A recent article in the Washington Post (by Rachel Feltman) starts out by stating “When rival communities of chimps interact, death is often the result. That may not sound out of the ordinary in the human world, but it’s quite unusual for other animals- other than chimps, we seem to be the only ones who go to war”. I don’t know about that. I’ve seen some big-time ant battles, for instance. But if she means tanks and drones and communication lines, aircraft carriers and the like, well yeah. That’s just a function of ‘intelligence’ and capability, however. But that said, almost every other animal species survives by tearing other animal species apart limb from limb and devouring them live. And, in many instances, eating the young of their own species, as fish are wont to do. Some females devour their partner after mating.
Predictably, some researchers have argued that- you guessed it- the chimp wars we’ve witnessed are actually caused by human intervention. Yes, even though by these folks own understanding of science, chimps preceded humans on the world stage and evolutionary ladder (and therefore must have so very much to teach us), apparently they were all existing in peaceful, non-judgemental harmony, holding hands and waiting for the Oprah Winfrey Network to arrive before we humans showed up.
Tragically for them, a new study in the journal Nature shows that chimps violent behavior is inherent, long-standing and a fundamental intra-species trait.
Data from the study showed that chimp-on-chimp killings weren’t more likely to occur when human interference like feedings or habitat destruction occurred.
Supporters of the opposite view are unimpressed. “I am surprised that (the study) was accepted for publication,” Robert Sussman, an anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis, told science magazine. “Even the groups that the research team claimed were free from human disturbance were probably impacted by our interference”, Sussman said. He didn’t explain how. Did these chimps watch a lot of television? Talk about outright illogical denial! “ The farmer in the Dell, the farmer in the Dell…I’m not listening, yada, yada, yada!”.
In an accompanying article in Nature, behavioral ecologist Joan Silk, who was not involved with the study, pointed out that our desire to disprove an evolutionary basis for warfare may be wishful thinking. Our perception of primate behavior, she states, is often skewed so that “morally desirable features, such as empathy and altruism, have deep evolutionary roots, whereas undesirable features, such as group-level violence and sexual coercion do not.”
Joan is right. It is incredible that many ‘researchers’, ‘academicians’ or ‘scientists’ want to show that all our best traits are gifts of evolution and our worst traits came later.
This is exactly the opposite of the truth. Our survival instincts, flight or fight response, etc., etc. are understandably parts of our evolutionary heritage. Empathy, altruism, love, humor, kindness, self-discipline and control, these and other “better angels of our nature” equally obviously are born of another, more recent source. God, religion, Christianity, the Ten Commandments, spirituality… or simply the gradual result of less brutal lives and more free time to reflect and engage in leisure activities.
“Humans are not destined to be warlike because chimpanzees sometimes kill their neighbors,” Silk writes.
Are we aping chimps behavior or are they aping ours?