The oldest human civilizations appeared between 3,000 and 4,000 years ago. Since then, humans as a species have been in complete peace for approximately 268 years. And up to a billion people may have died as a direct result of the war, according to “What Everyone Should Know About War” (Free Press, 2003)
It is clear that violence is not a recent phenomenon, but is it an inherent part of man? Did we evolve to be aggressive?
It turns out that the answer is not simple. A 2014 study published in the journal nature (Opens in a new tab) They note that lethal violence was common in the communities of one of primates’ closest living relatives: chimpanzee (Pan Caves).
That suggests that violence may have been part of the human repertoire at least as far back as our most ancient common ancestor, the chimpanzee, who would have lived about 8 million years ago.
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Violence has clearly been rife since humans have been around, experts told Live Science.
Violence is a driver of much of human history. David C Geary (Opens in a new tab)A cognitive scientist and developmental psychologist at the University of Missouri at Columbia, told Live Science in an email. All early human empires were built through intimidation and violence.
“There is also evidence of aggression before recorded history: bones with evidence of violent death, such as arrow points or skulls trapped inside,” Pat Barclay (Opens in a new tab), an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Guelph in Ontario, told Live Science in an email. This suggests that violence predated complex societies and the rise of civilization.
But on the flip side, rates of violence vary (and have varied historically) greatly cultures Barclay said. This points to the possibility of a significant increase or decrease in violence in our species.
Bedouin peoples, for exampletended to have lower levels of lethal human-to-person violence, while eras full of societies bent on plunder and conquest, unsurprisingly, had higher levels.
and modern times American culture he is more violent (Opens in a new tab) than most of those in Europe.
Barclay noted, “There’s a huge variance in rates of violence — a variance in magnitude.” “In some specific recorded societies, up to half of the men die violently at the hands of other men. In others, physical violence is very rare, as in modern Japan.”
Why do people become violent?
Gehry said that violence begets violence, which means that cultures where conflict is prevalent are more susceptible to violence generation after generation. In this way, violence is “transmitted” as a contagious disease, according to University of Illinois epidemiologist Gary Slutkin. (Opens in a new tab).
but, Brad Evans (Opens in a new tab), Professor of Political Violence at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom, has pointed out that even people in the most progressive and peaceful societies are capable of violence. “Legal, normal people can quickly turn into monsters once circumstances change; similarly, some unpopular people can end up showing remarkable acts of kindness. There is no clear formula for why a person acts in a violent manner. That is why Evans told Live Science in a letter. “It’s a complex problem” email.
Additionally, according to both Barclay and Evans, acts of violence can be much easier to carry out if the individual committing the violence is away from their victims; It is much easier to press the button to launch a nuclear missile than to physically and directly deliver a fatal blow.
For example, in Stanley Milgram’s classic studies of obedience, in which an experimenter told participants to deliver electric shocks of increasing intensity to other people, participants were more reluctant to shock victims if they were physically closer to them, Barclay noted.
And historically, works Genocide occurs after the perpetrators have been stripped of their humanity (Opens in a new tab)or create a psychological distance, between themselves and those who possess a different race or ethnicity.
Types of violence
There may also be Two “types” of aggression in human evolution (Opens in a new tab): proactive and reactive, Richard Wrangham (Opens in a new tab)Research Professor in the Department of Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, Published in 2017 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences (Opens in a new tab). Historically, preemptive violence has been associated with conquest, when one group is bent on seizing another’s resources or territory. On the other hand, reactive violence can be described as the direct response to such aggression.
However, though violence seems to be an inherent human trait, Barclay is confident that there is room for optimism — to an extent.
“Objectively speaking, a person is much less likely to be violent today than in previous eras,” he said. “We are now in the most peaceful era in history. But that does not guarantee that it will remain that way. Unless we fight climate change, there will be more scarcity, more disaster, more despair and more causes for conflict.”
Originally published on Live Science.
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