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One of the ongoing debates simmering in evolutionary biology lately is the competition versuscooperation argument. On one side, we have the more traditional Darwinian position that competition is the primary driver of adaptation, and hence survival of any given species.
But more recently, the idea is gaining traction that humans may have evolved most successfully not due to “survival of the fittest” but rather, “survival of the kindest,” quoting Dr. Dacher Keltner, Co-Director of the Greater Good Society at UC Berkeley.
Unless you take a dogmatic position for either side, I don’t think these positions are mutually exclusive. It seems altogether possible that human evolution benefited from ongoing competition, interspersed with periods of intense cooperation. After all, as human population densities started to grow, it’s impossible to remove cooperation from the mix – otherwise our “normal” would be a violent dystopian nightmare.
I want to bring this thinking to the gun control debate, which has again been ignited due to the psychotic rampage in a Colorado movie theater.
Let’s begin with a dogmatic “gun ownership at any cost” stance and see how it fits in the competition-cooperation scheme. This stance is predicated on the belief that someone out there is either already trying, or will try, to do you harm and take what is yours. That “someone” could be another person(s), or it might be the government. The main point is the stance is rooted in a pure competition mindset. To survive, one must have better weapons to fight off competitors who would do you harm and take your resources.
Now let’s go to the dogmatic, “gun control at any cost” stance and see how it fits. This stance doesn’t necessarily ignore the competition mindset, but it strongly favors a cooperative one. The ideal outcome for this stance is to remove all guns from the public sphere, and that leaves people without firearms of any sort to either take from others, or defend themselves against others. But, this stance argues, if no one has guns, then no one needs guns for protection.
I think it’s pretty clear that neither of those dogmatic stances work in practical terms, for the simple reason that human behavior is not nearly so clear cut. Never will we have a society that is driven purely by competitive instincts or purely by cooperative resolve. We will always have both, and not in equal apportionment. At times one drive will overpower the other; while at other times they may achieve a fleeting equilibrium.
The messiness of our biological reality can’t afford dogmatism of any flavor to rule the day. It never fits who we really are. Humans will continue to take advantage of one another, continue to wage wars, and continue to seek the upper hand in all walks of life whether we are armed or not. Guns are a tool to achieve certain ends—some good, some bad—but anyone who thinks that removing guns from the public sphere will deprive humans of their destructive toys once and for all just hasn’t been paying attention for the last several hundred years.
The deeply wired competitive drive within us will always compel our species to find new tools and new ways to get an upper hand – whether that upper hand is truly needed, or merely perceived as necessary.
On the other hand, those who argue that gun control is a universal evil are also not paying close enough attention. We need some cooperative wedges in the competitive drive to keep our baser instincts from becoming the only show in town. In limited forms, gun control may help foster a more cooperative mindset (though I admit the jury is out on this, and I don’t think we have enough evidence either way to yet prove the point).
The most reasonable route, I think, is to first recognize horrific events like the Colorado massacre as outliers – because statistically that’s exactly what they are. They do not describe a larger reality about the inherent dangers of gun ownership any more than violence in “Occupy” gatherings describes a larger reality about the violence inherent in free assembly.
page 2 and read more here http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2012/07/30/which-side-of-human-biology-favors-gun-control/