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Could humans have inherited murderous tendencies?

LONDON, DECEMBER 13:  A hunting knife is held by an employee at a film and television prop company December 13, 2004 in London, England. Families of stabbing victims have called on the government to make carrying a knife as serious an offence as carrying a gun, with a minimum five-year jail term for carrying a knife with a blade longer than three inches. (Photo Illustration by Ian Waldie/Getty Images)
Ian Waldie/Getty Images
A hunting knife is held by an employee at a film and television prop company December 13, 2004 in London, England.

A recent study, published in the journal Nature, found that humans “have inherited a propensity for violence.”

A recent study, published in the journal Nature, found that humans “have inherited a propensity for violence.”

As reported by the Associated Press, the study took a look at phylogenetics, or the genetic closeness between species, to find out if humans could have inherited murderous tendencies. Results showed that the more closely related species are, the more similarly violent they are as well. And the level of violence a species has, in both humans and primates, depends on how violent their society is. So would chimpanzees wipe each other out if they could use guns? More than likely, the answer is yes, but only among their own close-knit groups.

But humans have become less violent throughout history, and that may be due to cultural, ecological or social factors.

So how could we inherit these murderous tendencies and what makes us different from primates that genetically resemble humans? Larry speaks to anthropology professor and reviewer of the study, Michael Wilson, to find out.

Guest: 

Michael Wilson, associate professor of anthropology, with a joint appointment in the department of ecology, evolution and behavior at the University of Minnesota; he reviewed the study, “The phylogenetic roots of human lethal violence” for the journal Nature.

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