Violence

Humans Are Naturally Murderous, Says New Study

However, the rise of modern social institutions has greatly reduced violence in contemporary societies.

|

ChimpGunquora
quora

Violence is a pervasive theme in human society; it fills our news broadcasts, our movies, our novels, and, most especially, our histories. Why are people (mostly men) so prone to murder? Many anthropologists and even philosophers like Jean-Jacques Rousseau have chiefly blamed the corruptions of living in mass society. Not so, argues a new study, "The phylogenetic roots of human lethal violence," published in Nature by Spanish evolutionary biologists. They claim instead that natural selection has endowed us with our violent tendencies. The researchers' strategy is to survey intra-species violence in over 1,000 mammalian species in an effort to trace how violence arose. They also look at databases that compile rates of violence among human hunter-gatherer bands and ancient civilizations. While we are not the most violent species (meerkats are), we are pretty high up there on the list. From the study:

By compiling sources of mortality from a comprehensive sample of mammals, we assessed the percentage of deaths due to conspecifics and, using phylogenetic comparative tools, predicted this value for humans. The proportion of human deaths phylogenetically predicted to be caused by interpersonal violence stood at 2%. This value was similar to the one phylogenetically inferred for the evolutionary ancestor of primates and apes, indicating that a certain level of lethal violence arises owing to our position within the phylogeny of mammals. It was also similar to the percentage seen in prehistoric bands and tribes, indicating that we were as lethally violent then as common mammalian evolutionary history would predict.

ScienceAlert further reports

…the team looked at our evolutionary history—usually, the closer two species are on the evolutionary tree, the more similar levels of inter-species murder they display. Based on that, Gómez predicted how violent humans should be, and then looked at causes of death in 600 humans population between 50,000 BC and today, to figure out how violent we actually are.

What they found was that, humans were around six times more murderous than the average mammal when we originated.

So, when our species first arose, around 2 percent of people (or one in 50) would have been murdered by other humans.

But that rate didn't stay the same—during Palaeolithic times, more than 10,000 years ago, the rate of lethal violence increased to around 3.9 percent.

Then, during the Medieval period, between 400 and 1400 AD, that rate rose to around 12 percent, before dropping over the last few centuries so that we're now far less violent than we were in our prehistoric past—most likely due to being more organised, and having stricter laws in place.

Not all mammals are violent, however. The study showed that around 40 percent of the 1,024 mammal species studied killed each other—and the primates were particularly bloodthirsty.

Interestingly, this study basically backs up the work reported by Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker in his insightful book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. Pinker persuasively marshalls evidence showing that you are less likely to die a violent death today than at any other time in human history. When Pinker first proposed that violence has declined in modern times, he got a furious push-back from many intellectuals who are devoted to the idea that modern capitalism particularly incited people to murder. The authors of the new Nature study argue that the rise of modern social institutions have greatly reduced violence in contemporary societies. Their research basically vindicates Pinker's work.

Go here to read Reason's interview with Pinker and learn about the Capitalist Peace.

NEXT: Gary Johnson Has an 'Aleppo Moment' (His Unfortunate Words) on MSNBC

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. OK, Bailey gets the best pic of the day award.

    1. Hope there weren’t any cops around

      1. Other than the one pictured?

      1. I can’t even begin to describe how hard I’m laughing at that. Co-workers are starting to notice.

        1. It really does escalate quickly.

        2. I thought that video was debunked as fake. I think it was a marketing ploy for Rise of the Planet of the Apes, if I remember correctly.

          1. I don’t care if it’s fake, it’s still fun to watch.

    2. Good alt-text, too.

    3. Anybody can earn 450$+ daily.. You can earn from 9000-14000 a month or even more if you work as a full time job.. It’s easy, just follow instructions on this page, read it carefully from start to finish.. It’s a flexible job but a good eaning opportunity. Go to this site home tab for more detail… http://tinyurl.com/h3mergo

    4. Does this study take into account the number of interactions between conspecifics? It would seem to me that the reason that primates are so violent is because primates are social and have many interactions compared to a solitary species, like a bear. How often does a bear run across another bear? This is also probably why meerkats are so violent – they are highly social.

      Furthermore, I bet it is not just being social, but the type of gender mixed social groups that many primates form. Compare it to deer, for example, which spend the majority of the year in sex segregated group. So I wonder what percentage of primate violence is directly related to fights over access to sex.

      In conclusion, I would not make too much out of this data until they adjust it for the number of interactions.

      1. For comparing between species, yes. For comparing human rates through time, I’m ok with assuming that greater population means more interaction. So study seems good enough for me.

    5. So I just looked up the list, and if Bailey wasn’t such a pessimist, he could have titled this:

      New Study Shows Humans Less Murderous Than Chinchillas

  2. Huh, so the Purge turned out to be right.

    1. I am gonna have to deconsider my Patronus animal, which was the meerkat.

      1. Dear autocorrrect, deconsider isn’t even a word.

        1. Nah, lets run with it, Deconsider: Verb, to remove reasoning and justification one once held dear.

      2. I’m a tigress!

  3. …most likely due to…having stricter laws in place.

    So cops really ARE the thin blue line between civilization and anarchy, and if wasn’t for these heroes, we would all be out in the streets slitting each others’ throats.

    Also, I knew the Middle Ages were violent, but goddamn…even I’m surprised by how high that number was.

    1. If it wasn’t for government, everyone would just be murdering each other.
      Didn’t read the article, but do they include war casualties and deaths due to government programs like the Soviets and Chicoms implemented in their murder figures?

