Tag Archives: biology

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.


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.”