7
$\begingroup$

In a previous question on my purely peaceful, 100% pacifist species, I asked about how to remove all defining characteristics for sexuality yet still retaining sapience. As was pointed out, I had asked the wrong question about these beings. I should have been asking how a 100% pacifist species could even evolve in the first place, even cows and giraffes will become violent if provoked, how do a race of pacifists survive against a tiger or bear? There will be predators, those predators will evolve to eat them. They will need some form of defense.

How can a species evolve that lacks a sense of violence, aggression or, for lack of better terminology, a sense of fight? Or, to put it better, how can I hope to evolve purely pacifist intelligence?

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Put them on a world without predators. $\endgroup$ – Marshall Tigerus Nov 8 '16 at 18:20
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @MarshallTigerus not evolutionarily possible $\endgroup$ – TrEs-2b Nov 8 '16 at 18:38
  • $\begingroup$ Make them the wordl! $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Nov 8 '16 at 18:51
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ 100% is a brutal number to throw around. It has a horrid tendency of destroying any hope you ever had of an answer, and causes all sorts of complexities. Accordingly, can you define "pacifist" in sufficiently concrete terms as to permit exploration of what a 100% probability could mean. The definition is going to have to be pretty exacting. Too loose, and the answer will be in the form of a loophole. Too tight, and the answer will be that it provably cannot be done. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Nov 8 '16 at 19:13
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This comment is not a reality check in any way but this reminds me of the Nox (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mythology_of_Stargate#Nox) which are so peaceful that they even resurrect the guy trying to kill them. Their means of defence sum up to being hidden. All the time. To the point where the bad guy mistake some fauna for them. What is helping them, big time, is the ability to be invisible and immortal but you could manage some similar results by 'just' making them really good to hide. $\endgroup$ – Riff Nov 9 '16 at 8:54
12
$\begingroup$

There are examples in any ecosystem of animals which are completely non aggressive. Unfortunately, the place they hold in the food chain is almost always near the bottom. (Think: Krill, certain small fish species, some insects). The way such organisms succeed is by maximizing their ability to reproduce to such an extent that they continue to repopulate even in the face of continual predation.

Your question could lead to an interesting concept: it is generally assumed that any sapient species would obviously be the top of its local food chain, but what if there were such a species at the very bottom? Off the top of my head, I would say that a way to rapidly transmit information among members of the species would be paramount, so as to allow continued technological and social advancement in the face of continual losses to the population as a whole. Probably reproduction would be both hard wired into social behavior and a very strong social norm to ensure as many beings survive as possible. They may have social norms that we would consider extremely Darwinian and harsh, based on fitness criteria, and little attachment to their offspring. In fact, it may seem unnatural to them to be in an environment where they have no natural competition, so they may even seed their extra-planetary colonies/ships with dangerous fauna on purpose (sort of like a twist on the Predator aliens seeding planets with species that are good for hunting for their own cultural reasons).

Culturally, they would probably value communal achievement to such an extent that individual achievement would mean very little to them. Also, without any aggressive instinct, their social structure might be extremely primitive compared to their overall technological level (depending on whether you view conflict to be natural to social organizational advancement or not). In our history, inefficient organizational concepts for society tended to lose out in competition that generally took the form of warfare. This forced civilizations to adopt more efficient social structures. In their civilization, this process would be completely absent, so they may have very advanced physical technology and completely primitive social (political) technology.

Obviously their only response to the need to deal with warfare on any level would be to ramp up re population efforts until the aggressor grew tired of attacking them.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is excellent. Makes me think of a rapidly breeding species that quells predators by consciously letting its weaker members be preyed upon. $\endgroup$ – Kys Nov 8 '16 at 21:55
  • $\begingroup$ Very interesting idea! $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Nov 9 '16 at 8:30
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ R strategy species (lots of young) will almost never develop sapience. Intellect is expensive and only worth investing in if your going to take time to train the skill up to the point that it provides enough of a reproductive advantage to justify the large expense. If your species isn't raising and teaching it's young properly they won't benefit form increased intellect of sapience and so it's better to have more, stupider, young $\endgroup$ – dsollen Nov 10 '16 at 18:42
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Yep. I'd suggest you put that comment under the OP though. As far as I can tell; "100% pacifist" species is essentially an "R strategy species". I make no claim about the LIKELIHOOD such a thing would ever occur. $\endgroup$ – JBiggs Nov 10 '16 at 18:50
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Not to mention that from an outsider perspective in engaging in communication, the individual you speak with might not be the same one from meeting to meeting. "Oh you meant Bob#14, yeah he got eaten. I'm Bob#15. Don't worry I know everything he knew." "Wait, 14? 15? How many of you guys have I talked to?" "Fifteen." $\endgroup$ – Draco18s May 15 '17 at 13:32
8
$\begingroup$

Let's say the "100%" is a bit of hyperbole, propaganda sent around by this species to help them join the Federation. Let's say they're 95% pacifist. How could they develop intelligence?

