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Does evolution lead to a less violent society?

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  • 02-02-2015 9:45pm
    #1
    Registered Users Posts: 14,547 ✭✭✭✭


    Is the world a more violent place now or in times past?

    Given the population of the planet now and taking account of the amount of unease/war/violence resulting in death while having regard to the current ability to report such news worldwide almost instantly.

    It is hard to accept, until you consider the genocidal tendencies of most medieval or earlier visitors, punishments for most crimes in past times, look sideways at another country and you were at war, etc., etc. When these points are combined with the decreasing population figures the further back light is shone through history, is it a case of the more the human species evolves the less violent we become?


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  • Registered Users Posts: 3,831 ✭✭✭Torakx


    That could be a very open question.
    If culture and group behaviour can be put into the evolution category, I might say yes. We seem to have become slightly less violent on average. With a small portion of old schoolers who own all the resources and power, still carrying on like it is medieval times.
    Land control has mostly been consolidated by the major continents. Before that, those continents countries or states were fighting between themselves.

    Going along that pattern, the next wars will be between continents, which has already happened. I suppose when the continents join together there will be one last massive push as one sees that it is falling and the whole lot will be consolidated, if anyone is left after the dust settles.
    This would be around the time I pronounce hell is on earth and nowhere left to run.
    We are under the boot of psychopaths and maybe always have been, if there is power and control to grab they will be after it.
    Maybe they are more evolved. They seem to be ensuring the stupidity of the 99% while maintaining control and access to anything they want.
    I might also argue that a certain amount of inbreeding could be responsible for this psychopathic nature.

    I guess to summarize, I think that amongst the majority, if we are less violent( I think so), it is due to more widespread education, which fosters respect for various things and others.
    Amongst the power mongers who decide how society will turn out, I don't think anything has changed as they are mostly psychopaths or sociopaths.

    What if there was a massive solar flare and we lost allcommunication, power etc?
    Would we roll back 200 years?


  • Registered Users Posts: 14,547 ✭✭✭✭Poor Uncle Tom


    Let me get this straight, you figure there is a 1% minority of inbred medieval psychopathic, sociopathic scholars who are responsible for the war mongering in this world?

    Conspiracy theories aside, I'm really referring to the overall flavour of violence on humanity in general, without the string pulling curtain twitchers.


  • Registered Users Posts: 3,831 ✭✭✭Torakx


    I think I covered everything haha


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,025 ✭✭✭MaxWig


    It depends.

    Is it violent to just 'have' nuclear weapons, and then 'notice' that your neighbours stopped giving you guff?

    Or, is it violent when you don't press the button, because if you do, you're pretty sure they'll press the button too?

    Evolution has provided us the intelligence to express our violence in far more destructive ways.

    The urge was always there. The power is the thing!

    We are peaceful to the same extent that we are submissive, scared, or outgunned!


  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 47,236 CMod ✭✭✭✭Black Swan


    When these points are combined with the decreasing population figures the further back light is shone through history, is it a case of the more the human species evolves the less violent we become?
    War was one of the most violent forms of human behaviour. Historically, when comparing war with peace, war was the norm and peace abnormal. According to "History and War," The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant (1968):
    War is one of the constants of history, and has not diminished with civilization or democracy. In the last 3,421 years of recorded history only 268 have seen no war.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 28,303 ✭✭✭✭looksee


    I don't know whether the world is more or less violent, I think it is probably less, but that is not a researched opinion. I think it is very complicated and you would have to decide what were the parameters of the discussion. Are we talking about world or continental wars, or local skirmishes, or individual violence?

    Is it worth asking whether, in societies where populations are high and healthcare is good, families are smaller. Therefore while there might be a surplus of people on a wider scale, at family level the children are less 'disposable'. They are better educated and cared for as individuals. More family wealth (both financial and emotional) is invested in them. Where children were members of large families it was expected that some would not survive and indeed war was almost needed to 'thin out' the population.

    This approach to family size is likely to bring out shouts of protest from members of larger families - this is not a comment on parents' level of concern for their children, it is more to do with an attitude in society. If half your children were likely to die of disease or social conditions before reaching adulthood, parents were likely to have a more pragmatic attitude to life, which would be reflected in wider society.


