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Beauty, Sex and War (continued)

There are basically two anthropological theories as to the origins of war. The first is that primitive man fought fundamentally over food resources, especially for access to protein, so that wars between tribes were essentially turf wars for hunting territories. Infanticide and cannibalism are both means of reducing the populations so that there is more available protein. One results in fewer people to eat the available food. The other also results in fewer people to eat the available food and more available food. The other theory is that primitive man fought primarily over sexual access to women which certainly seems to be more supported by the myths.

The anthropologist, Napoleon Chagnon, has studied the Yanomamo of the Amazon jungle for many decades. The Yanomamo are a very violent tribe with significant death rates through violence among males. They obtain ample protein. When he explained the debate between the two competing theories to them they laughed and said "Even though we do like meat, we like women a whole lot more."

Evolutionary psychologists and biologists explain the connection between women and warfare as follows:

Among many animals, including most primates, there is competition to see who is most dominant and "top dog." Animals further up the hierarchy of the group generally have more access to resources such as food. Animals must compete in order to get resources and mates. Animals which did not compete would not be able to pass on their genes. Therefore competitiveness is genetically programmed. Animals and human beings enjoy high rank and the attendant privileges. One motive for aggression is to defend what one has. Dominant animals look dominant and tend to carry themselves with head erect and do not avert their eyes. Less dominant animals exhibit submissive behaviors such as averting their eyes. Dominant animals, and dominant men in traditional societies, tend to have more offspring than less dominant ones as they have greater access to females. There are physical parallels-male monkeys that become more dominant have rises in their testosterone. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter which helps protect against depression, is high in successful men.

Robert Trivers is a sociobiologist whose theories have been very influential. His theory of parental investment and sexual investment is important for an understanding of conflict. An offspring of two animals carries approximately 50% of the paternal genes and 50% of the maternal genes. The cost of carrying the foetus during pregnancy is considerable to the female animal. After birth the female animal initially does most of the nurturing through nursing and other caretaking. The parental investment of the female is greater than the parental investment of the male though the offspring has 50% of the male's genes. Females are therefore a valuable resource to males who can pass on their genes to their offspring with a minimum of investment. Because of the cost to the female of carrying the foetus and then expending energy in raising the offspring she will want a male with good genetic stock so that her offspring are healthy. Females cannot see or know what the genes are but appearance gives an indicator. A vigorous, large, strong, dominant male is preferred by the females of many species. Males are not as particular in their choice as females are. It does not take much energy to fertilize a female of even relatively poor quality. Thus, females tend to be more selective, males tend to be more promiscuous. Men seek and compete for nurturing, high quality females for long-term partners who will expend their energy on their offspring, females seek strong and dominant males. Like the Greek kings did for Helen of Troy, men compete. Like Helen did, women choose.

The psychoanalytic point of view is complementary to this as the land, earth, country over which armies fight is often unconsciously and consciously linked with the mother and the mother's body. Men fighting men over women. This is built into our psychological make-up through hundreds of thousands of years of evolution. It suited a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. It does not suit a modern environment. We are cavemen with nuclear weapons-terrifying!


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Beauty, Sex, and War PT I

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