Say Goodbye to the Alpha Male

Say Goodbye to the Alpha Male

The whole concept of “Alpha Male” originated in studies of wolves and the theory that an “Alpha” wolf leads a pack, and that the “Beta” males and females defer to his dominance.  The theory was based on the work of L. David Mech (pronounced Meech) in the early 1960s and popularized in the 1970s.  Mech is a senior research scientist for the U.S. Geological Survey and an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota. He has researched wolves since 1958 in locations including northern Minnesota, Isle Royale, Alaska, Yellowstone National Park, Ellesmere Island, and Italy.

However, Mech himself has debunked the Alpha Male theory.  In his publication, Alpha Status, Dominance, and Division of Labor, in Wolf Packs, [Mech, L. David. 1999. Alpha status, dominance, and division of labor in wolf packs. Canadian Journal of Zoology 77:1196-1203. Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Home Page. http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/2000/alstat/alstat.htm, (Version 16MAY2000).] Mech says:

The prevailing view of a wolf (Canis lupus) pack is that of a group of individuals ever vying for dominance but held in check by the “alpha” pair, the alpha male and the alpha female. Most research on the social dynamics of wolf packs, however, has been conducted on non-natural assortments of captive wolves. Here I describe the wolf-pack social order as it occurs in nature, discuss the alpha concept and social dominance and submission, and present data on the precise relationships among members in free-living packs based on a literature review and 13 summers of observations of wolves on Ellesmere Island, Northwest Territories, Canada. I conclude that the typical wolf pack is a family, with the adult parents guiding the activities of the group in a division-of-labor system in which the female predominates primarily in such activities as pup care and defense and the male primarily during foraging and food-provisioning and the travels associated with them. (You can view a pdf of the publication at http://www.wolf.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/267alphastatus_english.pdf)

In other words, the whole “Alpha Male” thing was a result of forced captivity.  The natural division of labor system was based on a family.  The deference shown was the natural deference of child to parent.  In humans, these two research articles, one from Berkeley  and one in Psychology Today show the whole situation to be much more complex than some simple popular concept.  The author of the Berkeley article says:

Thus, I think a much more effective and healthier route for men having difficulty attracting women is not to attempt to cultivate the traits of the stereotypical, dominant “alpha,” but to cultivate the traits of the prestigious man. This means developing a skill that brings value to society, and cultivating a stable sense of identity. Such a route will not only make you more attractive to women, but will also create the most satisfying life for yourself in general. In my view, attempting to don the persona of the “alpha” is analogous to building a house of cards. There’s no stable foundation supporting your worth.

It’s time we shed these black and white categories, and embrace a much more multidimensional concept of masculinity. The most attractive male is really a blend of characteristics, including assertiveness, kindness, cultivated skills, and a genuine sense of value in this world. The true alpha is fuller, deeper, and richer.

This article in the Huffington Post says:

As we examine the seemingly never-ending wave of sexual assault allegations that are knocking handfuls of powerful men off their perches each day, as we read about the numerous hazing-related deaths at fraternities, as we come to accept the fact that our country elected a man who bragged about grabbing women by the genitals without consent, we have to acknowledge that toxic masculinity is a systemic problem…

We need to destroy the idea of the alpha male and all it’s associated labels, and replace it with something far simpler and broader.  There’s really no reason to involve gender at all: be a good person.  The qualities associated with gender are almost entirely a social construction; there’s no reason for them to exist.  We can be reductive here: be responsible, be gracious, be generous, be compassionate, be empathetic, be caring, be kind.

I totally agree with these articles.  It was an artificial concept to begin with, it never existed in nature.  It was a result of wolves being held in captivity.  Christians especially should shun the concept.  It is completely contrary to the way Jesus acted.  Time to retire the “Alpha Male”.

94 thoughts on “Say Goodbye to the Alpha Male

  1. “But I also think some of us “progressive” Christians might be a little too loose on the anti-abortion stance, maybe because of the “anti-abortion uber alles” Christian camp that we’d rather not be associated with.”