      1. Ron sez in a comment further down that this includes state murder in the stats.

        My guess is that by the time we got state-sanctioned industrialized killing, there were so goddamn many humans that even shit like communism didn’t kill them at a per capita rate enough to arrest the general decline seen from the end of the Middle Ages.

        1. Makes sense. While the murder rate for entire world declined, the murder rate for the Societ Union would show a big increase.

          1. Kinda like how the murder rate is going up in big cities faster than it’s going down everywhere else.

    2. Im not so sure.

      The article mentions a 2% murder rate?

      That’s very high by modern standards, but it suggests that 98% of people would just go on living heir lives.

      That’s not exactly savage failure, which perhaps explains why humans aren’t extinct.

      In short, I give the government credit for making life somewhat more pleasant, but I’m not sure it’s necessary, that it couldn’t be just as pleasant with private security, or that mad max viking helmet fights to the last man standing is the only alternative.

      1. “The article mentions a 2% murder rate?”

        Yeah, one of them most murderous species around doesn’t really matter if species aren’t generally murderous.

    3. As a young teenager in proudly peaceable Canada during the romantic 1960s, I was a true believer in Bakunin’s anarchism. I laughed off my parents’ argument that if the government ever laid down its arms all hell would break loose. Our competing predictions were put to the test at 8:00 A.M. on October 17, 1969, when the Montreal police went on strike… This decisive empirical test left my politics in tatters (and offered a foretaste of life as a scientist). — Steven Pinker

      See!

  4. “When Pinker first proposed that violence has declined in modern times, he got a furious push-back from many intellectuals who are devoted to the idea that modern capitalism particularly incited people to murder.”

    As opposed to the peaceful modern communism in the Soviet Union, Communist China, Cambodia, Cuba, etc.

    Or maybe state sponsored murder isn’t supposed to count.

    1. Even considering those numbers, I believe it’s declined. Noble savages indeed.

    2. Of course state-sponsored murder doesn’t count as murder. That’s why soldiers get medals instead of jail sentences.

    3. Well, the dramatic increase in violence through the Middle Ages did correspond with the rise and growth of states, so…

      1. Eeeh… I’d argue getting back to “state” levels of Roman Empire didn’t happen till 16th Century in Western Europe. Everywhere else, existing “states” got replaced by similar or slightly less state-like states (Sassanids->Shia Persia, Eastern Roman Empire->Ottoman Sultanate, Chinese states->Mongol Empire, not up on what was going on in India).

        1. “not up on what was going on in India”

          Mughals.

    4. Well, the dramatic increase in violence through the Middle Ages did correspond with the rise and growth of states, so…

    5. Well, the dramatic increase in violence through the Middle Ages did correspond with the rise and growth of states, so…

      1. Don’t squirrel me, bro.

    6. Pinker does include state murder and war deaths in his data

      1. Interesting. I would have guessed the mass casualties from the world wars and various genocides would have more of an effect on the numbers.

        1. total 20th century casualties approx 100 milion.
          20th century turn over population approx 8-9 billion.
          about 1-2%

          1. It would be interesting to do a historical breakdown of violence by individuals, by tribal groups, and by States. My guess is that most violence is between tribal groups. In so far as States are limits on the powers of tribal groups, the rise of the modern State probably does reduce the total number of violence. On the other hand, as we all know, there are certain costs associated with that.

            1. “In so far as States are limits on the powers of tribal groups”

              Or just another word for tribal group.

        2. Nope. State violence has been around for millennia, and it was genuinely worse in the past. Sure, the absolute number of people killed in the 20th century was the highest ever, but there were also a lot more people around to be killed than ever before. When you consider it in terms of violent deaths per capita, the 20th wasn’t all that bad. In terms of single events that caused the most deaths per capita, only WW II (including the Holocaust) even makes the all-time top ten.

          If you haven’t read Pinker’s book, I highly recommend it. His other books are pretty good, too. He manages to explain things in a way that neither dumbs down the material nor gets bogged down in technical jargon.

  5. So, when our species first arose, around 2 percent of people (or one in 50) would have been murdered by other humans.

    But that rate didn’t stay the same – during Palaeolithic times, more than 10,000 years ago, the rate of lethal violence increased to around 3.9 percent.

    Then, during the Medieval period, between 400 and 1400 AD, that rate rose to around 12 percent, before dropping over the last few centuries so that we’re now far less violent than we were in our prehistoric past – most likely due to being more organised, and having stricter laws in place.

    But what does that work out to in skittles?

    1. One skittle per bag went up to two skittles per bag then up to all the green skittles and is now declining back to one skittle per bag.

  6. Better alt-text:
    “Glocks Out For Harambe”

    1. Ron is much too refined for your crass “humor.”

      *insert pedantic rant about gorillas != chimpanzees*

      **insert caveat about probably being wrong anyway**

  7. “Humans Are Naturally Murderous, Says New Study”

    Why could have predicted this?

      1. The same people who made up the myths to begin with.
        You have a circular argument there, unless you have some evidence otherwise.

      2. Why’s on first, Who’s on second.

    1. *sees the light, converts to Catholicism and gets a cilice*

      1. Mmm, a cilice of pizza sounds good for lunch.

    2. Why did God make us this way?

      1. The same reason scientists do those experiments where they purposefully overcrowd rats and watch them tear themselves apart.

        Because it’s funny.

        1. I’d buy that. The book about him does always make him come off like a giant douchebag.

          1. I guess that makes Satan a turd sandwich?

      2. I know this is a sarcastic throwaway comment, but that question’s been asked and addressed in Christian apologetics going back to the first century. I only mmention it because it’s not really much of a “gotcha” in a serious conversation with anybody other than the most superficial cafeteria catholics or already-converted atheists. You basically sound like Eddie in an abortion thread.

