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Earth Science

Ancient Skulls Show Civilization Rose As Testosterone Fell 387

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-low-t-cream-please dept.
An anonymous reader writes Even though modern humans started appearing around 200,000 years ago, it was only about 50,000 years ago that artistry and tool making became popular. New research shows that society bloomed when testosterone levels in humans started dropping. A paper published in the journal Current Anthropology, suggests that a testosterone deficit facilitated the friendliness and cooperation between humans, which lead to modern society. "Whatever the cause, reduced testosterone levels enabled increasingly social people to better learn from and cooperate with each other, allowing the acceleration of cultural and technological innovation that is the hallmark of modern human success," says University of Utah biology graduate student Robert Cieri.
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Ancient Skulls Show Civilization Rose As Testosterone Fell

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  • Social Engineering? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 03, 2014 @01:00PM (#47594183)

    Seems like the biggest cause for the drop would be people realizing that their biggest baddest brutes, were seriously poor negotiators. Sending in the little guy because he was less threatening would make sense. Over time, less threatening males were necessary more and more often.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 03, 2014 @01:08PM (#47594243)

    Could it be instead that civilization caused a general lowering of testosterone, because high testosterone levels were no longer vital to survival?

    Or that the removal of some other threat or improvement in environmental conditions meant both that conditions existed that favoured the rise of civilisation and that testosterone was no longer required to the same extent as previously.

    Or even that testosterone played its role in enabling humans to overcome a threat that needed to be overcome in order for civiliation to be practical, and since that threat had been overcome the testosterone was no longer needed... in which case it was responsible for the rise of civilisation, not an obstacle to it.

  • This is part of the extreme hostility toward men in the U.S. culture.

    The body is extremely complicated. There are maybe a million chemicals? Choosing one supposedly connected with men but actually present in both men and women, testosterone [webmd.com], and talking about its importance is thinly veiled hostility.

    The current wave of hostility of women toward men began with the book The Second Sex, by Simone de Beauvoir, a woman who was very confused about life. The book mentioned negative things men do, and avoided mentioning the negative things women do. Part of her viewpoint was influenced by the fact that she was trying to get women to have sex with her.

    There is a movie that shows Simone de Beauvoir was treated as an equal by Jean-Paul Sartre, a French philosopher and friend. She was not second.

    Both Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre had terrible childhoods and both did things in their adult lives that demonstrated their confusion.

    The Washington Post article linked in the Slashdot summary says, "No, this isnâ(TM)t some jab at dudes." Yes it is, and extremely stupid about biochemistry and civilization, also.
  • Re:Men are obsolete (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 03, 2014 @01:13PM (#47594283)

    The amount of hate-speech against men in society today is rather alarming. In the days before feminism, I'm not sure men ever suggested that women be exterminated as a gender. And yet today, the war on men grows increasingly loud and hate-filled by the day.

  • by wisnoskij (1206448) on Sunday August 03, 2014 @01:18PM (#47594325) Homepage
    It is also the only reasonable theory form a biological standpoint, as Testosterone has been studied exhaustively and simply does not in anyway reduce cooperation or friendliness. In fact in general testosterone seems to be positively correlated to number of friends and ability to cooperate.

    Why should it have the opposite effect in ancient humans?
  • Social Engineering? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 03, 2014 @01:24PM (#47594353)

    'Necessary' doesn't mean they had more babies, though.

    What's more likely is that with the advent of agriculture, more people spent their lives living in one place, with a number of consequences. One is that women and their children were more likely to live their lives alongside their other children, so having more cooperative, less violent children became advantageous. Another is that women were more likely to be impregnated by one of the local farmers, rather than the hot wandering barbarian hunter or the gang of rapists.

    Furthermore, there is a theory that the primary purpose of developing agriculture was not for food but for alcohol. It may have been that the peaceful farmers' access to stuff that could get women drunk was conducive to them having more babies.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Sunday August 03, 2014 @01:32PM (#47594415) Homepage

    Nice "wisdom" there. But why did you stop thinking there? There IS definitely a link between excessive testosterone and the lowering of sustained logic, reason and mental stability and order. (Just as there is similar evidence liking excessive estrogen with similar behaviors among women) What happens to people, both men and women when they are on steroids? That's been well established in the medical sciences for decades.

    So to say correlation/causation is a problem here conveniently missed the established facts and among these the effect of higher testosterone on mental capacity.