    Well, you’re damn right about not wanting to be associated with certain campfire circles…

    BUT, even the term “anti-abortion” posits an extreme binary which is ridiculous. BTW, it’s usually white males like us who pontificate on the issue as though other people, especially women, have uniquely and unencumbered “free choice” in making decisions on this issue.

    What woman have you (or I) ever encountered who is adamantly “pro-abortion” who thinks abortion is a wonderful thing that every female should put on their bucket list? I would assert that 99% of women who have abortions do so because they have little to no freedom of choice to do otherwise.

    At least “pro-choice” speaks to the opposite binary which is “no-choice” other than what’s been decided FOR you by those who would be your controllers.

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  2. Oh, I agree. There needs to be no hypocrisy when it comes to “pro-life.” But I also think some of us “progressive” Christians might be a little too loose on the anti-abortion stance, maybe because of the “anti-abortion uber alles” Christian camp that we’d rather not be associated with.

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  3. Should be, but notice with such pairings as abortion & death penalty or sex & violence in media, there’s a general pattern for being pro one 110% and anti the other (same percent). It’s one of those mysteries of the universe.

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  4. Remember that this is the same James Dobson who took a belt to his dachshund in a Dominance Display to show Who’s Alpha. And talked about it on the air as if it was a GOOD thing.

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  5. This harks back to Pete Enns (“The Bible for Normal People”) blogging about “Poem Truth” and “Math Truth”; how the Bible (especially ha-Tanakh) was written in Poem Truth before there was Math Truth and our contemporary “Plain Reading of SCRIPTURE(TM)” insists on reading it as word-for-word Math Truth. Axiom, Axoim, Axiom, Fact, Fact, Fact, Check, Check, Check.

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  6. A doctoral candidate polled Republicans about their child-rearing ideas and then if they voted for Trump. He was looking for some non-political indicator about why people voted as they did. He came up with the idea of looking at how they viewed raising their children. He focused on four issues:

    independence or respect for their elders;
    curiosity or good manners;
    self-reliance or obedience;
    being considerate or being well-behaved.

    The parents who wanted their children to be obedient and quiet, as opposed to free-thinking and creative, were far more likely to support Trump.

    Here are quotes:

    Psychologists use these questions to identify people who are disposed to favor hierarchy, loyalty and strong leadership — those who picked the second trait in each set — what experts call “authoritarianism.” That many of Trump’s supporters share this trait helps explain the success of his unconventional candidacy and suggests that his rivals will have a hard time winning over his adherents.

    When it comes to politics, authoritarians tend to prefer clarity and unity to ambiguity and difference. They’re amenable to restricting the rights of foreigners, members of a political party in the minority and anyone whose culture or lifestyle deviates from their own community’s.

    “For authoritarians, things are black and white,” MacWilliams said. “Authoritarians obey.”

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  7. Yes, but…

    Shouldn’t a person who says this…

    –> “WHAT IS THE WORTH OF A SINGLE HUMAN BEING ????”

    …at least be leaning pretty strongly into a pro-life/anti-abortion stance? And I’m not saying that it should be “anti-abortion uber alles” as some Christian Republicans make it, but shouldn’t someone who takes a strong stance on the worth of every single human being at least be pro-life/anti-abortion in stance?

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  8. Indeed a great read with interesting insights and conclusions. I also highly recommend this book. As well as thoughtful contemplation on what ’emotional intelligence’ may or can mean for homo sapiens.

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  9. When Opposing Abortion became the Litmus Test of Eternal Salvation, Virtue Signalling, and Righteous Preening.

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  10. “Certain” as in “The Behaviors of Those On Top and Those Who Think They Are Entitled To Be On Top”.

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  11. I remember when I was listening to Christianese AM radio in the late Seventies and “The Strong Willed Child” was fighting “Late Great Planet Earth” for the position of 67th Book of the Bible.

