IT IS SCIENTIFICALLY INCORRECT to say that in the course of human evolution there has been a selection for aggressive behavior more than for other kinds of behavior. In all well-studied species, status within the group is achieved by the ability to cooperate and to fulfil social functions relevant to the structure of that group. "Dominance" involves social bondings and affiliations; it is not simply a matter of the possession and use of superior physical power, although it does involve aggressive behaviors. Where genetic selection for aggressive behavior has been artificially instituted in animals, it has rapidly succeeded in producing hyper-aggressive individuals; this indicates that aggression was not maximally selected under natural conditions. When such experimentally-created hyper-aggressive animals are present in a social group, they either disrupt its social structure or are driven out. Violence is neither in our evolutionary legacy nor in our genes.


Writers who claim that humans are by nature violent and selfish tend to over-emphasize the importance of aggression in the behavior of animals. At the same time, they tend to under-emphasize the importance of cooperation.

The dominance and leadership of animals who live in social groups is characterized by their ability to cooperate as well as by their aggressiveness. As reported at Seville by behavior geneticist Benson Ginsburg and psychologist Bonnie Frank Carter, studies on wolves, monkey and apes have shown this to be the case. In fact, if overly-aggressive animals are introduced into a group, the structure of the group is likely to be disrupted.

Of course, this does not deny that aggressive behavior plays a role in both animal and human behavior. For example, it is well known that mothers are particularly aggressive in defense of their young when they are threatened. In animal species who live in social groups, aggressive behavior is selected within the context of cooperation and mutual assistance.

In human behavior, also, aggressive behavior occurs in a context of cooperation. This has been pointed out by anthropologist and Seville signatory Richard Leakey, in his book with Roger Lewin. In fact, the cooperation shown by all human societies in food gathering and hunting strikes anthropologists as one of our most remarkable behavioral qualities. Cooperation has been especially important to the survival of our species.