that Darwinian studies of culture were intended "to justify violence and war" and "condemn humanity to war," though it failed to name a single evolutionarybiologistwho had implied any such thing. The Seville Statement is pseudo-science. The Seville conference did notgive rise to any research program and was not intended to; it produced instead a political campaign to collect endorsements from influential organizations . The authors intended a preemptive strike atbiological discoveries thathad notyet been made, closingoffthe evolutionarystudy ofwar and violence and, by implication, evolutionary approaches to the study of many other areas ofhuman behavior. During the 1970sJane Goodall, a British ethologist, conducted in East Africa the first close field studies ofwild chimpanzees and reported thatthese apes were notexacdy amiable and peaceable vegetarians, as everyone thought. Chimpanzees regularly hunt small game and eat a great deal of meat, which is shared with other members of their band. They also practice a kind oforganized and lethal group conflict which, ifnot the same thing as humanwarfare, looks verymuch like the evolutionary threshold ofit. The most arresting thing about these behaviors is that bothhuntingand "warfare" are primarilymale activities, as among humans. In other carnivorous species, females hunt atleast as actively as males, and amonglions, more so; butamong chimpanzees the males are responsible for nearlyall the kills oflargergame such as monkeys . Bands ofmales also routinely patrol the bordersoftheirterritoriesand conductstealthy raids into the territories ofneighboringbands, where theyambush and kill solitaryindividuals . This behavior, unique among primates, seems to be the result of a peculiar social organization. Chimps are one ofthe very few primates inwhich femalesleave thenatal group at maturity to join other bands, while their brothers remain in it Mostotherprimate societies are bands of related females with their attached males, buta chimpsocietyis a band of related males with attached females. This apparendy changes the dynamics of male aggression. Coalitional violence becomes an evolutionary advantage. There is one other primate that practices male-coalitional aggression. In all the known primitive cultures, hunting and warfare are male activities—indeed the essential male activities—and the badges ofmasculine identity . There have been many unconvincing attempts byfeminists to denythis factorminimize its significance, mosdybased...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-6438
Print ISSN
1941-4188
Pages
pp. 21-23
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Ceased Publication
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