Parochialism, Altruism, and War
Who trusted God was love indeedAnd love Creation’s final lawTho’ Nature, red in tooth and clawWith ravine, shriek’d against his creed.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson,In memoriam, A.H.H.
(1849) Canto 56
For Alfred, Lord Tennyson, love and religious fealty were man’s triumph over a violent and recalcitrant Nature. But late 19th century scientists as diverse as Charles Darwin (1998) and Karl Pearson (1894) recognized war as a powerful evolutionary force that paradoxically might account for social solidarity among humans and altruism toward the fellow members of one’s group. The previous chapter confirmed that intergroup conflict may have contributed to the evolution of altruism.
Did Lord Tennyson get it wrong?