Why is it that humans, nearly unique in this regard, have a natural inclination to band together and kill off members of our own species? The fact that chimpanzees, our closest evolutionary relatives, are the only other animals known to exhibit such organized warlike behavior is a big clue.
Malcolm Potts and Thomas Hayden, authors of the new book Sex and War, assert that the answers lie in our biological history -- that aggression against our own species is rooted in deep evolutionary impulses and predispositions. In other words, intra-species battling among our protohuman ancestors gave a reproductive advantage to the most violent males -- and here we are, their pugnacious descendants, still at it.
Watch to learn how sex and war are inextricably linked, and perhaps, what we modern-day humans can do about it.
Tom joined E-IPER in December 2008. A science journalist and magazine writer, Tom teaches IPER 200, a practical course focused on using the tools of journalism to raise the profile and influence of science in the public sphere. With the students in IPER 200, Tom produces a consumer-oriented advice column that provides science-based answers to reader's questions about sustainable living. Tom also teaches environmental reporting (Comm. 277) in Stanford's graduate program in journalism.
Prior to coming to Stanford, Tom was a staff writer at the weekly news magazines Newsweek and US News & World Report, and a freelance science journalist for publications including National Geographic, Wired, Nature, USA Today and many others. He has taught science journalism at Johns Hopkins University, and is a founding faculty member in the summer Science Communications program at the Banff Centre, in Canada.
He is coauthor of two nonfiction books and continues to write articles and reviews for diverse publications. He has a BSA from the University of Saskatchewan and an MS from the University of Southern California, where he studied biological oceanography.
David Malcolm Potts
Prof. David Malcolm Potts is a human reproductive scientist. Since 1993, he has been the first holder of the Fred H. Bixby-endowed chair in Population and Family Planning in the School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley.
Potts completed a medical degree and a PhD in embryology (on the electron microscopy of mammalian implantation) at the University of Cambridge. While at Cambridge, he started the first clinic offering contraception to young people. He advised David Steel on the UK's 1967 Abortion Act. He was the first male doctor at the Marie Stopes Clinic in London.
He became the first Medical Director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation in 1968. In 1972, he was the first physician to promote the technique of uterine manual vacuum aspiration. He then moved to the United States and became CEO of Family Health International (FHI) from 1978-1990. During this period, FHI became the largest global AIDS prevention programme outside of the World Health Organisation.
He has published ten books and over 200 scientific papers. His books include Abortion (co-written with Peter Diggory and John Peel, 1977), Textbook of Contraceptive Practice (1st edition co-written with John Peel, 1969; 2nd edition co-written with Peter Diggory, 1983; long the key textbook in the field), Queen Victoria's Gene (written with his brother Prof. William Potts), Ever Since Adam and Eve: The Evolution of Human Sexuality (written with Dr Roger Short, 1999) and Sex and War: How Biology Explains Warfare and Terrorism and Offers a Path to a Safer World (co-written with Thomas Hayden, 2008). He has worked as a consultant to the World Bank and the British, American, Canadian and Egyptian governments.
Professor Malcolm Potts, coauthor of Sex and War, shows video of an aggressive group of male chimpanzees attacking a lone chimp from a neighboring troop. Potts says this is what "Darwinian evolution is all about."
Evolution of modern human beings from extinct nonhuman and humanlike forms. Genetic evidence points to an evolutionary divergence between the lineages of humans and the great apes on the African continent 85 million years ago (mya). The earliest fossils considered to be remains of hominins (members of the human lineage) date to at least 4 mya in Africa; they include the genus Australopithecus and other forms. The next major evolutionary stage, Homo habilis, inhabited sub-Saharan Africa about 21.5 mya. Homo habilis appears to have been supplanted by a taller and more humanlike species, Homo erectus, which lived from c. 1,700,000 to 200,000 years ago, gradually migrating into Asia and parts of Europe. Between c. 600,000 and 200,000 years ago, Homo heidelbergensis, sometimes called archaic Homo sapiens, lived in Africa, Europe, and perhaps parts of Asia. Having features resembling those of both H. erectus and modern humans, H. heidelbergensis may have been an ancestor of modern humans and also of the Neanderthals (H. neanderthalensis), who inhabited Europe and western Asia from c. 200,000 to 28,000 years ago. Fully modern humans (H. sapiens) seem to have emerged in Africa only c. 150,000 years ago, perhaps having descended directly from H. erectus or from an intermediate species such as H. heidelbergensis.
