9

votes

Manthropology, who has read it?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created February 07, 2012 at 4:37 PM

Anybody read this insightful book? I must admit I was floored by how weak and feeble we have become compared to our ancestors of just 500 generations ago. I don't think it would be a good read if you are uncomfortable with descriptive violence,mass war/rape/torture/cannibalistic scenarios.

However I think it would be a great read for anybody who wants to know more about unbiased science based (fossil/DNA based) about past hunter gatherers, that is not often talked about. I realized from reading this text, the truth about our past is not always this nice scenario where everyone is eating fresh natural food around a peaceful campfire, living this symbiotic relationship with other groups.

In conclusion, while everyone is trying to figure out what happened to the neanderthal and the exact path of human evolution, this author basically asks the question where have all the alpha males gone. He makes a strong case, even when using a simple comparison between a 140lbs female chimp(with less overall muscle mass) who spent her entire life in a cage testing out as being 4x as strong as a fully trained 200 pound adult male athletes.

34b560c8b9ce660d7839fb7e29d7be89

on February 11, 2012
at 04:21 PM

Personally I wouldn't worry too much about reproducing with a partner who didn't have a great gene pool ( or apparently anyway), as my belief is that much of what we see is due to cultural and environmental forces. I see too many second gen. immigrants that are much taller, etc than their parents. My own father is literally half my size and 5 inches shorter than I am. He was the last of a large family and I suspect a premature child based on him being significantly smaller than his siblings.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on February 11, 2012
at 04:05 PM

Ha! Okay, I gotcha now. I agree that environmental and especially dietary factors are what deserve the stinkeye, more so than deteriorating genetic stock.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on February 11, 2012
at 03:44 PM

Sorry @Rose, I was referring to the weakening of physical strength, which was the emphasis Cory seemed to be bringing up in this post (swinging big hammers, fighting female chimps etc). I also have loads of allergies, asthma, and had to have multiple heart surgeries from an electrical defect. Instead of warning against weakening the gene pool, I think we can look a lot to the society, environment, and culture that we grow up in. At the very least, worrying about reproducing with a partner who doesn't have a great gene pool (me!) is not a realistic way to tackle many of these problems.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on February 11, 2012
at 03:40 PM

"I guess I don't see the big deal about weakening through 'culture, ontogenetics, and genetics." As someone who's been afflicted by a lot of that "weakening" -- asthma, seizures, bad teeth, charcot-marie tooth feet, autoimmune joint pain, depression, and obesity -- I'd have to disagree that it's not a big deal. Maybe the passing of macho culture isn't something to be especially mourned, but the passing of general health and vitality certainly is. I liked your post in general, but that comment above seemed remarkably "nothing to see here; move along" to me, especially from a feminist. :)

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on February 11, 2012
at 02:53 PM

@Amerindian- We've seen incredible impacts in lives from a change in diet and lifestyle, so I guess that makes it hard to picture every child today as fundamentally inferior. It is also hard to tease out the whole "if we still suffered from infectious disease on a massive scale, would we be looking at a different group of kids"- having more of the weaker kids survive because we have effective treatment and can save preterm babies, babies with disabilities, etc does that make our race inherently inferior then? If so, let's change the term- I'd rather have "inferior" than more kids die.

34b560c8b9ce660d7839fb7e29d7be89

on February 11, 2012
at 02:32 PM

But many are inferior. When I see children today who suffer from ailments their parents and grandparents never knew I know that something is wrong. I have nieces and nephews who are full-blooded Native Americans living in the same place their ancestors have for a millenia and are suffering from things their parents and grand/great-grandparents did not, it makes me think that something about their lifestyle/diet is wrong. There is little beyond lifestyle and diet to explain that disparity.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on February 11, 2012
at 02:23 PM

I guess I don't see the big deal about weakening through "culture, ontogenetics and genetics", if we are still able to perform the tasks required to survive, regardless of our circumstance, why paint our current state as somehow "inferior"? It's just different.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on February 11, 2012
at 02:19 PM

@Amerindian- yeah, grandma's are the best. My grandma recently got married (first marriage, at the age of 72!) and she now lives out of a trailer/trick/boat rig and drives around the country fishing, hunting, and seeing the sights! She's having a great time in her old age, and gets to see her 7 (one brother passed away) children throughout the country!

