T Nation

Alpha or Hippie?


#1

I am reading the book, Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan. I am only halfway through it but the premise is pretty clear. Up until 10,000 years ago humans were hunter/gathers in small isolated groups in a natural state. The males and females in the group had open relationships throughout the group that re-enforced the mutual bond in the group and ensured that all of the children were considered the responsibility of the group and as a result were well cared for. There was no jealousy because there was not enough of anything to form real possessiveness over. All this changed when we started farming, which gave land value that became worth fighting over. It also made it important to know who your son was so he could inherit your valuable land.

This book attempts to blow up the â??Alpha Maleâ?? concept that in the Neolithic period men fought for dominance of the group and for the best mating opportunities. Itâ??s all based on circumstantial evidence, male vs female body mass (male gorillas are twice the size of females and do have an alpha model yet have tiny testicles compared to humans) and our closest primate relatives.

Ryan paints a pretty idyllic picture of pre-agriculture lifeâ??kind of a bunch of hippies wandering around eating and fucking all the long day. So, I bring it to the great minds of Tnation. I know there are some guys here who only conjugate with lions, but do you believe that your ancestors won the right to procreate in the stone age Thunderdome or are you the result of wandering hippies with time to kill?


#2

I only know they must have deadlifted, which explains why we have evolved into having perfect upright postures.


#3

If you look at some tribes today that have remained relatively untouched by modern technology, I don’t think there’s much of an Alpha Male culture. Most seem to live as a tight-knit community with a group of elders rather than being ruled over by a big dog chieftain who gets all the ladies. It seems to me that macho bullshit and constant infighting would be a bad idea when you have to coordinate hunting and other tasks in order to survive.

Then again my only education on this topic has been from National Geographic documentaries so what do I know.


#4

I read a study which indicated that the human hand was designed through evolution to form a fist. The hand could be functional with many different variations, but the design we ended up with is the best suited for both punching as well as grasping. I read another study which showed that the bones of the face which are most likely to be broken in a fistfight are thicker and stronger than they would need to be.

I believe it is pretty clear that our ancestors duked it out for mating rights.


#5

[quote]aeyogi wrote:
I read a study which indicated that the human hand was designed through evolution to form a fist. The hand could be functional with many different variations, but the design we ended up with is the best suited for both punching as well as grasping. I read another study which showed that the bones of the face which are most likely to be broken in a fistfight are thicker and stronger than they would need to be.

I believe it is pretty clear that our ancestors duked it out for mating rights.[/quote]

lol…

Whether or not it was over mating or just for whatever reason, anyone with a Toddler and Testicles knows human’s have a natural response with includes throwing punches. Not even always in anger. Sometimes they just get excited, swing and fist and drop you right there in the kitchen.


#6

[quote]countingbeans wrote:

[quote]aeyogi wrote:
I read a study which indicated that the human hand was designed through evolution to form a fist. The hand could be functional with many different variations, but the design we ended up with is the best suited for both punching as well as grasping. I read another study which showed that the bones of the face which are most likely to be broken in a fistfight are thicker and stronger than they would need to be.

I believe it is pretty clear that our ancestors duked it out for mating rights.[/quote]

lol…

Whether or not it was over mating or just for whatever reason, anyone with a Toddler and Testicles knows human’s have a natural response with includes throwing punches. Not even always in anger. Sometimes they just get excited, swing and fist and drop you right there in the kitchen. [/quote]

Before MMA became a thing, a few of Martial Arts downplayed the closed fist strikes, broken knuckles limiting your weapons, etc. I agree, throwing a punch is a natural action…and keep toddlers away from your nuts.

Edit, but there is this… http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2014/06/10/our-skulls-didnt-evolve-to-be-punched/


#7

[quote]countingbeans wrote:

[quote]aeyogi wrote:
I read a study which indicated that the human hand was designed through evolution to form a fist. The hand could be functional with many different variations, but the design we ended up with is the best suited for both punching as well as grasping. I read another study which showed that the bones of the face which are most likely to be broken in a fistfight are thicker and stronger than they would need to be.

I believe it is pretty clear that our ancestors duked it out for mating rights.[/quote]

lol…

Whether or not it was over mating or just for whatever reason, anyone with a Toddler and Testicles knows human’s have a natural response with includes throwing punches. Not even always in anger. Sometimes they just get excited, swing and fist and drop you right there in the kitchen. [/quote]
I can definitely relate to that.
My kid did an unusual one about a month ago~ another kid took his train so he walked up, stepped into it, and floored the kid with an elbow to the chest.
Suprised the crap out of me.


#8

People are almost certainly inherently competitive, possessive, and combative. Anyone who disagrees probably doesn’t have children.

