Biological and Evolutionary Approaches

Some biological anthropologists tie war and aggression to male biology. Konner (1988, p. 33) argues that "testosterone is a key" to aggression. Wrangham and

Peterson (1996) describe male apes as innately "demonic," needing restraint by females.

Empirical evidence offers mixed support for these biological approaches. Men's biology favors them for fighting in several ways. On average, men are larger and stronger than women—though men's and women's bell-curve distributions overlap. Men's spatial abilities, modestly higher than women's on average, might also slightly help men in war. Testosterone does not cause aggression, but it does play complex roles in male social behavior regarding winning and losing (which are relevant to war) in humans and other primates. These biological differences explain why most combatants would be male. But none can explain the near-total exclusion of women from combat, since a minority of women are stronger, more spatially adept, and more competitive than most men (Goldstein, 2001, pp. 128-182).

Efforts to adduce an evolutionary basis for gender roles in war—in terms of reproductive advantage—have been controversial. Some scholars see male warfare as mainly about competition for females. In Harris's (1974, pp. 83-107) "male supremacist complex," war limits population relative to scarce natural resources by putting a premium on raising boys, and thus lowering girls' survival rates. The idea that males are expendable from an evolutionary perspective is problematical. In theory, in polygynous societies a few men can impregnate many women. But if many men die in war, labor resources diminish and fewer babies survive to reproductive age.

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