Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Richard Wrangham works hard to explain the violence gap we don't care about

Urban Americans worry quite a bit about violence in their cities.  Many of these places will rack up hundreds of homicides per year.  Urban black men face a pretty decent chance of being murdered.  So it was weird to read Richard Wrangham's new book The Goodness Paradox with its central claim that humans are very peaceful.

How could he have this view?  Well, he has studied chimps for decades.  Contrary to stories told by liberal primatologists in the 1960s, it turns out that chimps are mean bastards.  If you stuffed 200 of them into Boeing 737, by the end of the flight many would be murdered.  The human homicide rate is a tiny fraction of that seen among chimpanzees.

Wrangham then sets out to develop a theory to explain why we are so slow to lose our cool and attack others.  He claims that when our ancestors developed the ability for fairly sophisticated language about 300-500k years ago, men in a group began to handle their antisocial members by plotting to murder them.  Chimps will sometimes gang up on a cantankerous alpha and take him out, but it is spontaneous.  No planning is involved.

Men gained great power over individuals by using premeditated, coalitionary aggression against not only bullies but eventually against all non-conformists.  Over evolutionary time, this selected for humans who were motivated to get along with others and who were particularly interested in pleasing tribal elders--the men who had the power to kill them if they become sufficiently annoyed.

In developing his theory, Wrangham did exactly what I expected from a PC biologist: He avoids discussions of why human groups currently vary so much in their levels of homicide.  Some educated person reading his book wants to know why his neighborhood is so much safer than the black neighborhood on the other side of town. The homicide rate in Colombia, for example, is scores of times higher than in Japan.  Why?  Wrangham is silent on this type of issue.  He makes it sound like humanity has experienced the exact same selection pressures for hundreds of thousands of years, and that we all arrive at 2019 exactly the same in terms of genetic propensity for violence.  He admits that the speed of selection probably increased in more recent millennia, but is silent about what that means.

Wrangham also fails to discuss the scholarship of Greg Cochran, Henry Harpending, and Peter Frost which suggests that pacification of some human groups has happened over the past few thousand years. I guess I would be silent on such topics, too, if I valued my lofty perch at the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University.

1 comment:

  1. Some Incel nerd invents a club.
    Beats Chads, takes a few Stacy's.
    Chads gang up. Incel runs to edge of ecological range.
    Incel figures out he can club animals just like Chads.
    Eats lots of meat. Sneaks into troup and lures Stacy away.
    Home sweet nuclear family home on the new ecological range.
    Lots of club makers in new ecological range.
    New club-making Chads emerge. New incels emerge.
    Some incel invents a stone blade. Clubs and cuts up some Chads.
    Gets some Stacey's. Chads gang up. Incel runs to edge of ecological range.
    Incel figures out he can cut up animals just like Chads.
    Incel eats lots of meat. Sneaks back into troup. Offers Stacy meat.
    Home sweet nuclear family home on the new ecological range.
    Lots of stone blade makers on new ecological range.
    New stone blade making Chads emerge....
    Fire... Out of Africa...
    Wolf domestication... Everyman An Alpha Western Hunter with his Stacey...

    Ignorance of this kind of ecological range expansion involving technologies appropriate to nuclear family viability founded by "Incel losers" is at the root of ignorance of the first order approximation of racial gradients in humanity.

    Stop being ignorant.


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