  • Registered Users Posts: 14,547 ✭✭✭✭Poor Uncle Tom


    looksee wrote: »
    I don't know whether the world is more or less violent, I think it is probably less, but that is not a researched opinion. I think it is very complicated and you would have to decide what were the parameters of the discussion. Are we talking about world or continental wars, or local skirmishes, or individual violence?

    I suppose it is a very broad topic and needs contextualisation to get a more accurately defined result. However, I was reluctant to limit the parameters of the discussion as I imagined that the individual may experience violence to a proportional degree of say, a country might, or a continent and extrapoluting this out to its ultimate conclusion. At any given time an individual may experience violence to a degree prortional to the overall prevelant degree of violence in existance.

    Of course this notion is subject to a law of averages as we know someone living in a war ravaged country will directly experience violence to a greater degree than a person in a peaceful law abiding country. However, when violence is reported in it raw form using modern media, a viewer living in a peaceful area may be affected even moreso than a battle hardened native of the area where the violence has occurred.

    Taking account of all recognisable variables, is the modern world more violent?


  • Registered Users Posts: 262 ✭✭qt3.14


    Domestic violence, child abuse, street crime etc all should probably be included in the metric as well.


  • Registered Users Posts: 14,547 ✭✭✭✭Poor Uncle Tom


    qt3.14 wrote: »
    Domestic violence, child abuse, street crime etc all should probably be included in the metric as well.

    Absolutely, but again those were always in existance, are they more prevelant now or is it just that it's less acceptable now and therefore highlighted more?


  • Registered Users Posts: 28,303 ✭✭✭✭looksee


    If I did not have a computer or television or radio or newspapers I would have gone through the last considerable number of years - most of my life in fact - under the impression that the world is a totally peaceful place. I have not experienced any violence of any sort personally.

    However given that I do have all these forms of communication I could easily conclude that currently the world is desperately violent. How I would compare that with previous years/ generations/ eras would depend on how much history I had explored. A world war ended just two years before I was born, but it was not part of my childhood and might not have happened as far as I was concerned. Even then I do not know whether I would have been more likely to be attacked walking through the streets of Dublin of say 500 years ago than would be now.

    On balance I would say that the western world is less violent, but that perpetrators of violence are more culpable as we have education and laws and a justice system that should keep society peaceful.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 2,921 ✭✭✭2 stroke


    Which is most violent, to send men out to stand face to face and hack each other to death while the women and children enjoy relative safety, or to sit in a cosy office and order sombody else to press a button that will blow unsuspecting men, women and children to pieces?


  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 47,236 CMod ✭✭✭✭Black Swan


    Does evolution lead to a less violent society? Is the world a more violent place now or in times past?
    The larger question may be to what extent is there an association between evolution and violence in homo sapiens? Does it exist, or is it attributed to nurture and not evolution?

    Furthermore, to what extent is violence attributed to nature or nurture or both? If nature, to what extent does violence have an adaptive or maladaptive advantage or disadvantage given evolutionary time periods in past, present, and future human development? Some may argue that nurture is also evolutionary and produces adaptive advantage, but these would be very problematic observations.

    Ultimately, this is a very complex topic with no simple answers, and raises the larger nature vs nurture debate that's constantly changing as impacted by new empirical results, as well as theory revisions and new theoretical constructs.


  • Registered Users Posts: 14,547 ✭✭✭✭Poor Uncle Tom


    Black Swan wrote: »
    The larger question may be to what extent is there an association between evolution and violence in homo sapiens? Does it exist, or is it attributed to nurture and not evolution?

    I don't think it's a question of one or the other, but rather to what extent does evolution reduce the need for violence in homo sapiens, is it a gradual constant is it exponential or a staged reduction.

    As a parallel, in the individual as opposed to the species, with the nurturing of the individual there should be less need for violence.
    Black Swan wrote: »
    Furthermore, to what extent is violence attributed to nature or nurture or both? If nature, to what extent does violence have an adaptive or maladaptive advantage or disadvantage given evolutionary time periods in past, present, and future human development? Some may argue that nurture is also evolutionary and produces adaptive advantage, but these would be very problematic observations.