That doesn’t paint a clear picture of pre-agricultural society, but it seems likely that people fought, competed (both sexually and otherwise), and had possessions. Hippie groups as outlined in the OP would be vulnerable to other non-hippie groups as well as to individuals that abused the situation (social loafing). That doesn’t necessarily mean they had an alpha structure or such, but in general hippie structures don’t work because assholes exist. Unless you don’t think there were assholes 10,000 years ago, this means that the book is bunk.


#9

[quote]Silyak wrote:
People are almost certainly inherently competitive, possessive, and combative. Anyone who disagrees probably doesn’t have children.

That doesn’t paint a clear picture of pre-agricultural society, but it seems likely that people fought, competed (both sexually and otherwise), and had possessions. Hippie groups as outlined in the OP would be vulnerable to other non-hippie groups as well as to individuals that abused the situation (social loafing). That doesn’t necessarily mean they had an alpha structure or such, but in general hippie structures don’t work because assholes exist. Unless you don’t think there were assholes 10,000 years ago, this means that the book is bunk. [/quote]

Part of his theory is that the planet was so sparsely populated that that group of hippies might not run into assholes. There wasn’t a lot of people to compete with, and plentiful resources so there wasn’t a need to compete…essentially according to the author, competition and assholes weren’t invented yet.

Of course at some point people started to compete and make war on groups they encountered, but if you had an Alpha organized group, i.e., a group run by one or two large males who became the leaders by killing or driving off their sexual competition run into a group of hippies who cooperate with each other the Alpha group might have trouble winning that war anyways. One or two alpha’s vs 5-6 hippies? Picture a mediocre team with one star player who is not a team player vs an individually weaker but a more cohesive team. Who wins? Keep in mind this peace-loving group is a team that hunts big game together daily, so they’re not the skinny hipsters sitting in Starbucks right now.


#10

[quote]TheKraken wrote:
Ryan paints a pretty idyllic picture of pre-agriculture lifeâ??kind of a bunch of hippies wandering around eating and fucking all the long day.
[/quote]

Sounds wonderful to me.

Well, of course living without modern medicine is pretty much a horror flick. Imagine what an appendicitis or rotten tooth must have meant before modern times. I’d happily trade cars, computers etc in but please keep the hospitals.


#11

[quote]TheKraken wrote:
There wasn’t a lot of people to compete with, and plentiful resources so there wasn’t a need to compete…essentially according to the author, competition and assholes weren’t invented yet.
[/quote]

Ah! Utopia! Sounds nice.

But not realistic.


#12

I think that we can get a very good idea of how it was by looking at the Native Americans lifestyle. Some Native American tribes were strictly hunter gatherers. There were obviously tribes that had special farming techniques, but the first Native Americans to reach America would have been prior to the farming boom the Author describes.

In my opinion it is easy to look at Native Americans and get a pretty good idea of how groups of people would have coexisted in a fairly large group prior to the farming boom.

When looking at Native Americans it becomes clear that there were a variety of ways that these tribes worked and operated. Most of them had a Chief though. Actually men in different important roles. But, a Chief was normally there if I am not mistaken.

So a group of people migrated to the Americas prior to the end of the Ice Age 11,500 years ago. Prior to the “farming boom” across Earth because of the end of the Ice Age. It had to take these people a very long time to spread out across the Americas and settle in. I would think that their tribes structure would not change much during this time, because it had been working for them.


#13

[quote]aeyogi wrote:
I read a study which indicated that the human hand was designed through evolution to form a fist. The hand could be functional with many different variations, but the design we ended up with is the best suited for both punching as well as grasping. I read another study which showed that the bones of the face which are most likely to be broken in a fistfight are thicker and stronger than they would need to be.

I believe it is pretty clear that our ancestors duked it out for mating rights.[/quote]

Not sure if you’re familiar with digit ratios, but one of my profs said that the reason men have longer ring fingers is because there happens to be testosterone receptors there, which make the finger grow a little bit longer, making it easier to grasp.


#14

Right now immigrants from Africa have a culture where no one can get ahead of the bunch. In their schools in Africa the class don’t advance until the last one understand. Don’t team with them in school when you want to compete.

I think it was more about inter-group war when the ressource where scarce and everyone mated with everyone within the group.


#15

‘‘Hippies’’ have the most achievements anyway. How many closed combative/stubborn violent people in their own head and little world, who don’t care about anyone or anything else than them is there out there? People like that don’t get anywhere.


#16

Pure speculation, but I expect our pre-agrarian ancestors would have exhibited a high degree of “expeditionary behaviour” within the group.

Survival advantage was gained by helping out, fitting in and acting for the common good. Interdependence, co-operation and conformity would have trumped dominance, competition and personal ambition.

Put a group of people in close quarters, in a high risk environment where they must rely on each other to survive and see how welcome the typical “Alpha” a-hole is.


