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Biological Basis for Out-Group Aggression

I am listening to the audio version of the book “Sex and War: How Biology Explains Warfare and Terrorism and Offers a Path to a Safer World” by Malcom Potts and Thoman Hayden. I have covered about 40% of the book so far, but I think I get the point that the authors are trying to make.

The authors quote many examples of war crimes and aggressive behavior among chimpanzees to show some very interesting parallels. Young males in some animals species have a predisposition for team-aggression: the individuals gang together and carry out systematic attacks on out-group members of the same species. The attacks can be lethal or sexual. The authors describe some of the atrocities on women that are so common during wars. They also quote many examples from animal observers such as Jane Goodall; the way male chimpanzees form groups and carry out gruesome attacks on neighboring chimpanzee tribes makes for some chilling reading.

Team aggression may have been an evolutionary necessity for survival. But on today’s world, with our planet overpopulated with close to 7 billion homo-sapiens, survival of the species does not need aggression, if anything. But millions of years of evolution and genetic programming does not get change ┬áin a few thousand years of modern social life that our species has led.

The authors say that communities or countries with a larger proportion of young males are likely to have a lot of crime and aggressive behavior. The wars and the terrorist attacks of today’s world are the result this deep-rooted aggressive traits that are carried in our genes, they argue.

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Behavioral Economics vs. Evolutionary Psychology

I have been reading and researching books and other literature on Behavioral Economics for the last few years. It’s been a very fascinating journey in this new field for me. I have been able to relate to many of the things I learned about in this study and apply them to things I see in real life.

This study led me to another very interesting book: “Sex, Murder, and the Meaning of Life: A Psychologist Investigates How Evolution, Cognition, and Complexity are Revolutionizing our View of Human Nature” by Douglas T. Kenrick.

What this book talks about is Evolutionary Psychology, a field I have been interested in, but something I haven’t explored much until now. I have found many books by Desmond Morris including “The Naked Ape” very interesting and relevant to human life, but that is considered to be the field of Anthropology.

A lot of the views on human behavior by anthropologists and evolutionary biologists seem to be consistent; they try to reason why a particular behavior pattern may have evolved and how it may have helped the human species to survive and thrive during challenging times.

Behavioral economists view human behavior in the context of today’s life. From their point of view, many of the choices that we make appear irrational or contrary to what classic economics would expect us to do. Even though these aspects of human behavior in the modern world can be considered irrational in today’s context, they were essential part of human evolution and survival, the evolutionary psychologists argue.

 

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