    I think the recognition of corre-cause fundamental principle is an important aspect of reasoning. But it is not the whole of debunking anything. (And yes, nothing you say disagrees with that statement.) But to simply state "correlation != causation" and walk away as if you've debunked something is pretty commonly expressed in these parts and I find it disturbing.

    We're bio-chemical machines. The efficacy of the machines has everything to do with what's in them, what the balances are and especially what we put into them. But even if that balance is essentially natural or origin and basis, the outcome is still an effect of the factors at play. That is to say, groups of people with higher levels than others show predictable results categorically speaking. (But that's "racist" and we're not allowed to talk about that either)

    If anything, this "finding" is just another grain of evidence supporting the obvious where human evolution are concerned. As we continue to value intellectual ability over physical ability, those who have better intellectual ability will do better than those that do not. And for societies to evolve in a direction which favors mind power over physical power literally requires and causes a reduction in that which inhibits it the most. Think in terms of rust causing heat which causes more rust and it's not so much corre-cause as it is factors feeding into one another.

    No, I don't favor the "men are obsolete" argument as it's ridiculous on its face. Feminism, like so many other hate-focused idealisms, requires an enemy. And the biggest problem with feminism's enemy is that they are the ones who create and maintain pretty much everything. That's why all of the push for "more women in these fields." The push is because as men continue to become disenfranchised, they know there is a need to replace them. The problem is they don't have anyone who WANTS to replace them because cetegorically speaking, women are interested in what women are interested in while men are interested in what interests men. And there's a certain amount of "nature" driving this fact. Deviations are fine and welcome, but attempting to force idealism over nature has NEVER worked in all of history for any sustainable amount of time and has never resulted in happiness, peace or harmony. So let's not take the observation and the apparent conclusions into political space.

    Men cannot be obsolete if only because we are half of that biological basis of sustainable reproduction, development and adaptation. We need to be able to breed and cross-breed as a means of continuation. And that requires men and women... until they can effectively create artificial sperm... which yes, I know they're working on even now.

  • by wierd_w (1375923) on Sunday August 03, 2014 @01:43PM (#47594479)

    It's probably an "energy" issue.

    Testosterone is linked with increased muscle mass, and thus with increased rest metabolism. A civilization that has lots of "Adonis" look-a-likes sitting around in the winter will not survive as well as a civilization with lots of beanpoles sitting around in the winter, because the beanpoles require less food per person per winter, and as such, the society will have more energy available to invest in improvements in technology and culture.

    So, while increased testosterone is more sexually attractive, lower testosterone would have conferred a large survival advantage in ancient human history.

    Some experiments could be devised to test this idea in fact--

    Screen the population for a threshold of testosterone production, with a good distribution over ages, (so not all the low T people are 65+ and under 12) divide into two groups of 100, one with low T, and one with high T, pay them to live in isolation in a nice little log cabin up in the mountains, then just monitor their food consumption. According to the theory, the higher T population should consume more food doing the same rest activities as the lower T group. The experiment should determine a rough baseline for the difference, from which a (dangerous) extrapolation could be made.

  • Re:Men are obsolete (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Sunday August 03, 2014 @01:53PM (#47594541)

    In the days before feminism, I'm not sure men ever suggested that women be exterminated as a gender.

    Perhaps because that is not practical. The human species cannot continue to exist without women. Men, on the other hand, could be replaced with a sperm bank. Long before the sperm bank is depleted, female scientists should be able to perfect human ova-fusion [ieet.org], which is already working in mice.

    I am not saying men should be exterminated. I am just saying that there are no significant technical barriers.

  • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Riddler Sensei (979333) on Sunday August 03, 2014 @02:07PM (#47594609)

    Testosterone isn't some Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde concoction like you seem to think it is.

    As long as we're dealing with anecdotes I will throw mine into the ring. I've engaged in powerlifting as a hobby for the past two years, during which I have met some very impressive, and dedicated, individuals. These men are strong. Really strong. Functionally strong. They're not just pounding out hammer curls and shrugs to get a pump. They are training for strength, the kind of strength where elevated testosterone just comes with the territory. And they've all been pussycats. After benching just shy of 400lbs they aren't grunting and scowling, they're grinning ear-to-ear and are practically giggling. They're considerate with the equipment and readily share when the weight room is busy. They don't scoff at the 110lbs new guy, rather they're begging the new guy to take before-and-after shots because, "...if you keep this up you are going to be AWESOME in a year!"

