Why is it that humans, nearly unique in this regard, have a natural inclination to band together and kill off members of our own species? The fact that chimpanzees, our closest evolutionary relatives, are the only other animals known to exhibit such organized warlike behavior is a big clue.
Malcolm Potts and Thomas Hayden, authors of the new book Sex and War, assert that the answers lie in our biological history -- that aggression against our own species is rooted in deep evolutionary impulses and predispositions. In other words, intra-species battling among our protohuman ancestors gave a reproductive advantage to the most violent males -- and here we are, their pugnacious descendants, still at it.
Watch to learn how sex and war are inextricably linked, and perhaps, what we modern-day humans can do about it.
Tom joined E-IPER in December 2008. A science journalist and magazine writer, Tom teaches IPER 200, a practical course focused on using the tools of journalism to raise the profile and influence of science in the public sphere. With the students in IPER 200, Tom produces a consumer-oriented advice column that provides science-based answers to reader's questions about sustainable living. Tom also teaches environmental reporting (Comm. 277) in Stanford's graduate program in journalism.
Prior to coming to Stanford, Tom was a staff writer at the weekly news magazines Newsweek and US News & World Report, and a freelance science journalist for publications including National Geographic, Wired, Nature, USA Today and many others. He has taught science journalism at Johns Hopkins University, and is a founding faculty member in the summer Science Communications program at the Banff Centre, in Canada.
He is coauthor of two nonfiction books and continues to write articles and reviews for diverse publications. He has a BSA from the University of Saskatchewan and an MS from the University of Southern California, where he studied biological oceanography.
David Malcolm Potts
Prof. David Malcolm Potts is a human reproductive scientist. Since 1993, he has been the first holder of the Fred H. Bixby-endowed chair in Population and Family Planning in the School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley.
Potts completed a medical degree and a PhD in embryology (on the electron microscopy of mammalian implantation) at the University of Cambridge. While at Cambridge, he started the first clinic offering contraception to young people. He advised David Steel on the UK's 1967 Abortion Act. He was the first male doctor at the Marie Stopes Clinic in London.
He became the first Medical Director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation in 1968. In 1972, he was the first physician to promote the technique of uterine manual vacuum aspiration. He then moved to the United States and became CEO of Family Health International (FHI) from 1978-1990. During this period, FHI became the largest global AIDS prevention programme outside of the World Health Organisation.
He has published ten books and over 200 scientific papers. His books include Abortion (co-written with Peter Diggory and John Peel, 1977), Textbook of Contraceptive Practice (1st edition co-written with John Peel, 1969; 2nd edition co-written with Peter Diggory, 1983; long the key textbook in the field), Queen Victoria's Gene (written with his brother Prof. William Potts), Ever Since Adam and Eve: The Evolution of Human Sexuality (written with Dr Roger Short, 1999) and Sex and War: How Biology Explains Warfare and Terrorism and Offers a Path to a Safer World (co-written with Thomas Hayden, 2008). He has worked as a consultant to the World Bank and the British, American, Canadian and Egyptian governments.
Professor Malcolm Potts, coauthor of Sex and War, shows video of an aggressive group of male chimpanzees attacking a lone chimp from a neighboring troop. Potts says this is what "Darwinian evolution is all about."