no joke

it’s the pokomo people (agriculturalists) vs. the orma people (pastoralists) this time. in kenya. they’ve fought before, so this is nothing new. but these people really do mean business:

kenya - ethnic wars - nyt

nobody accidentally leaves a machete scar like that on a nine-month-old kid (orma kid, btw). i bet the person who did that meant to behead that child, they just missed.

this photo reminded me of a quote about the yanomamo that steven pinker had in Better Angels:

“Helena Valero, a woman who had been abducted by the Yanomamö in the Venezuelan rain forest in the 1930s, recounted one of their raids:

“‘Meanwhile from all sides the women continued to arrive with their children, whom the other Karawetari had captured…. Then the men began to kill the children; little ones, bigger ones, they killed many of them. They tried to run away, but they caught them, and threw them on the ground, and stuck them with bows, which went through their bodies and rooted them to the ground. Taking the smallest by the feet, they beat them against the trees and rocks…. All the women wept.'”

i can’t help but think that such peoples are gratified — on average — by committing such violent acts in a way (or ways) that other peoples simply are not. pinker talked at some length in Better Angels about how western soldiers have difficulties firing their weapons directly at enemy combatants [edit: or civilians – see comment below]. they’re repulsed by it. some peoples — like the pokomo and the yanomamo — don’t seem to be. at least not so much.

different evolutionary histories would be my guess (obviously!).

what is a joke is the way these things are written up in the msm:

Neighbors Kill Neighbors as Kenyan Vote Stirs Old Feuds

neighbors kill neighbors? gimme a break! this guy makes it sound like mr. jones went a little nuts one day and strangled mr. smith while they were chatting over the picket fence separating their front yards. westerners really need to start getting a grip on reality — and stop imagining that other people are just like us — if we’re ever going to understand what’s going on in the world at all!

(note: comments do not require an email. orma village sans picket fences.)

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50 Comments

  1. ” western soldiers have difficulties firing their weapons directly at enemy combatants.”

    S. L. A. Marshall said that, but he was lying.

    Reply

  2. They are different religions (Christian/Muslim) and there may be over-population pressures on the availability of land too. The NYT would not mention either of those factors. Like you say, they want us to be mystified as to how it could happen.

    Reply

  3. gcochran – “S. L. A. Marshall said that, but he was lying.”

    perhaps. but i’d be at least equally — if not more — suspicious of what modern, revisionist historians (i.e. his critics) had to tell us.

    in any case, i was thinking of more direct, up close, in-your-face violence — which is difficult for most people (westerners in particular seemingly) according to people like collins. but there seems to be greater bloodthirstiness in some populations than others: these guys in kenya above, the yanomamo, ancient greeks and romans. as opposed to modern swedes or, apparently, the semai.

    then again, maybe the reason the above baby’s head wasn’t chopped off was ’cause the almost-baby killer flinched at the last moment.

    Reply

  4. @anne – “They are different religions (Christian/Muslim)…”

    ah! i didn’t realize that.

    @anne – “…and there may be over-population pressures on the availability of land too.”

    yes, i’m sure that’s probably the case. agriculturalists and pastoralists often don’t get along ’cause they’re competing for resources.

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  5. from pinker:

    “Testimony on the commission of hands-on violence in the real world is consistent with the results of laboratory studies. As we saw, humans don’t readily consummate mano a mano fisticuffs, and soldiers on the battlefield maybe petrified about pulling the trigger….”

    the bit about fisticuffs comes from collins who, again, considered mostly examples about westerners.

    “…The historian Christopher Browning’s interviews with Nazi reservists who were ordered to shoot Jews at close range showed that their initial reaction was a physical revulsion to what they were doing. The reservists did not recollect the trauma of their first murders in the morally colored ways we might expect — neither with guilt at what they were doing, nor with retroactive excuses to mitigate their culpability. Instead they recalled how viscerally upset they were made by the screams, the gore, and the raw feeling of killing people at close range. As Baumeister sums up their testimony, ‘The first day of mass murder did not prompt them to engage in spiritual soul-searching so much as it made them literally want to vomit.’ (Kindle Locations 12228-12236)”

    westerners again.

