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Thread: Does 'The Warrior Gene' Exist?

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    Forum Elder mamashakyhand's Avatar
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    Default Does 'The Warrior Gene' Exist?

    I'd not heard of this theory until reading something on another discussion board.

    Are certain people or certain indigenous groups predisposed to this gene? Does it exist?

    http://www.biopsychiatry.com/aggression ... -gene.html


    Cass

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    Default Re: Does 'The Warrior Gene' Exist?

    Here's another related theory that you might find interesting from the book Sex and War by Malcolm Potts and
    Thomas Hayden:
    Sex and War draws on a wealth of archaeological, historical and biological sources to trace the origins of warfare, terrorism, slavery, sexual repression and the subjugation of women through history. While these violent impulses once gave successful warriors access to more resources, more sex—and ultimately more offspring to carry their own genes—today, these impulses have become wildly destructive.

    Evolution is not destiny, however, and peace also has deep roots in human development. The authors, with contributions from Martha Campbell, show how relatively simple strategies—most important, those that empower women—can help the biology of peace win out over the biology of war.

    Sex and War is the first serious attempt not only to understand the origins of war and terrorism, but also to use our emerging knowledge of human evolution to lay out a rational roadmap toward greater peace and security.
    http://www.sex-and-war.com/

    Below, an excerpt from an interview with one of the authors:
    Armed conflict and its consequences concern us all. But where does war actually come from? In our new book, Sex and War: How Biology Explains War and Terrorism and Offers a Path to a Safer World, Thomas Hayden and I argue that warfare and terrorism are written in our DNA. But that doesn’t mean humanity is doomed to a future as violent as our past has been. Understanding the biological basis of our warring instincts, we argue, gives us our best hope of decreasing the frequency and brutality of warfare.


    Biologically speaking, war is an unusual behavior—very few other animals intentionally set out to kill members of their own species. Along with chimpanzees, with which we share a common evolutionary ancestor, we humans have a rare and terrible behavioral predisposition: Our young males, in the prime of life, are prone to band together and attack members of neighboring groups. The conflicts currently underway in the the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Darfur, Iraq, and elsewhere all have many proximate causes—political, religious, environmental, and otherwise. But contrary to long-held beliefs about the cultural roots of war, we argue that the behavior that makes the systematic slaughter of other human beings possible in the first place is based on a suite of evolved behavioral predispositions, which we call “team aggression.”

    Anyone who has been in combat will tell you he fought not for a flag, or democracy, or some other abstraction, but for his buddy in the trench, his mate in the torpedo boat, or the soldier next to him in the up-armored Humvee. Intense loyalty for one’s immediate comrades, along with loss of empathy for the members of the enemy, are at the heart of team aggression, and of warfare and terrorism. These predispositions stretch back more than seven million years to our ape ancestors’ early battles for survival. We are all descended, by definition, from the victors of innumerable conflicts over resources, territory, and the right to mate. And we bear the marks of this legacy in the behaviors and impulses that spur us on to lethal conflict to this day, even when other solutions might be available.

    The big question then becomes not, “Why do wars break out?”—that is the easy part—but, “Why does peace break out?,” as we know it often does. Far from condemning us to a future of warfare, understanding war’s biological roots can point us toward policies that increase the likelihood of peace, which also has deep roots in our biology. The first step toward peace is to do everything possible to grant women greater decision-making power in society. Team aggression is primarily a male drive, and while women are certainly competitive and capable of fighting bravely and ferociously, in the vast expanse of human history there is not a single record of women banding together spontaneously to attack their neighbors. Our book argues that when women have more agency, their societies become less warlike.