    Like Got Hard, Pearl, and Ezzo, it GUARANTEED your children would grow up to be Good Little Christians, Perfect in Every Way. Just follow My BIBLICAL Principles and Checklist.

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  12. I once knew a guy who distinguished between “Friends” and “Resources”. Somewhere along the way he moved me from the former category to the latter. (Or maybe he had me in the latter all along and was good at faking the former.) Either way, I broke contact and changed the locks before he could rip me off. When I compared notes with two gamer buds who also knew him and found out what he’d been telling them about me… Well, he was telling FOUR different stories to the three of us.

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  13. (They are also, as an aside, complete and utter sex maniacs and a truly unbelievable way.)

    I remember when Bonobos replaced Dolphins as the type example of a more Advanced and Peaceful species having Total Sexual Freedom.

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  14. “As primates, hierarchy seems to be baked into the pie”
    I am not so sure, except in a really loose definition of “heirachy”: our two closest primate relatives are chimps and bonobos (I think we are pretty equally close to each), and while everyone seems to bang on about our aggressive and domineering behaviours and all the “dominant male” claptrap being “natural” because chimps behave like that, our other equally close ancestors are matriarchal and more cooperative, and massively less aggressive towards each other (although still wildly more aggressive than humans) and seem to be in many ways biologically and psychologically closer to us than chimpanzees. (They are also, as an aside, complete and utter sex maniacs and a truly unbelievable way.)
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonobo

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  15. I like the Ephesian 4:3 version: ” Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. “

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  16. That does help to explain why Trump has/had such wide appeal, particularly among people who wouldn’t seem likely to be attracted to his style of leadership. I hope it doesn’t become a political staple.

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  17. I’m inclined to agree with Michael Z, and suggest that his statement, ” The most successful alphas are those that nourish the integrity of the whole community through peacekeeping, empathy, impartiality.” applies equally to a family–including the family dog(s). James Dobson’s book “The Strong-Willed Child” might be used, perhaps, for starting a fire–but certainly not for raising a child.

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  18. To me, that’s the meaning of “Generational Curses” – they’re dysfunctions that get passed down through generations as one gen raises the next. Said dysfunctions could be minor bad habits or truly destructive attitudes and abuses. “Cursed unto the third and fourth generations” is just the Bible-period terminology for that phenomenon, just as “Consciences seared as by red-hot irons” was the period idiom for a psychopath and “Satan can transform himself to appear as an Angel of Light” was describing how a successful sociopath is a master at camouflage and deception.

    That “Trump Prophecy” guy who recently shot off his mouth about God cursing you and me unto three or four generations for voting for Biden doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about.

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  19. time to start focusing on what it means to be a human person first, made in the image of God

    WHAT IS THE WORTH OF A SINGLE HUMAN BEING ????

    when we come to understand that, THEN maybe we can begin to understand other things about ourselves, but what pandemic and trumpism have revealed to me is that there is a great confusion among Christian people concerning the worth of a single human life in this world. . . .

    that loss of understanding is a departure from the traditional Judeo-Christian ethic where human dignity derives from being made ‘in the image of God’;
    and in the Jewish understanding that ‘to save a single human life is to save the world entire’

    how strange to me that our fundamentalist-Christians have so opposed abortions but let go of the Judeo-Christian understanding of the worth of even one life . . . . . when did this happen to them? how did this happen to them?

    ?

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  20. Interesting stuff.We live in a society that seems to overvalue the alpha traits though, just as it overvalues the extrovert traits. These findings are not unlike those in Susan Cain’s book “Quiet” about how those on the introvert side of the spectrum have strengths that often get overlooked, to society’s detriment.

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  21. If the category of Alpha Male is defined in such a way that Mr. Rogers or Tom Hanks are examples of what is meant, I’m good with that; but I don’t think that’s what Senecagriggs and many others mean when they use the term.

