Why is there War?

Why is there War?

You are all descended from people who avoided getting killed before they had children. This is kind of obvious, but it is the basis of the theory of evolution.

Since humans are social animals, and don't tend to survive too well on their own, most people are also members of societies which have managed to survive without being destroyed..

A mind game

Imagine two groups of people. One group is always fighting and killing each other. The other group is more co-operative and works together to build things, harvest crops and so on. You can see that the group that is always fighting won't be able to build anything much more complex than one person can do on their own. No great irrigation schemes, no granaries, no schools. In any kind of natural disaster like a famine or earthquake they will be less likely to survive than the group who cooperates.

This is why most societies have laws and customs forbidding murder and killing by their members.

Now imagine two co-operative groups. One is peaceful, and the other goes to war. If they meet, the warlike group will kill the peaceful group or enslave them. So the warlike group will have children and the peaceful group will not. A peaceful group that runs away will also survive, as long as there is somewhere for them to run to. So evolution will tend to favour those societies that can co-operate and do not kill their own members, but can go to war and win over other groups.

Bigger is better

Societies which combine both these techniques do even better. A group which has a small, highly trained army, but most of whose members are farmers, builders and artisans, will do better than groups where all the members fight, but are not properly trained. The Romans were able to conquer most of the people of Europe, and had time to build roads, bridges and buildings that still stand today, as well as create great works of art and literature.

Societies where most of the fighting is done by teenagers and unmarried men, such as is common in the West today, are able to win wars and preserve their culture despite terrible losses among the soldiers, such as occurred in the First and Second World Wars.

Avoiding War

To survive, it is not necessary to fight (although those that do tend to grow by conquest), but just to be able to defend the society from attack. The Swiss have avoided fighting in the World Wars by refusing to take sides, and also by being ready to fight. All the men are trained to fight, and they have stockpiles of weapons everywhere. Planes and tanks are hidden in secret places in the mountains like in some TV adventure series, and all the cities have bomb shelters. No-one will attack them because it is too difficult, and they have nothing an enemy wants badly enough.

Need there be War?

If our society expands to cover the whole world, then we will have no enemies, and all those who fight and kill will be criminals (unless aliens from another star system attack us).

Unfortunately, things are not so simple and society is too complex. A person may be a hero to one group and a criminal or terrorist to another, even though both groups are part of the same society. In the past, big empires have always split apart, or become weak so that an enemy from outside can defeat them.

Andrew Daviel