Bowles in Science on War and Cooperation in Early Humans

samuel_bowlesProfessor Emeritus Samuel Bowles, whose continued close ties with the department include teaching his graduate course on competition, coordination, cooperation and conflict, has recently published an important article in the journal Science. “Did Warfare Among Ancestral Hunter-Gatherers Affect the Evolution of Human Social Behaviors?” asks whether between-group conflict between tribes of early humans may have rewarded substantial within-group cooperation.

The article has received coverage in The Economist (subscription required), The Independent, New Scientist, Nature News (subscription required), and Wired.

Much of the coverage included a riff on “War, What’s It Good For?” Here’s a more serious excerpt from the Wired report,

According to his analysis of archaeological evidence from Stone Age sites and and ethnographic studies of remaining tribes, combat between groups accounted for about 14 percent of all deaths in hunter-gatherer societies. Composed of a few dozen people with no social institutions, such groups were the dominant community form for most of human history.

“These were not modern societies. As with chimpanzees going out on patrol, there was no leadership. You could stay home if you wanted,” said Bowles.

After estimating the rate that altruism would reduce an individual’s chances of reproducing, Bowles plugged the numbers into a model of intergroup competition where an individual’s altruism would also improve a group’s chances of combat triumph. Groups with selfless individuals eventually predominated, and altruism predominated within those groups.

In addition to Emeritus status at UMass, Sam Bowles is Professor at the Santa Fe Institute and the University of Siena.


Badgett Book Blogged by Belkin in NY Times

An interview with UMass Professor Lee Badgett on how the Dutch view same-sex marriage recently appeared in the New York Times.

Dutch Views on Same-Sex Marriage By LISA BELKIN (Motherlode, Adventures in Parenting, The New York Times)
When I wrote about same sex parenting in the Times Magazine this weekend, one of the people I interviewed was M. V. Lee Badgett, who is both the director of the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law & Public Policy at the UCLA School of Law and a professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. She is also the author of “When Gay People Get Married: What Happens When Societies Legalize Same-Sex Marriage,” which focuses mostly on data from the Netherlands, where same-sex marriage has been legal for nearly a decade…

Q. What is the “take away” for those who are debating these questions in the U.S.?
A. The big point is that all of the evidence suggests that same-sex couples will fit right into our current understanding of marriage in the U.S. Marriage itself will not be affected…

Professor Badgett’s book When Gay People Get Married: What Happens When Societies Legalize Same-Sex Marriage is published by NYU Press.