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By Luc Loranhe (2006)
In accordance with the standard anthropological theory, homo sapiens became the dominating animal species on earth because we were the only primates who adopted a permanent upright posture, leaving our hands free to use for other purposes, rather than to stand on them, or use them for walking or hanging on tree branches.
The earliest hominids who walked upright populated some areas in East Africa some four million years ago.
Allegedly, a pattern developed that gave humans a clear procreative edge over other primates (including today's gorilla;s, the females of which bear a single child on average only every five years). The human edge consisted of freeing mothers of young children from the task of gathering or hunting food as this allegedly was handled by males (and possibly a small number of females who had no young children to take care of). This sharing of responsibilities allowed the females of the species to become pregnant every year, and at the same time to take care of a considerable number of offspring.
For caring husbands and fathers, it was essential that an upright posture had been adopted. The members of a four-legged but handless species could not efficiently manage the transportation of the food supply for their wives and children, left behind at a safe location.
Still in accordance with the standard anthropological theory, the primary incentive for males to become food suppliers was the availability of females for sex year round, and not just during fertile periods every few years. (You bring me food, I let you enjoy sexual satisfaction whenever you like.)
Evolution and natural selection favored, for the species homo sapiens, rather hypersexual males (in comparison to other primates who mate only when females are fertile), and females that could raise in a parallel fashion several subsequent birth-years of offspring (which is unusual for mammals; the standard pattern is that a next set of offspring is born when a previous one has been weaned).
Humans are no record-breaking offspring producers when compared with rats but are doing fine when the competition is with other primates. And the procreational rate definitely is an important factor in the evolution of animals. Rats are, apart from humans, good proof for this axiom.
But humans have lately made great progress. The emphasis is on "lately". The first human cities were built less than 10,000 years ago. And the pattern of human kingdoms and states changed little for the first few thousand years. The modern world started only some 200 to 300 years ago, with the concepts of industrialization and science.
However, what separates us from the stone-age tribes of 30,000 years ago, or even up to 100,000 years ago, is largely cultural, not biological. We are changing our environment at great speed, and our knowledge is exploding, but all of this is outside our biology. Our biology does not change that fast.
If, hypothetically, a healthy newborn of the year 2002 were, through means of time travel, implanted into a stone-age tribe of 30,000 years ago, the child would probably develop into a perfect stone-age person. And if a child born 30,000 years ago to stone-age parents were adopted into a modern family of the year 2002, it would likely develop into a perfect modern person.
I assume we could interbreed with our ancestors of 30,000 years ago without problem, and it might even work over a span of 100,000 years. In all likelihood, our genetic make-up hasn't changed noticeably over 30,000 years. 30,000 years really is a short time in terms of evolution.
I consider these contemplations relevant because they tell us something about the biological foundation on which each of us exists.
Our cultural achievements are great indeed: our inventions, the collective knowledge we have accumulated, human rights, and the principles of a capitalist economy.
However, none of these achievements are biologically inherent, as would be a dog's awareness of how to kill a snake. Biologically, we are rather stupid. And driven by instinct, the main one being our urge to seek sexual copulation and to procreate. We do not have an inherent, instinctual urge to work in a factory from 8 to 5.
There are specific biological pattern of human behavior that can be studied in primitive societies, on which the modern world has not yet had an impact (if they still exist). We can also derive indications on what is biological behavior (as opposed to cultural behavior) if we take a look at historical societies.
Men throughout history have, with very few exceptions, been the rulers of societies, intimidating females and weaker males into submission. Again with just a few exceptions, males have always been the ones procuring females.
The biological pattern of behavior is that females, not males bear the burden of raising children, and males have, throughout history (with few exceptions) engaged in breadwinning activities for the whole family.
Other biological patterns of behavior can be arrived at by assessing what the most promising procreative strategies were or might be for males and females.
For two million years, the most successful procreative strategy for females has been to closely bind one or more males to her, who would provide food and protection for her and her offspring. Primarily HER and HER offspring; not the offspring of other females. Thus, it has always been in the procreative interest of hominid and human females to restrict a male's access to other females, as this would have meant less attention for her and her own offspring.
I therefore assume a natural impetus at work in females that propagates monogamy on the part of males. Female jealousy is a biological force.
The above female procreative strategy may, in modern society, no longer be as compelling as it was during cave-dwelling times; but 20 years of women's lib, or 50 to 100 years of the democratic emancipation of women are not enough to supersede a biological character that has formed over two million years.
The same is true for males. The most successful procreative strategy for a male would be to spread his genes over as many women as possible, provided it happens in a framework in which most of his descendents will survive. But this will not be possible for everybody. For ordinary males, the most promising strategy could be to build a largely monogamous family, and to have social rules that hinder other males from interfering with his procreative rights over one woman.
But powerful males have always exhibited a strong tendency to build harems, formal or not. To build a harem basically means: to have sexual acess to, and to impregnate, as many women as possible, and to take some care so that the resulting offspring will grow to be adults and have offspring themselves. Harem building does not necessarily mean that a considerable number of wives be housed at a specific location. Modern-day harem building in Western Europe or North America just expresses itself in multiple parallel sexual relationships, and in providing only as much support as one can afford or is enforced by law, as anyway, the mother and the state will share into the responsibility.
In Third World countries, men will usually subscribe to different harem building strategies. Here, the ideal of a man maintaining several women is still alive. This ideal is closer to the historical harem-building tendency of successful males, a tendency that has existed throughout history in practically all societies on earth.
Everywhere, powerful, successful, or rich men have asserted their right over many more females than would be their statistically fair allocation. Chinese and Turkish emperors had harems of thousands of women, and up to today, men who achieve professional success have a greater tendency to possess more women than just their wives than do unsuccessful, average men. It's a biological trait of human males, nothing less.
There are other patterns that I believe are biologically encoded. For example, that the equation "sex for food" is inherently understood, even though it has long been stigmatized by moralists. Prostitution has been branded the world's oldest profession, and it is but a modification of the sex-for-food equation.
While in present-day Europe and Northern America, there is little situational pressure on young women to chose their sexual partners with a clear eye on a man's stature as a provider, such concerns are still primary most everywhere in the world. Women in practically all Third World societies evaluate potential husbands first of all by the man's breadwinner potential.
Typically, women among themselves discuss such matters very realistically. Towards men, the subject is often obscured by talk about love and other esoteric components of a relationship. Men everywhere in the world don't want to be married for their money. Which is why women confess that the faces of aging, and potentially richer, men show character rather than well, age.
Men typically have priorities other than wealth. They value beauty, which stimulates them to be sexually active, and youth, because younger women not only are more attractive but also more likely to remain healthy for childbirth, more than once.
While these two aspects (women choosing wealth, men choosing youth and beauty) can easily be matched in a harmonious manner, two other aspects often can't: women attempting to monopolize men, and men attempting to colonize more than one woman.
I have often wondered whether a society could be built that were more in harmony with our biological patterns of behavior, but I am pessimistic in this respect. All-out harmony would make us lazy, and that would be the path to extinction. Well, not quite with civilized humans. But our psyches are designed in accordance to a biological mechanism, named natural selection, that has tuned us in a way as if laziness would indeed be the path to extinction. Some conflicts are just programmed by nature, and, in my opinion, the monopolize-colonize one is among them. (ch*a)
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Copyright Luc Loranhe