A recent article at the Scientific American website discusses a study which sheds light on the assumption that warfare is inherently human - going back to our hunter-gatherer ancestors.
A study published today in Science, ”Lethal Aggression in Mobile Forager Bands and Implications for the Origins of War,” provides more counter-evidenceThey used information about 21 forager societies - from five continents (Australia, North America, South America, Africa and South Asia). So, the results are not a peculiarity of a particular society, region or continent. They analyzed cases of violence between members of different groups in which there was more than one attacker - group vs. group violence.
[The researchers] focus on mobile forager bands, also called nomadic hunter-gatherers, because their behavior is thought to provide a window into human evolution.
Of the 21 societies... three had no observed killings of any kind, and 10 had no killings carried out by more than one perpetrator. In only six societies did ethnographers record killings that involved two or more perpetrators and two or more victims. However, a single society, the Tiwi of Australia, accounted for almost all of these group killings.
only two out of 148 killings stemmed from a fight over “resources,” such as a hunting ground, water hole or fruit tree.The study shows us it is possible for hunter-gatherer societies to engage in war-like activities, but it is not an inseparable part of being human or humans having a society. It shows us that societies that are closer to bare subsistence were unlikely to war over resources. Can we say the same of hierarchical societies? Even industrialized nations fight over resources - with those decisions to start wars not made by the poorest, hungriest members of those societies, but by those in the privileged layers of comparatively affluent societies.
[I think it worth making one note. Our ancestors of tens of thousands of years ago may have been capable of war-like acts (although it was not inherent for them to do so) as is true of some of these modern foragers. But it is wiser not to simply assume that. A lack of war-like acts by some societies is good evidence that humans and human societies do not "need" to engage in war. But this article does not clarify whether warring societies such as the Tiwi learned warfare before making contact with post-hunter-gatherer societies or whether they learned it from hierarchical societies which may be more inclined to warfare.]
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Why might war and aggression be more common once a hierarchical elite is making the decisions? One factor may be related to an earlier diary I posted. The diary does not discuss war between societies, but is about the running of companies and economies by those who lack healthy human emotion and behavior: "Forbes: 'Why (Some) Psychopaths Make Great CEOs'"