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Thread: Self domestication of humans

  1. #1 Self domestication of humans 
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
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    http://www.nextnature.net/2011/02/we...ted-ourselves/

    Neoteny is an old theory for some aspects of human development. It is noticeable that human adults have many features similar to the young of other primates, including larger eyes, flatter face, smaller fangs etc. An associated theory is that this is a result of self selection. Humans have, according to this idea, many of the characteristics of domesticated animals. We are less aggressive than wild animals, and have more of the 'clingy' nature of the young. Have we become what we are by preferentially associating with, and mating with 'tamer' humans?


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    We are less aggressive than wild animals,


    Not so sure about that one.


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  4. #3  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    We are less aggressive than wild animals,


    Not so sure about that one.
    It's at least a year since I've savaged a passer-by for looking at me funny. My grandfather used to do it all the time.
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    If we substitute the phrase 'more intelligent' for 'tamer', the theory makes more sense to me.

    I would hypothesize that the more intelligent in any group would select for similar traits where available because co-operation is more energy efficient than aggression and being perpetually on the defensive.
    Group dynamics would benefit from less aggression between the individuals that comprise the group. Beneath the 'veneer of civilization' I suspect that we are every bit as feral as our ancestors, possibly even more so in our ability to disassociate ourselves from the sufferings of the disenfranchised of this world.
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  6. #5  
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    Scheherazade

    I will opt for that 'veneer' any time. Our ancestors were a lot more violent than we are. Yay for civilisation.
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  7. #6  
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Scheherazade

    I will opt for that 'veneer' any time. Our ancestors were a lot more violent than we are. Yay for civilisation.
    An interesting conjecture, skeptic. Do you have some references to share?

    Here is my reference for just how 'civilized' we are on Feb. 18th, 2014.

    Open warfare broke out on the streets of Kyiv today, with at least 22 persons reportedly killed and more than 1,000 people injured. It was a day of non-stop bloodletting, smoke, fire and screeching ambulances.
    At least 22 reported dead, more than 1,000 injured in Feb. 18 clashes (VIDEO)

    Another reference.
    List of genocides by death toll.

    List of genocides by death toll - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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    2 things about using stats though : (1) there were far fewer people alive in the 19th century and before than there are now (2) attitudes towards violence have changed in that it's less socially acceptable, hence more reportable than in earlier times

    obviously there's still a wide range of variation towards violence but on the whole i'd say we're moving towards less, not more violence
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by marnixR View Post
    2 things about using stats though : (1) there were far fewer people alive in the 19th century and before than there are now
    That goes without saying.


    (2) attitudes towards violence have changed in that it's less socially acceptable, hence more reportable than in earlier times

    obviously there's still a wide range of variation towards violence but on the whole i'd say we're moving towards less, not more violence
    Less socially acceptable in the developed world, perhaps.

    My point being that we are still a very violent species. We merely know more acceptable ways to eviscerate people bloodlessly.

    There is no exact way of comparing the numbers for times long past save by subjective historical accounts anyway. I was compelled to call question on the subjective opinion expressed.
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    Scheherazade, there is sound research that shows we live in an increasingly less violent world. I would love to provide a citation here, but it didn't fit a subject area I keep references on. We are on the right track. My trite remarks in post #3 were meant to represent this.
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  11. #10  
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    I am so reassured, especially when a young man living in India at the moment expresses concern for female travelers to his country. I suppose that statistically, the numbers show that fewer of us are bludgeoning each other to death yet the capacity of our species for aggression remains as great as ever it was in my opinion. (The violence in Kyiv is now spreading to three other cities, according to CBC news.)

    Yes. That's us. A 'domesticated' species. Certainly governments have been attempting to neuter the population for generations.

    I have made my case. I just do not see things in the same manner as you learned gentlemen.
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  12. #11  
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    To Scheherazade

    This is a topic much occupying my mind at the moment, due to the fact that I am partway into my second reading of Pinker's book on the history of violence. Author : Professor Steven Pinker, a Canadian who is Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. Title : The Better Angels of our Nature. (Apparently the title comes from a quote from Abraham Lincoln.) I strongly recommend the book. It will change your philosophy of life.

    If you want statistics, this book is packed with them. For example : The murder rate in England in the year 1300 was 80 killings per 100,000 people per year. Today it is 1. For the USA, the Wild West had a rate of murder at 25 killings per 100,000 per year. By 1970 it was 10. Today it is 4.7.

