Is violence innate?

WNYC – Radiolab: New Normal? (October 02, 2009)

John Horgan examines how Americans seem to have a completely different attitude toward war than we did thirty years ago. He takes us on a stroll through Hoboken, asking strangers one of the great unanswerable questions: “Will humans ever stop fighting wars?” Strangely, everyone seems to know the answer. Robert Sapolsky brings us farther afield – to eastern Africa, where a population of baboons defies his expectations of violent behavior. Robert is surprised to feel hopeful for a gentler future, but then primatologist Richard Wrangham asserts that their aggressive nature is innate, unchanging, and hanging over them like a guillotine.

Listen:


Fascinating, as this show always is.

I’m curious about the mostly unexplored reasons why we humans feel so differently about the inevitability of war than we did 30 years ago.

And Wrangham makes a good point about genetic inherence—I wouldn’t expect these baboons to be genetically more peaceful, but the environment seems to be prevailing in Sapolsky’s population. “Nature versus nurture?” As ever, the answer would seem to be “Both.”

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