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.
What a very well-delivered program on the connection between men, testosterone and warfare. We are far too PC in the world to discuss the connection between biology and aggression; too many accept violence by men as a part of life.
The video about team aggression by chimpanzees was shocking, but it explained perfectly how men can create an enemy at will, gang up on the "offending party" and kill to show off their prowess.
When 35% of men questioned say they would rape if they could get away with it, it makes sense to pray for daughters. The current business MODEL primarily taught by MEN, mimics war. We see evidence of their "take no prisoners" mentality every day in the stock market, and you are right...religions have JUSTIFIED atrocities by people against people. They are of no help whatsoever.
Testosterone is the ultimate weapon of mass destruction. Having a higher percentage of women makes for a more civilized and peaceful society.Testosterone IS the ultimate weapon of mass destruction and women have to take a BIGGER ROLE in keeping it in check.
I would have to disagree with you,gabriele.
You quote "The point is that young men are the ones that fights and their aggressiveness is what change society. Their solution to end violence: lower birth rates, will work but it will also lead to less inventions, less changes, less of anything.
I don't think that it's the best solution."
What you don't realize is that it is the educated that change the world.There will always be young men out for change. The problem Hayden and Malcolm are trying to solve is the violent nature of humans, not the drive for change.
As for your observation on the lower the population the lower the advancement of human ingenuity and progress. This opinion is not supported with any statistics that show a ratio of great minds and the total population. Shakespeare lived in a London of 200,000 people, now London is swelling with 7.56 million people. Do we have 38 modern Shakespeares?
You fear the lack of human advancement do to a low population. A lower population would relive the strain on the time, energy and resources a country has. This will put more investment on the offspring we have, thus increasing the standards of living and education, which in turn will increase the number of engineers and scientist.
It all comes down to quality over quantity, and in this age where the tension for resources are rising; can we afford to push our population higher?
As a Vietnam veteran I would like to interject another concept of why young men go to war and that is for the money. That is not to say as a mercenary but because of the lack of jobs. I volunteered in 1970 because there were no good jobs to be had and it seemed to be like a opportunity to travel. Of course I knew little about war and even less about the Vietnam conflict. I certainly didn't go because I wanted the thrill of battle. I would venture to say that most of the young men and women in the current conflict joined for the same reasons. I do believe that young men are more aggressive and willing to fight but it is the old men that start the wars and the young men that have to fight it.
In the days of old the spoils of war went to the king but today the spoils of war go to those that got the contracts for the prewar, war and postwar contracts behind closed doors before the war starts.
The “us verses them” syndrome starts in the prewar phase, by means of propaganda by spin or misinformation or truthful halve truths. In Vietnam the enemy were called “Gooks” and in Iraq there called “towelheads”.
Aside from usual male tendencies, I am of the opinion that there are basically two frames of mind among men, left wing and the right wing mentality, the left wing being more liberal and the right being less so, for example, one would be hard pressed to find liberal gang members, although I have no doubt that they would attack any race, gender, religion or ethnicity equally that had the misfortune to be on there turf.
The chimpanzees are male dominated troops and are aggressive toward each other and the females within there own troop as well as those outside there troop. The bonobos are female dominated and have much less aggressiveness within and outside there troops and seems to have traded aggressiveness for sex, which seems like a pretty good idea to me, though I would have considerable hesitation to the idea of penis fencing. However, this concept of “make love not war” was given considerable consideration by the young in the 70's but was attacked mercilessly by Johnson, not to , the father of liberal thinking, mention the right, who considered their ideas to be against Americanism and was in conflict with the concept of fighting against the spread of communism that led to the Vietnam war in that time and even more so in the Nixon administration and the concept that war is bad, is ading and abetting the enemy and still continues to this day.
The point being that "more sex, less war" is not a concept that will avert war because there's no profit in it. Though sex will always be with us so will the politics and the profits of war and war will win out every time.
As a young boy, I think if someone had tried to give me dolls instead of trucks, I would have carried more frustration which would have lead to a tendancy towards rebelious behavior later on. It seems to that the answer is to teach people how to behave responsibly with the tools that they are given rather that to try to prevent access to them.
I found it interesting that this doctor's solution to the problem of violence was to increase sales of condoms and contraceptives. As a physician I would think he would know about the detrimental effects these things have on women. Much better alternatives, such as those promoted by the church, do exist: namely natural family planning, and teaching people how best to behave with responsibility to both self and society, and what the consequences of irresponsible behavior are.
I thought he also failed to mention that one of the reasons China, a nation he expressed respect for, has low rates of violent crime despite having a male dominated population (the result of government policy and forced abortion) is that the government of that nation simply doesn't tolerate rebeliousness.
Potts and Hayden unfortunately mar a great presentation with a series of totally unsupported or factually incorrect statements, with related poor conclusions, when they answer some of the free form audience baiting. They wisely chose to not state opinions about abortion to avoid inflaming people, but had no problem making cultural and gun-control related statements that were more acceptable to their audience, but clearly outside their fields of study.
Also, Frodo is probably a bad example for "normal" chimp behavior because he was a psychopath!
I don't know, I think some of what he said was pretty interesting. For example, how the female monkey went for the doll and male went for the truck, the stock broker point etc. I think its actually pretty strange that the monkeys did go for what they did just because in classes I have taken, they have always talked about how society shapes children to want these types of toys at a young age. It is interesting to see that its just a natural instinct for the monkeys.
Arguably, team-aggression is one of the traits that helped homosapiens compete with other primates, and other species in general, for limited resources. While conflict resolution through sex might appeal to our 21st century minds, the Bonobo's survival strategy has obviously not worked out as well as one might have hoped.
Here is the conundrum: The same traits that are responsible for a significant part of our evolutionary success, we now find morally troubling or distasteful. I think prescribers of "solutions" ought to tread very lightly here. One might detest the absence of "cosmic justice" in nature, the vile and violent ways she picks winners and losers, but it is hard to argue with success.
A crucial point of the authors is that younger men cause violence and wars. They provide data, such as that the are not in human history group of women united with the unique scope of violence, etc.
It's all true but they miss the point, there are not also non-patriarchal societies in human history, there are not revolutions that young men haven't fought and no democratic and liberal rights for the general population that are not gained by young men. The point is that young men are the ones that fights and their aggressiveness is what change society. Their solution to end violence: lower birth rates, will work but it will also lead to less inventions, less changes, less of anything.
I don't think that it's the best solution.