By K. Payne
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Extra info for The Psychology of Modern Conflict: Evolutionary Theory, Human Nature and a Liberal Approach to War
At the symposium on domestication, Richard Wrangham argued that once domestication, with its increasingly intense sociability, got under way, human societies may have weeded out those individuals with a tendency towards greater aggression. There is some physical evidence to support domestication – not just in the diminishing size of human brains. Robert Cieri and colleagues have found evidence that is suggestive of the physical effects of domestication – notably in the changing faces of humans relative to their ancestors and chimps, so that they appear less aggressive (Cieri et al.
These are questions about priorities, but also questions about the appropriate place for values in determining policy. Should we care that an actor has challenged our sense of esteem, or should we take a more disinterested, pragmatic view? And to what extent should our own moral values inform our decisions about where and how to intervene, including with military force? Where realists see values and morality shaping state behaviour at the expense of the efficient pursuit of security, there is a puzzle to be explained because, for hard-headed realists, war is an everpresent risk, necessitating a concern with power, the better to achieve security (Mearsheimer 2001).
Some realist accounts aver that the key features of the international system create imperatives to behave in certain ways. If you do not respond to anarchy and uncertainty with a concern for amassing sufficient power to defend or deter potential adversaries, there is a danger that, like the unfortunate Melians, you can simply go out of business. There is a powerful metaphor here with the processes of Darwinian natural selection, which emphasises the ‘survival of the fittest’. The ostensible lesson is that ‘fittest’ applies to the societies competing for survival in a cruel, amoral and disinterested international system.
The Psychology of Modern Conflict: Evolutionary Theory, Human Nature and a Liberal Approach to War by K. Payne