2: Angry Apes with Nukes

Chapter Two Angry Apes with Nukes


Humans are not the only living beings that have territorial sovereignty societies.  Our closest genetic relatives on earth have societies that manifest the same principles.  

This is important because it can help us understand why humans do one of the strangest things that we do:  we get incredibly irrational, even crazy, about what we may call ‘territorial identify.’  We identify with a territorial group.  We will go out and do things that we otherwise would not do, including kill other people who have done nothing to harm us, if they infringe on, violate, or even simply belong to a group that is thought to threaten the integrity of the groups territory.  In fact, people seem so highly motivated by our territoriality that we will even give our own lives and build devices that will destroy the world many times over, if we feel this is necessary to protect the integrity of the territory with which we associate and identify.  

Why do we do this? 

Normally, humans are greedy. We want the most in value or wealth we can get.  The entire human race will have much more if we work together with other members of or species, wherever they are, to help create more value.  It might seem, therefore, that we aren’t concerned with the interests and needs of our race but only our own personal needs and interests.  Perhaps there is some sort of transfer of personal wealth that can happen in times of war then?  Perhaps there is some way for you to take from your enemy things that she has that you need, and for her to take from you things that you have that she needs, and thus, somehow, everyone comes out ahead, just as would happen in a voluntary trade? 

But this isn’t the way war works.

If you to go war with a gun, and you are trying to kill the person on the other side, and she has a gun and wants to kill you, there isn’t any way for you to get wealth from her from this activity. You will both have to allocate wealth to the weapons.  You will have to forego the time you would have been able to use to create wealth to pursue the war.  You will both have to leave your families without wealth so that you can support yourself in the field.  There just isn’t any natural wealth transfer that enriches the people who fight the ware. 

Some people do come out ahead from war, but they are a tiny, tiny percentage of the population:  the people who run the war can conquer territory, confiscate it from the current owners, and sell it.  This happens frequently but it is rare that even the victors come out ahead after all of the costs of war are paid.  The great, great, majority of the people who are involved in war, and whose support is necessary for the war to take place, lose from the war.  Many lose everything:  they perish knowing that their families will be left homeless and without support and will also perish.  They know that there is an endless series of war and, within a short time, people will be too focused on the next war to remember the last. 

War does not make the world better. It does not make the vast majority of the people who sacrifice for the war (paying taxes for to support it) better off.  It doesn’t make the vast majority of the people who fight it better.  It isn’t the result of a logical analysis of the best interets of the parties involved, it is done for some other reason. 

What reason?  

An objective scientist, looking at the earth from another planet, may not be able to see it.

But if you have grown up and lived on the earth, and gone from war to war to war, and see how people act, you can get some idea.  The people go sort of crazy.  They seem like they are looking for someone to hate.  They live in a society that teaches children that there are two kinds of people.  There are ‘our people,’ who are deserving of liberty, justice, equality, and the right to pursue happiness. Then there are the outsiders, the foreigners.  Historically, these people have not been trustworthy.  They have been dangerous, deceitful, untrustworthy, and treacherous.  We fear them and are right to do so:  many times they have attacked us and tried to take the things that we cherish.  We hate them for the things they did to us. 

These feelings are not logically derived.  Logic tells us there is no ‘them’ at all.  We are all humans and all have the same needs and wants.  These feelings come from some other source. 

What other source?  

Here is a theory:  Humans did not appear intact here on earth.  We evolved from other species that were not as intelligent as ourselves.  Perhaps there is some sort of genetic force that determines how the things we call our ‘emotions’ work.  Perhaps we have hard wiring that tells us we are supposed to feel certain things. There are times when we will get with people of the opposite sex and feel a strong desire to do things that our logical minds tell us aren’t particularly sanitary, for example.  Do we kiss because logic tells us it is a good way to accomplish some goal?  Or do we do it because feelings come over us that make us feel it is natural and right to kiss?  We know that sex will likely lead to babies and lifelong emotional commitments and our logical minds tell us that we would be better off if we didn’t have sex.  But the feelings are very strong.  They push us to keep going.  Logic tells us that these feelings are inherited.  Our ancestors had them in varying strength.  In some of them, these feelings were not strong enough to overpower their own self interest.  They didn’t have babies.  Whatever DNA sequences were responsible for their relatively weak sex drive died with them.  Those wired for a strong sex drive passed had lots of babies and the genes spread. 

Perhaps there was a time, in our evolutionary past, when the strong territoriality feelings/instincts/emotions or whatever you want to call them brought benefits to the group that had them. Perhaps this wiring is beneficial in certain higher mammals.  Perhaps we inherited the wiring for these behaviors in the same way we inherited the wiring for a strong sex drive. 

The territorial wiring may have been an advantage at some point in our past.  But at a certain point, it becomes a liability.  We may not be able to tell exactly when we crossed over from these initiates being an asset to a liability, but now that we have the technological capability to build nuclear bombs, the feelings that tell us to take advantage of this technology and actually build them bombs, with the intention of using them, are very dangerous feelings. 

