Incoming: Anthropologist’s Study Challenges Claim That Humans are Hardwired for War

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

Humans are not be predisposed to war, and armed conflict may be just a result of socialization or circumstances, R. Brian Ferguson argues in his landmark 2018 study, “Why We Fight.”

The Rutgers University anthropologist examined instances of war from the beginnings of recorded human history and selected evidence from archeological sites to each his conclusion that especially violent cases were isolated incidents and fewer than a quarter of the instances were acts of war.  While interpersonal and inter-group conflict may lead to violence, war-like violence is not a natural human tendency.

Ferguson found that the ambiguity of artifacts from early acts of violence prevents anthropologists from definitively determining whether cultures were war-like.  Ferguson also suggests humans did not inherit war-like tendencies from our chimpanzee relatives, but that chimpanzee acts of war were the result of human interaction.

He suggests that war is not natural but a socialized behavior. This contradicts hundreds of years of historical, anthropological, sociological, and psychological theories.


Brian Ferguson, “Why We Fight,” Scientific American, Volume 319, Issue 3, September 2018; online title, “War Is Not Part of Human Nature,” Scientific American, Sept.ember 1, 2018,

“No Scientific Proof That War Is Ingrained in Human Nature, According to Study,”, December 4, 2018,

Student Researcher: Izzy Snow (College of Marin)

Faculty Advisor: Susan Rahman (College of Marin)