Humans have a lot of wars. Regardless of the size or level of technological development of a group of us, we have a strong tendency to pick up weapons to go out and kill our neighbors.

Not all creatures on Earth behave like this. Animals like elephants and bonobos may fight or even kill each other from time to time, but all out wars do not occur. It seems that if such a race of creatures were to develop into an advanced, tool using society, they may form a society without war.

For a space-based RPG that I'm developing, I'd like to have just such a race of beings, but I'm unsure how evolving without war would shape both the creatures and the society. There are examples on Earth of non-warlike animals, but I'm unsure what causes these creatures to evolve this way or how a non-warlike nature would shape further development of an advanced civilization. If a race of sentient, sapient beings evolved without the need to go to war, what factors would shape and drive this evolution? What sort of evolutionary pathway would shape a race of pre-tool using creatures into an advanced society that does not fight wars, and in what major ways would the end being differ from a human?

  • $\begingroup$ So there's still violence, just no all-out war? $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Aug 20, 2015 at 18:06
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    $\begingroup$ Unless you count video games, I've never killed anyone. Does that make me not human? $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Aug 20, 2015 at 18:07
  • $\begingroup$ No wars for the duration of their history or simply that they have advanced to the point that they don't need to fight - answers for the latter are easier than answers for the former. $\endgroup$
    – Jax
    Aug 20, 2015 at 18:18
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe if your aliens developed intelligence without living in large groups, preferably in an environment where there were not many of them, and those existing had abundant ressources, you might get lucky and the individual members of the groups are individualistic enough not to be willing to march under a common banner. After all, to wage a war, you need soldiers. $\endgroup$
    – Burki
    Aug 21, 2015 at 9:20
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think this question can be answered until you define what warfare is, which is actually a really nuanced philosophical question. Is a high fever your body going to war against bacterial invaders? Is there verbal warfare? How about psychological warfare? On the other side, what about warfare that is something other than total warfare (such as warfare between nuclear countries that choose not to use their nukes)? Police actions? I find humans tend to move the bar for "war" as their culture shifts, but never remove it. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Dec 30, 2015 at 18:27

8 Answers 8


War happens for one of two reasons. The first is scarcity; when two groups of people both need something (e.g. Access to a vital water source or fertile hunting grounds) bad enough to fight over.

The second reason people fight is greed. Nation A has resources such as rich gold mines or abundant forests that Nation B wants. Nation B is stronger and the leaders of Nation B try to take said resource from Nation A.

To stop fights from breaking out you will have to remove both scarcity and envy/greed from a society. This is possible with the technology of an advanced space faring civilization (greater chance of reaching post-scarcity).

To get a species in which evolution does not favor competition they would have to have some sort of hive mentality - an ant colony does not generally have civil wars. Their ascension to dominance on their planet would involve a sort of super colony that slowly grew to encompass every colony/hive/nest on the planet.

I would imagine society would involve more individuality than an actual ant nest, with individuals linked mentally to a queen to keep them in line. Each queen might be linked to a sort of "super queen" for the same reasons with a single queen on the very top of the hierarchy.

  • $\begingroup$ Ants sound a lot like humans, and this scenario is more like "in the beginning of time there was series of wars that eliminated all future wars". So not really evolution without wars, they just destroyed all who are not "us". The same reason why humans are warring. $\endgroup$
    – Boat
    Jan 30, 2018 at 11:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Boat Not necessarily. For example, super colonies of wood ants have been known to form, with the largest of such colonies (also the largest ant colony in general) having upwards of a million queens (scribol.com/environment/animals-environment/…). Presuming the "ants" evolved in such a way that the original colony branches out and no new colonies form, war would not be necessary. Actual intelligence can evolve after world domination is achieved. $\endgroup$
    – Jax
    Feb 1, 2018 at 14:23

Violence but no war? The two are separated by scale and level of organization. War is simply organized violence between two social groups. There are two ways to prevent it from ever happening.

The species might be incapable of organized violence. If violence or threat of violence cause a strong emotional reaction that makes individuals incapable of large scale organization, the species will only have wars by proxy. It might use AIs or mercenaries. It might use underhanded methods and schemes to get results from smaller scale efforts at sufficient remove to enable rational planning. Some scifi settings have such species as an excuse for needing human mercenaries or giving humans a balancing factor for inferior technology.

The species might only have a single large social group. They would still be able to think "me first" and "me versus others". But they'd only have "us against them" to the level of small family groups. There would be no nations, tribes, political parties or organized religions. Just me, my family, and the species as a whole. The species might be unable to group people into friends and enemies, which would have interesting consequences as such divisions are fairly fundamental and very strong in Humans.


You could erase the reasons that war happens in the first place. That means you would have to think of a way for that race to exist without the need to ever go to war.

