Last edited Fri Dec 30, 2011, 06:15 PM - Edit history (1)
Like I said, religion is a tool than can be used for good or ill. I think it is a mistake to lay all of the depredations the human race has perpetrated against the planet and itself at the feet of males.
How did bonobos, which live in humid forests south of the Zaire River, evolve such a different social structure from chimpanzees since the two species split about 2 million years ago? Male dominance plays a big role in chimp society. Disputes are often resolved by threatening displays or by fighting. Female chimps lead a life much more solitary than that their bonobo cousins, and are sometimes harassed by the much larger males. Sex is strictly about reproduction, and reproductive tactics can include infanticide -- the killing of offspring unrelated to a male chimp. Infanticidal individuals remove potential competitors to their own offspring, and the mother, without an infant to care for, will become available for mating again much sooner.
Why, then, have chimps not evolved this social structure? The answer may lie in the history of the habitats they occupy. Both species of primates live in tropical forests along the Zaire River -- chimps north of the river, bonobos to the south. Their environments seem to be quite similar today. But about 2.5 million years ago, there seems to have been a lengthy drought in southern Zaire that wiped out the preferred food plants of gorillas and sent the primates packing. After the drought ended, the forests returned, but the gorillas did not.
Chimpanzees in this environment south of the river had the forest to themselves, and could exploit the fiber foods that had previously been eaten by gorillas -- foods that are still eaten by gorillas to the north. With this additional food to tide them over between fruit trees, they could travel in larger, more stable parties, and form strong social bonds. They became bonobos.
On the north side of the river, the chimps had to share their niche with gorillas, which eat the fiber foods. The chimps have to compete for fruit, and occasionally meat, food resources that tend to be widely scattered. Female chimps disperse into the forest with their infants to find enough to eat, and cannot spend time together to forge strong bonds. The changes in social behavior that occurred in response to this environmental factor may be what led chimps down a different evolutionary path, toward a society more prone to violence.
After nearly going extinct 150,000 years ago, humankind split into small groupsliving in isolation for nearly a hundred thousand years before "reuniting" and migrating out of Africa, a new gene study says.
"The population size was driven down to probably as low as 2,000 individuals, perhapsjust a few hundred individuals in each population," Wells added.
"We were on the brink of extinction."
Once the rough climatic conditions let up, the populations apparently expanded and ultimately moved out of Africaperhaps helped by the new tools and technologies of the late Stone Age.
It may be that without the size, strength and aggressive tendencies of males the human race may not have survived at all. I wonder how much fighting occurred when all those separate bands of humans began to interact again? It's not hard to imagine evolution selecting for male possessive aggression for the survival of the species. The idea of "my woman" to continue "my bloodline" isn't a far cry from "my property".
It doesn't seem surprising to me that feminism in the United States blossomed in the sixties and seventies, a time of wealth and easy access to resources. I may be wrong and I certainly haven't made a study of it, but it may be that in times of scarcity women are treated as chattel and only in times of plenty do they enjoy greater freedom. Living in our highly technological age physical prowess and aggression are not necessarily required for survival. A woman can work at a computer terminal just as well, or probably better, than a man, advantages that benefit both genders.
Traditional avenues for men to gain honor were that of providing adequately for their families and exercising leadership. The traditional family structure consisted of the father as the bread-winner and the mother as the homemaker. During World War II, women entered the workforce in droves to replace the soldiers who were sent overseas. While some returned home to resume their positions as homemakers if their husbands survived the war, and others remained in the workplace. Over the decades since, women have risen to high political and corporate positions. This shift has caused an increase in women becoming the primary income-earners and men the primary care-givers --a process author Jeremy Adam Smith calls "the daddy shift" in his 2009 book of that title. As of 2007, 159,000 dads were primary care-givers and this number is increasing. Dubbed stay-at-home dads, these men are performing duties in the home which are not being done by women. Regardless of age or nationality, men more frequently rank good health, harmonious family life and good relationships with their spouse or partner as important to their quality of life.
I think that it's not hard to imagine that most of the men that died in some horrible war of aggression and conquest died to defend a woman and child back home. Compassion, tenderness and nurturing are sometimes luxuries we cannot afford. While women have certainly been the victims of such a lack, it has been men who have been forced to relinquish most of what makes us human just to stay alive. In the end, I think it's a two way street with a lot of twists and turns with no clear end or destination.