Evolutionary Explanations for Group Display in Humans: Warfare and sports

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Evolutionary Explanations for Group Display in Hum

Warfare is the waging of a war against an enemy. Warfare has and can take many forms from primitive tribes attacking each other for food or land, to wars on a larger scale such as WWII. Whilst it might appear that going to war is inconsistent with survival, the evolutionary approach argues that warfare serves many adaptive functions. These include: 

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Evolutionary Explanations for Group Display in Hum

·         Having the protection of a group – If a person is
living in a volatile situation it may make sense to join in
and fight with the group. The person will then have
the protection of the group. If they chose not to fight
they would be on their own with no protection. This
could reduce their chances of survival as they would be
more likely to be taken prisoner or attacked by the enemy.

·         Demonstrating the strength needed to attract a mate – If a male fights in a war and is successful at beating the opponent and comes back unscathed he will be seen as attractive to potential mates as he will have demonstrated strength and power. From this point of view it makes sense for men to fight in war to ensure they have the pick of female mates.

·         To gain needed resources such as land or other resources – If a community finds themselves overpopulated or if there is not enough resources (such as food and jobs) to go around they may turn to war to ensure the survival of their people.

·         As a means of ’kin preference’ – the continuation of the genes from your people – The evolutionary theory states that the point of life is to ensure that your genes continue. This can lead to in-groups (your people) and out-groups (other ethnicities) being created. From an evolutionary point of view it may make some sense to eliminate out-groups so that your genes have a greater chance of survival.

·         To ensure procreation (in cases of war ****) – It is a common occurrence for civilian women in war torn countries to be the victim of **** from enemy armed forces. Kong (2008) argues that this usually happens in situations where the enemy is fearful for their own life. They may then turn to **** in an attempt to procreate and thus pass on their genes. 

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Evolutionary Explanations for Group Display in Hum

Issues and Debates

A limitation of the evolutionary explanation is that it takes the nature side of the nature-nurture debate. In the evolutionary explanation of warfare the assumption is made that all warriors and soldiers engage in warfare purely as a result of a biological need to procreate and pass on their genes. In reality there are many other reasons why individuals go to war, for instance many countries still have National Service whereby young men are required to serve in the military for a period of time.

A further limitation is that this explanation is socially sensitive, especially with its treatment of war ****. By saying that members of the armed forces only resort to **** as a biological need to procreate the explanation legitimises this act seeing the ****** as not in conscious control of his own actions. 

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Evolutionary Explanations for Group Display in Hum

Supporting Research

A strength is that the idea that successful warriors are seen as more
attractive to women is supported when looking at the Yanomamo tribe
(Native Brazilians). The men in this tribe that have the most wives and
children are the ones that are the most successful warriors.
Why is this relevant? This shows that females find the strongest men
attractive and so supports the idea that men may choose to go to war to demonstrate their strength. 

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Evolutionary Explanations for Group Display in Hum

strength.

Related to this point, the fact that most members of the armed forces and warriors are men is consistent with the evolutionary argument that it is beneficial for men to engage in warfare in order to look attractive to members of the opposite sex.

Another strength of this explanation is that many wars have involved genocide – the attempted mass extinction of one group or race of people.  For instance, in WWII the main group targeted were the Jewish people with around 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust. Why is this relevant? This is consistent with the notion of kin preference, that if we eliminate people of other ethnicities, our genes have a greater chance of continuing.

Diamond (1991) has produced evidence that is consistent with the evolutionary argument that many wars are a result of needing to gain land or resources. He reported that by 1991, 63% of the countries involved in 20th Century Wars engaged in such wars for reasons that included land disputes due to insufficient space for resources.
Why is this relevant? This demonstrates that getting resources is a motivating factor for going to war and so is consistent with the evolutionary explanation. 

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Evolutionary Explanations for Group Display in Hum

Further Evaluation

The main limitation with any evolutionary explanation is that it is unfalsifiable. It cannot be proven that the reasons people engage in warfare are based around an evolutionary drive to survive and procreate. 

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Evolutionary Explanations for Group Display in Hum

All sports involve an element of competition. This competition is something that both players and supporters take very seriously. Whilst the competition is meant to be in good nature with no malice attached, occasionally aggressive outbursts can appear both in the crowds and within the sport itself. Many sports also involve an element of aggression, e.g. boxing, rugby etc.

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Evolutionary Explanations for Group Display in Hum


Evolutionary explanations of engaging in sports firstly rest on the assumption that it is mainly men who engage in sporting competitions. The evolutionary explanation then argues that this can be advantageous as by doing so the male is making himself look attractive to members of the opposite sex for the following reasons:

·         Salary – The top sports players can earn a lot of money.
 According to the evolutionary theory this will be attractive
to females as they will be sure that their mate can provide
for them and their offspring.

 

·         Demonstrates strength – Most sports involve the players
being in peak fitness. This will be attractive to females as it
indicates that the male will be able to look after and protect
her and their offspring.

 

·         Demonstrates group cohesion – By taking part in a team sport you are making yourself part of something bigger. In evolutionary terms it makes sense to be part of a strong group for protection purposes.

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Evolutionary Explanations for Group Display in Hum

 

The evolutionary explanation also has a theory as to why people follow sports so passionately. It argues that when a team wins the fans are able to ‘bask in reflective glory’ which involves taking a lot of the credit for the team’s success. This is seen as an adaptive thing to do as by associating yourself with the successful group you are attributing their characteristics to yourself. You will therefore be seen as an attractive potential mate as you are associated with a successful, strong team. As part of supporting a team, some people will also turn to violence. Again, this will be supposedly attractive to potential mates as it demonstrates strength and status. 

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Evolutionary Explanations for Group Display in Hum

Issues and Debates

A limitation of this explanation is that it takes the nature side of the nature-nurture debate. It ignores any social reasons as to why people might take part in sports events of which there are many, for instance need to conform and belong (for psychological well being as opposed to survival). 

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Evolutionary Explanations for Group Display in Hum

Research Support

Cialdini et al (1976) found that after a University football team had done well the students at the University showed a greater tendency to wear clothes that identified them as belonging to that University. This supports the theory that fans bask in reflective glory, perhaps as a means to look more attractive to potential mates. 

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Evolutionary Explanations for Group Display in Hum

Further Evaluation

The evolutionary explanation cannot explain why females engage in sports. According to the evolutionary theory, men should be looking for the traits of youthfulness and attractiveness in females, not power and strength. This therefore doesn’t explain the motivation of females when they choose to play sports.

A final limitation is that this explanation is unfalsifiable. This is because it cannot be proven right or wrong. We cannot ever prove that the reason men engage in sports is because they want to look attractive to the opposite sex. According to this theory, this motivation is something that operates below a conscious awareness and so can never be validated

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