The alpha males die off, and then? #baboons #Sapolsky #geneticdeterminism

Robert Sapolsky spent ten years studying a baboon troop.  It was intensely hierarchical, with a bunch of “alpha males” beating the crap out of each other and everyone else.  Stress hormones through the roof for both those at the top and the bottom and generally not very “nice.”

Then something thing happened.  The troop foraged for food at a waste dump; some of the meat they got had TB in it.  A lot of the troop members died. But, the ones who died were disproportionately from the “elite” (meat being an elite thing, perhaps).

What happened next is interesting – the “good guy” males who hadn’t died did NOT step up and become alpha dicks.  Instead, a new, calmer atmosphere prevailed.  When new males came to the troop they had, within a few months, adjusted to this “chilled” culture.

This little story should (but won’t) give pause to those who believe “aggression is ‘natural'”, it’s “written in our genes” etc.  But it won’t, because they are genetically hard-wired to believe genetic explanations.

Yes, I am aware that this sounds like one of those “just so” stories.  Watch the video if you like.

I don’t know if eventually some particularly obdurate young incomers managed to become “alphas” and revert to the previous ways…

Further reading
Baboon Study Shows Benefits for Nice Guys, Who Finish 2nd

Thanks to Robert Paterson for bringing this wonderful clip to my attention!

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About dwighttowers

Below the surface...
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