All the evidence suggests that human beings have been battling one another since time immemorial. But why do war and terrorism exist? Why do we kill members of our own species intentionally, when few other animals do so? And why are sex and war inextricably linked?
Malcolm Potts and Thomas Hayden combine rich personal experience and research with an illuminating analysis of warfare and terrorism to show that aggression against our own species is primarily a male behavior, rooted in deep evolutionary impulses and predispositions. Battling neighboring groups of humans helped our male ancestors—by definition, the victors in early raids and wars—to survive and outcompete their rivals.
Sex and War draws on a wealth of archaeological, historical and biological sources to trace the origins of warfare, terrorism, slavery, sexual repression and the subjugation of women through history. While these violent impulses once gave successful warriors access to more resources, more sex—and ultimately more offspring to carry their own genes—today, these impulses have become wildly destructive.
Evolution is not destiny, however, and peace also has deep roots in human development. The authors, with contributions from Martha Campbell, show how relatively simple strategies—most important, those that empower women—can help the biology of peace win out over the biology of war.
Sex and War is the first serious attempt not only to understand the origins of war and terrorism, but also to use our emerging knowledge of human evolution to lay out a rational roadmap toward greater peace and security.
Dr. Potts’ presentation at the Woodrow Wilson Center
Sex and War the book’s homepage
Essay by the authors at The Scientist (free registration required)
News, discussion and community at facebook
Excerpt and author interview at wired.com