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on February 11, 2012
at 02:17 PM

"I'm not saying you are a feminist, but that the points you raised are"- I proudly believe in equal rights and treatment for women in our country and abroad. So calling me a feminist wouldn't be an insult, it would just be accurate :)

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on February 11, 2012
at 02:13 PM

Okay, I included the little info on my grandma just for illustrative reasons- this is not a study. I wasn't trying to n=1 her, but she does in a way represent all the impoverished women around the world who perform amazing tasks to support their families. She has 7 other sisters, most of whom had to do a lot of ridiculous things to survive, which is what happens when you are a visible minority in a racist time and grew up secluded from society in an orphanage. Women in our own countries, across Africa, South America, Asia, and the Middle East still do these things.

34b560c8b9ce660d7839fb7e29d7be89

on February 11, 2012
at 10:08 AM

Side note: in America physical requirements have been relaxed to achieve elistment quotas for the military.

34b560c8b9ce660d7839fb7e29d7be89

on February 11, 2012
at 10:07 AM

The point about the mid-ninteenth century is that even in such a short period of time where genetics have not come in play, the epigenetic factors have influenced a dramatic change. And I agree that reverting to those levels could come in a very short, evolutionarily speaking, time. You've got to remember that factors such as bone density and soft-tissue like ligaments and tendons are going to require lifetimes of physical exertion to elicit the greatest change. But that's kind of the point of the book, some things we may never be able to change but we can and should change others.

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on February 11, 2012
at 08:35 AM

And you also put way too much emphasis on (the impressive) feats of your grandmother (n=1 and all that). They are in no way representative of any past society I know of. Women certainly have needed strength in pre-industrial societies. But it has been the men who hunted and fought wars throughout the ages, and women who do the gathering which requires strength, but less of it. Also, women's upper bodies are significantly less capable to become strong genetically.

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on February 11, 2012
at 08:28 AM

-1, while yours is an interesting (if unlikely) anecdote, I don't really see what a feminist argument brings into the discussion. And before the outrage begins: I'm not saying you are lying about your grandmother, just that it is unlikely. And I'm not saying you are a feminist, but that the points you raised are.

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on February 11, 2012
at 08:23 AM

Amerindian, mid-nineteenth century is too close for genetics to have changed enough, therefore any change of strength is environmental and non-genetic, and could be "fixed" back to (at least) mid-nineteenth century levels within a generation if necessary. Also, at least in Finland army recruits have become fitter over the past fifty years or so.

34b560c8b9ce660d7839fb7e29d7be89

on February 11, 2012
at 08:15 AM

Also, your grandmother sounds like a B.A. :)- I'd like to trade some stories if I had the time some day, mine would head into the mountains for weeks to pick huckleberries by herself even into her 70's often camping in a teepee and having to run off bears. People still come forward with stories about coming across her swimming out into the middle of some remote lake or walking out of the woods because her truck broke down.

34b560c8b9ce660d7839fb7e29d7be89

on February 11, 2012
at 08:07 AM

I would have like to see an expansion of the topic that included women but I doubt it would change the premises of the argument or the conclusion. By the way a faulty or even false premise does not necessarily mean a false conclusion in reference to the chimp strength comparision. I think your last paragraph is in agreement with the authors conclusion in the book; the changes noted are due to "culture, ontogenetics and genetics." The first two can be easily changed and the third, like you elude to, can as well if strength or any other characteristic is acted on by selective pressures.