    I would also provide that education being evolutionary in nature itself would attribute to a calming of the spirits in terms of ones need for flaired expressions.
    Black Swan wrote: »
    Ultimately, this is a very complex topic with no simple answers, and raises the larger nature vs nurture debate that's constantly changing as impacted by new empirical results, as well as theory revisions and new theoretical constructs.

    I agree fully, the topic is further complicated by the notion that nurture is implicated with the individual rather than the collective and that the overall concept of violence can be distorted by any individuals own seen or learned experiences outside of the actual occurrences themselves. Finally, the fact that the overall population figures are constantly rising necessitates a whole equation of its own.


  • Registered Users Posts: 3,522 ✭✭✭paleoperson


    I believe that with globalization and the gradual winding down of group selection, the evolutionary force behind true altruism becomes negligent and people will become more selfish and self-centered.


  • Registered Users Posts: 10 Purpleskies


    Intuitions about how violent modern times are compared with the past need to be tested with statistics and proper empirical research. Until you see the numbers, it's easy to mistakenly believe things are getting much worse. Steve Pinker has an excellent book on the topic called The Better Angels of our Nature, which is superbly written. I haven't read any arguments against it that aren't ignorant emotionalism by people who clearly haven't read the book. It is 800 pages after all, and it's easier to shriek in gratifying fulmination.


  • Registered Users Posts: 14,547 ✭✭✭✭Poor Uncle Tom


    Stats can be slanted to give any impression required.
    8 out of 10 cats know this.....


  • Registered Users Posts: 502 ✭✭✭Hexen


    10,000 years is probably too short a time span for evolution to have had any significant impact on human behaviour.

    As Purpleskies alludes to above, rates of interpersonal violence (within societies) have declined significantly at least based upon the decreasing homicide rate in England since the 13th century - notwithstanding a small uptick since about the 1960s. I haven't read Pinker's book, but this observation is decades old. Explanations for it are various - including reference to Norbert Elias's purported 'Civilizing Process' but no definitive explanation generally accepted last time I checked.

    Pinker's observations on decline of violence between states is, I think, based only on the period since WWII and therefore less persuasive. Certainly, while states can perpetuate significant violence they also offer significant protections against same.


  • Registered Users Posts: 6,028 ✭✭✭gladrags


    I suppose the question should be ,has evolution led to a less violent society?

    As far as HS are concerned the answer is probably no,within the context of our society.There may be periods of time when violence abates within globsl society in general,but inexplicable individual and group violence has been a constant,and I see no concrete evidence to suggest this has changed.

    This in turn depends on how we interprid society.


  • Registered Users Posts: 10 Purpleskies


    Stats can be slanted to give any impression required.
    8 out of 10 cats know this.....

    Of course they can, and the corrective is stats applied properly. Just because stats can be abused doesn't mean they can't be used properly i.e. independent of the personal wishes of the person using them


  • Registered Users Posts: 502 ✭✭✭Hexen


    Homicide rates in Europe and elsewhere from 13th century

    http://ourworldindata.org/data/violence-rights/homicides/


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  • Registered Users Posts: 6,028 ✭✭✭gladrags


    Hexen wrote: »
    Homicide rates in Europe and elsewhere from 13th century

    http://ourworldindata.org/data/violence-rights/homicides/

    Not sure that some sort of statiscal analysis.is at all relevant .


  • Registered Users Posts: 502 ✭✭✭Hexen


    gladrags wrote:
    As far as HS are concerned the answer is probably no,within the context of our society.There may be periods of time when violence abates within globsl society in general,but inexplicable individual and group violence has been a constant,and I see no concrete evidence to suggest this has changed.

    gladrags wrote:
    Not sure that some sort of statiscal analysis.is at all relevant .


    Why not? It's clear evidence of a decline in interpersonal violence. Given the time span it's not due to human evolution.


  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 47,236 CMod ✭✭✭✭Black Swan


    Hexen wrote: »
    Why not? It's clear evidence of a decline in interpersonal violence. Given the time span it's not due to human evolution.
    Empirically it's still uncertain what accounts for within species human violence, be it nature or nurture or a combination, and if a combination where the balance exists between the two.