    Reply

  6. personal anecdata: i’ve seen three fights in my lifetime (yes, i’ve led a sheltered life) — one between two drunken nw europeans which amounted to one guy swinging at the other and pretty much missing followed by the two of them hugging and practically crying together in their beers afterwards.

    another was between a whole bunch of “yugoslavians” (sorry, can’t be more specific than that — we just knew them as the crowd who went to the yugoslavian bar down the street from our local bar) which was just absolutely vicious. what i mostly recall was one guy kicking another guy in the head when he was down on the ground. =/ the owner of the bar we were in locked the doors until the police came.

    the third was, again, between yugoslavians — croatians vs. serbs — at a soccer match. the players of the two teams started brawling, and then the coach from one of the teams (don’t remember which) brought out his HANDGUN and started shooting! (no one got shot.) that’s the last time i’ve gone anywhere near “yugoslavians.”

    oh. and i did see a fight once between two polish girls in leather mini-skirts. that one was pretty funny. yes, they were rolling around on the floor pulling each other’s hair. (~_^)

    my conclusions?: eastern europeans have a greater propensity towards violence than nw europeans. (~_^) (it can’t be a coincidence that i’ve seen three eastern european/balkan fights when i’ve almost never hung around with eastern europeans and only one amongst nw europeans who i’ve been around my whole life. i’ve even spent a lot of time amongst latinos and never witnessed a fight while with them….)

    Reply

  7. goo lord, the President of the United States is one generation removed from this society. but he’s just as American as anyone else, really! got a U.S. birth certificate and everything!

    Reply

  8. “The greatest happiness is to scatter your enemy, to drive him before you, to see his cities reduced to ashes, to see those who love him shrouded in tears, and to gather into your bosom his wives and daughters.” – Genghis Khan

    I’m not sure if the quote is real or not, but I believe it does say something real, there is a “reward” in the brain, probably dopamine, for conquering your enemies. I know this has been difficult to prove, but sometimes I just go by the walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, must be a duck, method of analysis.

    One of the dumbest songs ever written was “You’ve got to be carefully taught” by Rogers and Hammerstein which said that one had to be carefully taught to hate and kill. To the contrary, we must be carefully taught not to do those things, doing them comes quite easily (no, I’ve never killed anyone).

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  9. With enough early developmental conditioning, and with the right bloodlust-inducing rituals before the raid… I could probably cut the head off a baby. I am a white, middle-class American. It’s not like all surgeons and MMA fighters are pulled from recent HG tribes (although the latter may have a higher percentage, hmmm). I normally agree with you and [h.chick edit – Greg Cochran] on stuff like this, but here I think we can safely ascribe this behavior to a lot of nurture and only a bit of nature.

    Reply

  10. Or… [h.chick edit: Cochrane] already showed up to leave his two cents. And they seem to agree with mine. Oh joy.

    [for rude name-calling of other commenters, go to 4chan. you’re now stuck behind the comment approval wall … for now. – h.chick]

    Reply

  11. Perhaps “ordering others to kill” comes easily for nw europeans? There David Cameron regretting Jallianwala Bagh massacre.

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  12. gcochran – “S. L. A. Marshall said that, but he was lying.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Grossman_(author)

    http://www.killology.com/bio.htm

    I don’t know who this Marshall guy is and if he was coming from a “people are naturally peaceful” point of view then he may well have been lying about specifics but the reality is most people are phobic about potentially lethal violence and only a minority aren’t and the size of that minority varies by population group now so (imo) has probably varied over time also.

    I don’t think people are inherently (lethally) violent or inherently peaceful. I think a capacity for lethal violence is a trait that varies among populations depending on how useful it is in a particular environment.

    So even if tribes in the past were constantly massacring each other – and it obviously did happen a lot – that doesn’t mean all of them did the deed. The killer-types would have done 95% of the killing imo and (also imo) the longer you have a settled population the fewer killers you’ll have (with various exceptions like border areas etc).