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  22. This is much like debating the term “Evangelical”. I don’t get to decide what way language evolves. Sometimes it is time for a term to be retired from use by responsible parties – which is likely the parties using a term in its historic context [correctly?], but they are the ‘adults in the room’. The point of language is understanding.

    {insert-here} cannot be cleanly separated from popular culture, things spill over.

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  23. The common conceptualization of the “alpha male” as Stanley Kowalski is three parts resentment and one part Puritan moral preening, as if the now-defunct Chateau Heartiste held a trademark on the term.

    Think Paul Newman as Butch Cassidy, rather. The kind of guy who gets you to beg him to let you do what he wants, as if it was what you really wanted all along, but were too obtuse to see it. That such men are attractive to women should come as no surprise. I think Joanne Woodward was considered one of the luckiest women alive.

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  24. Which is why I think the idea of the “alpha male” should be retired altogether–because it was the result of a misunderstanding: captive wolves behave differently from wolves in the wild, and because that misunderstanding has become part of popular culture. It’s simply wrong, unproductive, and we should stop using it.

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  25. That is usually the appeal of fundamentalism. It is much easier (emotionally) to defend positions held by the pack than to wrestle with ambiguity (e.g. creationism). Strong leaders that turn everything into black and white, us and them, right and wrong lead the pack and relieve the members of responsibility. Black and white is better than gray. Unfortunately in some contexts this becomes ‘I was just following orders’.

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  26. And for some reason they keep getting fired for ‘moral failures’, some posthumously.

    Years ago I read a book called ‘the Walk on Water Syndrome’ about pastors. One section described ‘leadership models’, which are really (in this case) personality traits. One was the ‘Walnut Boardroom’ model of leadership. This kind of pastor is usually effective, but sees people as ‘resources’ to be used for the ‘mission’. He is also most likely to be the one found sleeping with his secretary or counselees.

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  27. There are people who have a strong desire for the simplicity and security that comes from just submitting to a powerful leader who will tell them what to do. Sociologically, that’s referred to as “authoritarian personality.” If you’re raised in a family where domination, exploitation, and control are the norm, you’re going to naturally feel most comfortable under that sort of leader.

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  28. “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!”

    “Truly I say to you that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit down upon His throne of glory, you having followed Me, you also will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

    “And I bestow on you a kingdom, just as My Father has bestowed one on Me, so that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. ”

    “While the people were listening to this, Jesus proceeded to tell them a parable, because He was near Jerusalem and they thought the kingdom of God would appear imminently. So He said, “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to lay claim to his kingship and then return. Beforehand, he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Conduct business with this until I return, he said. But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We do not want this man to rule over us.

    When he returned from procuring his kingship, he summoned the servants to whom he had given the money, to find out what each one had earned. The first servant came forward and said, ‘Master, your mina has produced ten more minas. His master replied, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very small matter, you shall have authority over ten cities.

    The second servant came and said, ‘Master, your mina has made five minas. And to this one he said, ‘You shall have authority over five cities.

    Then another servant came and said, ‘Master, here is your mina, which I have laid away in a piece of cloth. For I was afraid of you, because you are a harsh man. You withdraw what you did not deposit and reap what you did not sow. His master replied, ‘You wicked servant, I will judge you by your own words. So you knew that I am a harsh man, withdrawing what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not deposit my money in the bank, and upon my return I could have collected it with interest?

    Then he told those standing by, ‘Take the mina from him and give it to the one who has ten minas. Master, they said, ‘he already has ten! He replied, ‘I tell you that everyone who has will be given more; but the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.

    And these enemies of mine who were unwilling for me to rule over them, bring them here and slay them in front of me.

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  29. The point is that what “alpha male” means sociologically is very different from what it means in popular culture. Or to put it another ways, in social animal species “alpha” doesn’t imply bullying, dominance, or intimidation even though that’s what people think it means.