        1. I’ve read a great many of the apologetics, having been raised religious, and I’d like to point out the huge distinction between “addressed” and “addressed satisfactorily”.

          The first is a matter of fact, the second is entirely subjective. I never once read an explanation for evil that didn’t seem tortured and poorly reasoned to me. Of course, that’s just my opinion on the matter, and carries as much weight as helium.

          1. Huh. My opinion has always been that everything is relative, some things are better than others, which means some things are worse than others, and putting labels on things is just human nature. There are people who think the two atom bombings were worse than the Tokyo fire bombing which killed more people, and the 100K Chinese the Japanese were killing every month, and the predicted 1M dead Japanese and 1M American dead and wounded from an invasion.

            Others think deep dish soup is pizza.

            Which is worse? Which is evil?

            1. No longer believing in anything supernatural, I don’t actually think there is any such thing as objective good or evil. There is no way to know that rape and murder are bad, the way you know that 2+2=4*, or the way PapayaSF knows that blacks are inferior mud-people. The very idea of valuing liberty or human welfare is a subjective axiom from which one chooses to start.

              So I don’t make any excuses or apologies. I believe what I believe for reasons that seem good to me, and that’s it.

              *with apologies to the philosophers who don’t believe we can even know that much with certainty, and now with apologies to Old Mexican, who is triggered by mention of philosophers.

            2. Yes, all morality is 100% subjective. Personally I’m not sure that there is a need to go beyond straight up hedonism to determine what should be considered good and bad.

              1. I’m not a philosophy student, but hedonism is the only one that makes sense to me.

                1. Ultimately, I think that’s probably true.

                  If you are truly happy, then you’ve lived a good life. Unless the purpose of our existence is to contribute to the collective, I can’t think of a better standard.

                  Of course, the difficulty is that you have to accept that some people might be truly happy being shitty to other people. But I like to think that being decent to others is the better way to achieve happiness.

          2. “We are fucking animals who are smart enough to invent morality and cooperate on large scales” always seems like a more plausible answer. Evil exists because people invented good.

        2. The best way to apologize? Stop doing the thing you keep having to apologize for.

        3. I never joke about God!

          1. In other words, don’t assume that I’m one of the philosophically retarded people you normally run into in everyday life.

            1. No, no you’re a special philosophically retarded person.

              *drops mic*

      3. When you decide to chose “not God”, you often end up hurting the things God made and called “good”.

        This often ends with you deciding that you are most important, or power is, or majority, or whatever. Then, when you serve those things, you often end up sacrificing all else for them. And this often (quickly) leads to murder.

        So choose wisely.

        1. *drinks from fancy cup*

          *turns to dust*

          1. He was a carpenter you fool!

            1. Then why did he have a metal cup, Mr Smartypants?

              1. Because he was best friends with Judas the Smith.

                1. Not Judas the Priest?

        2. Wow, I’m like the statistical outlier of all outliers. An atheist that has never killed anyone or sought power to crush those I find unworthy.

          1. I said “often” many times, purposely. You aren’t necessarily an outlier.

            That being said, the majority of people who thought they could get away with it would murder, assault, steal, and/or rape.

            You wanted an answer, I gave it.

            1. … the majority of people who thought they could get away with it would murder, assault, steal, and/or rape.

              I’m curious for your evidence backing up this claim.

              1. I can look at myself and what I want to do, but that doesn’t give any evidence for anyone else (perhaps I’m just worse than “normal”).

                So look at those who never learned self-control, those in prison. They didn’t really think they could get away with it, but simply didn’t care. Most people are smarter than that.

                That being said, I could very well kill many people who deserve it and “get away” with it, in the human sense. I don’t because I couldn’t “get away” with it in the eternal sense.

                “‘Vengeance is mine,’ declares the LORD. ‘I will repay.'”

              2. Oh, I forgot about “power corrupts”. Even putting a “good” man in charge of government, popular in the US’s early years, the “good” man still abused it. If you can get away with [A], you will likely do it even if you are good.

            2. I guess I should have said I wanted a good answer.

              1. You wouldn’t say any answer is “good”, because you’ve already made up your mind. You asked a “gotcha” question and the one who asks such a question will never be satisfied by any answer, no matter how good it is.

                God bless!

                1. I’d be perfectly satisfied if you showed me data indicating, 1) the number of humans who “think they can get away with (x)”, and 2) the correlation of that number to how many of them then actually go on to commit the crimes they thought they could get away with. That would go a long way towards proving your claim.

                  1. I don’t have the money to do such a study and refuse to take stolen (‘government’) money to do such a thing.

                    So you’ll have to be happy with rationality and not empiricism in this case.

                2. And ace capitulates before even getting started.

                  1. I am curious to what I “capitulated” to…

                    Veritas Liberabit Vos.

                3. I don’t consider circular arguments to be “good”.

                  1. How is my argument “circular”?

                    I know I’m evil. I know those who have no self-control act evil. I know that the historical record shows that otherwise “good” men are corrupted by power over others when they don’t have consequences for using them.

                    How is what I presented “circular”?

                    1. *”them”, should be “it”. Minor edits wouldn’t kill anyone here, Reason!

                    2. Is it good because God said so or did God say so because it’s good. Your argument is circular because you are assuming the existence of God and then claiming that it has determined what good and evil are.

                    3. Respectfully, I think you have an intellectual blind-spot on this issue. That wasn’t even close to being a summation of my argument.

