Would it be outside the realm of possibility for a species to develop with no major species competition for land/food and grow into a society of peace and cooperation?

I've been trying to develop a realistic non-violent species and I'm stuck on ways/circumstances that would realistically produce a society of peace-loving people.

I researched animal behaviours from bats to foxes and lemurs and I found it interesting that vampire bats exhibit seemingly compassionate behaviours. Being observed to give food and comfort to other bats, injured, elderly and even bats outside their own colonies.

I wonder if I could base philosophies and thought patterns around the thinking of bats. I wanted to explore whether bat-thinking is different enough from humans to forego inconsistencies with typically human behaviours. Ergo; a society with no need to fight over resources because of a mutual understanding and compassion for one another.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding. Utopians are discussing this topic for centuries, and still no agreement has been reached. I don't see how this question can avoid to be opinion based. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Jan 8 '18 at 17:51
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    $\begingroup$ "A society of peace and cooperation" "with no military or defense force" at what level of development? Recognizably military structures appeared quite late in the development of human civilizations, a little after the development of the first cities; and those military organizations were meant for offense, not defense. Not even ancient Rome, the one and only Rome, had any kind of permanent defensive force until the 4th century BCE or so; before that they assembled and army when needed ("legio" from "lego", I choose, hence "a selection" of men) and disbanded it when the war was over. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jan 8 '18 at 20:38
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    $\begingroup$ Do you mean a non-violent species among themselves or also to the rest of the world? $\endgroup$ – D.J. Klomp Jan 8 '18 at 20:39
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    $\begingroup$ I definitely have to agree that this has to be opinion based because the search for such a peace-loving people hasn't borne fruit in a few millennia. However, if you are truly interested in exploring deeper into this question, may I recommend exploring what the term "non-violent" means to you. It seems easy at first, because we typically have an intuitive sense of violent or not, but we don't all agree on where the line is drawn. The "I'm not touching you" game may be a good place to explore where the usefulness of the term "non-violent" reaches its limits. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Jan 8 '18 at 21:00
  • $\begingroup$ Also worth noting, there are many martial arts which seek to find peaceful resolutions to all arguments. They have developed many clever approaches which may be useful in your search. They also tend to have clear limits to their approach (at which point they break bones and draw blood), and those limits can serve as an inspiration as well. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Jan 8 '18 at 21:02

Some preliminary elaboration

As a preliminary matter, I think your original sources overstated how friendly vampire bats are. I didn't know much about vampire bats, but the idea they had no fighting between them struck me as so weird, I looked it up. The males at least fight "viciously" to defend certain things, such as position in some nests, which in turn are likely to lead to mating opportunities. While they absolutely cooperate and share food, it mostly occurs between closely related individuals or individuals who have spent time forming social bonds with each other. Those are cases where even self-interest would dictate sharing since those with close bonds to them already are likely to reciprocate later when they needed it.

A society without need for some sort of defense force requires very narrow circumstances.

Mutual understanding and cooperation by itself is not enough. In nature, it is not uncommon to run into situations where there are simply not enough resources to go around. When the pressure is such that some members of a society will not get enough to meet their needs, there will be competition along some axis for those resources and if we are talking about needs rather than desires no amount of compassion and understanding can avoid that competition because someone ends up missing something they need and they will have enormously powerful incentives to compete to get it.

We can readily imagine a society in which that competition is moved to non-violent means. A sapient species will almost surely strive to minimize the violence in its competition because violence tends to cause collateral damage. Even in nature between predators most "fights" really involve more threat displays than true all out fights because it is costly for all involved to have a true fight. But when something needed is scarce there will have to be a very strong enforcement mechanism to prevent it from occasionally escalating to violence when the deprived member becomes desperate. Unless the species has developed either genetically or culturally (possibly through religion?) an enormously strong strain towards self-sacrifice to the point that almost all are willing to die rather than engage in violence, violence will likely occur. To avoid this, a society could ensure that all members can get everything they need perhaps through population control.

Given this alone, it is possible, but fairly unlikely, to develop a society with no violence. It would almost have to be sapient and it would need to ensure the resources were always adequate to meet the needs of all members. This is difficult.

The other factor is that even if this society is internally peaceful, to continue thriving it would need to make sure there were no external threats against which it would need to protect itself. There are a number of ways this could be achieved including isolation from all serious threats. But this is a significant constraint.

In short, yes its possible, but only under narrow circumstances.

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Violent, territorial and defensive behaviour has evolved in most animals due to limited resources and a willingness to survive and procreate. Resources will always be limited since populations will grow until they exhaust the supply. Animals living peacefully next to each other will always be in slightly different ecological niches (prefer different kinds of grass, fruits, etc.). Social and compassionate behaviour are just a "further" development of evolution and the beneficial attributes of living in safe organised groups.

You can be an optimist and hope that humankind at one point will learn to get along with each other or re-write the evolutionary basis of your species.

Since as stipulated social behaviour stems from deeper evolutionary behaviour you would need to take away the reason for a species to fight over resources. This would mean that your species would need to be able to survive on a resource that if you consume it doesn't hamper the other individual, or at least he can't do anything about it. The first thing that would come to mind is whales (the plankton eating kind), they eat plankton and so can't really defend or deny other species that resource. Procreation can lead to fights, (don't know for whales) but by procreation by shooting sperm into the water in the hope a female species getting pregnant should alleviate this problem. Having no natural predators would help in having no defensive behaviour instinct.