34b560c8b9ce660d7839fb7e29d7be89

on February 11, 2012
at 07:56 AM

I up-voted your post because I appreciate that it adds to the discussion. But I have a few issues, firstly you can't get past the first sentence of the prologue without realizing that this is a book directed towards men and about men-thats if the picture of a comical evolutionary timeline punctuated by a fat man in an office chair pecking away at a cellphone on the cover didn't make that evident. Second, how is strength the sole identifyer if only the first chapter, *Brawn* is about strength? Even if you lump the next three chapters in; *Bravado, Battle and Balls* that's only half the book.

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on February 11, 2012
at 04:11 AM

Monkeys and apes are a bad comparison, as their muscle fibers are very different than ours.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on February 11, 2012
at 02:44 AM

Also note: don't recommend bringing babies hunting, just wanted to explain that. Desperate times call for desperate measures, especially when you are a single mom at a time when that wasn't okay. Wasn't sure anyone would get that from what I said, but you never know, haha...

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on February 11, 2012
at 02:38 AM

Homicide and rape isn't a "view point", it is history. But the stereotyping involved in the creation of the books title and description push the fact that men represent strength and women represent "other things", when we know that women have had to and still have to perform amazing feats of strength in order to keep their families and themselves safe and well fed. He seemed to have just brushed this off in order to drive home the horror that is "male softening".

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on February 11, 2012
at 02:36 AM

She brought the babies with her hunting, there was no other option as she was a single lady. Put them down in a mossy spot, let them check out the surroundings, wait for a deer. Seem plausible to you? She would have to carry them back at the same time, however. My "feminist point" was that he used strength as the sole identifying characteristic of masculinity (which is insulting to males as well, I might add). This may be the popular societal belief, but as an academic he should have been able to distinguish between perception and reality.

9b0a4701e373d4dd13831cfb9b13f42d

(1677)

on February 11, 2012
at 02:18 AM

I cant seem to grasp your feminist point here, is it that your mad that he didn't include woman as being weak also? Or was it the precalent talk of homicide and rape that is you have issue with. Lastly how was your grandmother able to shoot a dear while holding two babies? As somebody who's shot animals as well as people I find this very hard to believe.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on February 10, 2012
at 10:20 PM

Just as disclosure, I read part of the book, my boyfriend read the whole thing, and we actually liked the writing a fair amount (close to satire, but not quite). The concept of the lost "vigor of spirit" was the most resounding, but the interpretation this book has gotten by the media that has been encouraged by the author is ridiculous. It has been turned into a Male-softening-crisis, which was my least favourite part of the book and why I stopped reading. .

93ae9f2d376e5426e891a9b58d8302fa

(2936)

on February 08, 2012
at 07:51 PM

I have no doubt that we've all been marginalized by machines like John Henry was. And Kichi-Makomon, the runner, for an even longer stretch of history. We've got hell to pay now as the machines wind down.

34b560c8b9ce660d7839fb7e29d7be89

on February 08, 2012
at 07:27 AM

@Jenny_J- from the book; "One *New Scientist* correspondent reported that bridge-builders in the mid nineteenth century toiled all day with 18 kilogram sledgehammers." Here is a 18kg sledge http://youtu.be/JH81elILo70 My logic is this, if what was ordinary, relatively speaking, for any class of people in the past is now considered *extraordinary* then it stands to reason that they were superior to us in that regard. I'm not arguing that people today can't be as strong, just that on average we are not because we live a much more sedentary life.

Bdf98e5a57befa6f0877f978ba09871c

on February 08, 2012
at 04:00 AM

Well said, HDC. It's partly why I found reading Nietzsche's *Thus Spoke Zarathustra* so refreshing.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on February 08, 2012
at 03:04 AM

"men regularly performed tasks that would cripple many today"- and women, and children, in horrible environments. Have people stopped doing crippling labor in poor conditions? Of course not, that practice is still going strong. People can perform for periods of time with great strength then and now, and it takes a massive toll. I don't really think that "shows" we were once "stronger on average than we are today". Don't follow the logic.

