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HOPE FOR THE CAVEMANBecoming New Men for Today's World
By Patrick Williams
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Patrick Williams
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTHE NAKED APE
Why are we the way we are? What determined our biology? Why does biology rule?
Before I assume that we all possess the same body of knowledge on the evolution of the human species and how that explains our current nature, let me lay the groundwork for our understanding of these differences in the modern male and female brain. Why would the male and female human brain evolve differently?
"There are one hundred and ninety-three living species of monkeys and apes. One hundred ninety-two of them are covered with hair. The exception is a naked ape self-named Homo sapiens." So starts Desmond Morris's 1967 seminal work The Naked Ape. He goes on to say "... in acquiring lofty new motives, he has lost none of the earthy old ones." To further elucidate this statement is the next intention of this book.
In summarizing the research on our species up to that time and brilliantly speculating on their correlation with modern human behavior, Desmond Morris introduced much of the public to the field of anthropology. (He was still calling himself a zoologist.) Follow me as I remind us all of Morris' theses.
He pointed out, substantiated by field work on skeletal findings, that our ancestral apes evolved from smaller high tree dwelling species to larger low-lying branch-swinging species and finally to the ground. In order to survive they had to compete with other ground dwellers. They had to become either better hunters than old-time carnivores or better grazers than old-time herbivores. The exploitation of the plant life on the African savannah was severely limited. The digestive system necessary for the direct use of the grassland was lacking. Apes and humans can't digest grass for nutrition. The great ancestral apes were, however, already omnivores. Animal protein had long become a necessarily important part of their diet as they supplemented their fruit with insects and small tree-dwelling reptiles, birds and mammals. Adaptation, for our ancestors, took the form of increasing this aspect of their diet. To thrive, natural selection moved toward making them better hunters. Protein, with its incorporation of fat, in a society that wasn't threatened by obesity but rather by starvation, led to a higher percentage of surviving members, especially the more vulnerable pregnant woman and children who, once they reached the ground, didn't obtain it as easily.
A Natural Progression
The evolving hominids already had good hands for grasping. As the brain developed and evolved, tool use was born. Next, the occipital lobes of the brain grew massively to enhance man's eyesight as his main hunting sense. An ability to "see" in three dimensions evolved, to facilitate hunting. We will later identify this as spatial relations. He could not only sense movement with his new, bigger and better visual lobes but he could gauge relative speed and angles of pursuit with his ability to "see" or think in three dimensions.
Early man, as primates, already had some degree of social organization. It was natural to develop as pack hunters, using their superior brains, to outwit the solitary hunters of their era. With their better cognitive ability they developed more sophisticated levels of cooperation and communication. How the brain was organized as it grew was made to support these functions as we will see.
Early hominids stood and walked upright. This freed their hands for tool and weapon use, even while moving about or eventually running. The angle of the spine and pelvis changed and the posture became more upright. The legs became longer and the speed increased. Running and running long distances developed. Humans developed the ability to breathe through their mouths, to pant, as they ran. While they weren't as fast as prey animals on the plains of Africa, the possibility of outlasting them was born. Ungulates of the African savannah and feline carnivores do not have this ability to breath and run at the same time and must stop to "catch their breath." They are anaerobic sprinters. This makes the antelope vulnerable to the longer-lasting and well-organized human group and puts the big cat at a disadvantage to his human counterpart. Like the wolves and hyenas of today, hunting in packs and with communication between members, and adding the efficient grasping hand free to throw or thrust, an efficient hunting ape was developing. These developments were occurring, hand in hand, with supporting developments in man's evolving brain to facilitate the new skills. Man was becoming the ultimate hunter.
These new, long distance runners, explained the nakedness of the ape-man. Running long distances on the African veldt must have been a hot job. If one is to run long distances, one has to develop a cooling mechanism. Their hair became a detriment and so was "lost", except for that specialized for decoration and perhaps camouflage of the genitals. Later as they moved north and experienced the ice ages, they were already skilled in securing animal hides for warmth, so the body hair was not needed.