    It’s would be easy to test for this kind of thing. Get a realistic looking cutout of a woman with a baby and a bunch of people from WEIRD backgrounds to fire a blank at it and see how many close their eyes when they pull the trigger. Or hang up a beef carcass and get them to stab it with a scary-looking knife. Going by Col. Grossman’s research only about 2% of (current) white north europeans would have no problems doing it (but maybe 20%+ back in Roman times).

    Then repeat the test with people recently descended from environments with endemic clan-warfare.

    Reply

  13. @Greying Wanderer,

    With beef carcass, you will only get how familiar people are with butchering. Hunters, and people like my Norwegian friend who is used to butchering elk carcass will have no problem with beef carcass, while the recent descendants of violent people who are thoroughly city-bred will puke their guts out at fresh blood.

    Also, with sufficient “othering”, woman and baby cutout will not cause any flinching either. Did people already forget “pepper-spray cop”?

    Reply

  14. “With enough early developmental conditioning, and with the right bloodlust-inducing rituals before the raid… I could probably cut the head off a baby. I am a white, middle-class American.”

    Most normal people naturally pull their punchs. In most populations that have been settled for a long time it would be logical to expect a trait for a high capacity for lethal violence to mostly only survive in families which also have traits for a high degree of self-control.

    “and MMA fighters are pulled from recent HG tribes (although the latter may have a higher percentage, hmmm).”

    hmmm indeed. list populations by MRB (more recently barbarian) and then compare with their rankings not just in MMA but competitive physical sports generally.

    Reply

  15. “I could probably cut the head off a baby. I am a white, middle-class American”

    Also, Colonel Grossman’s research originally started with PTSD. The killer-types don’t get PTSD.

    Reply

  16. Violet
    “With beef carcass, you will only get how familiar people are with butchering.”

    You’d have to exclude that then.

    “Also, with sufficient “othering”, woman and baby cutout will not cause any flinching either.”

    Not up close it doesn’t. From a distance maybe.

    “Did people already forget “pepper-spray cop”?”

    1) That was one guy.
    2) Cops in long-settled populations will contain a lot of killer-types.

    People can be
    – violent and lethal
    – violent and non-lethal
    – non-violent and lethal
    – non-violent and non-lethal

    I think people have a tendency to assume everyone else is like them so you get people in the fourth group who think everyone is innately peaceful and nurture causes them to be different nd people in the third group who think everyone is naturally lethal like them.

    Reply

  17. Getting back to the Yanomamo and Kenyans, is there anything about their behavior that can only be explained biologically, rather than culturally? I recall from John Horgan’s article, which HBD chick linked to earlier, that the un-PC Yanomamo expert Napoleon Chagnon was skeptical of sociobiological explanations for Yanomamo behavior. For example, Yanomamo warriors expressed disgust at their violent lifestyle, which they felt compelled by culture to engage in. You would not expect this if they were biologically programmed to love violence.

    With the Kenyans, I would have thought tensions over land, combined with religious differences, are quite sufficient to explain their violent behavior.

    Also, with the Nazis, they were recalling their first experience of mass murder, but how about later? I would have thought that, if their revulsion was biologically determined, they would continue to feel revulsion no matter how much they killed. I expect, however, that they became innured, which to me is more compatible with a cultural explanation of their revulsion, i.e. Germany was just not a violent society.

    I am not principally opposed to biological explanations (otherwise I wouldn’t be reading HBD chick!), but I really think our null hypothesis should be that culture determines social behavior patterns.

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  18. Quote: “westerners really need to start getting a grip on reality — and stop imagining that other people are just like us — if we’re ever going to understand what’s going on in the world at all!”

    I think that the last thing that the mainstream media wants is for people to understand what is going on in the world.

    Reply

  19. @joe – “I think that the last thing that the mainstream media wants is for people to understand what is going on in the world.”

    good point. =/

    Reply

  20. @jgress – “…I really think our null hypothesis should be that culture determines social behavior patterns.”

    i really don’t see at all why this should be. humans are, after all, biological creatures — we’re flesh and blood and genes just like all the other animals out there (and not all that unlike plants and microbes, either). and a lot of what comes out of contemporary neurological research strongly suggests that “we” are not in control — it may feel like it, but we are in fact just along for the ride.

    i really think our null hypothesis should be that biology determines human social behavior patterns, along with some feedback from culture. but then i wind up, as always, back at my (what i hope will become a very annoying) question: where does culture come from?