34b560c8b9ce660d7839fb7e29d7be89

on February 07, 2012
at 09:57 PM

It's not a stretch to think they may have been stronger on average than we are today. Even during the Industrial Revolution men regularly performed tasks that would cripple many today, swinging 18kilo sledge hammers all day or shoveling 20 tons of dirt by hand daily--in spite of them being smaller than we are today.

34b560c8b9ce660d7839fb7e29d7be89

on February 07, 2012
at 09:53 PM

Well some may be genetic, like the examples of the Aboriginal's far superior eyesight. But other factors like the articular ends of our long bones, which are genetically controlled, are nearly the same as our ancestors from a million y.a. The shafts have become more delicate and gracile however and that is controlled to a larger degree by lifetimes of sedentary living and poor nutrition.

34b560c8b9ce660d7839fb7e29d7be89

on February 07, 2012
at 09:41 PM

Heat tolerance in a dry environment, humidity blunts the effectiveness of sweating. Also with daily access to water. That would allow for periodic bouts of high intensity activity. Restricting the example to our paleolithic ancestors would mean less strength than chimps as we had already shown a capacity for fine motor control. The book outlines many feats which would have withstood world records into the modern era. In the Willandra lake footprint fossils, one runner appears to have nearly matched Usain Bolt's record pace, in mud no less. Its epigenetic, were weaker because we can be.

34b560c8b9ce660d7839fb7e29d7be89

on February 07, 2012
at 09:27 PM

Good answer, I think they are referring to the fine motor control like I mentioned in Gabriel's answer.

34b560c8b9ce660d7839fb7e29d7be89

on February 07, 2012
at 09:25 PM

It comes down to our greater capacity for fine motor control and a chimps almost complete lack of it. At least that is why some theorize that people are capable of extraordinary strength in times of duress, the fine motor control limitation is bypassed. The book Manthropology suggests not necessarily that our Paleolithic era ancestors were as strong but probably our common ancestors were. Also that modern humans pale in comparision based mainly on epigenetic factors. And yes, be wary of mature chimps whether you trust/know or not.

95b000345fd8880063ae6c39904e0732

(99)

on February 07, 2012
at 08:40 PM

Where have all the alpha males gone? Good Question. Not only has the human population become victim to the SAD, but we have all gotten 'soft'. I blame this on the 'everyone is a winner and gets a ribbon or trophy just for showing up'blame someone else for your troubles, no accountability kind of world we now live in.....If nobody is responsible for themselves then there is no need for alpha males. (I say this with loads of contempt and sarcasm!)

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5 Answers

6
518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on February 10, 2012
at 10:18 PM

I know he was just trying to turn heads with the title, get someone to pick up the book etc, but he could have used the exact same comparison for females- females used to be much stronger on the whole too. But strength is not feminine, so he decided to just call the book "manthropology" and make strength the sole identifier of masculinity. That might sound like me just being a miffed female over the lack of "political correctness", but I think it becomes relevant when this book became a sort of media must-read for a little bit, bringing attention to the concept without portrayed the tongue-in-cheek aspect of the book.

Also, for the "unbiased science", hate to be picky, but this isn't it. Fossil records and DNA are solid, but interpretation isn't. The fact that a female chimp was directly compared to a male athlete just shows how framing works- yes the study may be true, yes it may be identified, but that doesn't mean it should have been interpreted that way. Do female chimps have an entirely different bone composition and ridiculous grip strength? Yes, and that is incomparable to humans. So does finding patterns and evidence while you are actively looking to support a hypothesis- you may see connections and overemphasize the importance of small details that you wouldn't if you hadn't already formed the hypothesis.