    Testosterone does not cause assholish-ness, per se, so much as it exacerbates it. If you are a kind, decent, person then becoming strong (and thus achieving higher levels of testosterone) will not change that. But if you are dick...well now you are a dick who is strong and you likely no longer feel the need to restrain your jackass behavior because you feel as though you can physically overwhelm any challengers to your supreme phallus.

  • You are on crack (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) on Sunday August 03, 2014 @02:17PM (#47594645)

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re... [sciencedaily.com]

    The study's results, however, contradict this view sharply. Test subjects with an artificially enhanced testosterone level generally made better, fairer offers than those who received placebos, thus reducing the risk of a rejection of their offer to a minimum. "The preconception that testosterone only causes aggressive or egoistic behavior in humans is thus clearly refuted," sums up Eisenegger. Instead, the findings suggest that the hormone increases the sensitivity for status. For animal species with relatively simple social systems, an increased awareness for status may express itself in aggressiveness. "In the socially complex human environment, pro-social behavior secures status, and not aggression," surmises study co-author Michael Naef from Royal Holloway London. "The interplay between testosterone and the socially differentiated environment of humans, and not testosterone itself, probably causes fair or aggressive behavior."

    Moreover the study shows that the popular wisdom that the hormone causes aggression is apparently deeply entrenched: those test subjects who believed they had received the testosterone compound and not the placebo stood out with their conspicuously unfair offers. It is possible that these persons exploited the popular wisdom to legitimate their unfair actions. Economist Michael Naef states: "It appears that it is not testosterone itself that induces aggressiveness, but rather the myth surrounding the hormone. In a society where qualities and manners of behavior are increasingly traced to biological causes and thereby partly legitimated, this should make us sit up and take notice." The study clearly demonstrates the influence of both social as well as biological factors on human behavior.

  • by martas (1439879) on Sunday August 03, 2014 @05:15PM (#47595397)

    This is the problem right here: the term feminist has been poisoned intentionally. Its similar to the right-wing hit job on 'liberal'; the only way to defeat an idea that most people already accept is to reframe and demonize that idea as something objectionable.

    I don't care enough to express an opinion on the rest of your post and the debate you're in, but this part strikes me as very false. A conspiracy theory is completely unnecessary to explain the "poisoning" of the term feminism. It's entirely believable that, as radical elements of feminism naturally arose (and they did arise naturally; there's no way in hell that's a false flag operation), both non-feminists and those with actively anti-feminist inclinations lumped those radical elements with the less extreme versions of feminism. That's a story as old as time, same has happened with Islam, atheism, race relations, LGBT issues, etc. People are really bad at ignoring threatening extremes. It's a natural impulse, no deliberate poisoning necessary. As far as I know, the only viable means of fighting this trend is for the more moderate (but still similarly aligned) elements to actively, loudly disavow the radicalization of their views. Defensiveness won't get you anywhere, it'll just legitimize the suspicion surrounding the issue further.

  • by a_mari_usque_ad_mare (1996182) on Sunday August 03, 2014 @06:01PM (#47595611)

    I don't care enough to express an opinion on the rest of your post and the debate you're in...

    I find it pretty weird that such a logical, clear thinker has no opinion on the question of whether society is unfair to approximately 50% if its members, but fair enough, your choice.

    ... but this part strikes me as very false. A conspiracy theory is completely unnecessary to explain the "poisoning" of the term feminism. It's entirely believable that, as radical elements of feminism naturally arose (and they did arise naturally; there's no way in hell that's a false flag operation), both non-feminists and those with actively anti-feminist inclinations lumped those radical elements with the less extreme versions of feminism. That's a story as old as time, same has happened with Islam, atheism, race relations, LGBT issues, etc. People are really bad at ignoring threatening extremes. It's a natural impulse, no deliberate poisoning necessary. As far as I know, the only viable means of fighting this trend is for the more moderate (but still similarly aligned) elements to actively, loudly disavow the radicalization of their views.

    I wouldn't describe it as a conspiracy, but as a group of people attacking an idea they view as immoral or dangerous, in the most effective way possible. This often involves picking isolated sentences out of context to make a different impression that you would get reading the entire book, or blog post or whatever. Its very effective in our soundbite, 'gotcha' culture. I think the exact same thing happens to the other groups of people you mentioned, usually by the same reactionary people.

