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Robert Sapolsky’s Views on Natural History of Peace Essay

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Updated: Sep 20th, 2022

According to Robert M. Sapolsky, human beings feel that they are unique, unlike other species. This has been questioned by studies that have been done on other primates. Theodosius Dobzhansky an evolutionary biologist viewed that all species are unique. According to him, humans are more unique thus they feel more proud in their specialty.

Robert Sapolsky’s human nature focuses on neurobiology and primatology. In his perspective, he looks at what makes humans more violent, has empathy, personality, and be creative. Other species are capable of using symbols about objects and actions, they can also make inventions on how to use tools. Even other primates have a theory of mind in which they are capable of recognizing differences in individual thoughts and knowledge.

Sapolsky challenges human uniqueness in terms of human social life. Some few primates are asocial, it is difficult to understand primates living in isolation. To him, humans have a rich social life. It had been taken that humans were the only primates that are capable of killing another human. But other studies have shown that even other primates have the capabilities to engage in organized violence.

Sapolsky looks at the foolishness of the nature versus nurture debate.

“Animal behavior- from obsessive-compulsive disorder to sexual orientation– is not dictated solely by our genes or by our upbringing. No biology. No environment, just the interaction between the two”.( Robinson nature of the beast). Sapolsky studied the behavior of baboons to explain the evolution that humans have undergone. According to him, it is not natural for humans to have prolonged stress.

Humans should try to get rid of stress by changing how they live just like other primates are adapted to physical stress on a short-term basis.

Sapolsky believes that environmental differences however small, largely affect human behaviors. Humans by nature do not like experiencing new things as they get older. In his essay on Genetic hyping “genes, of course, have plenty to do with behavior. Genes determine your intelligence and your personality, and certain genetic profiles cause criminality, alcoholism… Genes influence behavior, environment influence behavior, and genes and environment interact.”

Sigmund Freud’s philosophies differ from Robert Sapolsky’s views on human nature.

According to Sigmund Freud the father of psychoanalysis, actions of the gene in humans are intertwined completely with the environment. What should be taken into consideration is what these genes do to the environment. We should not predict behaviors by looking at only one fact.

Sapolsky shows that primates were in a way independent from natural factors this is called cross-fostering. He developed theories on the organization of the human mind. Human behaviors relate to the environment in conscious or unconscious form.

Various systems in the body control behavior in animals. Behavior becomes complex due to the high capacity of the system in response to adjusting new behavior.

Robert Sapolsky’s analysis and studies of primates have expanded in the variations of social practices to explain the natural history of peace. Some primates have been dominated with violence while others are characterized by egalitarianism, cooperation where various patterns have emerged. Some species are less aggressive than others, for example, gibbons or marmosets live in a group in rain forests where they get plenty of food. These animals have the same size males and females where they mate and reproduce for life.

This doesn’t exist in violent species for example the bamboo and the rhesus monkey. (Sapolsky 1-8)

Robert Ardrey has popularized the theory of human–as–killer – apes where humans have high chances of attaining peace. Primates species can be peaceful or violent as social structures and ecological surroundings can drive their behaviors Sapolsky view that some species despite their violent characteristic are capable of making peace. Primates species are capable of reconciling after being involved in the fight.

For example, it was observed by Frans de Waal in the 1980s that about 27 primates of different species were cooperating thus reducing further aggression. Reconciliation is also observed in violent primates and it comes after violence and conflict. According to biological anthropologists, human behavior requires a strongly established tradition, as throughout human history humans had lived by cooperating as found in hunters-gatherers societies.

The world today is full of conflicts and wars among, nations, states, and societies.

The world today is seeking a way how to achieve peace globally to face these challenges.

Robert Sapolsky’s views on natural peace can be relevant today in addressing this crisis. His ideas have been applied in the global war against terrorists, in various theories.

The just war theory has been understood as representing a middle way between real politicking and focusing on self-interest. However, they are those who hold that achieving world peace cannot be achieved.

According to Robert Sapolsky primates especially humans are capable of abandoning any aggressiveness if there exists no interest in the pursuance of the aggression. War is inevitable if the cost of making it exceeds its benefit.

Many believe that war cannot end until humanity ends. Some scholars trace back warfare in history when humans shared with primates like chimpanzees. In this era chimpanzees, mostly males of similar troops were raiding their neighbors and killing them. (Sapolsky 6) Chimpanzees like violence and this paved way for human war. Wrangham like Sigmund Freud had linked male aggression to sex drive. Many scholars believe that if war is inevitable, peace cannot be realized due to factors like an ecological crisis, social unrest, violence, overpopulation. Warfare is endemic to many societies, the primitive hunters gather in industrialized areas which causes some tension among their population.

Works Cited

Sapolsky, Robert M. A natural history of peace. New York. 2006.

Sapolsky, Robert M. Biology and Human Behaviour: The Neurological Origin of Individuality,2nd edition. New York. 2005.

Robinson, Mark. “The nature of the Beast”. Stanford magazine Book and authors. 1997.

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