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Is War a Virus or a Gene?

by WiFO215
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WiFO215
#1
Mar16-12, 12:57 AM
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I just read this article recently about John Horgan's new book, 'The End of War'. The premise of the book is 'that war is neither a biological impulse nor an economic imperative' and 'that war is a cultural innovation'. This is contrary to what most believe, that war has its roots in geopolitics, and is central to a part of our existence in large groups. What do you guys think? Has anyone read it?
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chiro
#2
Mar16-12, 02:08 AM
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Quote Quote by WiFO215 View Post
I just read this article recently about John Horgan's new book, 'The End of War'. The premise of the book is 'that war is neither a biological impulse nor an economic imperative' and 'that war is a cultural innovation'. This is contrary to what most believe, that war has its roots in geopolitics, and is central to a part of our existence in large groups. What do you guys think? Has anyone read it?
Economically, at least for most people, war does not make sense. It drains resources like a fire hose and generally leaves nearly everyone worse off. Some do benefit, and they benefit greatly, but many do not.

In terms of biological impulse, you should read the book: "On killing: The psychological cost of learning to Kill in War and Society" written by Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman. If you read this book, you'll find some good analysis that most men don't want to kill and in fact in wars like World War I and World War II, it is estimated that the majority of the men didn't have it in them to kill another.

As a result of this kind of behaviour in 'most people', the training that goes in the military has changed to reflect this new discovery in that people are basically 'programmed' to kill in ways that they never were even in the periods of the first two world wars.

Now I'm always open to another viewpoint, but based on these viewpoints there is a strong argument that economic and biological factors don't really play a part for the majority of people, but they certainly would do for a select few.
arildno
#3
Mar16-12, 02:17 AM
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The author is provably WRONG that war is some "cultural innovation", at least when we limit to "cultural" to concern non-genetic determinants of HUMAN behaviour.

War is COMMON among different chimp groups, competing about resources, territory and females.

Danger
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Mar16-12, 02:18 AM
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Is War a Virus or a Gene?

That is interesting. I read only the first couple of paragraphs in your link because I'm very tired and about to go beddy-bye, but will investigate it further tomorrow.
My personal opinion, for which I don't have any factual backing as yet, is that war is merely an evolutionary extension of every lifeform's biological imperative to dominate its environment. Human culture introduced the concepts of wealth and political power over and above the natural quest for eating and mating. That might be incorrect, but it's my first "gut instinct" opinion.

edit: Wow! Holy sheepdip! I took a few minutes to formulate my response, and everyone jumped in ahead of me.
arildno
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Mar16-12, 02:36 AM
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As for Horgan, it is NOT to his credit to use Margaret Mead as an authoritative source for his claims.
That woman was a complete and utter crackpot, infused by the anthropological fantasy of "The Noble savage", who didn't even know how to rape women.
Her research on Samoan culture, for instance, has been debunked as totally inaccurate, driven by her desire to "see" a culture of free, non-oppressive sexual flowering.
arildno
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Mar16-12, 02:41 AM
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Furthermore, Horgan has an extremely superficial idea about how the war impulse was "infected", and thus, somehow, "cultural" rather than "natural".
namely, that once a violent psychopath appears, the others will tend to embrace violence as a survval tool.
from this, Horgan somehow manages to claim that the impulse for war is NOT innate to man, and that it is curable in human societies.

This is so utterly, completely wrong, not the least because that violent first psychopath wasn't human to begin with, and that our GENES have adapted to war as a natural conflict resolution mechanism way before we ever could be called humans..
Danger
#7
Mar16-12, 03:13 AM
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Quote Quote by arildno View Post
that violent first psychopath wasn't human to begin with, and that our GENES have adapted to war as a natural conflict resolution mechanism way before we ever could be called humans..
My only possible conflict with that statement is that I don't know whether or not the term "psychopath" can be applied to a non-human since it is a medical definition of a human condition. As nearly as I can determine, the only prerequisite for war is some sort of social structure wherein co-operation is necessary. Otherwise, it's just fighting. It doesn't have to involve vertebrates, let alone humans. If you scoop up part of a red ant hill and drop it onto a black ant hill, you will witness violence that would scare the **** out of Spetsnaz operatives. Those little bastards are nasty, and act in concert. Conversely, I can't recall ever hearing of barnacles engaging in a co-ordinated offensive.
arildno
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Mar16-12, 03:23 AM
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Quote Quote by Danger View Post
My only possible conflict with that statement is that I don't know whether or not the term "psychopath" can be applied to a non-human since it is a medical definition of a human condition. As nearly as I can determine, the only prerequisite for war is some sort of social structure wherein co-operation is necessary. Otherwise, it's just fighting. It doesn't have to involve vertebrates, let alone humans. If you scoop up part of a red ant hill and drop it onto a black ant hill, you will witness violence that would scare the **** out of Spetsnaz operatives. Those little bastards are nasty, and act in concert. Conversely, I can't recall ever hearing of barnacles engaging in a co-ordinated offensive.
Barnacles rip the skin off your feet, and you dare to call them..INOFFENSIVE??
TheStatutoryApe
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Mar16-12, 04:05 AM
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This may be side tracking a bit but is there really anything to support the idea that cultural phenomena are not derived, at least in part, from biological impulse? It would seem to me that it would have to all be based on biological impulses in response to environmental circumstances or else where does it come from?
arildno
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Mar16-12, 04:25 AM
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Quote Quote by TheStatutoryApe View Post
This may be side tracking a bit but is there really anything to support the idea that cultural phenomena are not derived, at least in part, from biological impulse? It would seem to me that it would have to all be based on biological impulses in response to environmental circumstances or else where does it come from?
We would not be culturally adaptive, unless we had the genetic complexity allowing us to be so.

