Indoctrinability, Ideology, and Warfare: Evolutionary Perspectives

Indoctrinability, Ideology, and Warfare: Evolutionary Perspectives

Indoctrinability, Ideology, and Warfare: Evolutionary Perspectives

Indoctrinability, Ideology, and Warfare: Evolutionary Perspectives

Synopsis

Violent ethno-nationalist conflicts continue to mar the history of the 20th century. The contributors look, from a biological perspective, at why humans are susceptible to indoctrination by ideologies that lead to inter-group hostility.

Excerpt

Arthur Koestler once remarked that it is not an excess of aggression but of loyalty that could ruin us. And indeed it was and is up to the present the identification with values of a community, be they religious, party-political or ethnonationalistic, that have led to the most atrocious bloodshed of our history.

In particular, ethnic nationalism seems to resist attempts at suppression. Our indoctrinability, our group loyalty, and our proneness to collective aggression are phenomena deserving attention. Why this loyalty and feeling of belongingness to a group characterized by shared language, cultural practices, beliefs and other symbols of identity? And why the diversity of cultures -- why so many different ethnicities at all?

From an evolutionary point of view, the why-question aims at an understanding of the selection pressures responsible for a trait, whether a cultural practice or an innate motor pattern or disposition. We thus try to understand the function of a behavior in promoting survival or reproduction. More generally, we want to learn the ways in which phylogeny prepared us to act so as to enhance our fitness on the individual, kin, and even group level. Preparation can take the form of preadaptation, the fortuitous matching of a trait with some new environmental challenge. A case in point is natural selection at the level of groups, a concept now back in vogue after being banished from the realm of the plausible where it had been introduced by Darwin (1874),Keith (1949), and others. Humans' culturally enhanced ability to discipline group members . . .

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