As Morris saw it, this was a hunting group of males. The females were too busy rearing and bearing children to play a major role in chasing down and catching prey. Even in a nomadic lifestyle, there was a place where the women and children gathered while the men were out hunting. For many groups, this developed into a more permanent "home base" or series of "home bases" as they followed game migrations. Hunting groups could make longer and more wide-spread forays for meat, while camping next to what little edible vegetation they could find. Women became the repositories of plant identification and use for edible and medicinal purposes. As knowledge grew of migration patterns and useful vegetation, "home bases" became favored. The hunting ape became a territorial ape. Territoriality meant disputes among groups – wars if you will. Another characteristic of man was born.
If we accept the history of our evolution as it has been meticulously discovered by our anthropologist brothers and sisters, and as outlined above, we see that at least the males of the species arose essentially as primate predators.
So, we now have all the elements of what make the modern human. For millions of years the males formed hunting groups, the women stayed together supporting one another. A division of labor developed based on the biological realities and importance of children to the survival of the tribe. The women stayed around an assigned area that was useful for gathering and their children's protection, to be joined later by the men as the light gave out and danger increased. Men became territorial, fighting with other groups over choice locations and access to females. Females worked together closely and were highly motivated to support one another as pregnancy and infant care rotated among them. Support in childbirth was essential to survival. The social glue that held them together was evolving right along with their expanding brains.
We are, no doubt, still evolving, but trappings of modern man have only existed for perhaps forty thousand years - not nearly enough time in evolutionary terms, to have significantly changed the characteristics that were so useful to our ancestor's survival for millions. We still possess the caveman brain and body.
As this model evolved, its success had other repercussions. As the new hominids brain grew, its full growth could not be accommodated in any reasonable gestation period. The monkey brain has attained 70% of its adult size by birth and attains the other 30% in the first six months of life. In our own species, the brain at birth is only twenty-three percent of its final adult size. More importantly, it takes six years to obtain the majority of further growth and the process is not completed until about the twenty-third year of life! This much longer period of dependence was supported by, and further drove development of the "home-base" territoriality of the new species. In order to compete and survive, our best tool was our brain. In order to have a brain that sophisticated, it takes a long time of protecting and nurturing the young. The culture of modern man was solidified.
Unfortunately, sexual maturity does not always correlate with brain development. Brain maturity does not occur until ten years after sexual maturity in Homo sapiens as opposed to six years before sexual maturity in the chimpanzee. This makes for a dangerous mismatch in humans that requires cultural surveillance and control. While the females were being increasingly confined to home base by the dependence of the young, a bunch of adolescent males really interested in sex would pose a problem. The mature males would be useful in managing this issue, if they took some natural interest in the discipline of the developing adolescent boys. As they became sexually mature, these boys would also become useful in the hunt, thereby providing a natural mentoring paradigm. They could be withdrawn from the females for a good part of the day and brought into a hierarchy with the men that would provide the necessary control and structure to channel their newborn sexual interest. Even after the men returned, the boys still existed under the watchful eye of the dominant males.
Lastly, a final problem needed to be overcome as man became a successful hunter. Virile males going off on long trips of any kind is essentially unheard of in other primates. This would leave the females and children unprotected and would invite sexual advances from neighboring tribes. A new adaptation was necessary – pair-bonding. This development of relationships between individual males and females, while not always secure, allowed for the possibility of longer and wider hunts. It also was a key adaptation in supporting the prolonged dependence of the young, in that, a female could rely on protein being brought back specifically to her and her children in exchange for exclusive sexual access. Humans were becoming more modern. The naked ape developed the capacity to fall in love and become sexually imprinted (at least for long enough to support dependent offspring) on a single partner.
Here the new adaptive behavior has to overcome the earlier pattern of promiscuity in primates. Perhaps too commonly, males (and females) still fall back into earlier primate behavior at the earliest dissatisfaction or frustration with their mate. However, this all too frequent event of sex among humans outside our primary relationship does not negate the dominance of pair-bonding in our species. Indeed, evolutionary attempts to secure pair-bonding in early man explains human sexual response. In other primates, the female is only receptive around the time of ovulation, that period when she is most likely to become pregnant. Dramatic physical signals accompany this time, swelling and bright coloration of the genitals for example, alerting the males to her availability. Actual sexual intercourse only lasts a few seconds and no pleasure is apparent in either party. Coupling may occur with several males or the same dominant male several times with a single female at the height of her cycle.