                      You brought up God. I answered your question. You made another sarcastic comment about how you must be weird in that you’ve never attempted to crush others. I pointed out that I didn’t say you would, just that most people would initiate force if they had the opportunity. When questioned on that point, I gave 3 good reason to think so, as I’m unaware of any empirical study being done on the question.

                      This is not circular at all.

                    4. When you decide to chose “not God”, you often end up hurting the things God made and called “good”.

                      Circular reasoning, aka begging the question, is where you assume a premise that leads to your conclusion which affirms your premise. Assuming God exists leading to “good” being what God says it is is an example of this. Now, maybe you don’t actually believe in God and are just piggybacking on Eddie’s belief in God which is essentially the premise I was challenging. In either case, assuming the existence of God without first proving its existence is circular reasoning. If you are insistent that good and evil are and always will be defined by God, then you must first prove God.

                    5. Assuming God exists leading to “good” being what God says it is is an example of this.

                      You can take the phrase “and called “good”” (your apparent stumbling block) from my original post and the logic still stands.

                      In either case, assuming the existence of God without first proving its existence is circular reasoning.

                      You brought up God, not me. But your logic is still wrong as you’ve just defined circular reasoning and that sentence doesn’t fit with the definition. I didn’t use “God” to prove “God”. You assumed “God” and asked why and I gave an answer in which the conclusion doesn’t need God but simple rationality. I told you why things would be this way, not whether or not those things are “good” or “evil”.

                      But you are wrong in another way, in that you can’t “prove” the existence of many things you argue about all the time, such as “right and wrong”, or “cognition”. Heck, almost every argument here assumes something if you think hard enough about it. Telling someone that you have to prove something exists before you can argue about it (remember, you brought it up) would make almost every argument impossible.

                      Unless you want to start at Cogito Ergo Sum…

                    6. The take away for me here is that ace_m82 would happily murder us all if he could get away with it.

                    7. The below assumes there is no God and therefore no morality.

                      You? No.

                      Murderous politicians? Absolutely.

  8. As the wars on drugs, guns, terrorism, and speech die down, humans will run out of ‘good’ reasons to kill each other. Then what?

    1. Lulz, always for the lulz.

    2. Don’t worry dajjal, the Sunni and Shia show no signs of stopping anytime soon.

      1. “We must kill them because otherwise they will kill each other!” – Radical Bombisist Mantra #4

    3. Folks like you will kill because “climate deniers” won’t peacefully be loaded onto railcars to the re-education camps. The folks you attempt to load up like cattle will likely push back and probably kill folks like you.

  9. I’m not used to reading Bailey posts that don’t have a “more” button. Is my browser broken?

  10. Dear Ron, is this focused specifically on murder or is it any case where one person killed another?

    1. Any case – wars and state murder of citizens included.

      1. So I take it that self defense is included.

  11. Many murders these days are actually instigated suicides. “Suicide by cop” is becoming increasingly popular. Also murders between rival gangs are often by mutual consent. First you have Keith Lamont Scott, who was instigating the police to shoot him, and then in his riots you have the murder of Justin Carr. Whose mother wrote hours before his death: “Make sure it doesn’t turn violent! We also need to come together as a community and stop killing and hating on each other! They see us killing each other so they think it’s ok for them to do it too! There’s a difference between protesting and acting a damn fool! Do your thing Tre and start this great movement!”

    These are not ‘exceptions’. They are actually the bulk of the ‘rule’.

  12. “…around 2 percent of people (or one in 50)…”

    I’m glad they gave a quick math lesson. 2% confused the hell out of me.

  13. Calculating the murder rate from the fucking Paleolithic era is probably roughly as accurate as estimating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. It’s not like climate data where we have tree rings that can tell us the surface temperature of the earth within 10ths of a degree centigrade. This is literally a scientific wild-ass guess.

    1. This is literally a scientific wild-ass guess.

      the amount of SWAG that generates news-headlines has expanded exponentially.

      I’ve pretty much gotten into the habit of writing off anything that involves any ‘predictive’ modeling. If its not observable, its not science*

      (*exceptions made for theoretical physicists etc., but not fucking anthropology)

  14. There was a thread on iSteve a couple of months ago where a commenter proposed the metric of 1 homicide as the unit act of aggression.

    Here’s some help.

    http://www.telecomabc.com/p/prefix.html.

    For example, flipping the bird at another motorist would be milli-aggression if you think an off-hand remark about how many professional defensive linebackers are black is a micro-aggression.

    1. “defensive linebackers”
      As compared to?

  15. Keith Scott, Omar Mateen, and Dahir Adan (MN mall stabber) were all employees of the private security industry, and patsies for it. Even Ahmad Rahami studied law enforcement in community college. These people are killing for the purpose of establishing the necessity of private security – to ‘protect’ us from the crazies. It’s a form of extortion – so they can make lots of money (e.g. G4S, Securitas). Yet we’re finding there aren’t really ‘crazies’ after all. Everyone has a ‘good’ reason for killing, even if it is not immediately obvious. Also we instigate ‘terrorists’ in Libya to kill, and then use that as a justification to bomb their production facilities. Again, a simple profit motive. The funny thing is, you can prevent it simply by exposing it. Why? Because they are literally that stupid that they don’t think we don’t know why they kill.

    1. Increase your medication.

      1. Increase your medication.

        *drops mic*

        1. DELETE YOUR ACCOUNT.

          PWN’D!

          1. Reported all as spam.

        2. Fuck! [deletes account]

    2. Everyone has a ‘good’ reason for killing

      My dog told me to do it.

