New Evolutionary Perspective Human Hawks Doves and Retaliators

Computer simulations comparing different fighting strategies found that retaliators outcompete hawks and doves. In none of the five band societies that we have examined in detail is a hawkish approach popular or typical. Acts of gratuitous aggression violate the emphasis that nomadic foragers place on egalitarianism, sharing, and generosity.20 In correspondence with the computer simulation, the occasional hawk does not fare very well. Among the Ju/'hoansi, the two notorious killers, =/Gau and/Twi, both met violent ends. Among the Netsilik, a man executed his own brother who had become mentally unbalanced and unpredictably violent. The Montagnais-Naskapi sometimes indirectly imposed a death sentence by ostracizing a serious malcontent.

In fact, the execution of violent persons and bullies is pervasively reported for band societies. David Damas' assessment for the Copper Inuit also applies to many other nomadic foragers: "Certain men were feared for their aggressiveness or violent tendencies, but they almost invariably met with violent ends themselves."21 E. A. Hoebel explains the usual fate of the recidivist killer: "As a general menace, he becomes a public enemy. As a public enemy, he becomes the object of public action. The action is legal execution: a privilege-right of the executioner. The single murder is a private wrong redressed by the kinsmen of the victim. Repeated murder becomes a public crime punishable by death at the hands of an agent of the community."22

Based on an extensive consideration of the literature, Christopher Boehm writes that "reports of execution of individuals who behave too aggressively are available for Eskimos, North

American Indians, Australian Aborigines, and African foragers. . . . My suspicion is that the pattern may be generalized to nomadic foragers in general." To return for a moment to the tribal Yanomamo and the "man the warrior" view, the recurring pattern wherein recidivist killers are executed in nomadic hunter-gatherer society and the fate of the hawks in evolutionary computer simulations provide additional empirical and theoretical reasons, respectively, for seriously doubting the plausibility of the scenario, as often derived from Chagnon's unokai findings, that killers have been favored over nonkillers (or warriors over nonwarriors) during human evolution.23 This proposal simply doesn't make evolutionary sense.

Has the elimination of overly aggressive persons in band society over millennia actually constituted an additional selection pressure against hawks? And if so, does the execution of hawkish individuals in band societies constitute an additional, perhaps uniquely human selection pressure against overly aggressive individuals? I suggest that it does.

What about the retaliator (or tit for tat) approach to life? Recall that retaliators act peacefully unless attacked but then fight back. The case studies suggest that nomadic foragers behave in rough accordance with the retaliator strategy. The first part of the retaliator strategy, to act peacefully, is clearly evident in everyday social behavior. Most foragers interact nonaggressively most of the time. None of these five societies places a high value on aggression, and this generalization holds for most nomadic forager societies.24 To the contrary, generosity, calmness, and industriousness are appreciated, reinforced, and emphasized during the socialization of children and in social life overall. At the same time, these societies are characterized by high levels of individual autonomy, wherein individuals defend their own rights. Recall how justice seeking among the Montagnais-Naskapi, Netsilik, and Ju/'hoansi is largely an individual affair. This constitutes a pattern in band society.25

While a certain amount of conflict among simple hunter-gatherers fits the retaliator strategy rather closely, at the same time these real life band dwellers are more flexible than computer-simulated retaliators. For example, instead of automatically retaliating, as in a computer model, nomadic foragers are renowned for "voting with their feet" and simply walking away in response to a conflict or attack. Furthermore, many grievances are resolved verbally, often with the involvement of third parties, rather than through physical retaliation. Dealing with conflict via avoidance, toleration, and other nonphysical means such as discussion and mediation suggests that in the real world of nomadic foragers, physical retaliation is only one option among others.26

Interestingly, the Paliyan, with their nonviolent belief system and corresponding peaceful behavior, at first glance might seem to be a population of doves. But are they true doves or are they really retaliators who rarely encounter any acts of aggression to retaliate against? The ESS simulations suggest that peaceful behavior among the Paliyan and similar nonviolent bands probably stems from retaliators engaging in the first part of their strategy, since a population of true doves theoretically would not fare well if invaded by hawks (but, of course, neither would the hawks in comparison to retaliators). Again we see that viewing aggressive behavior as a facultative, flexible adaptation is more consistent with the data than is viewing it in an obligate way.

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