Sunday, July 21, 2013

Scientists Go to War Over War

War is not an inevitable feature of society, according to two scientists who analyzed acts of aggression in 21 hunter-gatherer societies.

Among people who live today most like our ancestors did long ago, most acts of murder occur as a result of individual conflicts rather than as part of major battle-style events, the researchers report in the journal Science. That would suggests that war is an artifice of society, and not an intrinsic feature of human nature.

It’s a hopeful message, but one that has met with strong criticisms from a community of anthropologists who have long debated whether warfare has an extensive evolutionary history with roots embedded in the structure of our brains, or whether war is a response to more recent developments in how societies are structured...
My problem with that hypothesis is that people are a social species, and even though most acts of violence are likely to be personal and person to person, the same factors that drive people into conflict will also, perhaps more rarely, drive adjacent groups of people into conflict.

Other experts disagree, pointing out the complexities of defining what “war” is and the ambiguity of interpreting what archaeological discoveries say about how ancient people died, among other problems.

"The evidence doesn't really support the claim they're making," said Michael Wilson, an anthropologist at the University of Minnesota. "It's a hard question to study. If you look at the archaeological record, there's evidence of violence going back pretty far. But if you find a spearhead or arrowhead in someone's bones, which is common, is that war or an interpersonal dispute? You just don’t know."
Before the "industrialization" of war, I suspect most that most skirmishes resulted in only a few casualties, more wounds than instant death and rarely mass graves, filled with bodies with obvious signs of warfare.

“I think that people like Douglas Fry who are making a big effort trying to say that warfare does not have a deep evolutionary history think the answer needs to be that warfare is not a part of human nature, and therefore we don’t have to have warfare,” Wilson said, adding that the new paper falls in line with arguments that Fry has made in the past.

“I think that’s misguided. It’s clear that warfare occurs very commonly wherever there are people, but it doesn’t always occur. If we can find why people are less likely to go to war in some instances, then we’ll be doing something useful. I think it’s a very optimistic way of going forward.”
There's a real problem with science, particularly biological, and behavioral scientists, with presuming the answer, and then seeking to show that it is true. Although it sound a lot like the hypothesis in the  "scientific" method,  in biology and behavior the rules are not the same a the "natural laws" of physics, being much more malleable. The answer is not usually either one or another rule, but a conditional blending.
Also linked at The Other McCain in Wombat-Socho's weekly Rule 5 bonanza "Rule 5 Monday."

No comments:

Post a Comment