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Introduction

Below is a famous clip of Muhammad Ali talking about ethnic/racial identity and in-group preference. It’s only three minutes long but the relevant quotes are written below if you don’t want to watch the full video.

  • Interviewer: “Societies made us [human races] different”
  • Ali: “No, not society, God made us different-“
  • I: “No, no, we’re all just human beings, he made all of us!”
  • A: “Listen, blue birds fly with blue birds, red birds wanna be with red birds, pigeons wanna be with pigeons. […] They’re all birds but they’ve got different cultures.”
  • I: “I just think it’s sad that…”
  • A: “It ain’t sad that I want my child to look like me, every intelligent person wants his child to look like him! I’m sad because I want to blot out my race and lose my beautiful identity? Chinese love Chinese, Pakistanis love their culture, Jewish people love their culture […] who want to spot up yourself and kill your race? You’re a hater of your people if you don’t want to stay who you are, you’re ashamed of what God made you, God didn’t make no mistakes. […] You can do what you want, but it’s nature to wanna be with your own. I wanna be with my own, I love my people, I don’t hate nobody.”

Everything that Ali said is undeniably true: Tribalistic behavior is completely natural and found in almost every living species on earth. Regardless of whether you believe in evolution or creationism, this is observable reality. In a sane society, nobody would take issue with anything that Ali said in this video. Unfortunately, we do not live in a sane society. We live in a deeply disturbed world, where our perception of reality is being torn apart by nefarious elites, politically motivated academics, and their legions of depraved, neurotic followers. The basic facts of nature — that tribe, ethnicity, and race are the building blocks of human social organization — are flat-out denied by way of convoluted pseudoscientific babble or aggressively undermined with extreme social engineering and indoctrination.

These days, people need to read 50 officially-sanctioned studies written by Trusted Experts™ to know that water is wet and the sky is blue, but it is always useful to know that the science is on our side — the actual science, not The Science™. I’ve compiled a handful of interesting studies on the subject of in-group preference in the animal kingdom, mostly focused on monkeys and primates, since they’re our closest relatives.

The Studies

As stated in Evolutionary models of in-group favoritism (2015), “in-group favoritism is widely observed in non-humans […] ranging from primates to microbes.” Studies on animal in-group preference often focus on large, group-living animals, such as monkeys, dolphins, meerkats, and elephants, and investigate various aspects of social organization, such as grooming, companionship, territorialism, within-group resource sharing, and between-group conflict.

In 2011, a collaborative team of Harvard and Yale scientists conducted the “first controlled experiments to examine the presence of intergroup attitudes in a nonhuman species” in a study titled The Evolution of Intergroup Bias: Perceptions and Attitudes in Rhesus Macaques. It provided the first conclusive evidence that a non-human species “automatically distinguishes the faces of members of its own social group from those in other groups and displays greater vigilance toward outgroup members.” They found that “macaques, like humans, automatically evaluate ingroup members positively and outgroup members negatively.” Moreover, macaques were found to “spontaneously associate novel objects with specific social groups and display greater vigilance to objects associated with outgroup members.” This reflects human behavior concerning religious symbology, national flags, and other cultural identifiers. The study concluded that the tribalism (i.e “racism”) found throughout the primate world is “rooted in phylogenetically ancient mechanisms.”

Robert Sapolsky, a Liberal, Jewish professor of neurobiology at Stanford University, has spent his entire life studying primate tribalism, aiming to uncover the biological basis of human tribalism. Much like a Medieval siege engineer spends his entire life studying castle wall architecture, Sapolsky’s only interest in tribalism is its absolute destruction. In an exasperated 2018 telephone interview [archive] with Pacific Standard, he concluded that:

“Primates are hard-wired for us/them dichotomies. Our brains detect them in less than 100 milliseconds. Our views about things are driven by implicit (unconscious) processes. It’s depressing as hell. A hormone like oxytocin makes you nicer to “us” and crappier to “them.” What hormones are good at is magnifying things that are already there. That tells you that ‘us and them’ is a fundamental fault line in our brains.”