If your survival is not dependent on your physical strength, it doesn't become a major player in your life. If it does, however, then it is everything. My grandmother spent over 20 years raising 8 children, and she would shoot a deer every week or so for her family. She couldn't drive and didn't own a car, so she would have to rig up ropes to pull the deer back home, up to 10 kms in a trip. She did this usually with 1-2 babies strapped on her front and back. Upon getting home, she would use leverage to haul the deer up over a branch, so that she could let the blood drain out and butcher it with greater ease. She spent the rest of the day fishing and collecting oysters/muscles/berries/fruits/wild vegetables, with the remaining children who weren't school aged in tow. She is around 95 lbs and just under 5 feet tall. You do what you have to do, and we are still capable of it. I think you (and the author, without specifically implying it) are equating "western" stereotypes with how the world works now- most of the world lives below poverty line and have to perform multiple strenuous physical feats every day to survive. The women perform an enormous number of this tasks, which makes the title "manthropology" just seem insensitive.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on February 11, 2012
at 02:19 PM

@Amerindian- yeah, grandma's are the best. My grandma recently got married (first marriage, at the age of 72!) and she now lives out of a trailer/trick/boat rig and drives around the country fishing, hunting, and seeing the sights! She's having a great time in her old age, and gets to see her 7 (one brother passed away) children throughout the country!

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on February 11, 2012
at 02:13 PM

Okay, I included the little info on my grandma just for illustrative reasons- this is not a study. I wasn't trying to n=1 her, but she does in a way represent all the impoverished women around the world who perform amazing tasks to support their families. She has 7 other sisters, most of whom had to do a lot of ridiculous things to survive, which is what happens when you are a visible minority in a racist time and grew up secluded from society in an orphanage. Women in our own countries, across Africa, South America, Asia, and the Middle East still do these things.

34b560c8b9ce660d7839fb7e29d7be89

on February 11, 2012
at 02:32 PM

But many are inferior. When I see children today who suffer from ailments their parents and grandparents never knew I know that something is wrong. I have nieces and nephews who are full-blooded Native Americans living in the same place their ancestors have for a millenia and are suffering from things their parents and grand/great-grandparents did not, it makes me think that something about their lifestyle/diet is wrong. There is little beyond lifestyle and diet to explain that disparity.

34b560c8b9ce660d7839fb7e29d7be89

on February 11, 2012
at 07:56 AM

I up-voted your post because I appreciate that it adds to the discussion. But I have a few issues, firstly you can't get past the first sentence of the prologue without realizing that this is a book directed towards men and about men-thats if the picture of a comical evolutionary timeline punctuated by a fat man in an office chair pecking away at a cellphone on the cover didn't make that evident. Second, how is strength the sole identifyer if only the first chapter, *Brawn* is about strength? Even if you lump the next three chapters in; *Bravado, Battle and Balls* that's only half the book.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on February 11, 2012
at 02:36 AM

She brought the babies with her hunting, there was no other option as she was a single lady. Put them down in a mossy spot, let them check out the surroundings, wait for a deer. Seem plausible to you? She would have to carry them back at the same time, however. My "feminist point" was that he used strength as the sole identifying characteristic of masculinity (which is insulting to males as well, I might add). This may be the popular societal belief, but as an academic he should have been able to distinguish between perception and reality.

34b560c8b9ce660d7839fb7e29d7be89

on February 11, 2012
at 08:07 AM

I would have like to see an expansion of the topic that included women but I doubt it would change the premises of the argument or the conclusion. By the way a faulty or even false premise does not necessarily mean a false conclusion in reference to the chimp strength comparision. I think your last paragraph is in agreement with the authors conclusion in the book; the changes noted are due to "culture, ontogenetics and genetics." The first two can be easily changed and the third, like you elude to, can as well if strength or any other characteristic is acted on by selective pressures.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on February 11, 2012
at 02:38 AM

Homicide and rape isn't a "view point", it is history. But the stereotyping involved in the creation of the books title and description push the fact that men represent strength and women represent "other things", when we know that women have had to and still have to perform amazing feats of strength in order to keep their families and themselves safe and well fed. He seemed to have just brushed this off in order to drive home the horror that is "male softening".