      1. Patsy for the mental illness industry.

        1. Just like your face.

          *drops mic*

        2. The Mental Illness Industry would be a good name for a band, if it’s not already taken by some Juggalo gang.

      2. The flip side of that is that there is usually a good reason why someone needs killing.

    3. You’re contradicting yourself. At first you suggest that these killers have some self-serving master plan to beef up the security industry and then you say they’re too stupid and crazy to know what they doing.

  16. Pinker persuasively marshalls evidence showing that you are less likely to die a violent death today than at any other time in human history.

    What Pinker didn’t do is provide any persuasive evidence that this trend is in any way guaranteed to continue. Pinker’s entire career is nothing but stating the mundane and obvious point that civilization is better than chaos. Why his admirers find that statement to be profound or in any way indicative of some brighter future is beyond me.

    1. It’s unfortunately novel because it stands in direct opposition to the “noble savage” trend in history.

      1. Nasty, brutish, and short!

    2. Well, a lot of academics have been trying to spin the narrative that modern capitalism is horrible and destructive (when in fact it represents unprecedented peace and cooperation among people). Pinker’s observation shouldn’t be that remarkable. But there are an awful lot of people convinced that everything is going to hell, despite any evidence to the contrary.

    3. Pinker’s entire career is nothing but stating the mundane and obvious point that civilization is better than chaos.

      Considering the number of intellectuals and academics advocating for repudiating civilization with a preference for the natural law of the noble savage, an avowal for the palliative effects of modern capitalism and rule of law is refreshing, however obvious it is to those of us inclined to his perspective.

      1. A. What commodious said
        B. There are many “things” you think you know but actually don’t.

        My favorite example is the fluid dynamics professor who was asked how a frisbee flys. He gave the generalist answer but then thought “I will go find the paper on it.” Lo and behold no one had ever done the math, the research, the science on it. So he did. He learned several very interesting and new things.

        You may not see the utility in verifying what you consider obvious claims but that in and of itself is why they must be verified.

    4. Um John, you know that most of Pinker’s career has been about the structure of language and how the brain acquires language? Not a whole lot on civilization.

      1. and to THIS point, he used begs the question wrong…i haz a dissapoint

      2. His career in the popular media. Fair point, he has done more than this but most people don’t know that.

        1. Most people don’t know who Steven Pinker is at all.

  17. When Pinker first proposed that violence has declined in modern times, he got a furious push-back from many intellectuals who are devoted to the idea that modern capitalism particularly incited people to murder

    OK, I get that many people are willfully ignorant about stuff, but… how in holy hell could anyone actually think this?

    1. Because they are dumber than Pinker. Pinker is annoying dim but his leftwing critics take the cake.

      1. Dude, you got a cilice up your butt today?

        You may disagree with Pinker, you may not like him, but there is no rational way an objective person could call him DIM. I imagine his insight, education, and ability to critically analyse data far outweighs your ability and most likely anyone else on this board.

      2. Pinker, the Harvard professor, dim? Did he fuck your wife or something, dude?

  18. Any pics involving monkeys permanently makes me giggle.

    1. Chimps wearing suits is always funny. It never gets old.

      1. Chimps with guns are always hilarious.

  19. The private security and mental illness industry shills will try to make you believe that murder is inevitable and anyone who disagrees with this is ‘crazy’. But if you actually drill down on particular examples you discover that killing is actually well organized and often serves a simple profit motive. For example, the 9/11 attacks was actually a CIA operation to raise their profile – they had long been flying mujahedeen to the US for ‘training’, but this time they simply didn’t fly them back. However they are against legislation that allows Americans to sue Saudi Arabia because they know their role will be exposed. (What was explained as ‘radical extremism’ was actually just a security/intelligence industry extortion racket.)

    1. I’m listening. Please continue.

      1. Lockerbie bombing was not Qaddafi – it was a CIA drugs operation gone awry.

          1. He learned it from you DAD!

          2. His dog told him.

          3. Because the CIA is behind everything, bro. And the Illuminati are behind the CIA.

            1. That’s just what they want you to think.

              WAKE UP SHEEPLE!

  20. So it’s not reading the news that fills me with murderous rage?

  21. This study is basically just making shit up left and right. As if they have concrete numbers today, let alone from 50,000 years ago. There is absolutely zero way to compare those things, yet we’re supposed to take it as a given that these guys have data to support their assumptions?

    “Then, during the Medieval period, between 400 and 1400 AD, that rate rose to around 12 percent, before dropping over the last few centuries so that we’re now far less violent than we were in our prehistoric past – most likely due to being more organized, and having stricter laws in place.”

    This literally doesn’t even logically flow if we are in fact naturally violent, and even if it did how would you know that violence rose by 12 percent? Are we included wars where people were pressed into service by the men that owned the land they farmed by force? Is that really the innate violence of man or the violence of a few that press the masses into those goals through their own violent nature?

    Jesus Christ scholars, we get it. You need to publish to get your tenure. Just stop pretending that there were violence statistics from hundreds, let alone thousands, of years ago.

    1. The other problem is the population is a lot bigger than it once was. Killing 10% of the population of the world today in a war is a lot more difficult than killing 10% of the population say 200 years ago. We also have a much more resilient civilization today than we once did. In the days before modern travel and transportation, when war came to an area and it devastated the agriculture in that area, the people there starved. There was no red cross food aid because there was no way to transport that much food from areas that were not devastated.