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  30. Emotional intelligence strikes me as more a characteristic of a leader than an “alpha male.” The best leaders lead through cooperation, not force. The idea of dominance as a positive in society needs to be retired.

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  31. “The greater issue here is the entire question of hierarchy in itself. As primates, hierarchy seems to be baked into the pie but at the same time rankles us no end. Is the issue concerning hierarchies that the people in charge are so frequently unworthy (anaxios!) of the responsibility of telling other people what to do? Or is it that we should discard all idea of hierarchy and strive for unanimity in all things?”

    Matt 23:8-12 “But yourou are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth your father, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

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  32. > you’re a Soy-Boy Omega Cuck. NOTHING in-between. Top or Bottom, Dom or Sub

    Or, even worse, you are a “Servant Leader”. “Servant Leader” is about the dumbest idea anyone ever had. It is a potent toxin to good institutions.

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  33. Yep. “perpetual adolescents” might be a bit strong.

    It is believed that an upside of that ‘mutation’ is a significantly prolonged period of neurological plasticity which enables them to learn to have social [non-predatory] relationships with non-dogs as well as learn to be comfortable in the wild variety of societies within which they exist. Most animals have a very short period of plasticity, you as a not-them would pretty much need to be there at birth in order to bond [and still that bond would likely decay – domestication is a whole constellation of changes].

    Feral dogs, descended from domesticated dogs, still show some deference for humans so it isn’t just this change. One has to wonder how something like that gets encoded biologically? What writes into the firmware: us / not-us / could-be-us ?

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  34. > we carry around within us a “lizard brain” similar to our reptilian ancestors is also false
    Interesting. I’ve always used that to explain the impulse to do something stupid, reckless, or lazy; not useful for justification.

    Because you’re using it as an idiom.
    Not FACT, FACT, FACT from a mind of Wheels and Metal.

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  35. I cringe at the thought of how much child abuse resulted from attempts by these fundamentalists to teach “Bible based” child rearing. Many of the methods used by my own hardcore fundie parents would today be considered abuse by competent professionals. I never thought of myself as abused but that’s probably because I always associated “abuse” strictly with sexual abuse. Psychological abuse is a real thing though even if all you do is pass on very bad ideas..

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  36. Because if you’re not an Alpha on top (“ME MAN! RAWR!!!”), you’re a Soy-Boy Omega Cuck. NOTHING in-between. Top or Bottom, Dom or Sub, Hold the Whip or Feel the Whip – the zero-sum game of Power Struggle.

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  37. I’ve also heard that dogs are essentially bred to be perpetual adolescents (at least in comparison to wild wolves), which predisposes them towards deference and obedience to the “pack leaders” i.e. humans.

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  38. > The “Right Brain/Left Brain” dichotomy appears to be false.

    Ugh. Or the only-using-10% idea; like, Ok, let me scoop out 90% of your brain and see if we notice a difference. Ugh!

    > we carry around within us a “lizard brain” similar to our reptilian ancestors is also false

    Interesting. I’ve always used that to explain the impulse to do something stupid, reckless, or lazy; not useful for justification.

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  39. > bully a-hole does have its worldly appeal to a vast number of people at times

    In defense of a vast number of people 🙂 perhaps they are too often not presented with alternatives.

    The Alpha Notion is doubly toxic. It gives the bully a philosophical foot hold, and it discourages leadership in others.

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  40. Excellent post. As our understanding increases we revise our views. Unfortunately some memes so penetrate the public consciousness that they are hard to shake. Examples abound in cognitive studies and neuroscience since this is an area where our views have been substantially modified. The “Right Brain/Left Brain” dichotomy appears to be false. The view that we carry around within us a “lizard brain” similar to our reptilian ancestors is also false. Like the “Alpha Male” view these concepts have been used to validate and justify certain human behaviors.

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  41. it would certainly explain why the cult of the alpha male is most prevalent among people who are struggling financially or relationally.

