Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Did War Make Us Kinder?

The Independent reports:

One of the defining characteristics of being human is the supreme act of personal sacrifice needed to lay down one's life for the good of the group – but could such altruism be hard-wired in our genes as a result of Darwinian evolution?

Biologists have argued for decades about the evolution of altruism and long ago came to the conclusion that Darwinian natural selection cannot explain acts of supreme personal sacrifice except those directly connected with helping the survival of close blood relatives who share similar genes.

But now a study has suggested that altruism in prehistoric human societies may after all have resulted from a form of natural selection caused by a state of near-continual warfare between competing tribes of hunter gatherers, an idea that Charles Darwin himself first suggested in his 1873 book The Descent of Man.

Talk about learning something the hard way!