Newsletter Vol 11, No 1
March 2003
Do Primates Make War? Page 6

Page 1

Is the Statement up to date?
Page 2

Page 3

Yanomamo data - fraudulent?
Page 4

Genetics, men, women and war
Page 5

Do primates make war?
Page 6

War abroad, violence at home
Page 7

In a review by Harvard Magazine of the book Demonic Males, written by Richard Wrangham and Dale Peterson, the following is stated:

"Perhaps the most revolutionary discovery that Wrangham and other researchers have made through patient observation of Central African apes is that warfare is not uniquely human. Scholars had long thought that it was. As recently as 1987, an international group of 20 distinguished scientists signed what they called the Seville Statement on Violence, declaring that war "does not occur in other animals" and is almost entirely "a product of culture." The full review is available on the Internet at

In fact what the Seville Statement says is "Although fighting occurs widely throughout animal species, only a few cases of destructive intra-species fighting between organized groups have ever been reported among naturally living species, and none of these involve the use of tools designed to be weapons. Normal predatory feeding upon other species cannot be equated with intra-species violence. Warfare is a peculiarly human phenomenon and does not occur in other animals."

This section of the Seville Statement was based on a paper presented by one of the signatories, Dr. John Paul Scott, considered by many as the greatest animal behavior specialist of his time. The paper was entitled "The Biological Basis of Warfare" and published in Essays on Violence, edited by J. Martin Ramirez, Robert Hinde and Jo Groebel, University of Seville, 1987. Scott recognized the observations made originally by Jane Goodall and Itani of chimpanzee fighting and occasional killing in Africa: "Groups of males ... would occasionally patrol the border and if they came into contact with another group there would be considerable threatening behavior but no real fighting. If, on the other hand, as sometimes occurred, they encountered a single individual, they might make a group attack resulting in serious injury and eventual death for the individual concerned. Goodall did not hesitate to use words such as murder and warfare in describing this behavior, but it obviously lacks three of the basic characteristics of human warfare, namely coordination through language, use of tools, and organized conflict between two groups."

Readers are invited to read the book Demonic Males to see if there is anything that would contradict the analysis made in Scott's paper and then incorporated into the Seville Statement. Our reading of the book shows that most of the chimpanzee accounts are similar to those that were described by Scott (1987) and dismissed by him as lacking the basic characteristics of human warfare. The only additional aspect is the insistence by Wrangham and Peterson that the chimps were not just patrolling their territory, but rather engaging in "raids" with a "purpose" to kill all of the members of a neighboring troop. However, questions of "purpose" are difficult to prove, as anyone knows who has done animal research.

The book Demonic Males, is especially interesting because it links together many of the issues discussed in this newsletter. Not only does it claim that chimps have "warfare", but it also cites the claims of Chagnon about Yanamamo warfare to support a thesis of a biological basis for human warfere (see page above entitled "Yanomamo data: were they fraudulent?") and it makes a specific attack in a footnote on page 276 against the thesis of Why There Are So Few Women Warriors (see page above entitled "Does genetics determine that men not women make war?"). This is consistent with an analysis that sociobiology is used by elite media (such as Harvard Magazine as mentioned above) as a defense of the culture of war. See the chapter on Historical Significance in the article in the Journal of Peace Research, The Seville Statement on Violence: A Progress Report, available on the Internet at

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