    Population size and growth rates are two more key factors in the quest for peace. Rapid population growth increases competition over resources, increases unemployment, and boosts the ratio of young to older men, and all of these factors help facilitate extremism and violence. Experience shows, however, that when women have the opportunity to control their own fertility, family size and population growth decline—demonstrating that accessible, voluntary family planning programs are powerful tools for peace.
    There's a good video presentation by the authors at Fora.tv: http://www.ishtarsgate.com/phpBB3/po...it&f=29&p=9701

    From my perspective, the book is important for what it says about the importance of empowering women and also for the implications it has for the history of human culture and for understanding what pre-patriarchal culture may have been like.

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    Forum Elder kbs2244's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does 'The Warrior Gene' Exist?

    I think they may be missing a important point.
    The difference between a war and a battle.

    Wars a large, long term things.
    Usually conceived and/or started by some kind of leadership.
    And they can be conducted in a somewhat detached way by that leadership.
    This is not to say that emotions and “warrior” conduct cannot happen at this level.
    It often does.
    But “cooler heads” often prevail.

    In contrast, battles are short, intense, and often very personal and emotional.
    They can be very short, time wise.
    In Iraq and the south side of Chicago we have gun battles that last 15 or 20 minutes.
    They are short moments in a long term plan.
    These moments are where the fighting “for your buddy” comes in.

    As far as a gene being responsible, I would have to say a big maybe.
    I am sure we all know a bunch of “hot headed” brothers who are “just like their dad.”
    But is that a gene or association.

    Anyone that has experienced, or analyzed, military basic training knows it can be taught.
    A highly intense mental and physical environment creates behavioral and muscle memory responses that never existed prior to the training.

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    Default Re: Does 'The Warrior Gene' Exist?

    Quote Originally Posted by kbs2244
    I think they may be missing a important point.
    The difference between a war and a battle.
    I'd agree with you on the difference between a war and a battle, at least to some degree. However, I think the preexistence of "team aggression" is what allows a war to be conducted. I also think that to some degree the military leadership partakes in and exploits "team aggression". One aspect of "team aggression" that the authors of Sex and War explore in some detail is the necessity to define the "enemy" as not part of your group so that you won't feel any empathy for them. You can observe this same process at work in most wars, that is the dehumanization of the enemy and the concomitant elimination of empathy for them.

    I'm not an expert on the psychology of military leaders but I think history might show that many of them do in fact buy into the whole feeling of "team aggression" in their prosecution of war. I think, for example, of the portrayal of Patton by George C. Scott. A few quotes from the film:
    "We're not just going to shoot the bastards, we're going to cut out their living guts and use them to grease the treads on our tanks."
    "We are advancing constantly and we're not interested in holding onto anything except the enemy. We're going to hold onto him by the nose and we're going to kick him in the ass. We're going to kick the hell out of him all the time and we're going to go through him like crap through a goose!"
    "Now, an army is a team - it lives, eats, sleeps, fights as a team. This individuality stuff is a bunch of crap."
    "The Nazis are the enemy. Wade into them. Spill *their* blood. Shoot *them* in the belly."
    "In about fifteen minutes, we're going to start turning these boys into fanatics - razors. They'll lose their fear of the Germans. I only hope to God they never lose their fear of me."

    Sure sounds like "team aggression" to me.

    That said, this is a nuanced thing and certainly there is a role for a more detached and rational approach in terms of military planning at the higher level. The authors are careful to point out that human behaviour is complex and human motivation multifaceted. The instinct to "team aggression" can exist in the same individual as the both the feeling of empathy for the enemy and the ability to conduct war "rationally", at least to the extent that you can say that the conduct of war can be rational.

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    Default Re: Does 'The Warrior Gene' Exist?

    All those quotes show the teaching of “team aggression” not the inheritance.

    With a few word changes that is a classic half time “pep talk” by a coach.

    I don’t think it is so much an inherited gene as it is a culturally acquired trait.
    People that grow up in a “warrior culture” exhibit those traits.

    That is the purpose of basic training.
    It is designed to imbue the culture.

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    Default Re: Does 'The Warrior Gene' Exist?

    Good points.

