Saturday, June 28, 2008

Why the Beta Male Exists

Evolutionary Biologists and lay people like Neil Strauss ("the Game") and VH1's "Mystery" are always talking about the Alpha Male. How and why women prefer him, his role in society, how his presence is needed to defend society (Lee Harris, "Civilization and It's Enemies.") If you believed all the words written, there would be no reason at all for the so-called "Beta Male" to exist. Why then, does he exist?

We know what the "Beta Male" is supposed to be. A nerdy, often socially clueless man more focused on things and systems and tools than social dominance and leadership. Why does this type of man exist, if women prefer the "Alpha Male," the socially and physically dominant man? Evolution should have shoved him out of existence. Given that much of these traits seems to be inherited, as is size and the ability to dominate a social group.

The secret is that humans are different from all other animals. We use tools. Not just one-off minor tools, like chimps and birds. But tools that get better and better, constantly improved, or replaced by better tools. No other animal shapes stone to produce cutting and scraping blades, or fastens the razor sharp stone to spears. Providing a five to six foot "deadly tooth," particularly if poisoned. No other animal produces poison blow guns, bows and arrows, all sorts of body armor, metal knives, swords, spears, axes, hammers, and so on. That's not even counting firearms, which as the old saying goes, "God made man. Sam Colt made them equal."

Humans are not just social animals, humans are social animals who use ever-increasingly complex and effective tools, to dominate their surroundings. To hunt, raise domesticated animals, construct dwellings, clothing, make food out of almost anything with even a modicum of nutritional value (milled grain is far more easily digestible, and almost all peoples every place that had grain or grain-like plants milled it). Tools, and the need for better ones to not only extract the maximum amount of resources out of any environment, but beat the neighbors who wish to displace or erase your people, dominate human society. No wonder tool makers are so prevalent.

Not to mention, tools are the great equalizer in any physical confrontation, as pointed out in "The Alpha Male, the Beta, and Pitcairn Island, or Watch Your Back. A person with a better, more deadly tool wins. A man with a knife can beat a man with his fists only, a man with a sword a man with a knife, and a man with gun a man with a sword. In each case, the tool provides the ability to kill an opponent at ever increasing distances. The most deadly men in the Old West were often not particularly awe-inspiring physically, but had a habit of almost daily practice in their pistols, and kept them in good working order. The ability to practice obsessively, often alone, in an abstract manner is one sign of the "Beta Male." Even the Japanese Samurai were undone by better tools, as the Meji Restoration sought to catch up with the West. Japan learned with the arrival of Commodore Perry's Black Fleet that neglecting tools because it threatened the social order of the Alpha Male (by having those Beta Male peasants able to shoot the samurai dead at a distance) imposed it's own costs: Japan was at the mercy of the more advanced tool-users of America.

This is why there are so many "Beta Males," because success in any society depends on using the resources available to it. This requires ever more complex and effective tools, which requires ever more complex and gifted tool-makers. The tools don't just appear by magic, someone has to make them, and keep improving them.

The West's historic advantage over other societies starting around 1000 AD, and accelerating in the 1500's, stems from a greater mobilization and abundance of tool-makers. While China pioneered the use of printing, paper money, firearms, rockets, compass navigation, and a lot more, these tools never went anywhere useful. Because the tool-makers were almost always Eunuchs, who could not pass on their tool concepts to their sons and daughters for continual improvement by the next generation of tool-makers. There was nothing in China, or Japan, or Egypt, or Turkey, or Persia, or India, to compare with the Beretta Family. Makers of guns since the 1400's. Guns which got better every generation.

Much of this Western Advantage, the "secret sauce" stems from overt restrictions on the ability of the Alpha Male to dominate. Unlike the East, there were restrictions on even the Kings ability to maintain a harem. Mistresses abounded, but they were limited in number and always discreet. Polygamy was both illegal and considered a sin by the Church. Aristocratic "Alpha Males" could find the most desirable, beautiful women, but there were plenty left for men of lesser social status, and a dependable tradesman or merchant was a better bet than a rakish but impoverished soldier, no matter how dashing and masculine the latter might be. Even the less exciting men hovering over their workbench, or accounts, or scientific instruments, could be and were rewarded for creating ... better tools.

Now, of course, with a society that depends on ever-more complex tools, we face a direct conflict with societies that reject tools and tool-makers, except to use existing tools already produced by Western Societies. Muslim nations have almost no Chemistry, Biology, or Physics Nobel Prize winners. Their nations have no centers of scientific or technical learning. They produce no world-class tools, at best they can copy what the US accomplished in WWII (nuclear weapons) sixty years ago. In 2000, the non-oil exports of the Arab World were equal to that of Finland, population 5 million (but home to Nokia).