Thus, "culture" is not something of "equal stature" as an ultimately explanatory factor, even though heuristically, it will be most meaningful to talk about "cultural causes".

After all, "biology" itself underlies the rules of physics, but there certainly exist a vast scope of different types of life in accordance with the rules of physics.

A somewhat similar relation holds between "biology" and "culture" in my view.
Danger
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Mar16-12, 04:58 AM
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Quote Quote by arildno View Post
"biology" itself underlies the rules of physics
I would propose that the inverse is true, but I agree with you in principle.
Stats, regardless of what terminology we use, I have the impression that you and Arildno and I are all on the same page. That might be a mistaken premise, but it seems that we are all expressing the same thoughts in different words.
arildno
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Mar16-12, 05:10 AM
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Oops!
To, literally, "underlie" in Norwegian, may mean in some contexts to "lie under", i.e, being dominated by what is above.
(I.e, that biology "lies under", is subjugated, to the rules of physics..)

Thus, when I write Norwenglish, such odd mistakes occur.
Danger
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Mar16-12, 05:20 AM
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Quote Quote by arildno View Post
Thus, when I write Norwenglish, such odd mistakes occur.
Oh, I am quite certain that odd mistakes are your constant companions... and few of them involve linguistics.
Andre
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Mar16-12, 05:28 AM
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In a rationalized way Carl von Clausewitz's aphorism was that war is a continuation of politic with other means, while Sun tzu considered it an art and that was over two milleniums ago.

Personally I think that war is just the result of excessive groupthink and that's the result of a career long observation of the military.
Alex_Sanders
#15
Mar16-12, 06:28 AM
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I believe it's a product of governments.

You got people dumb enough to buy in "universal healthcare", you got people with the equivalent intelligence level to buy wars.
arildno
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Mar16-12, 06:35 AM
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Quote Quote by Alex_Sanders View Post
I believe it's a product of governments.

You got people dumb enough to buy in "universal healthcare", you got people with the equivalent intelligence level to buy wars.
And two stone age men couldn't thump each other in the head in a quarrel over a hairy, stinking woman?

I call that a war..
Hobin
#17
Mar16-12, 06:51 AM
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Not each fight can be considered a war. I agree with the author, though I'm uncertain whether 'tis true that most believe war is a part of human nature. You don't see anything that can be considered a real war in animals (of course, if I'm wrong, I would be happy to see an example ) - the instinctive need to fight and dominate is widespread, of course, but that's something different. War's also not an economic imperative, although I would argue that it might have become one when the hunter/gatherer-folks gradually became agriculture-folks. So the reason left is culture or group-think.
wuliheron
#18
Mar16-12, 06:57 AM
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In evolutionary terms you could easily make a case for Punctuated Equilibria. We evolved for millions of years to live in small hunter-gather groups, but the agricultural and industrial revolutions have completely removed us from our natural environments and social structures. The same group of people who might save someone from a burning building one day can encourage another to jump off a bridge the next. According to the sociologists once you get about 300 people together things start to get strange and authoritarian.

I'm reminded of a woman from a Yanomomo-like tribe who moved to NYC and was asked by reporters what it was like to go from the stone age to the big city. She said she was shocked to look out on a crowded city street and see thousands of people all looking so lonely. This was a woman who had spent her entire life with the same 30 people perhaps seeing one stranger a year and she had never experienced that kind of loneliness.

War, environmental destruction, etc. don't really seem to speak much to the intelligence of our species unless you put them in the context that we are simply fish out of water flopping around on the sand and gasping for breath.


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