Sebastian Junger’s Documentary Film Restrepo Deserves an Oscar, but His Theory of War is Wrong

02-07-war_junger John Horgan in Scientific American:

Junger reiterated his war-is-in-our-genes view when he spoke after a screening of Restrepo in my hometown. Describing himself as an antiwar liberal (who thinks the U.S. botched its occupation of Afghanistan but fears that worse bloodshed will result if the U.S. abruptly withdraws), he said his reporting and research led him to the disturbing conclusion that war stems from innate male urges. I disagree. Here are some counterarguments to Junger's contention that we're “hardwired” for war:

*The evidence that war is in our genes is flimsy to nonexistent. Lethal raiding among chimpanzees, our closest relatives, is often cited as strong evidence that human warfare is ancient and innate. But as I pointed out in a previous post, scientists have observed a total of 31 chimpicides over the past half century; many chimp communities have never been observed engaging in deadly raids. Even Wrangham has acknowledged that chimpanzee raids are “certainly rare.”

*The oldest clear-cut evidence for lethal group violence by humans dates back not millions or hundreds of thousands of years but only 13,000 years. Moreover, as an excellent recent article on this Web site points out, tribal societies in regions such as the U.S. Southwest did not fight continuously; they lived peacefully for centuries before erupting into violence. These patterns are not consistent with behavior that is instinctual or “hardwired.”

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