Hope for the Human Race

Not long ago I wrote on this blog about nature’s gift of violence and the absurdity of trying to eliminate violence in a society that still sanctions and even celebrates it in places like the military and the National Football League. But here’s the good news: Just give us a few tens of thousand of years of evolution and we’ll probably get more peaceful.

That seemed to be the conclusion of a KPBS talk show interview I did, in which two guys talked about a coming symposium on human domestication. You know about our domestication of dogs, cats and farm animals. Well, according to the hypothesis of people in the field, we’ve done essentially the same thing to ourselves over the life of the human species.

Social skills and social organization have caused us to value peaceful collaboration above strength and aggression. So human evolution has selected individuals for social skills, not the angry stuff. Highly aggressive people and people who can’t get along with others have been banished, executed or imprisoned by societies. Think about it. Their isolation or disappearance means they can’t have progeny and pass along their traits to offspring.

This process, over thousands of years, has even had an effect on our physical aspect. We now have smaller teeth and more fragile bones than did our forebears 100,000 years ago.

Listen to the interview to get the indepth version of the story. But here’s what one of my guests, Harvard Prof Richard Wrangham, said about the possibility that we will become yet more peaceful and domesticated in the distant future:

The happy thing here is if you look at the historical and prehistorical evidence, humans have been getting more peaceful in detectable time, and it seems likely that is going to continue. Whether or not it’s due to evolution, social institutions, or changing morals, that’s uncertain. But the nice optimistic news is that, in general, we are becoming less violent.

If only I could live to see the evolving reality.






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