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September 6, 1976

The Hunting Hypothesis: A Personal Conclusion Concerning the Evolutionary Nature of Man

JAMA. 1976;236(10):1172. doi:10.1001/jama.1976.03270110068039

Ethology, the scientific study of animal behavior, was not even defined in the 1963 edition of Webster's Seventh Collegiate Dictionary. Now it has become a serious field of scientific investigation, the subject of several very popular books, and an area of vigorous controversy. Few people would object to scientists observing that birds sing to identify and protect their courting or nesting areas and that different species develop their characteristic songs in different ways. In some, the song is transmitted by heredity, in others the young birds must learn the song by hearing their elders. But when somebody uses such observations to make claims about human behavior—that man has an inborn drive to defend his territory or that a desire to attack other men is or is not inborn—controversy begins.

In recent years, popular books by Konrad Lorenz, Desmond Morris, and Robert Ardrey have all presented the viewpoint that man is