Some scenarios i can think of are:

  • Their world was always abundant/utopian and they coexisted peacefully with other organisms so their race evolved without the need for survival mechanisms.
  • They are all immortal and can die only if they wish to.
  • They are purely spectral beings and they cannot physically hurt one another so waging war is pointless.

I hope I helped you


Your creatures must have some biological or environmental factor that prevents exponential population growth when they develop technology and civilisation. This will prevent competition for scarce resources becoming cause for war. They also have to be more altruistic and less greedy than humans.

The first is the hard one. For an egg laying species, at least unwanted pregnancy ceases to be a factor. Now let's imagine there is an uneasy symbiosis with a tick-like creature that manufactures or injects some vital nutrient for its host, but which grows exponentially into a plague if the density of hosts becomes high. A bit hand wavy but it might work.

As for altruistic and less greedy I find myself imagining sentient house sparrows. They pair bond for life and bond strongly in small flocks like loose extended families. They are highly gregarious with other flocks and other species. And they have lots of "affairs" outside of their pair bond yet only death of the partner can break that bond. If that happens they do not grieve and bond almost immediately with any unattached sparrow of the opposite sex. The new pair will continue to raise any orphaned chicks. Chicks are cared for and taught by adults long after they leave the nest.

( if you want comprehensible but alien social structures, look at the birds we share our planet with. Above is just one of thousands).

You might also get an absence of war if the species were very strongly individual and capable of participating in a society only at a learned intellectual level. They could never accept orders for long enough to form any sort of army. You'd have (possibly ritualized) combat between individuals instead of wars. Hmm ... weren't Niven's Kzinti like this?


Suppressed ego allowing all members of the group to act primarily towards the common good.

Expanded social consciousness (monkeysphere), they would have to recognise every member of the species as part of their social group.

In times of shortage the group pulls together to survive. In times of plenty, when greed would become an issue, the reduced ego means that they rejoice in the increased prosperity of the group rather than the individual. Since all members of the species are automatically members of the group, they can't fight an internal war.

God help you if you pick a fight with them though, since a fight with one may well turn out to be a fight with all of them.


Wars are often fought for reasons that have nothing to do with economics - pride, vengeance, fear of being conquered ("a good offense is a good defense"), religion, culture, race (eugenics), lifestyle (individualism vs socialism), in some cases, a small event escalating to an out of control war and lastly, because people forget what a nightmare war can be, they may engage recklessly assuming it will be easy to "win", until they experience the hell of war again, and "remember".

In other words, your humans would have to be:

(1) Uncaring people that have no initiative, don't care if they get taken over by others, don't want anything, take no pride in their culture/religion/lifestyle/race/etc and don't mind if you come along and take their property or enslave them. That means they're either more like animals or doped up, stoned humans.

-or- if they do care, and they believe war is a bad thing, then:

(2) They have evolved excellent peacemaking skills - and culturally take pride in the skills of resolving differences and coming up with solutions where people can agree to live together in common cause. This would require the opposite of option 1 - a heavy amount of intelligence and wisdom combined with a the ability to convince others to change their minds. It also means that the vast majority are receptive to, and open to, thinking through the opinions of others, even if those other opinions evoke strong negative emotions.


(3) They're 100% logical - like Vulcans - and remove emotion from the process and focus on generating solutions to problems.


War is a way of dealing with exploitation - either a means to create exploitation (before, or after the initial reasoning to go to war) or a response to exploitation (seeking independence, emancipation, etc.)

What you have either a society that totally accepts exploitation without friction, or one that doesn't have it.

In the former, you might have an extreme caste system or some means of resolving conflicts that has no, or little bloodshed. This could be cultural - groups that are willing to accept exploitation (from minor lessened resources to out and out death) without fighting back, or it could be biological, like an alien species that falls into caste roles like bees or ants.

In the latter, you lack large scale exploitation. People have pointed out that without scarcity, this is a possibility, however, there's many situations where we have engineered scarcity in our societies, so it is more based on the desire/inclination for exploitation than the availability of resources. Again, this could be cultural - an enlightened society where the members have risen above the need to dominate, harm, or take from others, but it's probably easier to consider a biological situation - a hivemind, or evolved colony creatures.


instinct. a for knowledge that war leads to extinction. a biological fluke that gives an added human need for survival.Not to take away from any experience of being human but to add to the Wonder of Being.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Hi Brian, welcome to Worldbuilding SE, I see this is your first answer. I hope you don't if I make a few suggestions about improving your answer. The OP asked for evolutionary reasons for a non-war civilisation. Could you give more details about possible knowledge of extinction and how the biological fluke might work? Show more of your reasoning, please. Meanwhile have fun here. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Aug 19, 2016 at 13:25

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