Recently I was watching some more of Robert Sapolsky’s lectures on human behaviour and biology, given at Stanford. They’re absolutely brilliant. If you were one of those kids who loved documentaries, these might be the most satisfying viewing you’ve had in a while.
Not only does he go through the science involved, but often puts it in political context. You get something of the development of the ideas as well as the studies themselves.
The one I’d like to highlight here is lecture 20, part 4 on aggression in humans.
What really jumped out at me was the fact that Conrad Lorenz wrote a book on aggression in humans after WW2 and some of his assumptions seem to have persisted in the public mind, particularly among those who consider Ayn Rand to have been a genius. Lorenz was an unrepentant Nazi who was certain that violence was inevitable in humans. Seriously, that’s not a Godwin.
Along with certain other ideas that prop up Social Darwinism and callous, extreme right wing tea bagger type views, it’s shit science pushed by vested interests to try to maintain the idea that domination by violence is legitimate authority. Like that deliberate misreading of the selfish gene that was used in an attempt to explain the sociopathic values of Big Oil. Like inserting the concept of ‘survival of the fittest’ into Darwin’s work when it was a contradiction of what he’d written about human development. Seems the lunar right is as bad with science as it is with spirituality.
I’d recommend the Stanford channel on youtube for more decent educational stuff as well as UCSD and CARTA. Put CARTA on your reading list for Anthropogeny, if you’re at all interested in the state of research into what makes humans human. Ideas have developed somewhat in the last 60 years. The symposium on Autism, in particular, is a fascinating insight into how well we know our own minds.
Do genes have a part to play in violent behaviour? Yes. Is it significant? Well, not as much as your socio-economic level. Seriously, by age 5 that’s had an influence on a growing child that will affect their entire life. You’d think anyone interested in research or religion would be all over supporting early intervention and adequate welfare, in response to that.