Re: META: Memes and War [was: Tomorrow is a new day]

From: Maru (
Date: Wed Nov 10 2004 - 18:22:06 MST

You misunderstand me here- I'm not talking about a middle man on
the totem pole, or a top ape, I'm talking about the low monkey,
the ones who are worst off. Simply by being worse off they don't
have much ability to wage war (for instance, you don't worry
about the outcast cripple taking on the alpha male and winning,
or about, say, the Bahamas conquering North America). Its the
ones at the top moving up and down who will wage war.
And for a band, if they really were on the brink, a war would
either make or break them, and wouldn't tribes keep having bad
luck and being wiped out over time? (I think of this as
gambling- you'll lose less money by taking small lowrisk wagers
rather than many chancy high reward wagers.)
And the point about Germany in WWI was that they didn't try to
stop it, they welcomed their chance to take their 'rightful'
place in the hierarchy, since they saw themselves as having taken
the torch from England (which I think was right, the british
empire seems to decline around this time.)
--- Keith Henson <> wrote:

> At 01:56 PM 09/11/04 -0800, you wrote:
> > I've heard you say this before, Keith, and I must ask:
> how
> >would a stressed population dare to war, or be able to?

> So when things started to look like the tribe members were not
> going to get
> enough game and berries to get through the next season, going
> to war was on
> average a 50-50 proposition for the people, and war was a
> *much* better
> chance for the genes of these primitive people than starving.
> The worst
> case was that all the males in one of the tribes fighting would
> be
> killed. That's still better for the *genes* of the losers than
> starving
> because copies of their genes are in the young women of the
> tribe who are
> normally booty to the winners. (A perverse application of
> Hamilton's
> inclusive fitness criteria.)
> So over a multi million year time frame, genes that made it
> more likely a
> tribe facing starvation would go to war with neighbors instead
> of quitely
> starving became standard. I propose that such genes build
> psychological
> traits that increase the "gain" of circulating xenophobic memes
> in times of
> the particular stress of "looming privation." You can see
> where the stupid
> factor comes in because all the normal inhibitions of not
> attacking nasty
> strangers who might just as well kill *you* have to be
> overcome.
> >And what
> >about populaces that are up and coming and want theirs
> >(imperialist nations, say)? Surely no one will argue that
> >Germany was willing to instigate WWI because they were
> >'stressed', or America going whole hog in WWII, or less so in
> >WWI, was because they were under some stress.
> For a starter, you can hardly expect psychological traits
> evolved in the
> stone age to be well adapted to modern times. I make the case
> that hunter
> gatherer psychological traits can spell disaster in more
> technologically
> advanced cultures and cite the corn farmers of the American
> Southwest who
> were wiped out over large areas because their hunter gatherer
> response to
> "looming privation" was incompatible with a farming mode of
> life.
> Second, WWI was before the big drop in birth rates, so there
> was falling
> income per capita over much of Europe. (Due to rising
> population.)
> Third, you only need one party to start a war. WWI is confused
> enough that
> it is hard to say exactly who started it, but you could argue
> that the
> German's didn't.
> I might add that the US enthusiasm for WWII was much higher
> than
> WWI. Being attacked does that.
> Keith Henson

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