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Sapolsky's baboons

  1. Oct 24, 2009 #1


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    Interesting story about peace emerging in a culture of baboons: A Pacific Culture among Wild Baboons: Its Emergence and Transmission

    Raises interesting questions about how peace evolves in a culture when aggressiveness and violence should be the winning strategy for survival.

    Basically, all of the aggressive males are wiped out by a tuberculosis epidemic and the group is left with twice as many females as males, and only the most passive males at that. The higher ranking males quit harrassing the lower ranking males. The males quit physically abusing the females. Male-male grooming even starts taking place.

    The strangest thing about this group is that females stay in the group they were born in, while males roam off and join a new group. Twenty years later, the group is filled with males born in typical male aggressive groups, but the males still learn passive behavior upon joining the group (and exhibit less stress, as well - life for the lower ranking males is much better than in typical baboon troops).

    No genetic differences. Just a radical change in environment and the new males all adopt the new behavior, thus sustaining the changed environment.

    It also raises interesting questions about rehabilitating criminals, drug addicts, and alcoholics. Of course, the problem in these cases is that they still go back to the exact same environment that they had problems in.

    Interestingly, it's only been about 60 years since a 'peace culture' developed in the human race. Post-war economic interdependence has made war between US & European nations virtually unthinkable. Just in the last 30 years, attitudes about sexually abusing females and female children have changed drastically (would Polansky have only gotten 90 days if he were sentenced today?)

    (Yes, I was listening to NPR's http://www.wnyc.org/shows/radiolab/episodes/2009/10/02 [Broken] today.)
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  2. jcsd
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