    There are literally hundreds of similar data points in the book. It is now 'proven' that the rate of murder, war killings, rapes, and other forms of violence have been falling, and falling drastically. For example: deaths in battle since the year 2,000 are 35,000 per year versus over 100,000 mid 20th Century.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    To Scheherazade

    This is a topic much occupying my mind at the moment, due to the fact that I am partway into my second reading of Pinker's book on the history of violence. Author : Professor Steven Pinker, a Canadian who is Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. Title : The Better Angels of our Nature. (Apparently the title comes from a quote from Abraham Lincoln.) I strongly recommend the book. It will change your philosophy of life.

    If you want statistics, this book is packed with them. For example : The murder rate in England in the year 1300 was 80 killings per 100,000 people per year. Today it is 1. For the USA, the Wild West had a rate of murder at 25 killings per 100,000 per year. By 1970 it was 10. Today it is 4.7.

    There are literally hundreds of similar data points in the book. It is now 'proven' that the rate of murder, war killings, rapes, and other forms of violence have been falling, and falling drastically. For example: deaths in battle since the year 2,000 are 35,000 per year versus over 100,000 mid 20th Century.
    I agree that we are becoming less violent. And even war is increasingly seen as a necessarily evil to protect those who cannot protect themselves, rather than a noble and glorious test of strength and courage. Arguably, some cultures might obscure their true motives behind military actions, but the fact that they feel compelled to do that says it's no longer socially acceptable.

    The only thing I question in the statistics above is whether the decrease in violence has more to do with an aging population. Violence often correlates with the percentage of the population who are males in their 20-30s. Not too many violent 70 years olds out there.
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    Diane

    The trend across centuries or millennia has, rather obviously, nothing to do with an ageing population. However, the trend from 1970 to the present is definitely influenced by that. There was a peak in murder rates in the late 1960's, which fell back again in the 1990's. The peak was related to the 'baby boom' generation, which increased the percentage of young men in the population. The great majority of murders, and other violent crimes, are done by males in their late teens and in their 20's. When the baby boom generation reached that age, murder rates went up, though not by a lot compared to longer term historic trends. When those baby boomers all reached over 30 years of age, the murder rate began to fall.
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    I think the idea of self-domestication isn't primarily social...not at least in the short term, but mostly morphological sometimes combined with technology changes. Some examples.

    Cow milk tolerance.
    Grain diet tolerance.
    Alcohol tolerance (societies with thousands of years of exposure have MUCH lower rates of problems than shorter exposure ones).
    Pigment changes due to clothing in high latitudes.
    --

    Current ones that might be happening...
    -Worst teeth-because there's less selective pressure to kill off young adults with poor teeth and dental related infections (was a top killer as late as 19th century).
    -larger headed babies because C-section and early deliveries are viable--where as before they more likely killed the mother, baby or both.
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  16. #15  
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    Here is an evolutionary trend that might be under way right now. Since contraception makes motherhood an option, not something forced upon her, the women who have the strongest desire for children will be the ones who have the most children. Assuming that the desire for children is partly genetic, then as time goes by, more and more of the world's population will be descended from the women who wanted more kids. Eventually, we will breed women who have the strongest maternal instinct, and who each want 6 or more children. What will this do to world population?
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Here is an evolutionary trend that might be under way right now. Since contraception makes motherhood an option, not something forced upon her, the women who have the strongest desire for children will be the ones who have the most children. Assuming that the desire for children is partly genetic, then as time goes by, more and more of the world's population will be descended from the women who wanted more kids. Eventually, we will breed women who have the strongest maternal instinct, and who each want 6 or more children. What will this do to world population?
    It will scare all the men away.
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    It will scare all the men away.
    Quite the contrary. Most men keep their brains in their gonads, and a woman who wants lots of kids will need lots of bonking.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Here is an evolutionary trend that might be under way right now. Since contraception makes motherhood an option, not something forced upon her, the women who have the strongest desire for children will be the ones who have the most children. Assuming that the desire for children is partly genetic, then as time goes by, more and more of the world's population will be descended from the women who wanted more kids. Eventually, we will breed women who have the strongest maternal instinct, and who each want 6 or more children. What will this do to world population?
    It rather depends on what the gender ratio of the offspring are or if we develop the technology to select for gender, IMO, as well as what part of the world this trend occurs in. In the wild, where resources are scarce, some animal species have been observed to curtail breeding or have smaller litters. Humans, to date, do not seem to observe such limitations. Contraception is not globally an option for all women.
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  20. #19  
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    It will scare all the men away.
    Quite the contrary. Most men keep their brains in their gonads, and a woman who wants lots of kids will need lots of bonking.
    ROTFL!

