Darwin made me do it: Roots of human violence may lie in our evolutionary tree, Nature study claims

Lost me for sure when they oxymoronically wrote, “the observed value for prehistoric man.”

The media release and abstract are below. Paper is here.


Human behaviour: The roots of human violence may lie in our evolutionary tree

Lethal interpersonal violence is a particular feature of primates and is likely to have been inherited by humans during the course of evolution, finds a new study published in Nature this week.

Violent behaviour directed towards members of the same species is known to be common in certain mammals, such as primates, but is virtually unknown in others, such as bats and whales; however it is not clear how much of human aggressive behaviour is driven by our position in the evolutionary tree. The psychological, sociological and evolutionary origins of human violence have long confounded academics, who have been unable to disentangle the relative importance of cultural and non-cultural components.

José María Gómez and colleagues compile data from over 4 million deaths and quantify the level of lethal violence in 1,024 mammal species from 137 taxonomic families and in about 600 human populations, ranging from about 50,000 years ago to the present. Taking data from a variety of human and mammalian sources, they use phylogenetic comparative tools to predict that the overall proportion of human deaths caused by interpersonal violence stands at around 2% — a figure that matches the observed value for prehistoric man.

The authors also investigate how the evolutionarily inferred level of lethal violence differs from that empirically observed during human history. They show that levels of lethal interpersonal violence have changed throughout history, mostly in conjunction with changes in socio-political organization of human populations. These results suggest that culture can influence evolutionarily inherited lethal violence in humans.



6 thoughts on “Darwin made me do it: Roots of human violence may lie in our evolutionary tree, Nature study claims”

  1. They are unwittingly confirming the Bible’s portrayal of man as a fallen creature given to evil. They would be horrified if they realized this.

  2. The explanation for the ‘observed value for prehistoric man’ is simple. Prehistoric man was observed incognito by time travelers from the 21st century who then brought their data back to the future, although not all the way to the time from which they initially embarked. This also accounts for the various anecdotal reports of ‘aliens’, angels, and other unnatural visitors that arise in history. This also comes with a promise that time travel is on the verge of being developed in our century.
    Happy April 1st (when you travel through time, every day can be April 1st)!

  3. Clearly. Man likes to think “he is smart”. That he is not subject to the ideas and thoughts that pervade society. Also that these ideas and thoughts do not determine behavior? Of course they do. Of course if you take away from man anything above him, anything divine, any purpose and entity greater than himself than you’ve taken away a large part of who he is. You’ve also taught man that life is really not that important or precious. It’s pretty clear to me that the concept of God and belief in God makes a magnanimous difference.

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