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on February 10, 2012
at 10:20 PM

Just as disclosure, I read part of the book, my boyfriend read the whole thing, and we actually liked the writing a fair amount (close to satire, but not quite). The concept of the lost "vigor of spirit" was the most resounding, but the interpretation this book has gotten by the media that has been encouraged by the author is ridiculous. It has been turned into a Male-softening-crisis, which was my least favourite part of the book and why I stopped reading. .

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on February 11, 2012
at 02:53 PM

@Amerindian- We've seen incredible impacts in lives from a change in diet and lifestyle, so I guess that makes it hard to picture every child today as fundamentally inferior. It is also hard to tease out the whole "if we still suffered from infectious disease on a massive scale, would we be looking at a different group of kids"- having more of the weaker kids survive because we have effective treatment and can save preterm babies, babies with disabilities, etc does that make our race inherently inferior then? If so, let's change the term- I'd rather have "inferior" than more kids die.

9b0a4701e373d4dd13831cfb9b13f42d

(1677)

on February 11, 2012
at 02:18 AM

I cant seem to grasp your feminist point here, is it that your mad that he didn't include woman as being weak also? Or was it the precalent talk of homicide and rape that is you have issue with. Lastly how was your grandmother able to shoot a dear while holding two babies? As somebody who's shot animals as well as people I find this very hard to believe.

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on February 11, 2012
at 08:35 AM

And you also put way too much emphasis on (the impressive) feats of your grandmother (n=1 and all that). They are in no way representative of any past society I know of. Women certainly have needed strength in pre-industrial societies. But it has been the men who hunted and fought wars throughout the ages, and women who do the gathering which requires strength, but less of it. Also, women's upper bodies are significantly less capable to become strong genetically.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on February 11, 2012
at 02:44 AM

Also note: don't recommend bringing babies hunting, just wanted to explain that. Desperate times call for desperate measures, especially when you are a single mom at a time when that wasn't okay. Wasn't sure anyone would get that from what I said, but you never know, haha...

34b560c8b9ce660d7839fb7e29d7be89

on February 11, 2012
at 08:15 AM

Also, your grandmother sounds like a B.A. :)- I'd like to trade some stories if I had the time some day, mine would head into the mountains for weeks to pick huckleberries by herself even into her 70's often camping in a teepee and having to run off bears. People still come forward with stories about coming across her swimming out into the middle of some remote lake or walking out of the woods because her truck broke down.

34b560c8b9ce660d7839fb7e29d7be89

on February 11, 2012
at 04:21 PM

Personally I wouldn't worry too much about reproducing with a partner who didn't have a great gene pool ( or apparently anyway), as my belief is that much of what we see is due to cultural and environmental forces. I see too many second gen. immigrants that are much taller, etc than their parents. My own father is literally half my size and 5 inches shorter than I am. He was the last of a large family and I suspect a premature child based on him being significantly smaller than his siblings.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on February 11, 2012
at 02:17 PM

"I'm not saying you are a feminist, but that the points you raised are"- I proudly believe in equal rights and treatment for women in our country and abroad. So calling me a feminist wouldn't be an insult, it would just be accurate :)

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on February 11, 2012
at 04:05 PM

Ha! Okay, I gotcha now. I agree that environmental and especially dietary factors are what deserve the stinkeye, more so than deteriorating genetic stock.

