Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Iraq: the nature-nurture debate

The IHT has an article about the relevance of evolutionary psychology and Iraq:
"The natural impulse to dislike outsiders is so strong that it barely matters who the outsiders are. When experimental psychologists divide subjects into purely arbitrary groups - by the color of their eyes, their taste in art, the flip of a coin - the members of a group quickly become so hostile to the other group that they'll try to deny rewards to the outsiders even at a cost to themselves. And when the members of a group really have something in common, like family ties, they're willing to fight outsiders even if it means their own deaths. Xenophobia produced genetic rewards for hunter-gatherer clans."

Genes however seem to allow for some variation in that dislike around the world. The experiments I know of, do not lead to terrorist attacks on the basis of who has which eyecolor. For those who have more affinity with the nurture explanation than the nature explanation there is still T.E. Lawrence:
"The Semites' idea of nationality," he wrote, "was the independence of clans and villages, and their ideal of national union was episodic combined resistance to an intruder. Constructive policies, an organized state, an extended empire, were not so much beyond their sight as hateful in it. They were fighting to get rid of Empire, not to win it."


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