May 23, 2013

MOSTLY SAVAGE: Are Savages Noble?

“It may astonish you readers, as it initially astonished me,” Diamond writes, “to learn that trench warfare, machine guns, napalm, atomic bombs, artillery, and submarine torpedoes produce time-averaged war-related death tolls so much lower than those from spears, arrows, and clubs.” So how can this be? Because “state warfare is an intermittent exceptional condition, while tribal warfare is virtually continuous.”

This shouldn’t be so astonishing, really. Plus:

A 2012 study in The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B noted that the “anthropological record indicates that approximately 85 percent of human societies have permitted men to have more than one wife.” Yet in modern times normative monogamy has become dominant around the globe, increasing social peace by reducing competition among men. The researchers further noted, “Compared to monogamous societies, polygamous cultures see more rape, kidnapping, murder, assault, robbery, fraud, child neglect and child abuse.”

It is not too far of a stretch to think that although societies practicing marital monogamy are historically fewer in number, their comparatively stronger social solidarity has helped them out-grow and out-compete polygamous competitors. And the spread of monogamy has plausibly contributed to the lower levels of violence in the modern societies.

That shouldn’t be so surprising either.

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