Anyway, I'd be interested to hear if your book has an explanation for how the Iraq War was caused by Bush's desire for reproductive success.
This is very strange. I put together a reply which turned out, in my opinion, to be not what you were looking for. It was more a clarification and recapitulation of my own thoughts on the matter. I then looked again at this thread and realised that I had, in places, implied that Gottschall’s approach applied generally rather than to prehistoric societies. This was unintended. I can see now how easy it is to have made this slip. However, in my reply to kbs I did state that Gottschall's thesis only applies to prehistoric cultures. I said this without realising the confusion I had caused. Clearly that wasn’t enough to clear things up. I can’t say I blame you for pressing the point. In fact I’m pleased you did. At the very least it gave me the opportunity to think again about this topic.
For what it’s worth here is the reply I drafted. I think Para 6 might contain something new but otherwise it’s all something of a rehash.
1. Gottschall’s book is about the applicability of evolutionary biology and anthropology to its most obvious sphere of interest, primitive, prehistoric or what he calls “non-state” societies. His focus is on Homeric society.
2. He says: “I argue that patterns of conflict in Homeric society converge beautifully with those described by anthropologists and ethnographers across a strikingly diverse spectrum of non-state societies.” Homeric men compete for various reasons (wealth, prestige, immortal fame) and Gottschall is not trying to usurp these factors but to “provide a broader view capable of placing all elements of Homeric conflict within a single explanatory context.” That is, the evolutionary imperative for reproductive success.
3. Given the universality of conflict (warfare is everywhere) through obvious causes (wealth etc) “why was Homeric society particularly prone to intense conflict within and between groups?” His answer, self-consciously controversial, is that the patterns of violence within Homeric society are consistent with the hypothesis that Homeric society suffered from an acute shortage of available young women relative to young men (an imbalance in reproductive capacity and a threat to reproductive success).
4. Competition over reproductive capacity may be a root cause of violence but it often resides as substructure to other more familiar causes. As such it may be masked by these. This was the case even in non-state societies. History provides many reasons for conflict but as a single overriding idea the need for reproductive success (without which none of us would be here) makes sense in evolutionary terms.
5. This approach aims to ‘explain’ conflict in non-state societies, specifically Homeric society. In my opinion Gottschall succeeds here. If Homer reflects his society with anything like historical accuracy then all well and good. More than that, I don’t know.
6. Gottschall refers to “competition within and between groups for scarce resources that convert
to reproductive advantage”. The anthropology can undoubtedly be read as indicating that the spoils of war can be converted
to reproductive advantage. I’m a bit unclear as to whether there would necessarily have to be a sex imbalance to kick the conflict off in the first place although any conflict would almost certainly cause one. Also, I imagine many spoils of war in primitive societies can be interpreted (by evolutionary biologists) as being convertible
to reproductive advantage e.g. material resources, social status and martial prestige - these in turn would attract and claim women as rewards. However, this smacks of a post-hoc interpretation born of the very thing it was meant to demonstrate. I’m hard pressed to think of anything that may not result in sex-as-reward in primitive societies. To this extent sexual pay-offs, and so reproductive success, are inevitable consequences of non-state conflict. But as a cause, I’m not so sure. Gottschall claims that sex imbalance, to the detriment of males, caused conflict in Homeric society. By implication, it can do that elsewhere. That‘s fine, but it would need to be demonstrated in the manner he does so for Homeric society rather than deduced from the results of war. I cannot say how much of the anthropological evidence points in any particular causal direction. I suspect the logic is from consequences to causes but I could be dead wrong here. But it’s worth flagging up.
7. You ask how this approach might explain Bush-Iraq (and kbs also doubted its contemporary applicability). This is not an evasion but we should not forget that Gottschall was talking about prehistoric cultures. If we take it out of context we must come to our own decision on this one. The most I would say is that the reproductive imperative is still there but in civilised states it is invisible and so overlaid with cultural conventions that its expression is probably non-existent although Gottschall raises the subject of mass rape which appears to be a mandatory component of invading armies even today. But that is another question entirely.
Postscript: I am wondering now if your question was more rhetorical and ironic than serious. However, if it was not, I hope my inability to provide a clever response didn’t disappoint too much.