Re: Sex roles: are we like the chimps?

Philip Dorrell (
Thu, 29 Jun 95 21:55:56 GMT

In article <3sfsal$>, (MainElaine) wrote:
>I'm writing a comparison/contrast paper on the human male and the alpha
>male (chimpanzee). I'd appreciate any info or direction on
>similarities/differences (;>). Thanks! (It seems we really are a chimp off
>the old block.)

I think that our sex life is more like that of swans than that of chimpanzees.
That is, tendency to long-term permanent monogamy, sharing and cooperation in
child rearing, perhaps occasional infidelity. I think that the latest thinking
on monogamy and shared child-rearing is that it is usually a consequence of
the female being unable to rear a child alone, and in humans this has come
about because evolution of a large head to hold a large brain has somehow
resulted in a long and helpless post-birth infancy (because the initial stage
of brain growth is not finished until a year after birth).

The alpha male chimp is a male who physically dominates the whole troop with
perhaps the help of some friends. Human language has so totally altered the
means by which people communicate and cooperate with each other that the
concept of social dominance that occurs with chimps (and other animals) is no
longer recognisable with human beings (or only in some circumstances). Chimp
morality is what human morality is when you walk down a dark alley, i.e. the
strongest guy or group wins (and gets all the sex). As a minor example, the
social life of a male chimp starts off with his attempts to physically
dominate all females in the troop. I don't think this generally happens in
human society. Even physical dominance between males is of variable

If you attempt to look for a human equivalent to an alpha male, you simply
won't find it. Modern human society is dominated by moral propositions, legal
systems and political movements. It is not even possible for any of these
things to get an improved sex life, although men associated with them may
sometimes do so. The main goal in a male chimp's life is to become the alpha
male, or failing that a friend of the alpha male. For human males it may or
may not be a life goal to become a socially dominant individual. Wealth is
often more important, and this is not exactly the same thing as power.

Modern society is also economic and women are attracted sometimes to richer
men. The human tendency to become obsessed with doing some particular thing
better and better is probably a consequence of the economic nature of society.
Chimpanzees do not have economies.

Philip Dorrell Email:
Articles on consciousness, dreams, music, evolution, anthropic principle at