    Reply

  21. @jgress – “Getting back to the Yanomamo and Kenyans, is there anything about their behavior that can only be explained biologically, rather than culturally?”

    just for the record, i don’t think human behaviors can be explained by only looking at biological factors. of course, circumstances matter. if there was an excess of resources to go around in the tana river district, i’m sure the pokomo and orma would leave each other alone. i mean, i’m sure most peoples don’t want to fight if they don’t have to ’cause, of course, you risk injury and death. (there’s also something to do about elections coming up in kenya that have triggered this recent conflict … i dunno … i didn’t read about it.)

    but i betcha that g.w. has it pretty right: “I think a capacity for lethal violence is a trait that varies among populations depending on how useful it is in a particular environment.”

    i can’t see why all populations everywhere should be equally given to violent behavior. evolution says it shouldn’t be so.

    further research is clearly required, though. (^_^)

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  22. @bleach – “goo lord, the President of the United States is one generation removed from this society.”

    well, obama’s people are luo, not pokomo or orma. but it’s not like the luo aren’t above a little tribal warfare.

    @bleach – “but he’s just as American as anyone else, really! got a U.S. birth certificate and everything!”

    (~_^)

    Reply

  23. @fred-m – “there is a ‘reward’ in the brain, probably dopamine, for conquering your enemies. I know this has been difficult to prove, but sometimes I just go by the walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, must be a duck, method of analysis.”

    yes, i would think there’s some sort of reward in the brain for “aggression towards the outsider,” too.

    here’s another example of how some peoples seem to really enjoy killing — this is from pinker again and is about one group of australian aborigines:

    “In the early 19th century an English convict named William Buckley escaped from a penal colony in Australia and for three decades lived happily with the Wathaurung aborigines. He provided firsthand accounts of their way of life, including their ways of war:

    “‘On approaching the enemy’s quarters, they laid themselves down in ambush until all was quiet, and finding most of them asleep, laying about in groups, our party rushed upon them, killing three on the spot and wounding several others. The enemy fled precipitately, leaving their war implements in the hands of their assailants and their wounded to be beaten to death by boomerangs, three loud shouts closing the victors’ triumph. The bodies of the dead they mutilated in a shocking manner, cutting the arms and legs off, with flints, and shells, and tomahawks.

    “‘When the women saw them returning, they also raised great shouts, dancing about in savage ecstasy. The bodies were thrown upon the ground, and beaten about with sticks—in fact, they all seemed to be perfectly mad with excitement. (Kindle Locations 1261-1269).'”

    these people really seem to have gotten a kick out of killing their rivals/enemies. which wouldn’t be strange, i think — if you were to select for violent behaviors in some group or groups of humans (or any animal species), you’d think that they’d feel good somehow from carrying out that behavior. that is, after all, what most of our emotions are all about.

    btw — if anybody knows of or comes across any more accounts like this, send them on to me, please! i’d like to start collecting these.

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  24. @jk – “Pretty current hbd chick, so for certain I don’t know this link will work…”

    looks like you have to give them your email address to get access. i didn’t do that, so i don’t know if the link really works or not. thanks, though!

    Reply

  25. fred-m. I’ve made a similar point about that song many times. I’m glad someone else noticed. Distrust of outsiders – though perhaps not quick violence – is the norm. You have to be carefully taught, rather, to treat them well.

    The Nazi and communist, executioners did not all grow callous and calm after much killing. It was considered bad duty, and many soldiers could not keep it up. It was emotionally destructive. Source: “The Good Old Days” Ernst Klee and others. Even among Eastern Europeans, there weren’t many. The rumor in Romania was that Ceausescu preferred state orphans for his secret police, because they had not the milk of human kindness. Lack of appropriate bonding as infants and all that. It pays to remember that even if there is some heritable tendency to empathy and helpfulness, and it is common in a population, you can beat it out of them with Bloodlands and terror. Breaking things is much easier than building them, including people.