    People are really bad at ignoring threatening extremes. It's a natural impulse, no deliberate poisoning necessary. As far as I know, the only viable means of fighting this trend is for the more moderate (but still similarly aligned) elements to actively, loudly disavow the radicalization of their views.

    This shifts the burden from people who over-generalize to the objects of generalization, to police other people. Trying to control free thinkers and individualists is folly, as is trying to protect the ignorant from their own errors. People who are interested will explore ideas for themselves. Gay people shouldn't need to hide the guy bare-ass in chaps and a cowboy hat, and nothing else, to be respected and have equality before the law. Feminists shouldn't have to hide the bra-burners to have the same rights and opportunities as men.

    I also think that for all your example there are plenty of moderates putting their ideas out there, and denouncing extremists, and it doesn't work the way you claim it should. You can't argue people out of positions they were never argued into in the first place. The majority of anti-feminists, anti-gay, anti-whatever people who I have run into have these opinions because of cultural and political identity.

    Defensiveness won't get you anywhere, it'll just legitimize the suspicion surrounding the issue further.

    I wasn't trying to be defensive, but to defend an idea. I didn't see any good posts defending feminism, and plenty of weak ones attacking it.

  • Re:Men are obsolete (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DivineKnight (3763507) on Sunday August 03, 2014 @06:02PM (#47595617)

    Oh damn, got so off track replying to parent / grandparent, I didn't have a chance to make the post I wanted.

    http://www.nature.com/nature/j... [nature.com]

    Testosterone is the hormone which is responsible for aggressiveness and individuality, right? Except when it's not. It's the 'everybody knows' kind of wisdom that is bunk -> I've been studying this off and on for a while, and the hormone in both males and females that is responsible for aggression, IMHO, is progesterone; think of your wife / gf who gets PMS, this hormone is in play, and men have some of it in their systems as well. Testosterone seems to get a bad rap, with half the research saying this, and half saying that. Read up on it...the scary thought is, if one half is right, then chemical castration of sex offendors actually makes things worse, rather than better.

  • by epyT-R (613989) on Sunday August 03, 2014 @06:14PM (#47595657)

    Define 'sociable'. The problem is that this spectrum is sublabled with a good/bad dichotomy, usually done by the 'educated', soft, extraverted, submissive, and effete people, who consider themselves superior to the more masculine, independent sorts. Despite what is said about them, they do speak and associate with others, but not for its own sake, but rather as part of some other goal, like work or play. They just don't have this incessant need to be around others all the time in order to function. The reality is that this group has its own 'sociability' and hierarchy that works for them. This has nothing to do with intelligence or capability. It's just too blunt and reality focused for most of those effete types to handle without falling to pieces, and naturally the effete groups doing most of the yammering these days associate positive traits like intelligence with the behaviors that make themselves feel good.

  • Re:Men are obsolete (Score:2, Interesting)

    by epyT-R (613989) on Sunday August 03, 2014 @08:59PM (#47596173)

    I never said that women played no part. It was and largely still is the men who are the interfaces between society and the environment.. They do the majority of the scut work required, and, it's the women who selected the men for breeding based on their abilities. Since I don't see them encouraging girls to line up at the coal mines like they do for management, and that feminists have trouble acknowledging anything positive about men or mens' contributions, I don't buy the claims made by feminists that their movement is about equality for everyone... Identity politics like this are definitely routed in left wing politics.

  • Re: Men are obsolete (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 03, 2014 @09:15PM (#47596223)

    That's not a citation. That's just another pundit (in this case a women) repeating the same myths and making the same, unsubstantiated accusations.

    Likewise for the next poster's links.

    I'm not a feminist, let alone a militant feminist. But much like the Black Power movement, I can understand where these people are coming from based solely on the vitriol of the reactionaries who rail against them.

  • by dave420 (699308) on Monday August 04, 2014 @04:00AM (#47597731)
    And your post was a perfect example of condemning something without a shred of evidence, because it fits in with your notion that political correctness is bad. If I've not seen plenty of posts from you haranguing women for daring to be scientists, or making other, equally-ridiculous claims about various sections of the human race, I could pin it to unfortunate ignorance. However it seems like you are wilfully-ignorance, and filled with hate and anger. It's no wonder you'd jump on anything to condemn that which you perceive to call you out on your disgusting behaviour.

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