Some scientists are being hailed as geniuses by ABC News because they “discovered” two things: 1) that violence is not a recent phenomenon because humans may have been at war with each other for a long long time and 2) that war and evolution fit quite nicely together.
Uh, Christians were drawing a link between evolutionary theory and violence while Darwin was still rowing back from the Galapagos. And us religious ignoramuses have been chatting up man’s innate sinful and warring nature since Cain asked Abel “Did you tell anyone you were meeting me here?”
But that doesn’t stop ABC from reporting it breathlessly as news:
It’s a question at the heart of what it is to be human: why do we go to war? The cost to human society is enormous, yet for all our intellectual development, we continue to wage war well into the 21st century.
Now a new theory is emerging that challenges the prevailing view that warfare is a product of human culture and thus a relatively recent phenomenon. For the first time, anthropologists, archaeologists, primatologists, psychologists and political scientists are approaching a consensus. Not only is war as ancient as humankind, they say, but it has played an integral role in our evolution.
The theory helps explain the evolution of familiar aspects of warlike behaviour such as gang warfare. And even suggests the cooperative skills we’ve had to develop to be effective warriors have turned into the modern ability to work towards a common goal.
These ideas emerged at a conference last month on the evolutionary origins of war at the University of Oregon in Eugene. “The picture that was painted was quite consistent,” says Mark Van Vugt, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Kent, UK. “Warfare has been with us for at least several tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of years.” He thinks it was already there in the common ancestor we share with chimps. “It has been a significant selection pressure on the human species,” he says. In fact several fossils of early humans have wounds consistent with warfare.
Other than “Duh!” my first reaction is that this theory is better than the other prevailing scientific theory which posits that all war is George W. Bush’s fault.
But you have to admit it’s cute when these modern types stumble upon ancient truths and call it a discovery. Honestly, only someone with a PhD could call a discovery what us bitter folks clinging to our religion were taught as children.