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slaking their ravenous thirst with the hot blood of victims and greedily devouring livid writhing flesh.”Please pass the potatoes.When not gorging on the hot blood and writhing flesh of their prey, our ancestors were apparently after each other.
Unfortunately, he continues the habit in his latest book, The Better Angels of Our Nature (2011).
The thesis of Pinker’s book is that levels of violence and warfare have been decreasing from a Hobbesian past in which “chronic raiding and feuding …
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.
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.Perhaps we find a clue in Raymond Dart’s vivid description of our species’ ancient appetites.Dart, who in 1924 discovered the first fossil of a human ancestor in Africa, added his colorful twist to the neo-Hobbesian narrative when he described early humans as “carnivorous creatures, that seized living quarries by violence, battered them to death …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.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.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.