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Darwin and International Relations

Darwin and International Relations: On the Evolutionary Origins of War and Ethnic Conflict

Bradley A. Thayer
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: 1
Pages: 444
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  • Book Info
    Darwin and International Relations
    Book Description:

    Pathbreaking and controversial, Darwin and International Relations offers the first comprehensive analysis of international affairs of state through the lens of evolutionary theory. Bradley A. Thayer provides a new method for investigating and explaining human and state behavior while generating insights into the origins of human and animal warfare, ethnic conflict, and the influence of disease on international relations. Using ethnological and statistical studies of warfare among tribal societies, Thayer argues that humans wage war for reasons predicted by evolutionary theory -- to gain and protect vital resources but also for the physically and emotionally stimulating effects of combat. Thayer demonstrates that an evolutionary understanding of disease will become a more important part of the study of international relations as new strains of diseases emerge and advances in genetics make biological warfare a more effective weapon for states and terrorists. He also explains the deep causes of ethnic conflict by illuminating how xenophobia and ethnocentrism evolved in humans. He notes that these behaviors once contributed to our ancestors' success in radically different environments, but they remain a part of us. Darwin and International Relations makes a major contribution to our understanding of human history and the future of international relations.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4970-7
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-v)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vi-vi)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  5. Introduction: Recognizing Darwin’s Revolution
    (pp. 1-21)

    In scientific circles, the twentieth century is often termed the “century of physics” because of the remarkable progress made in that science: the theoretical work of Albert Einstein and Werner Heisenberg, the discoveries of the Curies, Ernest Rutherford’s detection of the nucleus, the development of the atomic bomb by the Manhattan Project, and later the creation of fusion weapons. With its enormous potential, nuclear power also gave humans the ability to destroy much of life on the planet. These revelations and their consequences affected all people and states in international relations.

    The twenty-first century has already been termed “the century...

  6. 1 Evolutionary Theory and Its Application to Social Science
    (pp. 22-59)

    In this chapter I first explain what evolutionary theory is and the importance of Darwin’s idea of natural selection. Second, I discuss major conceptual issues that social scientists should consider when they apply evolutionary theory to their work. Finally, I address the major criticisms of evolutionary theory. A thorough discussion of evolutionary theory is required because this is the theoretical foundation upon which the subsequent chapters build.

    Evolutionary theory explains why and how life changes over time. It explains the great diversity of life that now exists on this planet and all that has lived in the past, from single-celled...

  7. 2 Evolutionary Theory, Realism, and Rational Choice
    (pp. 60-95)

    In this chapter I explain some of the theoretical benefits that evolutionary theory may provide social science. To this end, I apply evolutionary theory to two important theories commonly used in studying international relations as well as American politics, economics, and comparative politics: realism and rational choice.¹ Evolutionary theory can contribute to each because it explains the ultimate cause of the egoism upon which each depends. In discussing realism I explain the ultimate causes of the traditional realist argument and then provide an evolutionary explanation for the origins of egoism and domination. Next, I explain why evolutionary theory provides a...

  8. 3 Evolutionary Theory and War
    (pp. 96-152)

    In the last chapter I showed how evolutionary theory assists realism and rational choice, but the life sciences can also contribute to comprehending major issues studied in the discipline such as the origins of war and ethnic conflict. In this chapter, I examine how evolutionary theory and ecology can contribute to the study of warfare. My objectives are, first, to demonstrate how evolutionary theory explains the origins of warfare, and second, to examine evidence from past and extant premodern societies to support this argument.

    I do not intend to use evolutionary theory and ecology to explain the precise origins of...

  9. 4 Implications of an Evolutionary Understanding of War
    (pp. 153-218)

    Building on the argument presented in chapter 3, here I explore the implications of an evolutionary understanding of warfare. I make four arguments. First, I discuss the implications of warfare for human evolution, in particular the growth of human intelligence and human society. I find that the threat of external attack, from both predators and other humans, provides a strong ultimate cause for the rapid growth of human intelligence. Moreover, external threat also explains the origins of human society. The impact of war on the creation of the state system in early modern Europe has been widely studied by such...

  10. 5 Evolutionary Theory and Ethnic Conflict
    (pp. 219-265)

    In this chapter I explore how evolutionary theory increases our understanding of the causes of ethnic conflict. To do so, I examine the two major paradigms social scientists use to explain the causes of ethnic conflict. I then explain how evolutionary theory can improve our understanding of these causes. My central argument is that evolutionary theory allows scholars to understand better the origins of deep causes of ethnic conflict, such as the in-group/out-group distinction, xenophobia, and ethnocentrism. These behaviors contributed to fitness in the past, and so unfortunately remain ultimate causes or contributing causes of ethnic conflict.

    At the outset...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 266-277)

    The more we learn about human evolution, the more we recognize what makes us human. We are not separate from the natural world; it influences us in countless ways, from natural selection to the blowback effect of environmental destruction. Seeing this, we can better understand life in the natural world: what makes us unique as humans, and what makes us truly akin to other animals, from our “cousin” the chimpanzee, to our more distant relatives. As E.O. Wilson explains in his wonderfully titledBiophilia:“Humanity is exalted not because we are so far above other living creatures, but because knowing...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 278-363)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 364-409)
  14. Index
    (pp. 410-425)