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on February 11, 2012
at 08:28 AM

-1, while yours is an interesting (if unlikely) anecdote, I don't really see what a feminist argument brings into the discussion. And before the outrage begins: I'm not saying you are lying about your grandmother, just that it is unlikely. And I'm not saying you are a feminist, but that the points you raised are.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on February 11, 2012
at 02:23 PM

I guess I don't see the big deal about weakening through "culture, ontogenetics and genetics", if we are still able to perform the tasks required to survive, regardless of our circumstance, why paint our current state as somehow "inferior"? It's just different.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on February 11, 2012
at 03:40 PM

"I guess I don't see the big deal about weakening through 'culture, ontogenetics, and genetics." As someone who's been afflicted by a lot of that "weakening" -- asthma, seizures, bad teeth, charcot-marie tooth feet, autoimmune joint pain, depression, and obesity -- I'd have to disagree that it's not a big deal. Maybe the passing of macho culture isn't something to be especially mourned, but the passing of general health and vitality certainly is. I liked your post in general, but that comment above seemed remarkably "nothing to see here; move along" to me, especially from a feminist. :)

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on February 11, 2012
at 03:44 PM

Sorry @Rose, I was referring to the weakening of physical strength, which was the emphasis Cory seemed to be bringing up in this post (swinging big hammers, fighting female chimps etc). I also have loads of allergies, asthma, and had to have multiple heart surgeries from an electrical defect. Instead of warning against weakening the gene pool, I think we can look a lot to the society, environment, and culture that we grow up in. At the very least, worrying about reproducing with a partner who doesn't have a great gene pool (me!) is not a realistic way to tackle many of these problems.

5
93ae9f2d376e5426e891a9b58d8302fa

(2936)

on February 07, 2012
at 05:15 PM

The human physique is optimized for heat tolerance, not strength. As long as we could chase down prey in the heat of midday, when horizontal four-leggeds absorb too much sun to keep running, we had a cozy niche all to ourselves.

My guess is, our paleo ancestors always would have performed poorly versus chimps in tests of strength. They might have been a lot more physically fit than us, but not that much stronger. So the chimp comparison is invalid.

If you strand a chimp out on the savanna in the midday heat, we kill and eat 'em. Yum yum.

34b560c8b9ce660d7839fb7e29d7be89

on February 07, 2012
at 09:57 PM

It's not a stretch to think they may have been stronger on average than we are today. Even during the Industrial Revolution men regularly performed tasks that would cripple many today, swinging 18kilo sledge hammers all day or shoveling 20 tons of dirt by hand daily--in spite of them being smaller than we are today.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on February 08, 2012
at 03:04 AM

"men regularly performed tasks that would cripple many today"- and women, and children, in horrible environments. Have people stopped doing crippling labor in poor conditions? Of course not, that practice is still going strong. People can perform for periods of time with great strength then and now, and it takes a massive toll. I don't really think that "shows" we were once "stronger on average than we are today". Don't follow the logic.

93ae9f2d376e5426e891a9b58d8302fa

(2936)

on February 08, 2012
at 07:51 PM

I have no doubt that we've all been marginalized by machines like John Henry was. And Kichi-Makomon, the runner, for an even longer stretch of history. We've got hell to pay now as the machines wind down.

34b560c8b9ce660d7839fb7e29d7be89

on February 07, 2012
at 09:53 PM

Well some may be genetic, like the examples of the Aboriginal's far superior eyesight. But other factors like the articular ends of our long bones, which are genetically controlled, are nearly the same as our ancestors from a million y.a. The shafts have become more delicate and gracile however and that is controlled to a larger degree by lifetimes of sedentary living and poor nutrition.

34b560c8b9ce660d7839fb7e29d7be89

on February 08, 2012
at 07:27 AM

@Jenny_J- from the book; "One *New Scientist* correspondent reported that bridge-builders in the mid nineteenth century toiled all day with 18 kilogram sledgehammers." Here is a 18kg sledge http://youtu.be/JH81elILo70 My logic is this, if what was ordinary, relatively speaking, for any class of people in the past is now considered *extraordinary* then it stands to reason that they were superior to us in that regard. I'm not arguing that people today can't be as strong, just that on average we are not because we live a much more sedentary life.