    Hardly. We can handle this matter very efficiently by means of a pipette of semen and A.I. Genetically select for desirable traits such as docility of male offspring. Possibly breed a man who can actually change a diaper without losing his lunch, lol... clean an oven, do a proper job of scrubbing the loo, etc. and still be capable of looking under the hood of a vehicle or change a tire.
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  21. #20  
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    Here's a thought for you Scheherazade. If you female types want to genetically engineer the ideal male, from the female point of view, can you imagine what the ideal female would be, from the male viewpoint?
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  22. #21  
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Diane

    The trend across centuries or millennia has, rather obviously, nothing to do with an ageing population. However, the trend from 1970 to the present is definitely influenced by that. There was a peak in murder rates in the late 1960's, which fell back again in the 1990's. The peak was related to the 'baby boom' generation, which increased the percentage of young men in the population. The great majority of murders, and other violent crimes, are done by males in their late teens and in their 20's. When the baby boom generation reached that age, murder rates went up, though not by a lot compared to longer term historic trends. When those baby boomers all reached over 30 years of age, the murder rate began to fall.
    Hunting around on the internet, it's harder than I thought to find statistics about average life span from medieval times to present, and the ratio of young people to older people, since life expectancy is affected by high infant mortality. It would be interesting to know what the ratios were for males 16-26 (or a similar range) compared to other age groups throughout history.

    This website lets you calculate life expectancy from 1850 of a male or female if they made it to age 5, 20, 40 etc. and it does seem to show an increasing number of older people even before medical innovations like antibiotics. But even with this kind of chart you can't tell if the numbers are bumped up by a few people living a lot longer or a lot of people living a little longer.

    http:// http://mappinghistory.uorego...S/US39-01.html

    If someone has a better link, please post.
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Here is an evolutionary trend that might be under way right now. Since contraception makes motherhood an option, not something forced upon her, the women who have the strongest desire for children will be the ones who have the most children. Assuming that the desire for children is partly genetic, then as time goes by, more and more of the world's population will be descended from the women who wanted more kids. Eventually, we will breed women who have the strongest maternal instinct, and who each want 6 or more children. What will this do to world population?
    It will scare all the men away.
    I have seen articles that say that simply maximizing number of offspring does not guarantee your genes will be around several generations later, (and if I can find them, I will post) The more offspring an animal has the fewer resources the parent can devote to any one of them, and it is sometimes a better strategy to invest heavily in a few. So even if birth control affects the absolute number of children a woman has, it might be balanced by enhanced survival to reproductive age, decrease numbers of deaths due to infant mortality, accidents, violence, etc.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Here's a thought for you Scheherazade. If you female types want to genetically engineer the ideal male, from the female point of view, can you imagine what the ideal female would be, from the male viewpoint?
    No need to imagine. The stereotype is everywhere you look in media advertising. Besides being eye candy of a certain 'golden ratio' the main skill set apparently has something to do with golf balls and garden hoses. Personally, I prefer a man who can look me in the eye rather than only has the nerve to watch my departing view.

    Back to the topic of this thread, I do find your original post of self-domesticating somewhat intriguing and I do wonder at the role that culture has to play because all men are born of women. Most (in my experience) respect their mother yet have conflicted relationships with most other females in their lives. So what role does the mother have to play in establishing this attitude? All women are by nature rivals for the attention and power that has for long been in the male domain, and mother's little boy will someday grow up to be a man. There seem to be a lot more males tied to their momma's apron strings than daughters, in my observation.
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    Not in this world, Diane. Each and every baby born has a very high chance of living long enough to contribute to population growth.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Not in this world, Diane. Each and every baby born has a very high chance of living long enough to contribute to population growth.
    Neonatal and infant mortality rates have indeed been shown to be declining but the under five and adult mortality figures are still quite high. Some might find these tables rather interesting.

    World Development Indicators | The World Bank
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Not in this world, Diane. Each and every baby born has a very high chance of living long enough to contribute to population growth.

    Here are two studies. They are based on pre-industrial societies, but then any study that goes back several generations will of course.


    Be Fruitful and Multiply? Moderate Fecundity and Long-Run Reproductive Success

    http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Eco...3-10_paper.pdf

    " Exploiting an extensive genealogy record for nearly half a million individuals in Quebec during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the study traces the number of descendants of early inhabitants in the subsequent four generations. Using the time interval between the date of marriage and the 1st live birth as a measure of reproductive capacity, the research establishes that while a higher fecundity is associated with a larger number of children, an intermediate level maximizes long-run reproductive success. The finding further indicates that the optimal level of fecundity was below the population median, suggesting that the forces of natural selection favored individuals with a lower level of fecundity."

