Science and Nonsense

A new study reconfirms old studies that showed that we share our propensity for war with our Chimpanzee cousins. That's certainly no surprise to me. the cited article is interested in the question:

Is war a modern human invention, or does it have deep roots in biology?

I didn't have much doubt about that either. More dismaying to me is the reaction of some on the academic left.

Brian Ferguson, director of Peace and Conflict Studies at Rutgers University at Newark, said he disagrees with the new study’s interpretation of the data, as well as the methods used to rate the role of human influence on the chimp behavior.


Since Wrangham’s book “Demonic Males” was published, Ferguson said he has been compiling an exhaustive response, although he acknowledged that most primatologists who study chimpanzees do not agree with him.

“If people think that it is in our nature to go to war, that we’re somehow by evolution primed to go out and kill members of other groups, it leads to a kind of fatalism: you never can change that,” Ferguson said. Instead, he believes the evidence shows war is a recent invention.

In other words, he doesn't believe it because he doesn't want to. If he really would like to eliminate war, playing just pretend is not the way to do it. Instead, one needs to look at the factors that promote and discourage war and inhibit the first and promote the second. Fooling yourself won't help.


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