Language, evolution and violence?
Where there’s language, there’s Pinker. I’ve always been a fan of his, and there’s not a doubt in this world he’s got a solid grasp on logic. To boot, in this case his reasoning is based in some sound logic, with long established theories as a premise. This article, Human Nature’s pathologist, and the book it references makes for an interesting read. Check it out on the New York Times’ website: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/29/science/human-natures-pathologist.html
The flip-side? There are plenty of fairly elaborate counterarguments – backed by research – to a lot of the established theories on the evolution of violence in human society. An interesting book I’ve recently read, Sex at Dawn, happens to have several chapters detailing some of the lesser known theories on human evolution that would seem to indicate that we haven’t necessarily gotten less violent. Or perhaps, we were less violent as hunter-gatherers, but along with agriculture came an unprecedented need for competition in order to survive (and possess). I haven’t had the opportunity to delve too much into the material referenced by the authors yet, but it certainly grabbed my attention. Were cavemen really the violent, competitive creatures modern anthropology often makes them out to be? Could we have gotten the science wrong?
I’m a long way off from answering those questions, but I’d like to be one of the people asking it? Perhaps, in the end, it’s more nuanced: humans were less violent and more cooperative as foragers and hunters, then following the advent of agriculture and the concept of “ownership” we became extremely violent. Finally, nonetheless, over time, this violence has become less necessary as growth and production have come to meet our needs more adequately. Maybe? I think a detailed reading of both Pinker’s work and some of the suggested readings in the bibliography of Sex at Dawn is in order.