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  26. @especially anonymous – “I could probably cut the head off a baby. I am a white, middle-class American.”

    ah, but WHICH white american group(s) are you from? (you don’t have to tell me — just ask yourself.) as i’ve been trying to point out/explore on the blog for a while now: not all europeans are the same.

    @especially anonymous – “It’s not like all surgeons and MMA fighters are pulled from recent HG tribes….”

    note that i’m not just talking about hunter-gatherers here. the pokomo, for instance, are agriculturalists.

    Reply

  27. @avi – “It pays to remember that even if there is some heritable tendency to empathy and helpfulness, and it is common in a population, you can beat it out of them with Bloodlands and terror. Breaking things is much easier than building them, including people.”

    i’m sure you’re absolutely right. a kid having an absolutely horrific upbringing will most like wind up to be a pretty horrible adult. we’re really not all that different from other animals, i think — especially other mammals. treat a dog horribly while you’re raising it and you’re going to wind up with a pretty vicious dog at the end of the day. however, i think, on average, that mistreated bulldogs or rottweilers will wind up to be vicious in a way that mistreated labradors would not be. in fact, you might just wind up with a very cowardly, depressed labrador rather than a vicious one. same with people, i would bet.

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  28. I think before firearms, where fighting involved direct contact–spearing, clubbing, cutting, people necessarily, as part of their training, became inured to that sort of thing. Compared to head-lopping, sniper fire is so effete.

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  29. @g.w. – “So even if tribes in the past were constantly massacring each other – and it obviously did happen a lot – that doesn’t mean all of them did the deed. The killer-types would have done 95% of the killing imo and (also imo) the longer you have a settled population the fewer killers you’ll have (with various exceptions like border areas etc).”

    i don’t know if he collected/published the actual kill rates, but chagnon’s thesis is that those yanomamo warriors who were the most successful were the ones who managed to reproduce the most (i think they had more wives), so yeah — not everyone in each population is killing to the same degree. (this is kinda obvious, really.)

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  30. The fighting between Yugoslavs is understandable in the context of their (relatively) recent history. In WWII, for example, the Croats sided with the Nazis. The predominantly Serb Partisans opposed them, and the two sides carried on a genocidal war against each other, with the Serb Chetniks, who played both sides against the middle, thrown in for good measure. Similar things happened during the Balkan conflicts that followed the demise of Communism and the breakup of Yugoslavia. All this is documented in the superb memoir “Wartime,” by Milovan Djilas, who was one of the four most powerful Communists in Yugoslavia after the war, turned against the system and landed in prison when he grasped its Orwellian nature, and was certainly one of the most profound political thinkers of the 20th century. His other autobiographical works, such as “Land Without Justice,” “Memoirs of a Revolutionary,” “Conversations with Stalin,” etc., all all both very entertaining and very educational for anyone interested in the history of the 20th century in general and the phenomenon of Communism in particular.

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  31. @g.w. – “Also, Colonel Grossman’s research originally started with PTSD. The killer-types don’t get PTSD.”

    i practically got ptsd just from seeing the photo in the post. well, not really, but it turned my stomach. truly. =/ (might be a chick thing — chicks & babies.)

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  32. @helian – “The fighting between Yugoslavs is understandable in the context of their (relatively) recent history.”

    the fighting between yugoslavs is understandable given the fact that many of those groups were, literally, still tribal up until … oh … this afternoon. plus all that happened in wwii, of course.

    @helian – “All this is documented in the superb memoir ‘Wartime,’ by Milovan Djilas, who was one of the four most powerful Communists in Yugoslavia after the war, turned against the system and landed in prison when he grasped its Orwellian nature, and was certainly one of the most profound political thinkers of the 20th century.”

    interesting! thanks!

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  33. @g.w. – “I think people have a tendency to assume everyone else is like them….”

    this is a big FAIL with the human species. big one.

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  34. i wonder if there is a connection between time preference and violence (and/or this sort of intergroup violence in particular)? quick to anger? presumably somebody’s already looked at this.

