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The biological spoils of war: Those engaged in more violent war have more wives, children

The biological spoils of war: Those engaged in more violent war have more wives, children

Postby smix » Tue Dec 30, 2014 4:16 pm

The biological spoils of war: Those engaged in more violent war have more wives, children
ScienceDaily

URL: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 164858.htm
Category: healthNews
Published: Mon, 29 Dec 2014 16:48:58 EST

Description: Under certain circumstances, those who engage in violent conflict had more wives, and thus more opportunities to increase their reproductive success through having more children, a study has demonstrated. Violent conflict may, under certain conditions, offer a biological benefit to those who take part in it, a Harvard study has found. The study, authored by Luke Glowacki, a doctoral student working with Richard Wrangham, Ruth Moore Professor of Biological Anthropology and Curator of Primate Behavioral Biology in the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, found that, among members of an East African herding tribe, those who engaged in conflict -- in the form of violent raids carried out on neighboring groups -- had more wives, and thus more opportunities to increase their reproductive success through having more children. The study is described in a December 29 paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "The currency of evolution is reproductive success," Glowacki said. "By having more wives you can have more children. What we found was that, over the course of their lives, those who took part in more raids had more children." Importantly, though, that benefit -- the increased reproductive success enjoyed by raiders -- is mediated by powerful cultural forces, Glowacki said. "What I really like about this paper is the finding isn't just 'biology made me do it,'" he said. "It's very clear what the pathway to greater reproductive success is -- it's access to livestock, which are obtained through raiding and then used for marriage. But the cultural mechanism is mediated by the elders who control virtually all aspects of the society. After a raid young men give any livestock they capture to the elders and the raider cannot use them at that point even if he wants to get married. Later in life, as the raider gets older he can gain access to them, so there's a lag in receiving benefits from participating in a raid." Examining the connection between violence and reproductive capacity, however, is no easy feat. For Glowacki, the project involved living with the Nyangatom, a group of nomadic herders living in a region of southwest Ethiopia and South Sudan, for more than a year, and observing virtually every part of day-to-day village life -- from digging water holes to migrations. Typically carried out by Nyangatom men between 20 and 40 years old armed with weapons like AK-47 rifles, the raids sometimes result in serious injuries and deaths. Those who take part in the raids, however, must turn over any livestock they obtain to village elders, who use them to obtain wives for themselves. It may not be until years later that elders agree to provide a raider with the cows necessary to obtain their first wife, or subsequent wives. "In many cultures, particularly in east Africa, in order to get married you have to give livestock to the bride's family -- we refer to it as bridewealth," Glowacki said. "If you don't have cows, you simply cannot get married -- it doesn't matter how handsome you are or how much status you have, if you don't have cows to give the bride's family, you cannot get married."
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