Oxytocin and cooperation:
There is a chemical called oxytocin (The Prickly Side of Oxytocin, Greg Miller, SCIENCE vol. 328. no. 5984 June 11, 2010 page 1343 and The Neuropeptide Oxytocin Regulates Parochial Altruism in Intergroup Conflict Among Humans, Carsten K. W. De Dreau, Lindred L. Greer, Michel J. J. Handgraaf, Shauf Shalvi, Gerbern A. Van Kleef, Matthijs Baas, Femke S. Ten Velden, Erik Van Dijk and Sander W. W. Feith page 1408 of the same issue) that encourages people and other animals to bond with others. 

This effect has been known.  What has been discovered is that it also seems to encourage defensive behavior toward outsiders.  Whether other animals react to it in that way has not yet, I believe, been studied.

It makes a kind of sense.  When I have met people who are from a group legendary for its ferocity in battle I have usually been struck with how friendly they seemed.  It is as if the nastiest enemies are the nicest friends.  Of course that is probably just a fluke.  It is hard to believe that there is an actual chemical that governs such social behavior on the large scale.  But again no relevant facts are available. 

But the issue of them-versus-us is a place I run afoul in two ways.

One way is hard to understand.  My position is that large social pools have lower fertility.  One would think that would be picked up enthusiastically.  Superficially it would seem attractive.  But it does not turn out that way.  I suspect that most of us have given our hearts to a social pool that is far larger than the biologically safe size and feel under pressure to go larger still.  Suggesting that the way forward is to go smaller is so unexpected that it is misunderstood.

The other side of the matter makes more sense.  This idea is so very contrary to everything people are told that the immediate reaction is to circle the wagons and assume a defense posture even if, as is generally the case, that means taking an irrational position.  And that is something I have never figured out quite how to cope with.  

Knowing this about oxytocin brings the issue into somewhat sharper focus, but no immediate solution offers itself. 

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