      The other thing these sorts of studies ignore is the effect of cheap and available firearms. Before firearms, armies could terrorize and slaughter civilians with impunity. Firearms democratized violence such that this was no longer possible. The civilians fire back. It is no coincidence that after the invention of firearms nations and armies suddenly became interested in having a law of war and prohibiting the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians. They decided to stop slaughtering civilians in large part because doing so was thanks to fire arms becoming a dangerous proposition. It was, however, still an effective means of waging war. So they wanted to take it off the table completely.

      1. The other problem is the population is a lot bigger than it once was. Killing 10% of the population of the world today in a war is a lot more difficult than killing 10% of the population say 200 years ago. We also have a much more resilient civilization today than we once did.

        The thing that gets me as well is that singular acts of violence are taken as moral indicators in aggregate. So, assuming no social safety net, if I have two mothers with five toddlers to care for each and, on the one hand, I shoot five toddlers and you shoot one mother; I’m “more evil” even though you effectively induced six deaths whereas I only killed five people. So, incidents like Slavery and the American Civil War, that killed nearly 750,000 Americans but left millions of Americans without property or self-ownership to starve or otherwise die get chalked up as a comparatively mediocre war and stuff like the Great Chinese Famine, which killed about 1% of the population *alone* don’t get counted at all.

        You’re right that large swaths of the population are harder to kill now than they were then and that society is more resilient. The issue that the study fatally fails to even be cognizant of is, in spite of these facts, we’re still trying and still really fucking good at it.

        1. Fewer than 1% of slaves in the South were ever lynched and well less than 1% of the total population. So, even if the remaining 99% of the population participated in their lynching (assuming it was recorded), it was considerably less violent than lots/most of the other periods in history.

    2. So what? We shouldn’t even try to figure out what happened in the past?

      The conclusion that man is inherently murderous is worthy of some criticism. But I don’t think we should say “well, we can’t know for sure, so we shouldn’t bother trying”.

      1. Zeb, you can try to ‘figure it out’ but if there isn’t data and can’t be data you are making shit up. That is a fact unlike virtually this entire study.

        1. Archaeological evidence isn’t data?

          1. What archaeological evidence could provide an accurate murder rate for a prehistoric population? There are simply too many things that just can’t be known.

            1. That’s true of absolutely everything we think we know about history and anthropological archaeology, isn’t it?

              Should we just stop trying to study history and prehistory?

              1. Should we just stop trying to study history and prehistory?

                How do you get to that from me simply noting that some areas yield too little information to reasonably draw the stated conclusions?

                1. I think Zeb’s point is that we should continue to make shit up and call it ‘history’. Seems legit.

                  I’m not against people studying those things Zeb, I’m against people making shit up. It devalues the very things you appear to want us to study.

                  1. What I’m saying is that I don’t agree with you about the impossibility of comparing rates of death by homicide in the past and present.

                    1. “What I’m saying is that I don’t agree with you about the impossibility of comparing rates of death by homicide in the past and present.”

                      I don’t know what to tell you then, other than you believe in faeries. It’s up to you in how to reconcile that, but stop getting your faeries in our science.

                      I absolutely agree with you on this point though:

                      “What I’m trying to say is that our knowledge of the past, especially human past, is all imperfect in just that way. Most things we “know” about the past are from reconstructions based on all kinds of assumptions.”

                      That is somewhat true, and becomes more and more true the further back or further forward you go because you are extrapolating with a thinner and thinner data set. If you go back 50,000 years from now, you are literally guessing with perhaps one, at most, data point. Lets say Lucy was murdered 50,000 years ago, and you find lucy today and notice that there’s a flint piece jammed through her chest with finger prints and a crude note in English that says “I murdered this bitch”. Discounting everything else, you now know that at that point in history there was a murder rate of 50% from the only two people you know existed. Do you see what I’m talking about now? Now multiply that error by orders of magnitude and you apparently get ‘science’.

                2. I must be arguing with the people in my head.

                  What I’m trying to say is that our knowledge of the past, especially human past, is all imperfect in just that way. Most things we “know” about the past are from reconstructions based on all kinds of assumptions.

                  I agree that it’s not real, hard science. But some seem to be saying that because of that it’s all worthless. I think trying to figure out how we could estimate the homicide rates of the past is something that is worth doing. Maybe I’m seeing people disagreeing with me where they really aren’t/

          2. It isn’t even a ballpark data point to compare to modern violence statistics. Not. Even. Close. That’s before you even start to talk about armies pressed into service by the actions of the few against their will, which is predominately how violence has worked in organized societies. If anything, it’s even worse since it’s organized violence on an even larger scale driven and endorsed by the minority of those who are in control of society. You even see this with early belief systems, a good example being the Aztec. Would those thousands or hundreds of thousands of deaths have occurred if not for the priest class and useful idiots who believed in their sky father? No, no they would not have.

            This is a prime example of publish or perish material. It can’t be verified, it’s using vastly dissimilar data points, and has questionable unpinning assumptions, but people look at it and go ‘see, we’re doing science!’ when this isn’t actually science. It’s barely even an educated guess.

            This is the same methodology that results in the ‘hockey stick’ graphs you see in Climate Change ‘science’. You can’t take data points from pre-history, or even early history, and compare them to modern data points and draw any meaningful conclusions. You are guessing, and it’s not an educated guess. It’s bullshit with sciencey-sounding names for the methodology.

            1. So we shouldn’t even try to understand the past is what you are saying. History and archaeology are completely useless and no one should bother because we can’t know with scientific certainty.

              Stuff like this is never going to be hard science, and it should probably state that up front that we can’t really know for sure. And it certainly shouldn’t be used to guide policy decisions or anything. But I think it’s worth something.

