Barbara J King critiques the “humans are hard-wired for X” trope that pops up far too often among op-eds:
Anthropological studies show that humans respond with incredible plasticity to the social and environmental forces around us. As biological anthropologist and blogger Patrick Clarkin aptly puts it, our abilities for cooperation and conflict, love and hate are “triggered under given circumstances, facilitated or hampered by social conditions and structures.”
In a beautiful piece from 2006 for the magazine Foreign Affairs,neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky meshes Clarkin’s point with an evolutionary perspective. He argues that even our primate heritage is one of plasticity; small shifts in social dynamics may tip the scales toward violence or peace.
Sapolsky describes a shift towards non-aggression in a Kenyan baboon troop he was studying. When the fiercest males died of TB, the local monkey culture became immediately more peaceable. This behavioral shift has been maintained over the course of more than two decades.
HT: The Dish
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