Well, make them abject cowards. At the first sign of a fight, they run and hide. They climb trees, they duck into caves, they dig themselves burrows, and they stay the hell out of the way of whatever is gunning for them. Put them in the right environment, and you've got a pretty decent selective pressure for them to develop problem-solving skills to figure out the safest place for them to hide.

The archetypal species of this kind are the Pierson's Puppeteers from Larry Niven's Known Space series. They're a species of biological cowards, herd animals whose first instinct is to flee from a fight. Their political leader is called the Hindmost; the only members of their species that willingly interact with off-worlders are the mentally ill.

Your species could also make a good living as parasitic scavengers. A species of scrawny carrion eaters who follow an apex predator around so they can feast on the scraps the predator leaves behind could have access to foods rich in the fats and proteins needed to build a big brain, along with a selective pressure to develop the brains needed to get the most out of their meal. In time, they might also learn to guide their attack dog towards juicier prey - technical pacifists, who are horrified at the thought of killing or fighting, and instead set you up to be killed by another.

Your species could be stereotypical hyenas (not real ones, just the way they're perceived in the wider world) - cunning but cowardly scavengers, manipulating others to do their dirty work and growing fat on the profits, but fleeing from any conflict.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Really good answer, and a great take on the subject. I enjoyed reading your post. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Nov 8 '16 at 21:58
  • $\begingroup$ Yep, top answer so far $\endgroup$ – user21263 Nov 9 '16 at 10:09
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Then they might have other changes too, like Sam from Freefall they might think theft is completely normal way to behave even virtuous. $\endgroup$ – John Dec 2 '16 at 23:37
2
$\begingroup$

Make them absolutely unique in their environment. Something which no other animal wants to screw with, pardon my french.

Maybe they're the biggest things around, and nothing else has a chance of taking on down.

Or maybe their meat is insanely toxic, and would kill anything which tried to eat it. It just occurred to me that being a pacifist doesn't necessarily make it healthy to be around said species. Maybe these things give off a very repellent, slightly toxic odor or smell (think skunks) which really encourages other animals to stay away.

Furthermore, maybe these animals accomplish a very important task for other species. For example, maybe there's a very poisonous, and aggressive species of plant which would suffocate the life out of entire forests, and these creatures are the only ones who can consume it and keep it in check. Areas where these creatures were hunted out would slowly be overwhelmed, and their inhabitants die, thus other creatures either learned to leave your species alone, or die.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If they survival is ensured, why would they evolve intelligence? $\endgroup$ – PatJ Nov 8 '16 at 19:48
  • $\begingroup$ @PatJ - i never said their survival is ensured, only that they wouldn't get attacked by predators. Natural disasters, and diseases are still threats. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Nov 8 '16 at 19:56
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Wherever one of these traits occurs, wouldn't other species would evolve to take advantage of it? Thinking something similar to how mongooses (mongeese?) are relatively immune to snake venom, enabling them to hunt snakes that would otherwise kill them. $\endgroup$ – Kys Nov 8 '16 at 21:52
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Kys - this is the OP's magical fantasy land, not mine $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Nov 8 '16 at 21:55
  • $\begingroup$ @AndreiROM Very true. I think any solution will have to have some loophole in it, or else we would be living in that world. $\endgroup$ – Kys Nov 8 '16 at 21:57
2
$\begingroup$

I'm adding this, since I'm surprised that nobody has come up with the Babel fish approach (see Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) - be unbelievably useful to some violent sentient creature, but in a pacifist manner.

I'll come up with an example case to clarify.

