Fear of death and human destructiveness.
We are in possession of the technical knowledge required to provide for the material needs of all of humanity without systematic plunder and extermination of others, yet, systematic plunder and genocidal extermination continue to thrive. Understanding the psychological underpinnings of human violence, in hope of ameliorating or at least attenuating human cruelty and destruction, should thus be one of the most important priorities of the natural and social sciences. For almost two decades we have been developing, testing, and refining a theoretical account of human behavior that we believe offers some important insights about human violence. In this chapter, we present the intellectual roots and core propositions of this theory, review the large body of evidence supporting it, and discuss the implications of these ideas for understanding and ameliorating the viciousness that has characterized so much of our species' history to date.