    And in 2016, those cultists thronged to the Alpha of Alpha Males, a God among Alpha Males.

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  42. I was thinking the same thing. Which means the male egotistical, sociopathic, narcisstic, bully a-hole does have its worldly appeal to a vast number of people at times. Or maybe they’re just really good at mesmerizing the masses.

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  43. Frans de Waal is extremely enlightening in these matters. He played a large role in my developing understanding of the world, and human nature in particular.

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  44. The most successful alphas are those that nourish the integrity of the whole community through peacekeeping, empathy, impartiality, etc. In other words, “emotional intelligence” is one of the key traits of alphas.

    More like guys who tend to be respected as natural leader types.
    Again, sounds more like that Rabbi from Nazareth than “I HAVE ABSOLUTE AUTHORITY! ME MAN! RAWR!”

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  45. sounds like something a gamma would definitely say. 😉

    The concept of alpha isn’t solely relegated to wolves. Gorillas, Elephants (most animals in the Savannah) exhibit these traits.

    As for it being a hard and fast rule with no nuance – I’m a bit surprised anyone ever thought it was that simple.

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  46. Tell that to all those Alpha Male MegaPastors and book-writers on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood. They have made that concept into a GAWD HATH SAID Litmus Test of Salvation and Masculinity.

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  47. If a parent doesn’t rule the house, then the child will.

    In The Strong Willed Child, James Dobson took that idea and firewalled it into Power Struggle Without End, Amen.

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  48. The most attractive male is really a blend of characteristics, including assertiveness, kindness, cultivated skills, and a genuine sense of value in this world.

    Sounds a lot more like that Rabbi from Nazareth than Alpha Males Adolf Hitler, Donald Trump, Mark Driscoll, and Biblical Manhood awash is Sacred Testosterone.

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  49. “””We can be reductive here: be responsible, be gracious, be generous, be compassionate, be empathetic, be caring, be kind.”””

    +1,000,000

    Huh, Rom 12:18 comes to mind: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

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  50. “””If “alpha male” behavior is a response to stress, insecurity, and a feeling of powerlessness, it would certainly explain why the cult of the alpha male is most prevalent among people who are struggling financially or relationally.”””

    +1,000

    “””It wouldn’t, on the other hand, explain people who are rich and comfortable but still seem to experience an overwhelming fear of not being perceived as masculine enough.”””

    Even rich people can need therapy, or medication. Undiagnosed anxiety disorders exist at country clubs – trust me.

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  51. > In other words, “emotional intelligence” is one of the key traits of alphas

    Which is really walking away from the common conceptualization of “alpha”.

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  52. Dog research is a side hobby of mine; it is not alpha status you are witnessing.

    First, domesticated dogs have a deference to humans, they are not a clear 1:1 with wolves. They’ve been separated from wolves on-and-off for ~100,000 years [it is not a clean evolutionary line].

    Alpha too often implies Aggression and Force. Higher cooperative species – which dogs certainly are – all organize hierarchies of some kind; it is simple pragmatism. Yet, even in wolves, the use of violence is uncommon. Leadership involves Confidence; confidence is really *NOT* exhibited by violence. Violence is associated with stress and anxiety; it is an anti-confidence behavior. Dogs will shun an aggressive dog, not defer to it. Dogs like confidence… and who doesn’t? With the domesticated dog it is not so much about “establishing dominance” as assuming an expected role [again, no wolf equivalent]. A group without leadership is chaotic, and chaos induces anxiety, but Leadership != Alpha. Anxiety/Disorder bad, Confidence/Order good.

    Aside: there is among domesticated dogs some evidence of a default social ranking which may involve genetic markers, assumably detectable by scent. Dogs are in so many ways very – very – different from us. Even our notions of hierarchy may not relate to their conceptions of their own social situation.

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  53. I think it is still explainable as a family dynamic. If a parent doesn’t rule the house, then the child will.