#17

I have a degree in Anthropology (useless). Disregard all the academic political correctness and it boils down to this: There have always been predators to prey on the weak, whether a hunter-gatherer clan or a small substance farming group, all will kill to take the property of of the other. Moments of cooperation to ban together to defeat a superior enemy were very rare, but, just like modern humans, once the common enemy was defeated, they went back to killing each other.

I have read Ryan’s book, or, tried to, got through about half of it and then threw it in a fire pit. I no longer have any illusions about the common good of man.


#18

I look like a full on Alpha Male with the soul of a Godless hippie.


#19

[quote]TheKraken wrote:
Part of his theory is that the planet was so sparsely populated that that group of hippies might not run into assholes. There wasn’t a lot of people to compete with, and plentiful resources so there wasn’t a need to compete…essentially according to the author, competition and assholes weren’t invented yet.
[/quote]
Essentially every large mammal has intraspecies competition and assholery. So the theory that they developed in humans after humans had become a separate species is overly complicated and lacks significant supporting evidence. For extreme examples look at lions and chimpanzees, both of which have well-documented wars where they brutally kill each other.

Even putting that aside for a second, the claim of plentiful resources and sparse population has significant problems. First, sexual resources are always limited. Even when there is no other reason to fight, basically all large mammals and many other animals fight for sexual access. In order for a community to maintain a lack of sexual competition, it would have to actively punish sexual competition, enforcing promiscuity and making sure that everyone had access to sex whenever and with whomever they want (Brave New World style or something). Otherwise, individuals would have to strive to not be excluded (which is a form of sexual competition that might easily become violent). Moreover, any prohibition on sexual activity creates an incentive to cheat (which is a form of sexual competition that might easily become violent). All evidence I have seen has pointed to the origins of human civilization being strongly based on punishing sexual promiscuity and regulating sexual activity to an extreme.

Second, if resources really are that plentiful and population that sparse, this situation will last a couple generations at most. Population will explode and the community will expand. While initially groups may separate peacefully, they will still be in close proximity. And even if there are enough buffalo to go around, it’s easier to steal one than kill your own. In short, if resource competition is not relevant in a society, the society will be able to grow quickly at which point it will quickly become relevant.

[quote]TheKraken wrote:

Of course at some point people started to compete and make war on groups they encountered, but if you had an Alpha organized group, i.e., a group run by one or two large males who became the leaders by killing or driving off their sexual competition run into a group of hippies who cooperate with each other the Alpha group might have trouble winning that war anyways. One or two alpha’s vs 5-6 hippies? Picture a mediocre team with one star player who is not a team player vs an individually weaker but a more cohesive team. Who wins? Keep in mind this peace-loving group is a team that hunts big game together daily, so they’re not the skinny hipsters sitting in Starbucks right now. [/quote]
You’re creating a false choice here by confusing Alpha with loner. A group with a strong dominant leader is not necessarily a small group. In fact, many people like following leaders like this, particularly when those leaders are adept at getting resources for the group (http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2012/08/18/why-jerks-get-ahead/). Naturally, these leaders take more and the best for themselves, but if they are successful there is enough to go around and they will have many loyal followers. Human history is full of examples of this concept.

On the other hand, I am not aware of any examples of sexual promiscuity building a cohesive group. It tends to breed jealousy, backstabbing, and an unwillingness to contribute fully to the group. Isolated individuals may like this swinger type lifestyle, but most people react rather poorly to it. In early communist Russia there were attempts to create this type of community, but the results were rather disastrous.

Now, it may be that human nature has changed significantly in the last 10,000 years. You might even argue that the points I have raised here explain why humans are no longer the way they were 10,000 years ago. But this explanation has little evidence and seriously violates Occam’s razor. It requires that 10,000 years ago humans were very different than other large mammals and that they evolved independently to be more similar. Without strong supporting evidence, that is an unlikely explanation.

As far as the biological evidence, sexual size ratios are going to have many contributing factors. The relatively small sexual size disparity in humans is generally seen as evidence that humans are mostly monogamous with some instances of polygamy. Even this conclusion is probably an oversimplification, but it’s more consistent with other evidence than the conclusion that humans were group promiscuous in the recent past.

As far as testicular size, one would expect that the society proposed by “Sex at Dawn” would heavily favor men with the largest testicles, as the men who created the most sperm and could replenish their sperm the most quickly would be the most likely to father the children of the group. In point of fact, human testicles are rather small compared to many animals such as chimpanzees, for instance.


#20

[quote]mbdix wrote:
In my opinion it is easy to look at Native Americans and get a pretty good idea of how groups of people would have coexisted in a fairly large group prior to the farming boom.

[/quote]

So you’re saying the hippy thing is bullshit then?

I mean you’re talking about groups of people that took other groups as slaves, slaughtered entire other tribes and participated in human sacrifice…

No, not all tribes were like this, but life wasn’t the Disney Movie Hollywood portrays either.