Humans needed something that would support pair-bonding. Evolution supplied it. The female cycle became hidden, without obvious physical changes in the female body to signal every male around. The human vagina evolved to a more downward angle, more comfortably accommodating face to face intercourse and creating stimulation of the clitoris by the male pelvic bone. Females became receptive all through their cycle and even during pregnancy. The male needn't look elsewhere if she presented herself persuasively or was at least willing, when he returned to drop the meat on the fire. Sexual intercourse became more of a private affair, as opposed to out in the open in front of other adults and children. Such adaptations in female human sexual response supported the pair-bonding so important to her welfare, her children's welfare and through them, tribal and species welfare.
Chapter TwoELAINE MORGAN
It is important that we establish a shared foundation of knowledge of the consensus regarding the nature of man, accepted by anthropologists, before we launch into modern scholarship on the gender differences in the human brain and their implications. We need to understand where we were for millions of years - where we came from – in order to understand these underlying gender brain differences that supported this way of being that existed until very recently. However, before we go on, this background foundation would not be complete without a thorough review of The Descent of Woman by Elaine Morgan (1972). In her feminist rebuttal to Desmond Morris, she appropriately points out that all natural selection in the species did not occur because males were changing and females were reacting to these changes. It is much more likely that the female of the species adaptations were being initiated with equal frequency and being reacted to by the male. In fact, in order to fully appreciate the differences in the male and female brain one has to imagine them co-evolving. They were and still are complementing one another in a give-and-take success strategy.
In the primate species from which we evolved, generally males are bigger than females. This, along with the relative inconvenience of hunting while significantly pregnant, set up the males to become the main hunters. They were bigger and stronger even before the new ape/ hominid began to adapt toward upright hunting mode. In addition, because of the social nature of the species and the promiscuity natural to these same early primates, competition between males for access to females was intense. Nature provided testosterone making the male of the species much more aggressive, giving each male a chance to sow his seed, but making the strongest, the most aggressive and the dominant, father of most of the children. Nature assumes that the "best" ape has the best DNA. We are all familiar with gorilla and other great ape hierarchies. The "silver back" rules the roost until he is overthrown by a younger male. Again, this aggressive characteristic of our ancestral primates facilitated the males becoming the hunters. Aggression, adrenaline, rage: useful in open combat or killing other species for food. It is not pretty but it's true. We inherited it from the sexual competition of our progenitors. When we had to learn to hunt to survive, the males were better suited to take the primary role. Society didn't develop as "paternalistic" because men plotted it that way. Men became dominant in most societies because of our biological origins. The culture followed.
However, this does not in any way denigrate the female contribution. As necessary as protein and fat was to survival, the supplementation of the diet by gathering can not be undervalued. As any nutritionist knows, all the vitamins and minerals we need cannot be supplied by animals. An entire counter-culture developed around the safety and edibility of plants and their medicinal purposes as well. This was passed through the maternal line.
If anything, of course, the females provide the most important role in any species society – that of carrying the fetus successfully and caring for the children during their prolonged dependency. In this sense, it was a popular overreaction in the 1970's to see men as an accoutrement - a necessary one, but one none the less. ("Women need men like a fish needs a bicycle" was a popular bumper sticker.) Men, however, had developed a useful contribution by becoming the hunters and protectors of the tribe, compared to our tree-dwelling ancestors who could each, male and female, provide for themselves. Again, this new species co-evolved to their mutual benefit. As the brain became larger, the head became bigger. As the head became bigger, childbirth became more difficult. As childbirth became more difficult, support of the process became necessary. Other women were necessary to help. Cooperation became more important for the survival of the group. This spawned the development of communication – language. Women were dependent on each other for survival. Grudges and disputes needed to be smoothed over if one was going to get the help one may need to live a peaceful existence, care for the children and assist in childbirth. Even today, women are all about exchanging information and the subtle, skilled soothing of disputes. Men are all about linear thinking with blinders on to emotional content – theirs and others. The latter facilitates hunting. The former facilitates group cooperation and mutual support. Men tend to be mutually supportive in a functional way. Women tend to value the cultivation of good feelings among themselves (as we will see in the subsequent chapter on modern brain research) as an investment in their future. They will need those other women. Relatively few men can, in a pinch, impregnate many women, so why not let the men take the high risk behavior. It only makes sense if the success of the tribe depends on offspring.
Excerpted from HOPE FOR THE CAVEMAN by Patrick Williams Copyright © 2011 by Patrick Williams. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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