    As usual, the relationship between nature and nurture isn't black and white. I think what the authors of Sex and War would say is that humans, like chimpanzees, are the only species in which "team aggression" has been observed. That argues for some kind of biological basis for the behaviour. However, they also argue for a cultural component. That's the basis of their position that nature isn't destiny. Cultural conditions can modify innate behavioural dispositions to "team aggression".

    I also think your comparison between Patton and the coach's pep talk is relevant. Men's team sports are a classic expression of "team aggression" but with limitations placed on the consequences. Another good example of how culture can be used to modify natural tendencies. The team members don't usually kill each other, that's part of the rules of the game, even though they may talk about "killing" their opponents. In Aztec ball games I think they did and certainly Paton's comments about "killing" the Nazi's was meant to be taken literally.

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    Default Re: Does 'The Warrior Gene' Exist?

    It seems boys may become part of the gang culture because of this so called 'Warrior Gene'


    "Boys who carry the gene are likely to be dangerous, violent and carry weapons, according to the research.
    The gene affects levels of the brain chemicals dopamine and serotonin - which affect behaviour and mood.


    But the gene defect has no effect on girls, it emerged.
    Scientists have previously linked the gene to anti-social behaviour but have not been able to confirm the link with gangs and guns until now.
    It is also more common for boys from warring or aggressive cultures with the variation of the Monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) gene, to join gangs, it was found.
    Biosocial criminologist Kevin M. Beaver, from Florida State University's College of Criminology and Criminal Justice, who led the study, said that the research sheds new light on the interplay of genetics and environment.
    "While gangs typically have been regarded as a sociological phenomenon, our investigation shows that variants of a specific gene play a significant role," he said.
    "Findings apply only to males. Girls with the same variant of the MAOA gene seem resistant to its potentially violent effects on gang membership and weapon use.
    "Previous research has linked low-activity MAOA variants to a wide range of antisocial, even violent, behaviour, but our study confirms that these variants can predict gang membership."


    It's interesting that girls seem resistant to its effects...and yet there have been reports here in UK of girls using more violence & aggression when out in groups, although that may be down to the effects of binge drinking in our culture!

    Heres the link: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/scie ... -gene.html


    Cass

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    Default Re: Does 'The Warrior Gene' Exist?

    Quote Originally Posted by mamashakyhand
    It's interesting that girls seem resistant to its effects...and yet there have been reports here in UK of girls using more violence & aggression when out in groups, although that may be down to the effects of binge drinking in our culture!
    Cass
    Hayden and Potts explain this phenomenon by using height differences between men and women as an analogy. If you plot the height of women and the height of men on separate bell curves, the average height of men will be higher than that of women. However, there will also be individual women who are taller than individual men. The same applies to aggression and violence. Overall women seem to be less violent especially in groups. But there may be individual violent and aggressive women who are the exceptions that prove the rule.

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    Default Re: Does 'The Warrior Gene' Exist?

    Stephjn...

    That's an interesting analysis by Hayden & Potts. I'm wondering if the gene could be inherent in ALL males, to a lesser or greater degree. I could see the military especially finding this a very useful gene to use if it's scientists discovered how to engineer and activate the warrior gene, into an elite fighting force. They would be a deadly force indeed! No doubt it is being studied for that purpose right now...

    Cass

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    Default Re: Does 'The Warrior Gene' Exist?

    Quote Originally Posted by mamashakyhand
    That's an interesting analysis by Hayden & Potts. I'm wondering if the gene could be inherent in ALL males, to a lesser or greater degree.

    Cass
    I think it's probably more complicated than there just being a "gene" that the military could exploit. I don't think Hayden and Potts go into whether or not there's a single "gene" at work here. I think their theory is based on the observation of the behaviour of "team aggression" in basically only two species, chimps and humans. From that observation they conclude that the disposition is biological. That's just a starting point if you wanted to find out what the bioligical basis for the behaviour actually was, i.e. what gene(s) might be involved, what hormones, etc, etc.

