Det danske Fredsakademi
Kronologi over fredssagen og international politik 12.
september 2012 / Timeline September 12, 2012
11. September 2012, 13. September 2012
By John Scales Avery
At first sight, the willingness of humans to die defending their
social groups seems hard to explain from the standpoint of
Darwinian natural selection. After the heroic death of such a
human, he or she will be unable to produce more children, or to
care for those already born. Therefore one might at first suppose
that natural selection would work strongly to eliminate the trait
of self-sacrifice from human nature. However, the theory of
population genetics and group selection can explain both the
willingness of humans to sacrifice themselves for their own group,
and also the terrible aggression that they sometimes exhibit
towards competing groups. It can explain both intragroup altruism
and inter group aggression.
The idea of group selection in evolution was proposed in the
1930’s by J.B.S. Haldane and R.A. Fischer, and more recently
it has been discussed by W.D. Hamilton and E.O. Wilson. If we
examine altruism and aggression in humans, we notice that members
of our species exhibit great altruism towards their own children.
Kindness towards close relatives is also characteristic of human
behavior, and the closer the biological relationship is between two
humans, the greater is the altruism they tend to show towards each
other. This profile of altruism is easy to explain on the basis of
Darwinian natural selection since two closely related individuals
share many genes and, if they cooperate, the genes will be more
To explain from an evolutionary point of view the communal defense
mechanism, the willingness of humans to kill and be killed in
defense of their communities, we have only to imagine that our
remote ancestors lived in small tribes and that marriage was likely
to take place within a tribe rather than across tribal boundaries.
Under these circumstances, each tribe would tend to consist of
genetically similar individuals. The tribe itself, rather than the
individual, would be the unit on which the evolutionary forces of
natural selection would act.
According to the group selection model, a tribe whose members
showed altruism towards each other would be more likely to survive
than a tribe whose members cooperated less effectively. Since
several tribes might be in competition for the same territory,
successful aggression against a neighboring group could increase
the chances for survival of one’s own tribe. Thus, on the
basis of the group selection model, one would expect humans to be
kind and cooperative towards members of their own group, but at the
same time to sometimes exhibit aggression towards members of other
groups, especially in conflicts over territory. One would also
expect intergroup conflicts to be most severe in cases where the
boundaries between groups are sharpest, where marriage is forbidden
across the boundaries.
With the rise of the nationalist movement in Europe following the
French revolution, the printing press was used to appeal to the
primitive emotions of tribalism and to create a quasi-religious
loyalty to the nation-state. Fanatical nationalism still exists
today, for example in Israel and the United States.
The relationship between these two countries is interesting.
Ordinarily, within the framework of nationalism, it would be
considered to be treason to put one's own country into danger in
exchange for payments from a foreign power. But that is exactly
what politicians in the United States are doing when they slavishly
follow every command from Israel because they are influenced by
payments from the Israel Lobby or because they feel that they need
support from Israel's media assets
At the moment, Benjamin Netanyahu is shrilly commanding US
politicians to support Israel in an illegal attack on Iran. Any US
involvement in such a war would not only be a violation of the UN
Charter, but it would also put the United States into grave danger.
Such a war would have completely unforeseeable consequences, and it
might develop into World War III. Why are the politicians in
Washington, who follow Israel's insane leadership, not accused of
We should see this question of loyalties within a larger framework:
Today the world urgently needs a new global ethic, an ethic where
loyalty to family, community and nation will be supplemented by a
strong sense of the brotherhood of all humans, regardless of race,
religion or nationality.
eller søg i Fredsakademiet.dk