I think other resources with this kind of characteristic can work as well but I can't think of any.

EDIT: Your vampires bats are actually a nice example, their "peace loving" behaviour stem from the fact that they need to eat every night otherwise they die but the changes that the are always successful in hunting is only 2/3 (can't find the link to the New Scientist article about this). The other 1/3 of the nights they need to get the food from successful hunters thus creating a need to be sociable. This might indeed be a nice way of forcing social behaviour that you can use, I only wander what happens when groups of bats collide.

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One very good example of such a non-violent species which may surprise you.


Humans originally were hunter-gatherers. They had a low population, which maintained itself for the first hundred ninety thousand years by limiting their birthrate (probably through natural family planning or some similar mechanism) to one birth every four years or so. This was due to their nomadic lifestyle and limited transport capability. Four-year-olds can keep up with the tribe on its migrations, whereas smaller children will need to be carried--in a tribe without domesticated animals, all burdens must be carried on human back. A single infant could be carried, but more would burden the mother too much to afford to have her carry any of the tribe's possessions.

Studies of modern-day hunter-gatherer tribes indicate that the average human in such cases would work about twenty hours a week (less than one hour per meal) and spend the rest of the time relaxing. Singing, dancing, joking, caring for children and old people, worshipping whatever deities they believed in, and fiddling with art and new technologies filled in the non-sleep (and breeding) hours.

According to Jared Diamond's treatment (the name escapes me), this did not change until the invention of beer. Beer was a resource-intensive, manpower-intensive consumer product. Very little could be made at one time because it cut so far into the already full social economy of the tribe's off-hours. However, one tribal leader (call him Nimrod) decided to have the tribe plant barley for his beer. Now the tribe had to stay in one location to watch the barley. They soon hunted out all available local game, so rather than have them starve, the leader fed them on excess barley. This was successful because one acre under the plow produces up to ten times the calories of the same acre under forage.

Soon the people had to build permanent shelters to house the population. With no worries about traveling with small children, the women could breed more often, and the excess population was used as field workers to expand the acreage in barley. Excess populations are restive, so the leader made some of the fighting men his guards and enforcers, promising them a larger share of the grain for their services.

Leaders with guards are kings. The shaman was co-opted by having all his material needs provided by the king, with no need to hunt or farm. In exchange, he was to pray to the grain god (which now became the chief god) for fertility and high yields in both farm and womb. Walls were erected to protect the fields from animals and floods, and later from other farming tribes. Forests were cut down to clear more fields, and animals fled the destruction of their habitat, increasing the dependence on grain-based calories.

Generations passed. The priest now employed lesser priests and acolytes to spread the word that loyalty to the king would butter up the grain god and ensure a good harvest, as would paying tithes to the king and making sacrifices (of grain, natch) to the god. There grew up children who had never known any other place than the farm village, and the outside world began to grow scary. Since the children (and their parents) were raised with increasingly fewer forest skills, wandering off from the safety of the village became far less survivable, and far more dangerous. The Other gradually became a hideous threat.

As more and more emphasis was placed on the harvest, the slow and sick became devalued and despised, much less the willful shirker ("If a man worketh not, neither let him eat"). As single-crop farming wore out the land, necessitating war to gain less-infertile territory, yields dropped, and those who could no longer contribute became more and more often euthanized. With a less-diverse, nutrient-poor diet, disease grew rampant (not helped by the use of human faeces as fertilizer) and infant mortality soared. And all these problems were (of course) caused by foreigners, witches (insiders with outsider loyalty--today called radicals or domestic terrorists), and insufficient submission to the god(s). And so it continued, nasty brutish and short, up till the present day.

All because of beer.

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  • $\begingroup$ This seems like more of a counter-example to me. As soon as society progresses to the point of long-term stability (i.e. crops, permanent buildings, personal possessions), people have a vested interest in preserving that stability and will do so with force. Your depiction of the nomadic hunter-gatherers' lifestyle is also entirely free of scarcity, which is the entire reason they're nomadic in the first place. $\endgroup$ – Nuclear Wang Jan 8 '18 at 20:51
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    $\begingroup$ At what evolutionary point do you think groups of humans stopped competing for resources? Its not like our relatives, the great apes, all live in some sort of state of nonviolent harmony. There is no question that chimpanzees have the capability to make war and have done so on occasion. $\endgroup$ – Dent7777 Jan 8 '18 at 20:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Dent7777 seems like the point is that humans can compete for resources without violence being the first answer in the toolbox. The answer makes no claim that humans are completely non-violent. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Jan 8 '18 at 21:14
  • $\begingroup$ @user535733 I would argue that aggression and violence is part of the human condition, and that violence and especially the threat of violence is a constant part of the majority of Earth's population's daily life. $\endgroup$ – Dent7777 Jan 8 '18 at 21:23
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    $\begingroup$ @Dent7777 no argument about the merit of beer-based human development, but that's off-topic. The question is specifically about violence, so here's some data that criminal violence has generally declined and while war death indeed increased before 1945, but new international institutions have caused a dramatic decrease in war deaths since. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Jan 8 '18 at 21:39

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