Personally, I am inclined to think human aggression is intrinsic, that some humans are genetically predisposed to be more aggressive than others.
It's well established that aggressive men tend to have more testosterone in their blood than peaceable chaps like me. The amount of testosterone in a
man's blood is normally determined by his genetic make-up. So to the extent that it's linked with testosterone, male aggressiveness is certainly
Originally posted by Arcane Demesne
There are people in the world who hate violence... and think that humans should have outgrown their animal competitiveness.
Anyone who thinks human beings can 'outgrow' their animal inheritence is on to a loser. We can learn to control and redirect our instincts, up to a
point, but we will never outgrow our animal selves until -- in one way or another -- we leave our flesh-and-blood bodies behind. At that point, we
shall certainly cease to be animals, but we shall also have ceased to be human.
Such is my firm conviction. Others -- believers in 'soul', 'spirit' and other such impalpables -- may believe that the essence of humanity is
somehow immaterial. I, however, hold that our humanity is embodied in... our bodies.
Then, there are people who think violence is necessary... and that humans are just as animal like as any other animal...
The first part of that statement does not necessarily imply the second. To be sure that we are animals is not the same as being sure that violence
against our fellows is necessary or even inevitable.
In fact, few animals ever do serious violence to other members of their own species. Violent encounters that do occur, usually over mates or
territory, are highly ritualized and consist more of threat displays than actual fighting. The intraspecies violence of humans is unusual; I can't
think, offhand, of any other creature that regularly slaughters large numbers of its own kind. As And this is true despite the fact that -- as Darwin
pointed out -- the fiercest competition for resources is not between members of different species, but between different members of the same
In fact -- and here we come to the crux of my contribution -- aggression is a tricky thing to select for. Ask yourself: do aggressive individuals
always have a better chance of reproducing? Aggression may favour their chances in some ways (such as by helping dispose of sexual competitors) while
reducing them in others (by potentially shortening one's lifespan and opportunities to reproduce, say). No doubt some of the more scientifically
aware members of this forum will be able to explain the variables and the odds in more detail than I can.
The truth is, we have evolved to display aggression in some situations and cooperation in others. Human beings are social; if we were furiously
violent all the time, we'd never be able to form cohesive societies. But if we weren't aggressive and violent to some degree, those societies would
be threatened and perhaps destroyed from the outside.
So, to sum up: yes, I think aggression and a predisposition to violence are inherited characteristics. The degree to which each of us is inclined
towards aggression and violence varies, and this too, I believe, is inherited.
But I also think this genetic predisposition is strongly -- perhaps definitively -- modulated by social and other environmental factors.
Finally, I am reasonably sure that cooperation, sociability and altruism are also inherited characteristics, just like aggression and a predisposition
toward violence, and that all these factors are part of our make-up because they have demonstrated their selective fitness as characteristics
(I hope I'm not mangling the terminology too badly with that sentence).
We're all animal. But we're not all bad.
Now for a couple of tangential comments:
...and both of these parties feel this way regardless of how they were brought up, regardless of wealth or stature, regardless of any outside
How can you be sure that this is true? The only way to establish that such attitudes are intrinsic and not affected by environmental factors is to do
studies of identical twins brought up in different environments and somehow establish that their attitudes correspond significantly more often than
chance indicates. And even with a twin study like that, it's going be be very hard. So, are you saying that some such studies have been conducted,
and that through them it has been established that wealth, status, etc. don't come into the picture at all? Or are you just expressing a point of
Well... let's argue for the opposite point of view, shall we? It's well known that people often do
share attitudes based on external
variables like age, education, upbringing, current social and economic status, geographical location, political affiliation, etc. It seems unlikely
that such variables won't also affect people's attitudes towards violence. In fact, we know they do; to choose an extreme example, some societies
not merely tolerate but demand
homicidal levels of violence from their male citizens (think of Homeric Greeks or modern Pushtuns) while others
seek to mitigate or sublimate it (modern Western European culture, for example).
Is one parties line of thought that way because of a higher evolved DNA?
'Higher evolved'? Isn't that another unwarranted assumption? Is it more 'highly evolved' to be aggressive or peaceful? True, viruses are the
simplest form of life and just about the most aggressive there is, too -- but blue-green algae and all the little pollywogs that inhabit the oceans
are, on the whole, pretty peaceful, while some of the most highly-evolved animals are nasty, vicious predators and scavengers. So be careful of your
terms: to be 'highly evolved' means one thing in biology, and quite another in the field of ethics.
If you were gather all the peace-nicks and hippies, would they really stay nice to each other and have a great civil life? If you lumped all
the fear and war monger's together, would they fight until a resolve, or just kill each other off?
Frankly, I think both lots would be about equally bad. All human beings fight. Given the right motivation, hippies and peaceniks will fight to the