It makes sense for us to consider the above theory.  We can test it.  If we find that other animals appear to have the same general forces/feelings/emotions/instincts as we have to define at territory, identify with it, and then fight other members of our species who are not members of our own group, but are otherwise indistinguishable from ourselves, with the intention of killing them, we may have a place to start in dealing with at least one of the forces that pushes us toward war. 


CHIMP Societies


These quotes are from a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.[https://www.pnas.org/doi/abs/10.1073/pnas.1701582114]


When male chimpanzees of the world’s largest known troop patrol the boundaries of their territory in Ngogo, Uganda, they walk silently in single file.  Normally chimps are noisy creatures, but on patrol they’re hard-wired. They sniff the ground and stop to listen for sounds. Their cortisol and testosterone levels are jacked 25 percent higher than normal. Chances of contacting neighboring enemies are high: 30 percent.  Ten percent of patrols result in violent fights where they hold victims down and bite, hit, kick and stomp them to death.

Chimpanzees are one of the few mammals in which inter-group warfare is a major source of mortality. Chimps in large groups have been reported to kill most or all of the males in smaller groups over periods of months or years, acquiring territory in the process.

Male chimpanzees are homebodies and remain in the group they were born in their entire lives. Because they can live for more than 50 years, patrolling when they’re young produces future benefits. However, if they don’t patrol, there aren’t any consequences — no sidelong glances, snubs or being chased out of the group, said anthropologist David Watts of Yale University, who worked with Langergraber on the study.

However, if they don’t patrol, there aren’t any consequences — no sidelong glances, snubs or being chased out of the group, said anthropologist David Watts of Yale University, who worked with Langergraber on the study.

“We know from a lot of theoretical and empirical work in humans and in some other specialized, highly cooperative societies — like eusocial insects — that punishment by third parties can help cooperation evolve,” Watts said. “But it doesn’t seem to us that chimpanzees punish individuals who do not patrol. Sometimes individuals will be present when a patrol starts, and thus have the opportunity to join the patrol but fail to do so. As far as we can see, these individuals do not receive any sort of punishment when this occurs.”

Chimpanzees are highly intelligent, but they aren’t capable of what’s called “collective intentionality,” which allows humans to have mutual understanding and agreement on social conventions and norms.  

“They undoubtedly have expectations about how others will behave and, presumably, about how they should behave in particular circumstances, but these expectations presumably are on an individual basis,” Watts said. “They don’t have collectively established and agreed-on social norms.”

Humans can join together in thousands to fight global wars.  himpanzees don’t have anywhere near that level of cooperation. 

“But this tendency of humans to cooperate in large groups and with unrelated individuals must have started somewhere,” Watts said. “The Ngogo group is very large (about 200 individuals), and the males in it are only slightly more related to one another than to the males in the groups with which they are competing.

“Perhaps the mechanisms that allow collective action in such circumstances among chimpanzees served as building blocks for the subsequent evolution of even more sophisticated mechanisms later in human evolution.”


This particular study was funded by the Institute of Human Origins at the Arizona State University and other groups interested in this general topic:  How did humans come to organize ourselves as we do now?   You can find the academic part of the study at [https://www.pnas.org/doi/abs/10.1073/pnas.1701582114] but the quotes above can tell you a lot about the particular conclusions that seemed surprising to the Institute authorities.  Of particular note is the surprise they show that males that do not participate in the patrols are not punished for refusing. This is an important difference between chimpanzee territorial defense and human territorial defense.

When humans defend our territories, we do this through a very large, well organized, and well funded institutional system:  everyone born inside the territorial boundaries is required to help.  Although males do the bulk of actual fighting, all individuals in the territory must contribute by paying taxes.  The taxes are used to support, train, and equip the full time armies. 

People must make these contributions. 

We are not allowed to refuse to contribute for any reason. 

Henry David Thoreau wanted to make a point that he was against war, so he refused to pay taxes, because the taxes support war.  The authorities put him in jail.  If he had actively interfered in war, the authorities may not have simply put him in a nice warm cell with food.  Many times, when wars start, the authorities make up lists of people who may cause problems for the war effort; they round them up and put them into camps.  People don’t have to actually do anything to interfere to be put into these camps:  in some cases, all persons in certain groups are rounded up, ordered to report to a designated spot, and move to some remote location to prevent them from interfering. 

(Qqq persons of Japanese descent)

In the course of conflict, no crime is more serious than refusing to carry out orders.  If ordered to kill for your ‘country,’ you must kill. Officers can shoot soldiers who refuse to kill when ordered to do so, without benefit of trial or having to make excuses. 

In human societies, people have to contribute to the wars. 

This is not true in chimpanzee societies.  In them, individuals who don’t contribute don’t even get a ‘sidelong glance or a snub.’




We might get some insight into the incredibly serious problem of war by considering the similarities between the territorial defense behaviors humans and the similar behaviors of our closest genetic relatives in the animal world. 

