Friday, May 18, 2007
Is War Good For You?
Here's a strange-but-true comment on the human condition.
In an article about researching moral behavior in chimps (did you know a chimp will drown trying to save another chimp from drowning?), the primatologist Frans de Waal is quoted as noting that morality may have its evolutionary roots in the tribe closing together to fend off another tribe. I.e., we only realized we needed each other – and needed to watch over one another – when we began noticing that members of other groups were picking us off.
De Waalis is quoted as writing, "The profound irony is that our noblest achievement — morality — has evolutionary ties to our basest behavior — warfare. The sense of community required by the former was provided by the latter."
So the question is: Is warfare necessary to our character? Are warmongers, by throwing us into hellish destruction at regular interval, doing us all a favor in evolutionary terms?
What happens if mankind really does, some day, succeed in ending warfare – do we all become selfish bastards? Do we ultimately, in some distant evolutionary future (hey, if we made it this far from the chimp stage, why can’t we keep on going just as long?) forget how to love?