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  35. jgress

    “Getting back to the Yanomamo and Kenyans, is there anything about their behavior that can only be explained biologically, rather than culturally? I recall from John Horgan’s article, which HBD chick linked to earlier, that the un-PC Yanomamo expert Napoleon Chagnon was skeptical of sociobiological explanations for Yanomamo behavior. For example, Yanomamo warriors expressed disgust at their violent lifestyle, which they felt compelled by culture to engage in. You would not expect this if they were biologically programmed to love violence.”

    Yeah but which ones? You get the same thing in gangbanger type environments. Half of them aren’t particularly keen especially as they get older – there is a definite age aspect to this – but they have to fit in or they become a target themselves. My own view is that once you reach a certain percentage of impulsively violent individuals then they determine the culture so it’s a bit of both. I don’t think that percentage is particularly high either. 10% would be enough imo.

    .
    “With the Kenyans, I would have thought tensions over land, combined with religious differences, are quite sufficient to explain their violent behavior.”

    Probably so but it explains it either way i.e. they’re in an environment where there’s tensions over land i.e. an environment where violence is potentially useful and therefore more likely to be selected for (or less likely to be selected against).

    .
    “Also, with the Nazis, they were recalling their first experience of mass murder, but how about later? I would have thought that, if their revulsion was biologically determined, they would continue to feel revulsion no matter how much they killed. I expect, however, that they became innured, which to me is more compatible with a cultural explanation of their revulsion, i.e. Germany was just not a violent society.”

    I read something about this and my recollection was the inability of even the most committed SS to do it to children repeatedly and close up was the impetus for looking at more emotionally distanced ways of doing it.

    I don’t know but i personally doubt people get innured. I think in situations like that what happens is the people who can’t handle it get filtered out over time leaving you with the ones who can.

    .
    “I am not principally opposed to biological explanations (otherwise I wouldn’t be reading HBD chick!), but I really think our null hypothesis should be that culture determines social behavior patterns.”

    I dunno. My personal null hypothesis is the environment is the main driver but it can go about it genetically, culturally or a bit of both.

    Reply

  36. hubchik
    “i wonder if there is a connection between time preference and violence (and/or this sort of intergroup violence in particular)? quick to anger?”

    I go on about it a lot but i think there’s two sets of traits: propensity for violence and lethality. When it comes to propensity yeah i think there’s clear links between all the usual suspects, IQ, time preference etc but you can get lethality independently imo.

    .
    “When the women saw them returning, they also raised great shouts, dancing about in savage ecstasy.”

    You see this sometimes on CCTV – big grins after stabbing someone. It looks like a kind of reverse empathy where they’re getting a dopamine rush from it.

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  37. hubchik

    “However, once the number of people who are unshakable in their opinion reaches the critical threshold, the time it takes for the majority to accept their point of view becomes rather short.”

    And being impulsively and lethally violent is a reasonable equivalent to having an “unshakeable” opinion.

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  38. @g.w. – “When it comes to propensity yeah i think there’s clear links between all the usual suspects, IQ, time preference etc but you can get lethality independently imo.”

    so what do you reckon lethality is connected to? something more like psychopathy? really not caring at all?

    @g.w. – “You see this sometimes on CCTV – big grins after stabbing someone. It looks like a kind of reverse empathy where they’re getting a dopamine rush from it.”

    frightening. =/

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  39. “so what do you reckon lethality is? something more like psychopathy? really not caring at all?”

    I can’t decide if there’s more than one aspect to it or if it’s all basically one thing along a spectrum but currently i’d say it’s
    – no empathy
    – reverse empathy (i.e. pleasure from causing pain)
    – the ability to switch empathy off and on when *necessary*

    the third category being the *good* (or at least very useful/necessary) one

    i’m not even sure of the order they’d come on a single spectrum but i think that’s the area they’re tied to – empathy

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  40. another aspect to the distorted empathy angle imo is they’re less squeamish about injury or death to themselves as well – hence braver

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  41. @hbdchick: First off, thanks for responding! This is a really interesting topic.

    “i really don’t see at all why this should be. humans are, after all, biological creatures — we’re flesh and blood and genes just like all the other animals out there (and not all that unlike plants and microbes, either). and a lot of what comes out of contemporary neurological research strongly suggests that “we” are not in control — it may feel like it, but we are in fact just along for the ride.

    i really think our null hypothesis should be that biology determines human social behavior patterns, along with some feedback from culture. but then i wind up, as always, back at my (what i hope will become a very annoying) question: where does culture come from?”

