Dominance Hierarchies

Is the world better off for having ape dominance systems, or is it a worse place? I think it’s worse for it. And it speaks to my idea that all humans are fundamentally rotten. Give anyone power and their true nature will be revealed.

Here’s a little story from the beginning of time. At the big bang there was hydrogen and then helium, with a tiny bit of lithium. Soon gravity made some of that hydrogen stars. The heaviest of them exploded, thus creating heavier elements such as: oxygen, carbon, sulfur, phosphorus, nitrogen, etc. I want you to remember SPONCH. That is Sulfur, Phosphorus, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Carbon, Hydrogen. They are some of the most common elements in the universe and they are the most abundant elements in our bodies. Consider also that each element is made from protons, neutrons and electrons, with protons and neutrons being made of up quarks and down quarks while being held together with gluons. Also consider, every eukaryotic life form today is descended from one event eons ago when some archaea merged with a mitochondria and this lead to more complex lifeforms. Lifeforms such as: trees, roaches, whales and people. We are all made of common elements, which are basically made from two quarks and an electron. We are all descended from some bacteria-like life form and its union with mitochondria. We all have stinky poop. None are special. So you tell me why we have this civilization today with its dominance hierarchy and people pretending to be special?

I guess it depends on what you mean by special? Physical or intellectual superiority is certainly a real thing. One could argue that morality is largely a human concept that only exists in a limited extent among higher order primates and even then is largely self serving such as altruism that allows one to survive and propagate the species and one’s own offspring.

I don’t think the world would necessarily be any better if we had evolved from some other animals and dominance hierarchies appear to be quite common among a lot of different creatures, our terrible atrocities and cruelty may spring from the same place as our greatness and most profound achievements.

I’m pretty damned special. If you insist that you aren’t, I suppose I don’t mind agreeing with you. :slight_smile:

I’m with the bonobos, who, as primates go, aren’t much into dominance hierarchies. I think they’re lethal to the species at this point, whether they once served a useful function or not. Even if they aren’t, I suspect they’re dispensible, and the quality of individual life seems to improve with every incremental step away from authoritarianism and hierarchical inequality, so let’s go as far as we can away from such things and see what we end up with, shall we?

Humans invented the concept of “special”, and it can mean whatever we want it to mean.

We are stardust
Billion year old carbon
We are golden
Caught in the devil’s bargain
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden!

The concept that the world can be ‘better’ or ‘worse’ due to our presence or that humans are ‘fundamentally’ rotten are themselves heavily anthropocentric concepts, so maybe start with your own assumptions.

Did you intend this for the Pit? If not, we can ask someone to move it.

Humans are fundamentally good.

This is slightly circular, because “good” is largely based off mammalian instinctive behaviors, like helping those in need, sharing food in times of shortage, protecting children, etc. 95% of the people in this world are pretty good souls, the kind you’d be happy to meet and have as personal friends.

Dominance systems are necessary because of the existence of that other 5% – assholes – but also because even between perfectly good people there can be conflicts that need to be resolved by some force-based process, whether it be What The Elders Say To Do, down to an organized and complex system of laws.

I should add, this world doesn’t have to be the way it is. There is nothing in the fundamental laws of physics that say humans must exploit each other and to endlessly pursue profit. You’ll find dollars are quite worthless beyond Earth’s surface. Capitalism may well be an alien concept beyond Earth. There really is no point to existence. Other than increasing entropy life has no other purpose. Humans create meaning from the nothing. And often times that meaning is awful. Such as creating exploitative dominance hierarchies. Humans use energy and create disorder to dominate each other. In the vast cosmos nowhere is it written that it has to be this way.

Not me!

None are special.

Uh, did you see what I wrote about the poop?

It might be inescapable human nature. We’re evolved to be social animals, with tribal hierarchy. Any group of people will, by instinct, sort themselves out into leaders and followers. We can no more escape that than we can go without food: it’s hard-wired and is just “what we are.”

What we can do is hold elections, so even the underdogs and untouchables get a say in who the leaders will be. It isn’t perfect (per Churchill) but it’s better than being ruled by the son of the last ruler, or the guy who beat up the other claimants, or the guy holding your family hostage.

FWIW, on the serious side, I do believe I read somewhere that hunter-gatherer groups (the conditions under which modern humans evolved and thus far have spent the bulk of their existence) are actually very horizontal. Which isn’t to say that there are/were no leaders in such groups, only that the extensive, multi-layered hierarchy is something that came after, as human societies became larger and more complex.

So these are social constructs, more than part of our evolutionary makeup. But then we are social animals, which makes our ability to adapt socially part of our evolutionary background, which means error! Errror! explodes in a logic feedback loop

Most who’ve studied authoritarianism as a personality trait have found a combination of genetic and environmental influences on the extent of the trait (nature versus nurture, or evolution versus culture, etc.). The more immediate point is that individuals do vary in the degree to which they are oriented toward hierarchy or, instead, toward egalitarianism.

It’s a fascinating topic. It does explain so much of what we experience and how our societies function–or fail to function.

They’ve replaced them with free-love-as-social-lubricant. I’m not sure we’re wired the same way for that.