Is War in Our Genes?


  • Kaj Björkqvist Åbo Akademi University, Finland


war, genes, aggressive drive theory, demonic males theory, selfish gene theory, hunter-gatherers, chimpanzees, Seville Statement on Violence


In this theoretical review article, it is discussed whether there is something in the genetic make-up of human beings that makes warfare inevitable. It is based on research from the fields of anthropology, ethology, and psychology. The Aggressive Drive Theory, proposed separately by Freud and Lorenz, suggested that aggression is an innate drive, and wars are therefore difficult to avoid. This theory is today considered refuted. The Demonic Males Theory, proposed by Wrangham and Peterson, based on field research showing that warlike behavior exists among chimpanzees, suggests that human and chimpanzee males have a propensity for violence that facilitates warfare. This theory has also received criticism. Warfare seems to have existed already during the hunter-gatherer stage in human history but became considerably more frequent when humans invented agriculture and started building cities. Summing up, it appears that the potential for war is indeed in our genes, but there is no evidence suggesting that there is anything in our genes making warfare inevitable.




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