Nonkilling Human Biology/Human nature

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If members of all human cultures are found to share a set of behaviors then do those "universal" behaviors reveal genetic predispositions that are part of human nature? Is it a part of human nature that humans have a genetic predisposition towards some specific cultural elements? For example, is a genetic predisposition towards human language behavior part of human nature? Do humans have a genetic predisposition towards "territorial expansion and defense"[1]?

Do cultures based on a hunting and gathering lifestyle such as that of the ǃKung people provide evidence that humans do not have a genetic predisposition towards "territorial expansion and defense"[2]?

How many hunting and gathering people have been studied?[3]

Paleodemography[edit | edit source]

Is it possible to measure and compare violent death rates in ancient human populations that lived either before or after the Neolithic Revolution?[4]. A recent article by Samuel Bowles says that about 14% of deaths in 8 ethnographically studied hunter-gatherer cultures and 15 archaeologically studied hunter-gatherers cultures were apparently due to coalitions of members of a group inflicting bodily harm on one or more members of another group[5], suggesting that warfare is frequent and lethal in hunter-gatherer cultures.

Genetic predisposition[edit | edit source]

Much research onto human genetic predispositions receives funding because it is medically-oriented research that explores susceptibility to disease[6]. Understanding of genetic predispositions to disease has been possible for many genes that have important functional roles in fundamental metabolic processes. For example, many gene variants have been linked to hereditary (inheritable) forms of cancer[7]. Many well-studied examples of genetic predisposition to cancer are "high penetrance" examples that concern disease phenotypes that can be causally linked to gene mutations without a need to examine modulating effects of the patient's behavior or complex gene-environment interactions by which a person's cultural environment can significantly modify disease risk. However, some types of cancer show dramatic variations in incidence through time and between different cultures. The incidence of some forms of cancer is greatly increased by identifiable environmental factors and cultural practices. For example, the manufacture, advertising and sale of addictive tobacco-containing products can greatly increase the rate of smoking and the incidence of cancer[8]. Does it make sense to say that humans have a genetic predisposition to nicotine addiction which has led to tobacco use in many cultures? Similarly, do some some humans have a genetic predisposition to alcohol addiction[9]? Can the genetics of violence be studied in the same way that other human behaviors (such as addiction-related behaviors) have been investigated[10]?

Evolution[edit | edit source]

If humans are part of a clade that icludes other member species that use violence in ways similar to humans, is that evidence for genetic predisposition towards human patterns of violence? For example, chimps have been seen killing members of other chimp groups in a way that is similar to lethal intergroup violence displayed by humans.[11]

Related books[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge by E. O. Wilson (1998) Knopf, ISBN 0-679-45077-7. In Chapter 8 (page 170), Wilson argues that, "Territorial expansion and defense by tribes and their modern equivalents the nation states is a cultural universal."
  2. See Giorgi, P. P. (2001) The origins of violence by cultural evolutions (second edition). Minerva, Brisbane. This edition is out of print. It can be downloaded at the web site A third edition of this work is being prepared. Those who read Italian have a new version of this work (updated and enlarged) in Giorgi, P. P. (2008) La violenza inevitabile – Una menzogna moderna. Jaca Book, Milano.
  3. High adult mortality among Hiwi hunter-gatherers: Implications for human evolution by Kim Hill, A.M. Hurtadoa and R.S. Walker (2007) Journal of Human Evolution Volume 52 pages 443-454.
  4. Violence in the Mesolithic by Mirjana Roksandic (2006).
  5. Did Warfare Among Ancestral Hunter-Gatherers Affect the Evolution of Human Social Behaviors? by Samuel Bowles in Science (2009) Vol. 324 pp. 1293 - 1298
  6. For example, see the introduction to genes and human disease from the World Health Organization's Genomic resource centre.
  7. Hereditary forms of colon cancer have been identified, for example see Hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer by L. A. Devlin, J. H. Price and P. J. Morrison in The Ulster Medical Journal (2005) Volume 74 pages 14-21.
  8. See the section on Tobacco Use in Priorities in Health (2006) edited by Dean T. Jamison, Joel G. Breman, Anthony R. Measham, George Alleyne, Mariam Claeson, David B. Evans, Prabhat Jha, Anne Mills and Philip Musgrove. Washington, DC. IBRD/The World Bank.
  9. Unraveling the molecular mechanisms of alcohol dependence by Gursharan Kalsi1, Carol A. Prescott, Kenneth S. Kendler and Brien P. Riley (2009) Trends in Genetics Volume 25 pages 49-55.
  10. Genes for susceptibility to violence lurk in the brain by Essi Viding and Uta Frith (2006) Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U.S.A. Volume 103 pages 6085–6086.
  11. Lethal intergroup aggression leads to territorial expansion in wild chimpanzees

See also[edit | edit source]