In this conflict, the two cultures (the West, and Islam) approach things differently. The West bets on ever-increasingly accurate and lethal tools: UAVs, satellite imaging, electronic interception of communication, data mining, DNA analysis, facial recognition software, bomb sniffing machines, and sniper detection software. Meanwhile Islam uses "will" to send men on suicide attacks with bombs or airliners provided by the West.

Can Islam "win?" Are the days of the Beta Male numbered? It's possible. One unsettling social change is the disdain felt for tools and tool-makers. Much of modern elite opinion holds "nature" as a god, and technology and those who create technology as the Original Sin and Sinners, respectively. Women find "nerd" qualities repellent, and the Alpha Male a better bet. No longer confined to merely a few Aristocrats limited to mistresses, the "bad boy" at all levels appeals to women, as the ever-decreasing marriage rates, increasing illegitimacy rates, and epidemic of single-motherhood across Western society. With only short-term interests, no desire or need for lifetime marriage, the nerdy toolmaker, the "Beta Male," is losing out to the Alpha Male inside the West.

Which makes the West's bet, the traditional one, on technology and the belief that "whatever happens, we have got, the Maxim gun, and they have not," as the poet Hillaire Belloc put it, increasingly shaky. Tools don't make themselves. Large numbers of dedicated and motivated tool-makers are required. At this point, it's an open question as to how long the West will have that large pool of tool-makers that create systems and weapons producing decisive advantages.


Anonymous said...

What do you think of the favourite explanation of the evolutionary psychology? According to it,
beta males is worthwhile evolutionary strategy by itself.

It starts from the assumption that human brains are too large so that offspring could be born fully mentally developed. Brain requires several years to mature. The risk is very high if a woman takes care of offspring on her own. Thus she need a stable partner. This is the role for the beta male.

Beta male gets the evolutionary benefit of having a possibility for offspring. Her mate tries to counter this by "cheating him" with the alpha male. Her benefit are better genes for her offspring. Beta males counter this by engaging in mate guarding and exhibiting aggressive jealousy.

To me it seems reflect reality better when I view "alpha male" status as something you actively do rather than something you are.

Whiskey said...

I think the answer lies in the very adaptive quality of human behavior, which varies greatly according to environments.

Naturally, the most important environmental aspect to natural selection among humans is the social environment.

In societies where women are simply grabbed up as a resource by the "Big Man" who has a classic patronage network (think Ghenghis Khan or Attila the Hun), the net result is that only men who have skills in building patronage networks reproduce. Such societies generate lots of warrior-raiders but are very bad at anything else. Like sustained agriculture, much less technology.

In societies where women have some choice, which is fewer than you'd think, in human history, it depends. In a flat, relatively hierarchy-free hunter-gatherer society, a man's skill at tool-making might compensate for any other deficiencies. There, there are severe penalties (a spear in your back when you're not looking, lack of help when luck turns bad and your hunt fails to get food) for poaching on other men's mates.

In more hierarchy-laden societies, such as Jane Austen's late 1700's England, a man's attractiveness depends on status/power, bad-boy "dark triad" aggression, and fundamental character. Austen's Elizabeth is appalled at her friend's selection of her pompous cousin, but it's better than being an impoverished spinster. Bad boy Wickham wins her over initially instead of remote and socially inept Darcy. This despite Elizabeth's insight into other men and the choices of other women around her. But Darcy wins out because the choice is long-term, and the consequences of choosing badly are great.

Now, in the Welfare State, choosing badly has no real consequence. "Theodore Dalrymple" (pen name of physician Anthony Daniels, no relation to the Star Wars actor) remarks on how so many women in Britain choose bad boy thugs, even his professional nurses.

Women generally are not attracted by intelligence, since it correlates highly with less testosterone than bad boys who are of, in the main, average intelligence. However, humans are adaptable and when the long term consequences matter, choosing the man of better character and higher intelligence than the testosterone laden bad boy "Alpha" male is the more evolutionary successful choice.

But ... that choice requires: women being able to choose (not locked up by the Big Men and patronage networks), the choice influenced by real and easily discerned risks/rewards, and lack of alternative strategies with equal or greater evolutionary payouts.

That the White illegitimacy rate in 1965 was 4% and today is 34% suggests that radical changes in women's choices have taken place. "Better genes" and fitness depending then on the social environment.

Anonymous said...

To me it seems that women are not driven so much by incentives (positive or negative) but rather by available options.

In environment where they can choose freely, they tend to cluster around alpha males, probably without conscious decision to do so. Additionally, hormonal changes seem to influence women to turn towards beta males when they hit their thirties, at least in our society.