              1. Nice Strawman, did your mother make that for you?

                1. Well, that’s a clever response.

                  Seems like you are saying it’s not possible to compare the present or recent past to the more distant past. Pardon me if I’ve got that wrong or we are just talking past each other.

                  1. You’re talking past each other.

                    The way I see it is that you can’t compare the recent past and the distant past with the same level of confidence. Because of this:

                    ‘The rate of killing increased during the middle ages and then dropped after the 16th century’ is a valid, if debatable statement.

                    ‘The rate of killing went from 2% in Roman times to 12% in the Middle Ages, and then dropped to it’s current 1 1/2%’ is mostly fabricated horse hooey.

    3. Umm, there are mountains of archeological and historical evidence to support the claim that humans regularly murdered each other. That we are generally peaceful with each other now is the exception not the rule.

      1. Shhhh, don’t mention evidence. It is much easier to assume that because you can’t figure out how the data was gathered that it must not be real. See evolution, global warming, …..

      2. There is. The problem is that we didn’t magically get here. And there is no guarantee things won’t go back to what they were. So Pinkerton’s point while valid means a lot less than Bailey and his other admirers think it does.

      3. Did I say one single thing about humans regularly murdering each other, one way or the other? Here’s a fun little mental exercise, if mankind is in fact naturally murderous how did we form modern society? I mean, we’re all so murderous!

        Oh, wait, I think I see it. Is it because those few who knew better saved us from ourselves? That’s it, isn’t it. It must be, because it’s the only logical conclusion. Now, is that a ‘real’ conclusion or a manufactured one through data manipulation and author bias? You’ll have to decide for yourself.

        Note that I’m not even saying the entire thing is bullshit, merely that drawing conclusions from unreliable and unverifiable pre-history and early history is a fools errand. That is such an obvious truism it shouldn’t need to be said, and since the author himself deemed it a worthy idea I must therefore question the entire premise as being built on faulty logic.

        1. Maybe we are just talking about different things. I’m with you on the questionableness of the conclusion that all this means that people are inherently murderous. But I do think that it is not completely pointless and impossible to compare rates of death by homicide in the past and present.

          1. It is if you want to put the timeline out to 50,000 years ago.

            If you wanted to compare to last year, it’s possible.

            If you want to compare to, say, 400 A.D. still somewhat possible but it’s going to be such a loose and subjective number that it’s almost entirely useless.

            We don’t even know how many people were alive, or how many were murdered out of aggression (an important differentiating metric, I might add), so any number anyone puts forward is quite literally a shot in the dark guess based on their opinion no matter how they have justified it. At that point, no, it’s no longer a valid metric and if you’re using it, it’s because you’re lying.

            When the final conclusion is ‘mankind is inherently murderous’ then yes, you should be called to task for what is clearly a logical fallacy.

            I think the misunderstanding is that you think this study is ‘history’, ‘archeology’, or even ‘Archeological Anthropology’ when in fact it’s just junk science. As Ron has pointed out on numerous occasions, this type of junk science is increasingly common and in my opinion this is a prime example of the genre.

            I feel kind of bad for being a dick on this issue but I loathe this type of idiot study. It’s more ammo in the arsenal of idiots that want to justify a total police state based on ‘science and history’. Blech.

  22. Helluva train crash. How is it Donald Trump’s fault?

    1. My wife works at a hospital in Hoboken, fortunately she takes an earlier train and was already at work when the crash happened.

      1. Well then thank god for pay gaps.

    2. They are saying it might have been operator error. Clearly the engineer was so triggered and traumatized by Trump’s candidacy that it caused this to happen. Trump has created an environment so triggering and hostile, people can no longer even function.

      I think I could write a piece to that effect and get it accepted by Salon? Don’t you?

      1. Didn’t Shikha already write that piece?

      2. The operator was paralyzed with fear for Trump’s aggressive austerity programs that would have left him out of work and feeding his children rocks to stay their hunger.

      3. Actually, I believe Deepak Chopra already went there.

        “What I said just now [about Trump’s ‘retardation’], I would never say these things about anybody,” the guru confessed. “It’s not like me. But he’s bringing out the worst in me, because I, too, am fearful of what would happen to the United States of America and the rest of the world if, God forbid, he became president.”

        1. I didn’t mean to hurt you babe. Its just that damn Johnson in the White House.

        2. he’s bringing out the worst in me

          A standard lefty-excuse for victim-blaming; they’ll act like petulant children and scream and curse and ad-hom over the smallest issue, and when you “tone police” and point out their bad-behavior, they’ll just pivot and suggest that your horribly-offensive right-wing position (*in defense of ‘Free Speech’, or ‘Property Rights’, or ‘Rule of Law’) *makes them do it*

          1. My four year old says that too. So, that’s the level they’re operating at.

  23. Libertarian moment, representative government, after careful, long deliberation and input from constituents, are reluctantly banning kratom.

    Oh wait, I read that wrong… The Obama administration unilaterally is banning something.

    1. Old news. And I’m not sure you can pin that one on Obama specifically. That’s just how the DEA rolls.

      If it’s a drug and people like it, ban it.

      But since we give presidents credit and blame for everything nowadays, I guess it’s close enough.

  24. (looks at monkey; assumes someone somewhere in the comments will insert a remark about the monkey’s choice of weaver vs. modern-isosceles stances)

    1. He’s a lefty with right eye dominant, his stance is the least of his problems.

      1. Migga needs to learn a co-witness yo.

  25. I remember seeing a study that suggested scientists rarely do groundbreaking work once they get past middle age. Then I saw a follow-up study suggesting that the exceptions were scientists who didn’t get married until later in life.