His statement has been corroborated by countless scientific studies. For example, Giving is self-rewarding for monkeys (2008) found that capuchins are selectively kind and generous towards members of their own group: “[pro-social behavior] increased with social closeness, being lowest toward strangers and highest toward kin.” The study concluded that as long as certain criteria are met (e.g. that the primates belong to the same tribal in-group), “delivering benefits to others seems gratifying to nonhuman primates.”

Evolutionary models of in-group favoritism (2015) noted that “[between-group] interactions often involve hostile competition, such as red fire ants that kill others with different odor cues, and competitive mating of side-blotched lizards with different morph colors. In contrast, within-group interactions are more likely to be cooperative with (sub) group members in the same territory/nest/site.”

Perhaps the most renowned example of between-group competition among primates is the Gombe Chimpanzee War (1974–1978), a four-year conflict between two neighboring chimp tribes, dubbed Kasakela and Kahama. The victorious Kasakela tribe killed all of the males of the Kahama, expanding into their territory. This brought them into contact with another tribe, the Kalande, who attacked them in border skirmishes, forcing the Kasakela to retreat. The conflict finally ended when each chimp tribe settled into their own territorial regions. Jane Goodall, the primatologist who studied the conflict, was most astonished by the brutality of the attacks between the tribes; she previously believed that chimps were “rather nicer” than humans.

Initially, Goodall’s findings were not widely accepted and she was even accused of instigating violent conflict within a “naturally peaceful” society due to her interactions with the chimps. However, she was vindicated by later scientific studies. For example, Lethal aggression in Pan (2014) recorded every chimp killing at every study site in Africa and found that 60% of all chimp-on-chimp deaths were the result of between-group violence committed by males. One of the study’s authors, Michael Wilson, said that the evidence they gathered “suggests that chimpanzees just do this naturally.”

Chimps are by no means the only animals to wage large-scale or prolonged warfare. Within-species turf wars are common among many group-living animals, including meerkats, lions, and wolves. An interesting study by the University of Minnesota’s Voyageurs Wolf Project used GPS collars to track the movements of six wolf packs around Voyageurs National Park. The animation below demonstrates that wolves are intensely territorial and generally avoid encroaching on other packs (unless food resources become scarce, in which case they go to war). It also disproves the ridiculous myth that borders are nothing more than “arbitrary and meaningless lines on a map.”


Ants provide an interesting wildcard example of within-species warfare. According to the tropical biologist Mark Moffett, “when considering the often-striking similarities between humans and social insects, one fascinating parallel is the existence of warfare in both” (Smithsonian, 2019). He described battles among ants as “startlingly similar to human military operations” (Ants & the Art of War, 2011). In 1981, a study on honey ants found that opposing colonies “defend spatiotemporal borders” and “access to temporal food sources” through elaborate display tournaments. The study claims that “almost no physical fights” occur at these tournaments, which involve hundreds of each colony’s largest ants confronting each other in “highly sterotyped [sic] aggressive displays.” However, Moffett (2019) did note that “the larger the [ant colony], the more diverse — and extreme — the aggressive responses to outsiders can be.”

Finally, a 2020 study on chimps, published in the International Journal of Primatology, found that between-group competition enhances in-group cohesion. In other words, the more border patrols and conflicts that a chimp troop engages in, the more tightly-knight their community becomes.

“In-group cohesion is an essential component of successful intergroup competition in both human and nonhuman animals, likely facilitating group members access to potential benefits. […] Intergroup competition, or hostility between different social groups, is apparent across human societies and regularly observed in many group-living primate and nonprimate species. […] In territorial species with intergroup contest competition, collective group defense is crucial for maintaining a territory and for group members to access resources associated with territories. […] in many species, including humans, collective action and strength in numbers are key during intergroup conflicts […] our findings indicate that the link between out-group hostility and competition, and in-group solidarity and cohesion is shared between humans and chimpanzees.”

This is a particularly important study, as it highlights that ‘xenophobia’ (“racism”) is not a “human construct” or “learned behavior” but an important evolutionary strategy for group survival.

Sources