34b560c8b9ce660d7839fb7e29d7be89

on February 07, 2012
at 09:41 PM

Heat tolerance in a dry environment, humidity blunts the effectiveness of sweating. Also with daily access to water. That would allow for periodic bouts of high intensity activity. Restricting the example to our paleolithic ancestors would mean less strength than chimps as we had already shown a capacity for fine motor control. The book outlines many feats which would have withstood world records into the modern era. In the Willandra lake footprint fossils, one runner appears to have nearly matched Usain Bolt's record pace, in mud no less. Its epigenetic, were weaker because we can be.

34b560c8b9ce660d7839fb7e29d7be89

on February 11, 2012
at 10:08 AM

Side note: in America physical requirements have been relaxed to achieve elistment quotas for the military.

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on February 11, 2012
at 08:23 AM

Amerindian, mid-nineteenth century is too close for genetics to have changed enough, therefore any change of strength is environmental and non-genetic, and could be "fixed" back to (at least) mid-nineteenth century levels within a generation if necessary. Also, at least in Finland army recruits have become fitter over the past fifty years or so.

34b560c8b9ce660d7839fb7e29d7be89

on February 11, 2012
at 10:07 AM

The point about the mid-ninteenth century is that even in such a short period of time where genetics have not come in play, the epigenetic factors have influenced a dramatic change. And I agree that reverting to those levels could come in a very short, evolutionarily speaking, time. You've got to remember that factors such as bone density and soft-tissue like ligaments and tendons are going to require lifetimes of physical exertion to elicit the greatest change. But that's kind of the point of the book, some things we may never be able to change but we can and should change others.

4
241300786a83dcb0360f38414cf8d693

(146)

on February 07, 2012
at 06:47 PM

A fully mature FEMALE chimp could thrash any human alive in hand to hand combat. I judge this from research. Once I posted about this on some self defense/martial arts forum and the guys on there all got annoyed with me and denied it possible that they would lose to a chimp.

It comes down to strength to weight ratios, grips strength, and bone density. Chimps have denser, stronger bones, which can support more muscle strength. So a 110 pound female chimp would basically climb up any human and rip out out eyes, ears, hair, etc.

Even if a human wrestler got the female chimp into a rear naked choke hold, the chimp would just reach to anywhere on the wrestler, grab a tuft of hair, extremity, or fold of skin and rip it off.

Rule of thumb: NEVER shake hands with a chimp you don't know and trust completely.

34b560c8b9ce660d7839fb7e29d7be89

on February 07, 2012
at 09:25 PM

It comes down to our greater capacity for fine motor control and a chimps almost complete lack of it. At least that is why some theorize that people are capable of extraordinary strength in times of duress, the fine motor control limitation is bypassed. The book Manthropology suggests not necessarily that our Paleolithic era ancestors were as strong but probably our common ancestors were. Also that modern humans pale in comparision based mainly on epigenetic factors. And yes, be wary of mature chimps whether you trust/know or not.

2
4ec0fe4b4aab327f7efa2dfb06b032ff

(5145)

on February 07, 2012
at 09:03 PM

A friend of mine researched chimp strength for his PHD. He said that per pound of muscle, chimps were something like 7-10 times stronger than humans. There were no significant physical differences in the muscle that would explain this and his hypothesis was that it was in how brain signaling activated the muscle. He also hypothesized that humans retain the ability to tap into their muscle's full potential in crisis situations, thus leading to stories of mothers picking up cars off their children and other crazy things.

34b560c8b9ce660d7839fb7e29d7be89

on February 07, 2012
at 09:27 PM

Good answer, I think they are referring to the fine motor control like I mentioned in Gabriel's answer.

2
5e36f73c3f95eb4ea13a009f4936449f

(8280)

on February 07, 2012
at 07:32 PM

Yah, the real world is not like a Disney movie. There's a reason we're tool users.

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