Let's say that there is some volcanic planet with tons of variation in atmospheric conditions. These conditions create small zones, and almost all species adapt to live in just one zone. On one side of the planet, an extremely violent and powerful species (Species A) develops intelligence, but they are limited to their zone. On the other side of the planet, Species B develops. Species B possesses the ability to convert atmospheric compounds into other atmospheric compounds. They use this ability to survive and thrive on their side of the planet, since they had to develop intelligence in order to fully exploit their amazing mobility in such a complex environment. Species B is pacifist and can survive as pacifists since they can create inhospitable environments to defend themselves. It's hard to kill something when you can't even breathe when you're within 5 miles of them. No predators develop which can do the same trick, since the mechanism is too inefficient and too slow. Species A and B are initially separated by some significant barrier.

Sometime after both species develop sentience, an explorer, Bob, from Species B enters Species A territory and makes first contact with an individual of Species A, Adam. This occurs at the very edge of what Species A considers 'habitable' space, an area where the atmospheric compounds are too 'bitter' for Adam to survive long. Adam grabs Bob and prepares to eat him, but realizes at the last second that the air has become much 'sweeter' near 'Bob'. Adam realizes how useful this is and then goes out exploring in previously impossible regions, carrying a terrified Bob with him. Adam quickly discovers that Bob is sentient, and they establish some form of arrangement with Bob where Adam protects and feeds Bob while Bob makes the air 'sweet' for Adam. Adam and Bob work together to create a super-tribe of incredibly-mobile Species A warriors, whose superior mobility enables them to conquer all non-union Species A and B's.

The alliance is forged, and now we have the sweet spot for a sentient, pacifist species. Species B's best survival strategy from here on is to be completely passive and just work together with Species A. Also, Species B doesn't have evolutionary pressure to devolve sentience, since ensuring 'sweet' air for Species A is very mentally-challenging. Species A has no incentive to try and develop machines to replace Species B since Species B is really, really good at what they do, cost almost nothing to maintain, and are extremely pleasant companions.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

does it have to be natural evolution? they could have messed with their own genome. the only animals that have no aggressive behavior have little chance to evolve intelligence, either they breed to fast to be able to waste resources on intelligence, , or they are so difficult to kill they never needed to evolve social behavior, ex: turtles.
Part of evolving intelligence is having a wide range of behavior, even Niven's famous puppeteers were violent under the right circumstances, they just a massive pervasive cultural bias against violence. Which is actually quite believable, and it is fairly easy to imagine a species that is less violent than humans.

Now image such a species with access to genetic engineering they might eliminate violent behavior entirely that way. So start with a low aggression species and then let the mess with their own genome too much.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

How about "The Meek Inherit The Earth"? They could be the only large animal species left on their planet; so they eat plants and invertebrates like worms. There were aggressive species at one time, but recall how dinosaurs on Earth came to the end, but the ancestor of us humans survived: All the big animals died in the asteroid strike and subsequent nuclear winter. Our ancestor (and long before anything like primates existed) was most likely nocturnal and living in burrows.

So, say some similar but worse natural disaster befalls your planet; and the only surviving animals were prey, not very aggressive in the first place, highly social, vegetarians. Without predators, the smarter among them are selected as leaders because of their ability to find food and shelter in the post-disaster hell scape.

Say they have a natural deference to such leaders, and (as we already see in wolf packs IRL) only the 'best' are allowed to mate; the rest of the pack jointly cares for the young. (In wolves, the alpha male and alpha female are chosen by aggression, but presume in this non-aggressive species, all that mattered was the intellectual ability to solve survival problems).

High intelligence develops; the evolutionary pressure for millions of years is just making a living in scorched rubble; but their species is so social that all of them see themselves as subservient to the group, even the leaders are not self-centered or focused on personal gain or reproduction, reproduction is something they do if and when their group is shrinking. But their "love" is always for the group; not for each other.

Although the stories for this species might be boring (for us humans) because everybody is a selfless altruist, conflict is possible if they meet aliens.

Their love is for their own species, and the conundrum of what to do when confronted with a violent enemy is something to write about. How do they see such violence? Perhaps like a poisonous plant or moss on their own planet, something to be eradicated, so it stops harming them and opens up land to be cultivated, to feed more of them...