    Hayden and Potts argue that it's primarily unattached young men in groups that exhibit "team aggression". When males get older and/or get married and have children, the tendency to "team aggression" drops way off. That's why they make the case that societies with a high population of young, unemployed males are usually the most violent. That argument also ties in to Malcolm Gladwell's argument in Freakanomics that liberalizing abortion laws in the U.S. had the unintended consequence of reducing crime rates because it resulted in a reduction in the population of unattached, unemployed young males.

    They give a great example of how the PLO dealt with the members of Black September, the guys who killed the Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. The PLO wanted to distance themselves from the group because it was giving them bad pr and they also wanted to prevent them from conducting another similar terrorist act. They recruited a group of female volunteers and basically asked them to seduce the young men who were the core of Black September. As a result, most of those men got married, had children and ended their affiliation with Black September. Within a few years the organization had virtually disappeared.

    So again, it's more complicated than the simple existence of a biological basis for the behaviour dubbed "team aggression". The social and cultural conditions at play are more determinative of the actual behaviour exhibited. That's why Hayden and Potts are so positive about the possibility of empowering women as a solution to the endemic and increasingly catastrophic outcomes of human "team aggression".

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    Default Re: Does 'The Warrior Gene' Exist?

    Any modern military force has its elite "warriors."

    No need to engineer any genes.
    They get more volunteers than they can use.
    The training washout rate is over 90 percent.
    And they raise the bar every year.

    I don't know of any study as to why they volunteer though.
    They and their command structure are pretty much end results oriented.
    They tend to concentrate on the "how" not the "why."

    BTW
    "That's why Hayden and Potts are so positive about the possibility of empowering women as a solution to endemic and increasingly catastrophic outcomes of human "team aggression"

    I wouldn't put any money on that theory.
    Any gang neighborhood or military base I have ever been around seemed to have plenty of women around.
    But it doesn’t seem to effect any behavior.

    I becomes a matter of personal priorities.
    I believe in the U S Marines the saying is "God, Country, Unit."
    No mention of family.

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    Default Re: Does 'The Warrior Gene' Exist?

    Quote Originally Posted by kbs2244
    I don't know of any study as to why they volunteer though.
    I read a story about a guy joining in an effort "to fix" a very feminine personality,
    he ended up being a successful marine, but it did not "fix" his personality.

    I would love to see a study on why people join

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    Default Re: Does 'The Warrior Gene' Exist?

    Quote Originally Posted by kbs2244
    BTW
    "That's why Hayden and Potts are so positive about the possibility of empowering women as a solution to endemic and increasingly catastrophic outcomes of human "team aggression"

    I wouldn't put any money on that theory.
    Any gang neighborhood or military base I have ever been around seemed to have plenty of women around.
    But it doesn’t seem to effect any behavior.
    I guess the key point in their argument is that the women have to be empowered.

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    Default Re: Does 'The Warrior Gene' Exist?

    kbs2244...

    I becomes a matter of personal priorities.
    I believe in the U S Marines the saying is "God, Country, Unit."
    No mention of family.
    Always astounds me that 'God' is always brought into it...but there again I do not pretend to understand this sort of mind set!

    I see your point about the 'elite' warriors though Kbs, there are those who will fight to the death, with no compromise.
    Interesting about the study as to 'why' they would want to volunteer, big question, space! :?:

    Cass

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    Default Re: Does 'The Warrior Gene' Exist?

    Quote Originally Posted by mamashakyhand
    kbs2244...

    I becomes a matter of personal priorities.
    I believe in the U S Marines the saying is "God, Country, Unit."
    No mention of family.
    Always astounds me that 'God' is always brought into it...
    Well said, Cass!
    Ishtar's Gate forum is now closed.

    I have a new book out now, available on Amazon:
    The Sacred Sex Rites of Ishtar: Shamanic sexual healing and sex magic.











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    Default Re: Does 'The Warrior Gene' Exist?

    Ish it's great to see you at last! You look beautiful, lovely lady!

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