The significance of the recent scientific study published in Nature, which found that chimpanzees are natural-born killers, is that killing has a genetic basis. They did not learn that behavior from humans or choose to be that way. They are genetically predisposed to kill because, via natural selection, that predisposition has resulted in a competitive advantage for scarce resources and reproduction compared to chimpanzees that do not have that predisposition.
We need only look to our own culture and past to realize that we have the same genetic predisposition.
The Boston Globe reports:
It can be tempting to take a dark view of the violent behavior of chimpanzees, but Joan Silk, a professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University, said discovering the origins of human behaviors in other animals is not the same as learning our destiny.
‘How do animals resolve conflict is interesting,’ Silk said. ‘How do animals find out ways to cooperate? Those are general principles from which we can learn a lot, but it doesn’t mean we’re expecting them to be the same across species. I study baboons, and I love them dearly, but they do all kinds of things I think are sort of uncivilized. If they were my kids, I’d be very distressed.’
We are finally beginning to understand that human behavior has a genetic basis. That is, we are predisposed to act in certain ways, despite our race, ethnicity, language and culture.
A predisposition to kill when vital resources are scarce is a competitive advantage. In times of plenty, it’s a competitive disadvantage.
Empathy is a competitive advantage during times of scarcity because survival is enhanced by living in a peer-to-peer cooperative relationship with others.
Individuals cannot long survive unless they belong to a group and groups cannot survive without the informed consent and cooperation of their individual members.
Mutual respect and dignity promote harmony and cooperation in times of scarcity and plenty.
Greed and exploitation of others never do. They promote discord and ultimately cause chaos.
This is why living the Golden Rule and democracy are a better model for living than a corporation that exploits other people and the environment for profit and has no accountability for the harm it causes.
Survival of the fittest is not a law. It’s only a prediction of the outcome of a fight.
Crossposted from Frederick Leatherman Law Blog