Is War In Our Genes?

New Study Finds War May Not Be In Our Genes
One of the ongoing debates among archaeologists and sociologists is whether the humans are genetically driven to engage in war. New research conducted by Douglas Fry, a teacher at Åbo Akademi University in Finland and his colleague Patrik Soderberg add more fuel to the fiery debate.

According to ScienceNews, the researchers identified data on 148 killings in 21 mobile hunter-gatherer groups and found that more than half of the killings were committed by individuals.

Additionally, almost two-thirds resulted from disputes within families, or other means, such as executions sanctioned by group members.

 “Our study questions the popular picture of ‘Man the Warrior,’ where groups of prehistoric humans are seen as participating in a constant struggle against each other, and where war is something that is almost in our genes,” said co-author Patrik Söderberg of Åbo Akademi University in Vasa, Finland.

Others disagree with their findings and conclusions.

Dr. Samuel Bowles of the Santa Fe Institute, in New Mexico conducted similar research in 2009 and concluded that “death in warfare is so common in hunter-gatherer societies that it was an important evolutionary pressure on early Homo sapiens, and might easily account for the emergence of self-sacrificial altruism, reports The Economist,

Long Running Debate
John Horgan of Scientific American writes that the theory that war is innate – which he terms the Deep Roots Theory – has been around for some time.

“Deep Rooters often count all forms of deadly violence, not just group violence, as evidence of their theory. (They also often count violence in societies that practice horticulture, such as the Amazonian Yanomamo, even though horticulture is a relatively recent human invention.),” he writes.

Horgan adds that the notion promoted by Fry and Soderberg – that war is not innate – is reminiscent of the ideas of Margaret Mead in 1940.

“Noting that some simple foraging societies, such as Australian aborigines, can be warlike, Mead rejected the idea that war was a consequence of civilization. But she also dismissed the notion that war is innate–a “biological necessity,” as she put it–simply by pointing out (as Fry and Soderberg do) that some societies do not engage in intergroup violence,” says Horgan.

Further Reading: Douglas P. Fry also wrote the book, Beyond War: The Human Potential for Peace, which can be purchased on


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