Warfare is a cultural not a genetic trait

“Warfare is a cultural not a genetic trait.” (p.11)

“If there is a biological basis for aggression, and therefore for violence, you would expect every individual to be violent unless the biological basis was sex linked, in which case all men would be violent and no woman would be. That this is untrue is self-evident. Frequently, a male propensity for aggression is inaccurately attributed to male hormones. There is, however, no such thing as an exclusively male hormone. Both males and females secrete androgens and progesterone. Furthermore, primate studies have shown that hormonal levels vary in terms of the social situation in which the animal may find itself.” (p.11)

“The whole relationship between biological processes and behaviour is interactive and complex. Those who argue that aggression and violence are instinctive and, therefore, inevitable frequently base their opinions on metaphors drawn from putative animal behaviour and assumptions concerning human evolution which are neither good poetry nor good science. They are, in fact, pernicious because they reinforce the perceived cultural mythology that violent behaviour is part of the human repertoire and thus difficult to change.” (p.11)

Throughout human history, our basic food sources have been nuts, roots, fruits and cereals, and small game animals. The vegetable food sources, traditionally produced or gathered by women, were the most plentiful and reliable. If humanity had had to depend upon man the hunter, we would never have survived. For all the male glorification of inventions such as the bow and arrow, Leakey believes that the invention of the carrying basket and the pottery, gourd or other container – universally made, used, and presumably invented or grown by women – was by far the more significant evolutionary step. Women, after all, had to ensure the survival not only of themselves but also of their children. / Even the myth that men are predisposed to dominance or territorial behaviour does not stand up under close scrutiny. …One cross-cultural study showed that girls were more likely than boys to attempt to control the behaviour of others in the interests of the social group or the welfare of the individual, whereas boys make more attempts at egotistic dominance.

Territorial behaviour occurs in human groups only when there is pressure on resources. Characteristically, the human species have been migratory range dwellers; even when settled into agriculture, we shifted with it in order to sustain soil fertility. We move on. Narrowly defined territorial attachment is not part of our genetic history, but becomes important when small bands are locked into a limited territory by others. This is as true of the highlands of New Guinea as it is of the gang territories of the San Fernando Valley, [-p.13] the streets of New York, or the suburbs of South Auckland. When the territorial argument is applied to humans it reinforces beliefs about the inherent nature of violence which is socially determined (and therefore capable of change) rather than biologically prescribed.” (pp.12-13)

Violence… is not a genetically encoded part of either human nature or male nature, although it is traditionally associated with both.” (p.13)

Ref: Jane Ritchie and James Ritchie (1993) Violence in New Zealand. Huia Publishers and Daphne Brasell Associates: Wellington


About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
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