What motivates them to do these things? 

We can rule out a few things. 

For example, we can rule out training and indoctrination.   If children were raised and trained to act this way, we would expect to see evidence of the training.  We would also expect to see sequences for individuals who don’t respond to the calls to battle.

We can also rule out logic:

Humans have brain components that chimps don’t have that allow us to put together abstract ideas in our minds and plan consequences of things that haven’t happened.  We have the mental ability to work out what would happen if our enemies were allowed to take control of our territories.  We can calculate the potential advantages and disadvantages of cooperation and, if we see that we are better off fighting, we can decide to fight and organize to fight.  The chimps don’t have the mental tools to do this analysis.  They didn’t do a logical analysis of the different courses of action open to them, hold discussions and elections, and then, having decided on war, organized the attack.  A few individuals had some sort of feeling that made them think that they had to go out and risk their lives attacking the members of their own species who were not identified members of their own clan/tribe/nation.  They stood up and made their intentions known in some way.  Others responded to the call. There would be an attack.  Those who volunteered would go out, at the risk of their own lives, to track down and kill individuals that their internal impulses, or feelings, or mental wiring, or whatever you want to call it, made them feel this strong urge to kill.    

We might use the term ‘instinct’ to refer to an internal pressure to do something that is motivated by something other than logic or reason. 


Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines the term ‘instinct’ this way:  a: a largely inheritable and unalterable tendency of an organism to make a complex and specific response to environmental stimuli without involving reason. b: behavior that is mediated by reactions below the conscious level.


Some force pushes them to split off territory for their group, define and mark borders, patrol the borders, and then organize to kill any individuals from outside their clan/troop/nation that threaten their absolute mastery of the land inside their territory. Whatever this force is, it is not the result of reason or conscious analysis, so it would be called ‘instinct.’

They appear to act this way because of instinct.

Now consider this question:  why do WE act this way? 

Could it be that we, having descended from other primates, still have some of the inherited instincts of these primates?  Might it be that the pressures that push us to divide ourselves into groups based on fixed territories, mark the territories, and then defend them, aren’t the result of logic and reason? Might it be that these behaviors really aren’t in our best interests or the best interests of our race and we don’t have them for logical reasons?   Could it be that these instincts lie in our subconscious, totally inactive most of the time.  But there are signals that, if given, will make us want to stand up and get in line to enlist in the armies, then go out on patrol to kill members of our species that are not members of our identified group, even if we have to track them deep into their own territory to do this?  

This would explain a lot. 

The activities that take place in war just don’t make sense.  Logic tells us that we will all have more wealth and our race will be better off if we can find ways to work together with others, wherever they are.  Logic tells us that the location of your mother when she gave birth to you, relative to the location of a set of imaginary lines, has no real impact on anything important about your existence.  Other people in the world are not tied together in some way because of this fact, any more than they would be if they were born under the same astrological sign.  (We don’t have wars against people with different signs.  Why not?  Wouldn’t it be just as logical to have these wars as wars against people born inside of other sets of arbitrary signs?) 

If logic ruled our behavior, entirely, it is hard to see how there could ever be such a thing as a ‘war between countries.’  For such a thing to exist in a totally logical race, the people must have some logical reason for believing that everyone born in a certain area has some defect that is so serious that they can’t be allowed to be left alive, while everyone born in a different area (in ‘their own country’) does not have this defect and, in fact, has logical reasons to work together to make weapons and support armies to exterminate the defective ones.  

We do not have wars (at least wars between countries or other territorial entities) for logical reasons.

We have these wars for some other reason. 

The term instinct, as defined above by Miriam Webster, is a kind of catch all term.  If it isn’t based on logic and reason or due to analysis done on a conscious level, it is ‘instinct.’  Whatever it is that drives war, it appears it would fall into this category. 

When researchers look at the behaviors of chimps, they see reflections of the behaviors of humans.  Both species have the same evolutionary ancestors. If they inherited the instincts from their ancestors, we may have inherited the instincts from the same places. Perhaps the mental wiring found its way into our minds just as it did into theirs. 

We have brain components that they don’t have. Perhaps there are two sides to our nature.  We have one side, the human (the ‘thinking being’) side, that uses logic and reason.  We have another side, the territorial side, that makes us feel it is necessary to divide ourselves into groups based on territory, define borders, and attack and kill ‘members of our own species that are not members of our own tribe/clan/nation.’  Our logical side tells us that this territorial side is dangerous.  It tells us that we don’t benefit by dividing the world this way and giving in to the pressures to engage in ferocious and irrational violence against people in other territories. But, perhaps, the human side doesn’t always win out.  Perhaps there are triggers that push our logical side away and make us forget we are humans.  We see people standing up and getting in line to kill outsiders and there is something about us that makes us want to get in line and make a commitment.  From then on, our goal will be to seek out the ones whoever it is that leads our group identifies as ‘the enemy’ and wipe them from the face of the earth, even if we must give our own lives trying. 

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