    Reading through the discussion of the Libet experiment, I get the impression that free will is a rather complicated process, involving both conscious and unconscious elements, but I don’t get the impression that free will has been debunked (Libet certainly didn’t think so). This means there is still room for a purely contingent element to culture, in addition to more predictable genetic and environmental factors. Cultures may end up developing in certain ways for no other reason than that their members decided to do so.

    Christianity I think is a good example. You have written many interesting posts about how Christianity influenced Western culture in ways that may have had a biological impact, in particular the prohibition against consanguineous marriage. But where did Christianity come from? I see no reason to think it was biologically determined. The evidence points to the boring notion that people simply chose to believe it, and then acted according to their new belief system.

    Yes, humans are biological creatures, but biological creatures differ from one another, and humans are quite different in all sorts of ways. Among the special characteristics of human creatures are reason and free will. I think these are facts we have to accept and not seek to explain away. But maybe we’ll have to agree to disagree on this. :-)

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  42. @g.w. – “another aspect to the distorted empathy angle imo is they’re less squeamish about injury or death to themselves as well – hence braver”

    yes, i can see that. that does actually make sense. kinda like a population where the average is “quick to anger” might also suffer from a lot of domestic abuse — a side-effect of being “quick to act in anger against the outsider.” the behavioral patterns might be kinda general in nature.

    thanks for mentioning this!

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  43. @jgress – “Reading through the discussion of the Libet experiment, I get the impression that free will is a rather complicated process, involving both conscious and unconscious elements, but I don’t get the impression that free will has been debunked (Libet certainly didn’t think so).”

    the difficulty i have in thinking about free will is where, exactly, does the “free” come in? i mean, if we are products of both our natures and our nurtures, where’s the free in that? free from what? free how? the only sorts of explanations that seem to answer this in any satisfactory manner are quantum sorts of explanations, and then the whole thing just gets … weird! and all about random chance, etc., etc. at which point i usually throw my hands up in despair and pour myself a drink. (~_^)

    @jgress – “But where did Christianity come from? I see no reason to think it was biologically determined. The evidence points to the boring notion that people simply chose to believe it, and then acted according to their new belief system.”

    well, certainly humans are herders and will, apparently, believe whatever happens to be the most popular belief at the moment (see: political correctness). but i do think that there are large elements of peoples’ religious beliefs that are strongly rooted in their different natures. why is protestantism so different from coptic christianity … which are both so different from the armenian church? why is sunni islam in saudi arabia so different from whatever it is they do in indonesia (the women in indonesia are not wearing niqabs)? there are biological differences, here, i think. they don’t influence exactly what a belief system or a cultural behavior will be like, but they influence the flavor of those things.

    @jgress – “But maybe we’ll have to agree to disagree on this. :-)”

    ah! a civilized person. (^_^) i can do that! and am very happy to. (^_^)

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  44. My personal theory is that you can explain most of the variation using 2 partially independent variable traits: the facility to slip into a red rage mode (fully pumped with adrenaline, makes u stronger, quicker, mostly block pain and suppress fear) and then an innate barrier to seriously hurt people (especially people like you). The latter is probably the second most common way to end red rage, the first simply being exhaustion….
    Under modern warfare, most the the kills are done outside red rage, and from a distance so without any possibility to trigger the barrier, something very different from classic violence.
    The nazi executions were close range without red rage, so especially difficult. So either done byt people without much barrier, or emphasizing the otherness of the victims (in fact, probably both).
    Tribal vilence is probably with red rage, and emphasizing otherness….so is gang violence. Domestic violence is red rage with the barrier.
    By the way, knives and especially guns makes the barrier quite inneffective: by the time you go down, it is too late.

    And this theory do not reject biology: those two factors are obviously not equally distributed between individuals, sexes or populations. But speaking about violence without knowing the circumstances is misleading, there is imho not much in common between a state-mandated remote killing and a close fight between rival gangs.

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