    Richerson, PJ, and Boyd, R (2008) in Not by genes alone: How culture transformed human evolution, suggest that "culture is crucial for understanding human behavior. People acquire beliefs and values from the people around them, and you cannot explain human behavior without taking this reality into account. Murder is more common in the South than in the North [USA]."


  • Registered Users Posts: 3,522 ✭✭✭paleoperson


    Guys, almost all of this is all nonsensical speculation.

    First of all, evolution is very different from natural selection. If all the tall people died tomorrow, we wouldn't have "evolved" the short trait. Evolution takes place over a much, much longer timeframe. It's due to mutation.

    Secondly, there is pretty much ZERO selection pressure against more violent people in society. Violent people have children all the time, perhaps a lot more than non-violent people. So no we're not headed that way at all. And we wouldn't see results of it that way, it's a ridiculous idea.

    The long and short of it is that everything you see in society has EVERYTHING to do with society and culture and environment and NOTHING to do with any sort of evolutionary pressure.

    It could be claimed that human society is adapting to the world, and tending to become less violent, but that has nothing to do with evolution.

    Frankly, the OP and several others here have some really, really serious misconceptions of what evolution is.


  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 47,236 CMod ✭✭✭✭Black Swan


    Guys, almost all of this is all nonsensical speculation.
    In order to lend support to your critique of posts contained herein, it is strongly suggested that you cite scholarly sources.


  • Registered Users Posts: 3,522 ✭✭✭paleoperson


    Black Swan wrote: »
    In order to lend support to your critique of posts contained herein, it is strongly suggested that you cite scholarly sources.

    I'm not sure I understand the meaning or tone of this post but I don't think there's anything contestable with anything I said in that post.

    Will we next be asked to cite the fact that we didn't evolve from monkeys, I mean c'mon.


  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 47,236 CMod ✭✭✭✭Black Swan


    I'm not sure I understand the meaning or tone of this post but I don't think there's anything contestable with anything I said in that post.

    Will we next be asked to cite the fact that we didn't evolve from monkeys, I mean c'mon.
    This is a Science category forum where citations can lend support to the positions taken by discussants. Relevant citations strengthen the rigour, content, and context of discussions adding to our collective understanding, learning, and knowledge. Certainly you are allowed to state your opinions in this forum, but without intersubjective support, they are just opinions about the thread topic "Does evolution lead to a less violent society?"

    The scientific method does not prove anything, only suggests, so I would therefore be cautious about claiming "I don't think there's anything contestable with anything I said in that post." This is a very problematic comment given that science and its theories are subject to the criterion of falsifiability (Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery), along with other tests that measure description, explanation, and prediction. Science proceeds not by proclaiming what we believe to be true, rather by continuously testing our theories and methods in an attempt to refute or falsify them. So long as these theories and methods receive empirical support, they suggest something (while being held with caution).


  • Registered Users Posts: 3,522 ✭✭✭paleoperson


    I know what citations are and what they're for.


  • Registered Users Posts: 14,547 ✭✭✭✭Poor Uncle Tom


    Guys, almost all of this is all nonsensical speculation.

    I think we all understand that it's speculation, the scope of the concept in the opening post is wide open to variant interpretation and cannot have a singular definitive yes or no answer. The topic should therefore provoke multi faceted responses, all having merit. To describe this as nonsensical speculation can only be seen as being dictatorial at best or narrow minded at worst.
    First of all, evolution is very different from natural selection. If all the tall people died tomorrow, we wouldn't have "evolved" the short trait. Evolution takes place over a much, much longer timeframe. It's due to mutation.

    Surely, in any social context natural selection has to be taken into account when considering evolution.
    Frankly, the OP and several others here have some really, really serious misconceptions of what evolution is.

    Thanks for your insights.


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  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 47,236 CMod ✭✭✭✭Black Swan


    I think we all understand that it's speculation, the scope of the concept in the opening post is wide open to variant interpretation and cannot have a singular definitive yes or no answer. The topic should therefore provoke multi faceted responses, all having merit.
    Agree with the spirit and intent of your reply Tom. I would think that we can discuss, evaluate, and debate the (discredited) theory of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (Philosophie Zoologique) and his Law that acquired traits can be inherited by future generations.


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