Chimpanzees don’t believe in open borders

I began my chapter on Jewish involvement in shaping US immigration policy as follows:

Immigration policy is a paradigmatic example of conflicts of interest between ethnic groups because immigration policy determines the future demographic composition of the nation. Ethnic groups unable to influence immigration policy in their own interests will eventually be displaced by groups able to accomplish this goal. Immigration policy is thus of fundamental interest to an evolutionist.

So it’s not surprising that animals defend territories. Territories provide resources that can be turned into reproduction. But of course the intellectual left is very uncomfortable with the thought that animals might defend territories — especially if the animals are closely related to us. So they make up stories about chimpanzees as peaceful hippie types living at one with nature.

All this came together in a recent article “Lethal intergroup aggression leads to territorial expansion in wild chimpanzees” in Current Biology (LA Times version; New York Times version). John Mitani and colleagues found that chimpanzee males patrol their territories in deadly serious single file lines with no feeding or socializing. Deadly because there were 18 fatal attacks in a nine-year period, almost all of them by male bands patrolling their territory.

The chimpanzees at Ngogo have expanded their territory at the expense of a neighboring community. Territorial expansion followed a series of lethal coalitionary attacks that formed an especially large source of mortality. … our findings support the hypothesis that killing neighboring conspecifics is adaptive. … [The most likely explanation is that] by acquiring new territory through lethal coalitionary aggression, male chimpanzees improve the feeding success of individuals in their own community, which in turn can lead to increased female reproduction.

Significantly, the authors go out of their way to point out that their results are contrary to the hypothesis that chimpanzee aggression is the result of contact with humans, citing a paper by Robert W. Sussman titled “The myth of man the hunter, man the killer, and the evolution of morality.” Sussman’s paper in Zygon (not available online) shows someone seemingly on a crusade against standard views in evolutionary anthropology.

The “soft” interpretation of the article (mentioned in the LA Times version) is that it tells us something about the evolution of cooperation. But clearly the cooperation is for the purpose of war. The really dangerous idea is that it suggests that organized warfare between males preceded human culture–the view of Harvard’s Richard Wrangham whose views are discussed in the NYTimes article:

Warfare among human groups that still live by hunting and gathering resembles chimp warfare in several ways. Foragers emphasize raids and ambushes in which few people are killed, yet casualties can mount up with incessant skirmishes. Dr. Wrangham argues that chimps and humans have both inherited a propensity for aggressive territoriality from a chimplike ancestor.

Sussman’s hostility to humans as naturally prone to warfare reminds one of the Boasian school of anthropology (Chapter 2 of The Culture of Critique) and its attempt to invent a “pacified past” in which humans were depicted as peaceful myth makers and gift givers. (Sussman was president of the American Anthropological Association.) The truth is quite the opposite.

But the real question is why are White people throughout the Western world failing to patrol their borders and behaving in an evolutionarily maladaptive manner by allowing millions of people unlike themselves into their countries and often subsidizing them to boot? The answer has to be culture. Our evolutionary proclivities tell us to keep out the foreigner and to try to take his territory if possible.

Unfortunately, there are lots of reasons to think that culture can trump our evolutionary tendencies. (See here.) To paraphrase Bill Clinton, it’s the culture, stupid. Xenophobia is an adaptive response, whether it’s for chimpanzees or for humans. But for the better part of a century, our intellectual elites have been telling us that xenophobia is a psychiatric disorder, little more than irrational hatred. This ideology has been spread throughout the school system and saturates the mainstream media. Those who disagree with it are subjected to economic penalties and social ostracism.

A big part of what is needed is to reverse this intellectual onslaught. The paper by Mitani and colleges is certainly a step in the right direction.

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