Most people who think about astronomy and related themes would agree that the American humourist Woody Allen posed the essential question: “Is anybody out there? And do they have ray guns?” The physicist Enrico Fermi (1901-1954) raised this essential paradox: the abundance of planets and star systems in the universe raises a high probability of the existence of intelligent life. And there is no evidence of this intelligent life whatsoever, none. So where have all the Alien Civilisations gone?
One very plausible scenario is that they have self- destructed, probably with the aid of weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear bombs or biological agents. The rapid evolution of technology equips evolving societies with these weapons, which their biological impulses of aggression then impel them to use.
There can be little doubt that tribal aggression is deeply wired into our own species. In her masterly book Political Tribes, Amy Chua provides a tour de force summary of the effect of tribalism and the wars of destruction which it has unleashed throughout history. Perhaps her most telling quote is
The great Enlightenment principles of modernity, liberalism, secularism, rationality and equality do not provide the kind of tribal identity that most humans crave.
The Enlightenment may be OK for the elite one per cent of the population. Of what happened when the American part of that elite tried to apply them in Iraq, she is scathing:
(Bush and his advisors believed) that ethnic, tribal and sectarian divisions would dissipate in the face of democracy and market generated wealth…..
Holiday in Iraq, anyone? It’s the mark of a good author that she gathers evidence of more and more cases , explaining the true causes of American failures in Vietnam and Afghanistan. The latter is a key exemplar of how Marxist solutions break down in the face of tribalism, as students of the late Soviet Union will confirm. The recent consequences of this tribalism in western societies is well discussed by Professor Kaufman in Whiteshift.
For those who want good evidence of the psychological and biological roots of tribalism, the literature is vast. To get you started, we shall point to the famous Robbers Cave experiments , which we link below. The essential point here is that researchers were shocked at how easy it was to initiate inter- tribal aggression, and how hard to dissipate it subsequently.
And where might it now express itself at an International Level? Current flashpoints are not hard to find: tensions between Russia and NATO in the Baltic States; Israel and Iran; India and Pakistan- all are areas where hostile tribes confront each other with weapons of unimaginable power. Perhaps the most worrying of all is Asia, where a declining United States seeks to maintain its interests and alliances in the face of a rising China. Anyone who has attended a football match, or the pubs around one, knows how quickly reckless uncontrolled violence can be unleashed by the most trivial slights. Both football supporters and national security councils are made up of humans.
So far, we are still here; and the aliens are not. They must have evolved from the same sorts aggressive biological ancestors that we did. Are we programmed to repeat their fate?
Amy Chua Political Tribes Bloomsbury
Eric Kaufman Whiteshift Penguin
#tribalism #politicaltribes #whiteshift #nuclearwar