Those are not accusations, they are simply facts based on SCIENTIFIC REsearch.
And most of us would appreciate if you could keep the "harsh" and "wild" part of your thoughts for yourself.
It would show you have respect for science and for all of us, speakers and internet users. And it will also bring the respect back to you.
Thank you for your understanding.
"The fact that chimpanzees, our closest evolutionary relatives, are the only other animals known to exhibit such organized warlike behavior is a big clue."
Not exactly true.
Stricter laws are exactly what you don't want. Instead of stifling these natural drives we have to offer more avenues for it's release. Many woman are trying to put a stop to fathers teaching their boys ultimate fighting as a sport when it's a great and controlled release. Violent movies and games provide the same. They don't make monsters, just the opposite, especially if boys are mentored. In these times of the vilified male though it makes that more difficult.
This aggression can be very ugly but it's also the source of the most creative energy on the planet. More avenues, more guidance are the answers. I wish they spoke about that as it's the other 50% of the equation.
It's too bad they call testosterone a weapon of mass destruction. At a population of 7bn right around the corner I'd say it was just the opposite. I would also say, if you want to reduce violence and all that comes with it, give fathers back to their children and give manhood back to our men.
"in classes I have taken, they have always talked about how society shapes children to want these types of toys at a young age" you may consider a different school. Almost 40 years ago researchers were seriously questioning that theory and found it untrue time and again.
Carol, I did a Google search for the 35% statistics after reading your post. I couldn't find the Thornhill paper online, but I found the following link to an almost 30 year old paper which predates it somewhat, which seems to contain the same conclusion with almost the same words and it describes the methodology:
The test group seems to have been North American College students, hardly an "average testosterone" group and possibly one in which self-doubt about their own sexuality and self-control could be running rampant (and I would not be ashamed to base that on my own experience as a young male student... which I do not count as the most pleasant part of my life, for sure). The paper then tries to establish better predictors for the likelihood of individuals to actually rape a woman based on their reaction to the kind of depiction of a rape scene. I think the differentiation is both required and useful to understand what drives rapists and how we, as a society, can work to reduce the rate of rape (and not just by threat of punishment, which is probably fairly ineffective).
I would take away from the paper that there is more than just a little hope that rape is not "simply" genetically pre-programmed but that it is indeed a function of the social environment. As a primitive example, I would cite that antisemitism in Germany was highly encouraged before 1945 and highly discouraged thereafter, which makes all the difference in the world to Jewish people living there today. While the change of the social attitude towards antisemitism hasn't eliminated it completely, it has reduced the occurrence of the phenomenon by orders of magnitude.
Similarly I would hope that with education and social work we can do something similar to reduce the rate of rapes and bring down the number of men who seem to believe that they could actually rape a woman... and get away with it (without, at least, a lasting damage to their own psyche).
Interesting about the male testosterone, but it seems even grasshoppers have a dominant male who runs the show in a group. Yet, the types of sports we are lucky to have for both males and females to allow them to compete these days, rather than the lions of the by-gone era of males in a sports arena, and people cheering. Sports on TV which has a lot of viewers, and the various types of entertainment we have now also helps control people in a positive way usually.
The 35% of men that would rape a female if they could get away with it has me very concerned though. Could it be somewhat our violence in the movies and on TV part of cause? This is an area that must be worked on as too many children, male and female are violated, and until we as humans realize we destroy a lot of humans by this act both mentally and emotionally, and produce a more sick society by not having stricter laws.
It was an interesting lecture though, and many good conversations could arise from it.
I will recommend you one book, Steven Pinker's "The Blank Slate" - The Modern Denial of Human Nature. We are born with our gender, the idea that you are born with a moldable brain is not true. All genes in your body pre-defines who you are and what you can or will become. Remember, genes are prepositions, not determinations. Intelligence Quotient (IQ) is very much genetic, a person born with an IQ of 80 cannot become an Einstein. He just can't.