Heck, they could see entire planets in this way: There is new farmland down there, covered in what they see as dangerous and poisonous insects, spiders or plants, (but are actually humans) that must be eradicated so they can replant and colonize! They aren't "aggressive", they evolved without any other animals for a few hundred million years and are just incapable of seeing anything that is not their own species as anything but the equivalent of our plants, worms, insects, spiders, etc.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ This is a very interesting take on the question. Though I personally feel it falls a bit short. The species above in its own view isn't aggressive, but it is. For the OP's question I'm not sure this will work. For myself however... This gives me grand ideas lol $\endgroup$ – Warm Shadow May 15 '17 at 18:42
  • $\begingroup$ @WarmShadow I suppose we could say that, like poisonous insects on their own planet, they don't kill them: They just use their advanced technology to build their shelters to be impregnable to the pests. Same with humans: their tech evicts humans from an area without harming them; and they build "fences" to keep them out; say an invisible shield, miles high and closed at the top. They never need to directly harm anybody physically. But like the insects, if you needed that farmland to survive; then oh well, tough luck: Once they shut humans out, they no longer care what happens to them. $\endgroup$ – Amadeus May 15 '17 at 21:17
1
$\begingroup$

How about highly sensitive grenade people? If they have one hair-trigger defense mechanism that instinctively goes off as soon as they feel threatened, and there is mutually assured destruction, they might be (psychologically if not physiologically) completely peaceful. They wouldn't evolve any aggressive reaction to predators because they wouldn't need to. And if they feel tempted to treat each other poorly, the potential cost of frightening someone would far outweigh the benefits. They would treat everyone with the utmost respect, because the alternative would be too horrible.

There would, admittedly, be selective pressure to develop a mechanism that doesn't trigger as easily from intra-species aggression - because being bullied is less costly than exploding. And there would be selective pressure not to trigger at all - if all others explode, I can just practice mimicry and live safe from predators and from myself. But sometimes evolution just gets stuck with a design and can't evolve past it, because it would involve redesigning the organism from the ground up - and evolution can (mostly) only do small changes at a time.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

You probably can't. Have you heard of pigeons and hawks game? It's a model from the border of game theory and biology. Publications began with paper by John Maynard Smith and George R. Price in a 1973.

Simply put, in a world of pigeons (non violent) if you happen to be a hawk (violent), you are a winner. Your genes will spread. Or your ideas will. You are the one who fought for a girl, the one who fought for food when town was dying from hunger, etc. So it only takes one mutation, or one random idea, to spoil your plan and add violence to their culture and gene pool.

References:

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Sounds like that requires some of the pigeons to accept the hawk; and who says that will be the case? The "girl" that was fought for could see any aggression at all as a defect in a mate. If you steal more food than your fair share, all food may be hidden from you. Such acts could lead to shunning, abandonment, refusing to interact with somebody, refusing to share or feed them. Hiding your food and hiding from them is not an aggressive act; ostracization may be their self-defense. Violence doesn't have to win, especially if you have a species that would rather die than comply with it. $\endgroup$ – Amadeus May 15 '17 at 22:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Amadeus "accept" a hawk?! There is no accepting. How a strictly non-violent girl would defend against a guy that decided to mate with her, no matter what? With words he ignores? Running? Well, there will always be that one girl who just won't run fast enough, and his genes will spread. Also, have you actually read the resources I linked? $\endgroup$ – Mołot May 15 '17 at 23:04
  • $\begingroup$ You are far too unimaginative; we are talking about a fictional species, not human beings. Say she has a choice in whether to become pregnant or not. Say that, like dolphins IRL, she can choose to stop living, as some dolphins have done when abused in captivity (and also apparently out of despondency when losing a lifelong bonding partner). Suppose that, like a human, she can refuse drink and water to the point of dying, or at least ensuring no pregnancy can take hold. That is not "aggression". The same for anyone captured as slaves: They refuse to work, even unto death. $\endgroup$ – Amadeus May 16 '17 at 9:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Amadeus just go read the books, OK? I can't fit them all in an answer and you are expressing concerns that were, as far as I understand, solved already. $\endgroup$ – Mołot May 16 '17 at 9:59
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ On the contrary, my point is I am well educated in genetics, evolution, statistics and many of these arguments, I am a professional research scientist that has spent the last 25 years in college, and I disagree with the conclusions of the people you cite. Not because I am naive, but because I know better. I am not spoiling for a fight and we have extended this discussion too long; presume we shall disagree forever and please, move on. $\endgroup$ – Amadeus May 16 '17 at 15:29

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.