Despite extensive coverage in the media of violent occurrences worldwide, a recent study conducted at Tel Aviv University has actually demonstrated with mathematical proof that as humanity progresses – the world is becoming less violent.
Dr. Jacob Bock Axelsen of the biomathematics unit at Tel Aviv University’s Department of Zoology has discovered that as the human population grows – violence declines. Axelsen uses a mathematical model to describe the correlation between population growth and a decline in violence levels.
“This result came from my project on global language diversity,” Axelsen tells NoCamels. “[The largest] civilizations [in the world] have passed, or will pass, the demographic transition and reach a constant population size sooner or later,” he says.
“The more a society progresses – the less violent it becomes”
According to his research, the more advanced and complex the society becomes, the more barriers against violence are put into place. In the western world, casualties from wars have dropped dramatically over time and homicide rates are falling. However, the study finds that hunter-gatherer societies were the most violent per individual, because they are less able to prevent spontaneously occurring violence and retaliation.
As a population grows, people need more space to live and work. Often this expansion only comes at the expense of their neighbors. This creates tension that often leads to violent confrontation, rewarding the victor with more land to accommodate its growing population. The stronger the fight is, the more land that is exchanged.
Typically, losing a war or experiencing population loss means the surrender of land. If the conflict strength is low this “squeezes” a society’s population into a smaller space and a corresponding higher density, says Axelsen. This is why the hard-fighting hunter-gatherers tend to be more and more spread out than South American groups which have a much lower level of violence and thus peacefully accept a higher population density.
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“Even when population growth stops – there will still be conflict”
As society progresses, population growth rates decline, and in some instances, come to a halt. “The globe actually already peaked in growth rate in the 1960s. So, the enormous number of people born presently is a property of a globally declining rate in a so called hyperbolic growth dynamic. It is not easy to predict how many people will live on the Earth, but it is easy to predict that the growth rate will drop to zero,” Axelsen tells NoCamels.
However, despite the correlation between population growth and violence, Axelsen does not see this as an absolute factor: “If our model holds [when population growth hits zero] it would mean no conflicts – but that is obviously very naive. There will be other reasons driving conflicts in the future.”
Axelsen conducted the study with fellow researchers Susanna C. Manrubia of the Centro de Astrobiología in Madrid and Damian Zanette of Bariloche in Argentina.
Photo by John Federico