“The World: The Ascent of Man; What’s It All About, Alpha?”

Wade, Nicholas

The New York Times, November 7, 1999

section 4, pp. 1 - 6

Here’s a piece about a specific form of amorality deriving from sociobiological determinism: it’s hypocritical to practice fidelity if evolution meant males to be sexually dominant and promiscuous. It’s a remnant of the teaching of the Marquis de Sade,that any male should be able to have sex with any female he wants; nature says so by making him more powerful. “‘Alpha males,’ are the biggest, strongest, horniest males in a pack, pride, or harem.” They “dominate wolf packs, boss baboon troupes, and lord it over harems of elephant seals.” They do well in human groups too, though we get squeamish about their aggressive traits such as their temper tantrums and sex drive. And lately Naomi Wolf has been telling Al Gore that he needs to be less of a Beta male (relational, understanding) and more of an Alpha male. “The most basic of all nature’s games is getting as many of one’s genes as possible into the next generation. So it should be no surprise that reproductive rights are the bottom line of alpha male behavior.” And some primatologists see human beings and their behavior as essentially the same as that of other animals. Bobbi S. Low of the University of Michigan argues in her forthcoming Why Sex Matters that in our evolutionary history women are important for reproductive value and men for resource value. “Men have always striven to command the wealth or prestige that women seek to assure their children are protected.” So even today men drive their BMW’s and women get liposection and good cosmetics so that she can advertise her reproductive fitness and he his ability to protect her brood. Politicians and others with power almost always use it for sexual treats. Power always leads to sexual access. In 1998 Francois Mitterand said “‘That in itself is reason to govern.’ But Americans do not expect their president to practice lust and statecraft at the same time. The chief executive must be the model of monogamous virtue along with all his other roles, and howls of disapproval greet every slippage. ‘Hypocrisy,’ as the Duc de la Rochefoucauld noted, ‘is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.’ Ms. Wolf’s advice startled because it embodied the contrary currents in the public’s expectations of its leaders. Strive to dominate, but deny the very urge that spurs the drive for dominance. It’s like demanding that a lion eat lettuce.” [Never are worldview implications clearer: asking for fidelity is hypocritical because we have not been created in the image of God but have evolved in the image of a bull elephant. And calls for fidelity are therefore mere hypocrisy.]