    When fecundity does not equal fitness: evidence of an offspring quantity versus quality... - Abstract - Europe PubMed Central

    The Finnish study in the link above suggests that fecundity is not a disadvantage in good socioeconomic situations (it's an advantage) but is a disadvantage in poor ones. So I suppose the question might be how poor would you have to be in modern society for it to have any effect?

    Going back further in human history, some biologists suggest that concealed ovulation, suppression of ovulation with nursing, and menopause evolved to limit number of offspring.
    Last edited by DianeG; February 19th, 2014 at 11:09 PM.
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    Fecundity is not a hominid strong point. Vulnerable and dependent young too, so I think being social has been a long running and essential trait within hominids, as it is within most apes. That there could be a 'sweet spot' where there are sufficient young to assure population survival shouldn't be a surprise - too few births and too few survive to successfully reproduce, too many and the load on the adults can be too great and the whole group is going to be struggling, especially with strong parental urge that shares care rather than gives it preferentially to the strongest or most demanding. I don't know that parental selection - parents giving preferential care according to appearance, vitality or other criteria and parentally seclecting the kind of offspring that survive - is going to have a strong biological basis within a species with a low birth rate; I think that is more likely to be a consequence of acquired social/cultural pressures.

    Evidence for neotony seems to be written into the modern human form; What I want to see clarified is whether this arose from distinct mutation(s) making a distinct variant hominid form from which we are descended. That all other variant forms failed to survive suggests there was natural selection at work. Given that human furlessness is one of those neotenous traits and a Pr. Brenda Bradley has been given an NSF grant to study human and ape fur and hair evolution from a genetic perspective, we may actually get some answers.
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    I think there probably has been a bit of evolutionary tug of war between being hominids being social and being aggressive; too much or too little aggressiveness could be problematic, depending on circumstances. I think there's a bias towards oversimplification when it comes to teasing out what evolutionary 'pressures' led to particular traits; it's almost never a case of a trait being only advantageous or only disadvantageous. I doubt it is ever that clear and simple.

    The furlessness thing for example would be greatly disadvantageous during colder than expected conditions, most of all to young that bear the greatest burden of 'hairlessness'. They would require greater than usual and even innovative parental care (that not so clever non tool using types could not provide) yet it could become highly advantageous in the same individual as he or she matures and has to be active during periods of extreme heat of high summer and food scarcity. It's both advantage and disadvantage in the same individual according to circumstance. Aggressiveness can be essential to individual and group survival in some circumstances and greatly damaging in others.

    I do think that we need to consider that the major and critical evolutionary changes that made modern homo sapiens probably occurred within very small and vulnerable populations, where the unique circumstances and traits of even a few individuals will impact the traits of subsequent generations. Rather than any clear ongoing trend from an evolutionary 'pressure', there's a lot of random chance and irreproducible circumstances involved, for example chance and circumstance could see aggressive, dominant individuals taking excessive risks lost to the gene pool from a single incident or accident or mishap - favoring the more timid by unfortunate happenstance. Whereas the exact opposite situation seems likely to occur where aggressive, dominant individuals prevent the timid from mating and it's the timid who's genes fail to be carried on.

    Then there are the social pressures, which could see dominant individuals ensure their own offspring get mates despite their shortcomings - sexual selection being potentially about bonding family unit with a family unit more so than individual bonding with an individual.

    With clever, problem solving, tool using, socially complex hominids the usual evolutionary pressures can have peculiar and unexpected outcomes.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    We Domesticated Ourselves « NextNature.net

    Neoteny is an old theory for some aspects of human development. It is noticeable that human adults have many features similar to the young of other primates, including larger eyes, flatter face, smaller fangs etc. An associated theory is that this is a result of self selection. Humans have, according to this idea, many of the characteristics of domesticated animals. We are less aggressive than wild animals, and have more of the 'clingy' nature of the young. Have we become what we are by preferentially associating with, and mating with 'tamer' humans?
    The Next Nature story is very much abreviated.

