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Innate Human Aggression and Warfare


Warfare can be described as a set of techniques used by a group to cause war (Carnagey and Anderson, 2007). Ideally, the organized, armed, and prolonged conflict between nations and parties due to extreme aggression and social disruption is referred to as war. It is quite ambiguous to suggest that warfare occurs because humans are innately aggressive. To argue that warfare is a result of aggression can only be translated to mean that aggression occurs solely due to nature.

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However, this is not the obvious case since other conditions contribute to human aggression including factors such as environmental and social factors. This paper disagrees with the statement “warfare occurs because humans are innately aggressive”.


Aggression does not always entail violence. It can be the firmness or energetic challenge on someone’s statement or point of view and can also be considered as an unprovoked attack. In many cases, aggression is seen as a violent attack that results in harm or injury. More often, it is something between hostility (Carnagey and Anderson, 2007).

Warfare can be seen as an inescapable and central aspect of human culture, but it is evitable under certain ecological and social-cultural circumstances. Warfare is a universal phenomenon whose extent and form are entirely defined by the society at hand. According to Carnagey and Anderson (2007), humans are not naturally disposed of for warfare, which occurs under specific circumstances. This is so with the cases of societies where war does not exist.

The historic evolution of warfare demystifies the cause of aggression, the natural instinct of human beings, but not exclusively the cause (Barash and Webel, 2002). Technological advancement plays a significant role in warfare. Sophisticated weapons such as nuclear have created a diverse avenue for warfare triggering aggression among the involved parties.


An essential doctrine of innate aggression is that there is a direct connection between genetics and violence. Instinctivism claims that animals’ behaviors, such as aggression, are determined by fixed patterns determined entirely by genetics, which serve some sort of species-preserving functions (Mahew and Kirk, 2002). This suggests that humans are innately aggressive and they became aggressive in a similar pattern, for instance, warfare, across all people.

However, this can be seen as fallacious since there have been variations in aggression among genetically alike populations as shown in the example of African bushmen. Therefore, instinctivism cannot entirely explain the occurrence of aggressive behaviors like warfare in genetically similar populations.

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Further, instinctivism claim that genetically affected patterns are fixed, having a contradicting fact that warfare occurs in a variety of ways; this is another reason showing that instinctivism theory of innate aggression does not explain the occurrence of war. Territoriality and aggression are not universal instincts (Mahew and Kirk, 2002). Though the theory of instinctivism may explain the behaviors of some animals, there is no convincing evidence showing a direct link with warfare as a result of innate human aggression.


Sociobiology theory claims that behaviors in animals occur from a combination of social conditions, and with great magnitude, genetic traits that have developed through natural selection. Sociobiology gives a significant explanation as to why aggressive behavior exists in humans today. Evolutionary, aggression was advantageous since organisms that manifested this trait were capable of reproducing. The most fit and aggressive organism managed to survive. Though this theory shows the reason why humans are aggressive, it fails to evaluate the link in the occurrence of warfare. The notion explaining the advantageous of this patterns being evolutionary, suggest that, today all population would be in warfare.

The fact that natural selection narrows in individuals, with war focusing on populations show that the aggression shown by individuals does not necessarily exhibit similar effect on populations in the case of warfare (Barash and Webel, 2002). This shows that warfare is not evolutionarily significant to individuals and its existence cannot be directly linked to sociobiology. According to Barash and Webel (2002), though sociobiology manages to explain the existence of innately aggressive behavior in humans, it fails to reveal the existence of warfare thereafter. It cannot therefore, support the statement “warfare occurs because humans are innately aggressive”.

Environmental and Situational explanations for Aggressive Behavior

The perception of the actions of aggression varies significantly and radically. Frustration at being blocked from striking a goal creates anger that leads to aggression and stress (Barash and Webel, 2002). The common reaction to stress is either flight or fight (Suter, 2005). Selfish nature in people significantly attributes to frustration and aggression. Incentives and violence are likely to be correlated especially when one is determined to achieve a predetermined goals (Baumeister and Bushman, 2008).

Alcoholism and aggressive behaviors are something that we can vouch for. Increase in intoxication has a link with changes in the levels of aggression among people. Theoretically, alcohol has been found to have negative myopic affects, decreases self awareness and also causes reduction in inhibition (Baumeister and Bushman, 2008). Violence is always associated with alcohol centers such as pubs, clubs or sporting events. Societal norms define the need of action at any given cultural situations.

Acts of genocide and war have resulted to violence and aggression in unparalleled scale. For instance the influence of September 11 on US, created a positive attitude of her citizens towards war. After the attack America embarked on war against terrorist in the Iraq (Carnagey and Anderson, 2007). This shows how situations and environment contributes significantly towards aggressions and hence warfare. The fact that our surrounding and the conditions that we are subjected to have on eruption of war challenges the notion of biological and instinct influence.

The Seville statement on violence

Scientist conveyed in Spain to discuss a “Statement on Violence” designed to disapprove “the notion that violence organized by human is biological influenced”. War cannot be blamed on animal ancestry (Suter, 2005). This idea that the behaviors of animals are due to their instincts cannot necessarily be so with humans because of the kinship attachment with those animals.

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Animals are not aggressive as we think. The fact that they kill for food can exclude the idea of aggression being violent but a survival tool. Organized groups aggression is absent in most species but it occurs due to the environmental predisposition. Alteration of environment has been seen to have a significant change in aggression levels among those species. In the human history an alarming cases of aggressive behaviors have occurred but there is no connection to the innate.

Organized wars are inventions of humans. Violence is set and begins right at the minds of men. The inventions of wars cannot be linked to genetic makeup of organisms. A close study of organisms reveals that their instincts do not intend to be violent but are used as a tool of survival or results as reaction to the change in the environment or on the way they are reared. Therefore, wars are entirely the innovation of men and to halt it lies within the men digression.


The only theory that creates a link between innate aggression and warfare is psychoanalysis model (Barash and Webel, 2002). It claims that human behaviors aggression included are innate. The concept of psychoanalysis of collective narcissism based on the fact that humans have basically low self-esteem and hence tempt to support their identity by identifying with a group. This results to narcissistic injury- threat to a group that one identifies with being considered as a threat to oneself.

Narcissistic injury results to compulsive response usually aggressive and violent, at this stage a narcissistic rage manifests characterized by warfare (Barash and Webel, 2002). Therefore, due to the innate aggression in humans, warfare occurs as a result of narcissistic rage. Psychoanalysis, therefore demystifies the link between the innate human aggression and warfare.


In conclusion, the tenet that humans are innately aggressive is ambiguous since it can stand to mean that warfare occurs due to the natural instincts in human. Certainly, Warfare does not entirely occur because humans are innately aggressive. This is deemed to be false since other conditions as discussed significantly contribute to war. Factors such as ecological and situational contribute to war. It is also noted that war is the creation and an invention of human and it is within their mind to choose violence or peace.

Reference List

Barash, D. P., & Webel, C. P. (2002). The Individual Level, in Peace and Conflict studies. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Baumeister, R. and Bushman, B. (2008). Social Psychology & Human Nature. Belmont, USA: Thomson Wadsworth.

Carnagey, N., & Anderson, C. (2007). Changes in Attitudes Towards War and Violence After September11, 2001. Aggressive Behavior, Vol 33, pg 118-129.

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Mahew, M., & Kirk, J. (2002). When anger hurts: quieting the storm within. Stamford: New Harbinger Publications.

Suter, K. (2005). 50 things you want to know about world issues..but were too afraid to ask. Milson’s Point, NSW, Australia: Trans-world Publishers.

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