Thesis Still Not Done Huh

But with a gradual worldwide population increase, the shift from universal nomadic foraging to settled communities, the development of agriculture, a transition from egalitarianism to hierarchical societies—and, very significantly, the rise of state-level civilization five thousand to six thousand years ago—the archaeological record is clear and unambiguous: war developed, despots arose, violence proliferated, slavery flourished, and the social position of women deteriorated.” (p.15) According to Fry’s view—which has the benefit of being supported by overwhelming evidence—civilization has not reduced the ravages of human violence; rather, civilization is the source of most organized human violence.

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War, in one form or another, appeared with the first man.

At the dawn of history, its morality was not questioned; it was simply a fact, like drought or disease – the manner in which tribes and then civilizations sought power and settled their differences.

— Mark Twain Barack Obama is certainly no imbecile, but like most of us, he has been badly misinformed about just how innately warlike our species really is.

For reasons having nothing to do with scientific accuracy, Hobbes’ dire sloganeering about the misery of pre-civilized human life echoes down the centuries.

First off, chimps are not “our closest primate cousin,” though you would need a sharp eye to find any mention of our other, equally intimately related cousin, the bonobo, in most mainstream discussions of primate violence. Bonobos are described as “the chimps’ peaceful cousin” while chimps themselves are described as having a joint ancestor with humans, thus leading the average reader to mistakenly conclude the human genome shares more with chimps than with the bonobos.

Like a crazy relative who lives in the attic, bonobos tend to get mentioned in passing—if at all—in these sweeping declarations about the ancient primate roots of war. The bonobo’s absence is conspicuous not just in discussions of war.It is hard to say which leg of this stool is the wobbliest, so we will take them in order.Space constraints allow only a few, representative examples of the slip-shod reasoning that plagues each element of the neo-Hobbesian narrative, but you will soon get the idea.Who among us, three and a half centuries later, has not heard that our ancestors’ lives were “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”?This demonization of human existence in pre-state societies is essential to preserving the legitimacy of God and country—both of which run a protection racket promising to guard us against our own demonic inner nature.Let us just look at the quality of the evidence Pinker presents—sparse and cherry-picked though it may be.Fry dug up the original ethnographic sources Pinker used for his data on war deaths among foragers.Primate Evidence Using chimpanzee group-level conflict to explain the origins of human war is the pseudo-scientific equivalent of saying, “The devil made me do it!” If war really is an expression of something embedded so deeply in us that it goes back to the last ancestor we shared with chimps five million years ago, maybe war really is unavoidable. Given the fact that the common ancestor eventually evolved into humans, chimps and bonobos, you might think discussion of bonobos’ anti-war ethos would get as much space in these articles as accounts of chimpanzee brutality. In Nicolas Wade’s 1,260-word New York Times article (“When Chimpanzees Go on the Warpath,” June 21, 2010) for example, bonobos are mentioned just once, in a subtly misleading sentence in the twelfth paragraph.New York Times science journalist, Nicolas Wade, for example, assures readers that, “warfare between pre-state societies was incessant, merciless and conducted with the general purpose, often achieved, of annihilating the opponent.” Harvard’s Richard Wrangham and his co-author, Dale Peterson agree, memorably asserting that modern humans are, “the dazed survivors of a continuous, 5-million year habit of lethal aggression.”But take a close look and this blood-soaked vision of human prehistory—and, by extension, of human nature—is quickly revealed to be little more than a sustained outbreak of mass hysteria among a group of mostly white, middle-aged men fueled by fading testosterone, elitism, unacknowledged neo-colonial politics and sloppy thinking.The neo-Hobbesians present three primary types of evidence to argue their case:1) Primatological data drawn mainly from chimpanzees, with whom we shared a common ancestor about five million years ago (hence, Wrangham and Peterson’s “5-million year habit of lethal aggression”)2) Anthropological information seeming to show that contemporary hunter/gatherer people reflect our ancestors’ brutality;3) Archaeological findings suggesting persistent warfare extending back many millennia.


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