    Their productivity seemed to correlate with not having a mate. Once they achieved a mate, maybe they became less ambitious, had less time to devote to work because of children, etc.

    But it wouldn’t surprise me if a lack of female companionship had a lot to do with our propensity for violence.

    Show me a group of late teens without any legitimate shot at social acceptance and stability with a mate, specifically, and I’ll show you some really violent teens. And I don’t care if you find ’em in the United States or elsewhere, it’s all the same. If I’m a Viking who wants to go raiding or a recruit to become a suicide bomber, chances are I don’t have a mate I’m leaving behind. Meanwhile, killing someone over a woman makes more sense to me than killing someone over anything else–and it’s a common cause for violence.

    As a general rule, the stupid things I see guys do make a lot more sense if they were done because of a woman. When members of other species overcome the competition and mate, biologists call them “successful”. Why do bonobos seems peaceful so much of the time? Isn’t it because they’re so promiscuous? Keep a guy well fed and with a mate, and his chances of being violent probably drop precipitously.

    1. Their productivity seemed to correlate with not having a mate. Once they achieved a mate, maybe they became less ambitious, had less time to devote to work because of children, etc.

      More than likely this. The amount of distractions that pull at your time once you have a family are monumental.

    2. Pretty much that. One of the most important things about life that our society has forgotten and tries to suppress is the fact that violence is seductive and fun, especially for young men. There has never been a bigger load of bullshit than the idea that everyone is the reluctant warrior. Violence is seductive and some people are really good at dealing in it. The only way to control such people without killing or imprisoning them is to give them a acceptable outlet like joining the military or give them a stake in society and something to lose such that the personal risk associated with violence now means enough to them to outweigh the seductiveness of it.

    3. Or, as I like to say, “give pussy a chance.”

    4. https://youtu.be/4y_mXLYh_PA?t=88

      +1 ‘If Saddam had invested as much in the pussy-infrastructure as he did in his army this country would be no more fucked up than, say, Mexico.’

  26. The mental illness industry holds us hostage to the threat: “Mental illness is real and if you don’t let us treat it by making people take drugs then they will go crazy and kill you.” In order to make this threat real, they have to have people ‘go crazy and kill people’. This is exactly what happened in Sandy Hook – the kid was diagnosed with ‘autism’ and taught, “Take these pills and don’t stop taking them or you are liable to be a mass murderer.” Well then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because the mother had emotionally stunted her own child (for the purpose of having a permanent boyfriend) and that left him feeling trapped and having no escape. It’s the same dynamic as Mateen and Rahami – they felt trapped in marriages and having kids too young, and so embraced a radical ideology to rebel against it. In both cases they simultaneously justify and execrate the ideology (‘radical islam’ and ‘mental illness’). So yeah, people don’t just ‘go crazy and kill’ – they always have good reasons. Often it’s because they feel trapped.

    1. Thanks to you, we all know mental illness is real.

      1. ‘Mental illness’ is a religion – and nothing more than the belief in it. (I don’t believe in mental illness.)

        1. I can see why you wouldn’t want to.

        2. Odd that you’re one of this forum’s foremost practitioners of it, then.

          1. Oh – another zinger. You’re really good at this, CX.

            1. If you knew you were crazy you would be sane.

  27. If Trump won he would be held accountable by the Trumpkins to start new wars and witch hunts against Muslims, illegals and blacks. There would have been murder on a large scale – think WW II. Now, many people are fearful that angry Trumpkins will kill people regardless. This isn’t true – by losing the election their ‘good reason’ to kill has been discredited. However, they can be expected to act out angrily – thus the increase in traffic fatalities over the last few days and the NJ Transit crash. However this phase will quickly pass. There is no real concern of election violence. They lost fair and square and they know it. The FSB staged a series of apartment bombings in 1999 to get Putin elected. However, Trump doesn’t benefit from a terrorism ‘bump’ and so if the CIA did the same here, there would be the inevitable ‘blowback’.

  28. I think ScienceAlert got this sentence wrong”

    “the more similar levels of inter-species murder they display”

    It seems like it should be:

    “the more similar levels of intra-species murder they display”

    Because the article is talking about us killing each other, and not some other species, right?

  29. Ron,
    Ever stumble across this book?
    Curious since his thesis seems to be the opposite–that humans have to be pretty much pushed into killing. [I only just started reading it, but did distill the gist from the intro and revised intro]

  30. Then, during the Medieval period, between 400 and 1400 AD, that rate rose to around 12 percent, before dropping over the last few centuries so that we’re now far less violent than we were in our prehistoric past – most likely due to being more organised, and having stricter laws in place.

    IOW, the enlightenment, Rule of Law, and free market capitalism, all of which came about after the Middle Ages are responsible for the largest decrease in violence in human history. Which should make sense to anyone with more than 2 brain cells to rub together…

    When Pinker first proposed that violence has declined in modern times, he got a furious push-back from many intellectuals who are devoted to the idea that modern capitalism particularly incited people to murder.

    …which clearly doesn’t describe the majority of “intelluctuals.”

  31. As if there weren’t already enough proof we are the most badass species Gaia hath produced.

  32. “not the most violent species (meerkats are)”

    How on earth did the title of “most violent species” not be handed to one of the many insects that practice sexual cannibalism?? 20% murder rate is slim compared to a species that can’t distinguish between its own kind and food.

    1. They looked at mammals specifically.

    2. Because insects are stupid. It would be absurd to compare insects to mammals like that.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.