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  54. +1

    > I tend to be skeptical of simplistic views of humans nature

    I no longer believe there is *A* “human nature”. Humans, and perhaps other primates, represent a quantum-leap in adaptability; we can adapt ourselves.

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  55. In a sense, we are captive.

    A wolf in captivity is not free to express its logos, to achieve its telos. In the same way postlapsarian humans cannot express our logos nor unaided, achieve our telos. Thus, the whole Alpha male – Beta male metaphorical apparatus has greater explanatory power when used to describe rebellious humanity than humanity pursuing its telos.

    As far as male and female is concerned, they both appear to me to be biological energies for which actual wolf or human bodies are imperfect vessels. It is also evident to me that these energies are complementary and equally necessary.

    The greater issue here is the entire question of hierarchy in itself. As primates, hierarchy seems to be baked into the pie but at the same time rankles us no end. Is the issue concerning hierarchies that the people in charge are so frequently unworthy (anaxios!) of the responsibility of telling other people what to do? Or is it that we should discard all idea of hierarchy and strive for unanimity in all things? There is no commonality of purpose in hell, I imagine.

    Re: Alpha men and ‘red pill’ thought: I roughly subscribe to it, although as always the heuristics that we call racism, sexism, nationalism etc have some rough applicability in the aggregate but will quickly betray you when things become personal.

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  56. I had a brother-in-law from several decades past who did his grad work under Mech. Wolves are interesting creatures.

    This may just by my anecdotal experience, but I have found that with family dogs–my own and other people’s–the role of the alpha male does play into the relationship of the dog in its human family setting. If one of the human owners of the dog(s) doesn’t act the role of an alpha male, then the dog will. The sex of the dog doesn’t seem to make any difference. If the man or woman of the house doesn’t establish dominance then the dog will run the house.

    Thoughts Mike M.?

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  57. For the analogy to hold it would have to be something outside the human species.

    As an aside, the human species is a curious thing – the introduced complexity in behaviour through cognitive evolution makes many different outcomes possible. It is one of the reasons why I tend to be skeptical of simplistic views of humans nature. The more we learn of primate behaviour the more we see complex behaviour there too, so all in all, complexity is our lot.

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  58. “Christians especially should shun the concept. It is completely contrary to the way Jesus acted.”

    And that above all should be the ultimate criteria for how Christians should think and act.

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  59. That sort of makes sense. If “alpha male” behavior is a response to stress, insecurity, and a feeling of powerlessness, it would certainly explain why the cult of the alpha male is most prevalent among people who are struggling financially or relationally.

    It wouldn’t, on the other hand, explain people who are rich and comfortable but still seem to experience an overwhelming fear of not being perceived as masculine enough.

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  60. The qualities that the article is talking about are things like passivity and deference. They are not gender specific except as a social construct. The roles, such as pup care and defense are a natural division of labor of wolves in the wild.

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  61. Primatologist Frans de Waal reaches similar conclusions:

    https://www.npr.org/2019/08/16/751492970/frans-de-waal-what-qualities-make-a-good-leader-in-chimpanzees

    He says that although some alphas among primates are bullies, they tend to be quickly deposed by the community. The most successful alphas are those that nourish the integrity of the whole community through peacekeeping, empathy, impartiality, etc. In other words, “emotional intelligence” is one of the key traits of alphas.

    (His book “Mama’s Last Hug,” about animal emotions, is a fascinating read, by the way.)

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  62. Not wanting to make to much of a metaphorical leap here, but if the presence of alpha males in wolves seems to show up in a captivity situation, would it not also be plausible that the same captivity situation is present in human societies – hence the development of alpha human males as a response?

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  63. “The qualities associated with gender are almost entirely a social construction; there’s no reason for them to exist.”

    “the female predominates primarily in such activities as pup care and defense and the male primarily during foraging and food-provisioning and the travels associated with them”.

    Not computing for me.

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