    You will find a more complete version here.
    If Modern Humans Are So Smart, Why Are Our Brains Shrinking? | DiscoverMagazine.com

    Not only are we getting "Tamer" our brains are shrinking too.
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    We are less aggressive than wild animals,


    Not so sure about that one.
    I was going to disagree, until I remembered some videos I've seen with people in stores fighting on black Friday.
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    Quote Originally Posted by anticorncob28 View Post
    We are less aggressive than wild animals,


    Not so sure about that one.
    I was going to disagree, until I remembered some videos I've seen with people in stores fighting on black Friday.
    That is a good point. Wild animals will compete aggressively for resources and mates, needs which are logical to their survival. Humans will compete and even kill for perceived desires that are not fundamental to their immediate survival. We are very skilled at justifying our desires and presenting them as needs, to ourselves and others.
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    The big thing about human aggressiveness is that it is very, very strongly influenced by culture and learning. While the aggression is there, we are not trapped by it. This is shown by the truly massive reduction in aggression over the past few thousand years. Anthropologists have found that primitive hunter-gatherer-tribal peoples are constantly at war with each other, with devastating results. Tribes in South America and in Papua New Guinea have death rates from violence so bad that up to 25% of the male population of any tribe may be killed by male on male violence.

    Today, even the most violent western nation, the USA, has a murder rate that is below 5 for every 100,000 people per year. Not quite violence under control, but very, very much reduced. And still going down. In the USA, in 1970, it was 10. So it has halved in 40 years. My country has a murder rate of 0.9 per 100,000 per year, showing that the USA still has a way to go.
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    I prefer the old definition of domestication of humans. Most called it slavery, I just called it antiquie farming equipment...but it worked well

    Sides, were "domesticated" because we decided to form society with laws to better improve ourselfs as a species.

    Consider this. I dont like to be stabbed, There for im willing to pass a law that makes it a crime to stab people & in return I promise i wont go out stabbing anyone.

    Domestication? not really.
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    Interesting that stabbing is part of the current discussion.

    There was a tragic event at the main warehouse that supplies our store yesterday afternoon. The most current details at this link. Edmonton fathers ID'd as victims of Loblaws warehouse stabbings - Edmonton - CBC News
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  36. #35  
    Forum Masters Degree DianeG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    The big thing about human aggressiveness is that it is very, very strongly influenced by culture and learning. While the aggression is there, we are not trapped by it. This is shown by the truly massive reduction in aggression over the past few thousand years. Anthropologists have found that primitive hunter-gatherer-tribal peoples are constantly at war with each other, with devastating results. Tribes in South America and in Papua New Guinea have death rates from violence so bad that up to 25% of the male population of any tribe may be killed by male on male violence.

    Today, even the most violent western nation, the USA, has a murder rate that is below 5 for every 100,000 people per year. Not quite violence under control, but very, very much reduced. And still going down. In the USA, in 1970, it was 10. So it has halved in 40 years. My country has a murder rate of 0.9 per 100,000 per year, showing that the USA still has a way to go.

    In a book called The Rational Animal, the author makes the case that humans as species, and individuals, have an array of behavioral "programs" that run in response to different situations or environmental cues. So while I don't dispute your facts at all, I do wonder if we are more peaceful because we have actually changed, or are running the cooperation/trust program much more often. It does seem true and somewhat shocking that humans can easily revert back to behavior that is just as violent as our ancestors' in certain situations - Rwanda, Darfur, or the famous Standford University Prison experiment.
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  37. #36  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
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    Diane

    The tendency to revert to a violent behaviour patter is there, for sure. But it is not something we are doomed to repeat. It can be modified. There are always a few who will get violent, but in today's world, it is a small minority. Most people are non violent.
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  38. #37  
    Forum Bachelors Degree GoldenRatio's Avatar
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    I think most people are just as violent as ever. The difference is its much harder to get away with it. With todays technology its almost impossible not to leave evidence & its almost impossible to find a spot on earth you can run to escape repercussions for your actions.

    Thus, most do not act on violent impulses since they dont want to have a permanent suite at club prison.
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  39. #38  
    Forum Masters Degree DianeG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GoldenRatio View Post
    I think most people are just as violent as ever. The difference is its much harder to get away with it. With todays technology its almost impossible not to leave evidence & its almost impossible to find a spot on earth you can run to escape repercussions for your actions.

    Thus, most do not act on violent impulses since they dont want to have a permanent suite at club prison.
    I'm not sure it's all about punishment, though. If you feel like you have a stake in society and how it turns out; a say in how things are done; if you feel like others will come to your aid if you're attacked, then you play by the rules. When all that breaks down, people stop running the trust/cooperate program in their heads, and start running a different one.
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  40. #39  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard
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    Prisons are quite effective at removing violent types from the general population and reducing the reproduction rate for them.
    A life sentence is almost as effective in this sense as an execution would be in the sense of evolution theory.
    Imprisonment or execution of violent offenders should be considered as enviromental pressure selecting against violent tendencies.
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