I am interested on the source of both your historical illegitimacy rate and the more current 34% figure. I have seen only much smaller figures, in the 7-15% range.


Moshea bat Abraham said...

Fascinating post. Though I do know quite a few women who find nerds very attractive.

Mu'Min M. Bey said...

Hi Whiskey,
I've been following along your blog for the past few days now, fascinating reading! With regard to the topic here, my question to you is: how do we fix it? What's it gonna take for say, high functioning Betas to make a comeback? Will a rollback of Women's Rights be necessary? It seems pretty clear to me that the more choice and freedoms they have, the more Alphas, however they're defined, will win out. So, what do you think should, ought to, or most likely WILL happen?



Anonymous said...

bJust came across this this subject, fascinating it is.

My opinion, and it just my opinion with no supporting documentation in mind, is that beta males are more advanced evolutionarily speaking. If you assume that early man (meaning men and women)were a rough and tumble bunch where survival of the physically fitest reigned, where muscle power ruled, doesn't it seem that the next step in evolution would be a world were reason and mental skill would be more important than physical power alone ?

If one assumes that evolution will fight to assure the continued survival and advancement of the human form I can see no other option.

If early man had to use physical power to "force" things to be to his liking and would seem to be self evident that if you could use means other than physical to obtain results you'd be way ahead of the game....enter the beta male.

Anonymous said...

The fact that you crudely lump the world into "alphas" and "betas" clearly indicates that you don't get outside your cubicle much. Even you admit that humans are much more complex in their behaviors than the great apes. This seems like the crude determinism of the Marxist strawmen that constantly prop up in your commentaries.

Anonymous said...

Right of course... we also have deltas - you of course seem to be one. lol

Marquis said...

thought provoking analysis

Anonymous said...

Makes sense. Good stuff.

Anonymous said...

Utterly depressing truth.

Speaking of which, doesn't this conception of "betaness" pretty much imply that it is genetically fixed - at least to a high degree?

Anonymous said...

You point out that Elizabeth initially falls for Wickham before moving on to 'remote and socially inept Darcy.' Remote, yes, but socially inept? If he was that, I doubt he would be the hero of the piece. He's simply a different strain of bad boy Alpha than Wickham. He's the darkly handsome, quiet, brooding type who represents a mystery that all women want to 'solve.' That was the entire basis for the main relationship in Sex and the City. Austen's Elizabeth simply moved from the swashbuckling adventurer type of alpha to the strong silent type. He, rather than being socially inept, rejects social conventions by choice, even though everyone is fascinated with him. A fact, of course, which makes women go crazy. If Elizabeth had settled for the Beta like her friend did with her reverend cousin, the book wouldn't still be read by millions of women to this very day. I'm not sure if the fact that Austen herself never married (unusual for the time) has any significance.

Also worth pointing out, in the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, the actress playing Elizabeth, Keira Knightley, began a relationship with the actor playing Wickham and are still together.

P.S. You might find this joke about the Bronte sisters funny:

MY said...

Beta Males;they exist because:

-They're inevitable. In a world where prisons are packed like a Tokyo subway car come New Year's w/some of the most horrific examples of FAS imaginable(such fellas aren't likely to enjoy much success or status in criminal life, much less a "straight" one.)and Average Joes go to their graves pining after the lucky breaks that just never came their way, it's woefully impractical think that most men can even pretend to be Alphas.

-The uniquely Homo Saphien "poser Alpha", all threats, tantrums, and teeth gritting. Found most often herding a pack of waaaaaaaaaaaay younger(2 decades or more)Omega males.

Don't forget, Whiskey, that Tony Stark(Iron Man by night)manages to be fairly handy w/machines and nobody's doormat all at the same time.

Anonymous said...

Tony Stark is a fictional character, hence, nothing about him has any bearing on reality. Dipshit.

Kirk said...

Seems like it would have to be a multi-pronged approach:
1) Removing all incentives to women for consequence-free conception with Alphas
2) Eliminate disincentives for Beta family formation
3) Eliminate forces that contribute to Alpha/feminist collaboration, e.g. term limits for elected office
4) Eliminate incentives to over-value vaginae, e.g. legalize prostitution.

Deconstructing the feminist legislative and bureaucratic complex would take a long time. But a peaceful solution has to start somewhere. It seems like the Constitution could be relied upon for some of this if the Supreme's could be persuaded that Western Civilization was at stake.

With their lifetime appointments, they are in the unique position of literally having nothing to lose for doing the right thing at a time when doing that right thing is also immensely unpopular...