Alphas, Betas, and Human Beings

Alphas, Betas, and Human Beings


Brainstorming session.

Our line split with the chimps’ line about five million years ago and the chimpanzee and bonobo line halfway between then and now. To infer some simple three-way split on any behavioural vector over that sort of timeframe is crazy, we all could have played one another’s parts a thousand times over by now, but it looks today, within my paradigm, antisocialization theory, that we split by winning some sort of a war, by finding a way to rule the drying world and the savanna and thus relegating the cousins that became the chimpanzees to the shrinking rain forests. We split, we changed, and we became dominant, took over the world.

Now the general, hippy-dippy environment that produced antisocialization theory would like to see a continuum, that we got meaner and split from the root-stock, and if that’s a repeatable biological function, that today’s chimps perhaps also split from the rootstock by getting meaner, and the rootstock maybe resembles the bonobos, that is to say, only as mean as an animal needs to be who isn’t at war with its own, tough enough for nature but not apparently genocidal and specicidal like homo sapiens. If there were anything else to support this sort of a trend, then we might see the chimpanzees as a few steps down our road to antisocialization and wars.

As it stands, these are just tempting just-so stories.

I’ll elaborate, and build an edifice on these shifting sands, of course, because I’m trying to make thinking this way possible, trying to create a different paradigm. New ideas need a lot of preparation, decades of groundwork. Trivers has said that his first big theory and book was well purchased and even well read, but not understood. I think it took a long tome – oops, long time – to change the field, because it took a long time for people to understand it (was it “Social Theory?”). A long tome and then a long time, ha.

If anyone’s following my latest purges, you’ll see that I struggle; I think I have a brilliant new insight, and I write it down, irresponsibly publish, and then realize I’m using all the wrong words, or at least a few critical ones. Case in point, just lately I’m excited about this flash I’ve had about alphas and “betas” – and that “beta” word is probably the opposite of what I’m looking for, the Beta is like the Prime Minister if the Alpha is the king, right? I wasn’t looking for the second most successful randomly violent and oppressive male in the troop, I was going for the opposite of an alpha, not an alpha wannabe – I need to be saying “non-alpha” or “affiliative males” or something, right? I’m sorry. It’s the basic alpha meme still working in me – friggin’ genius figures out the alpha’s an asshole, but he’s pretty sure the asshole’s lieutenants are all right still, and so, meet the new boss, same as the old boss. No.

That wasn’t the idea.

The point was to say that a better definition of altruism is mostly non-alpha group members cooperating in such a way as to manage, limit and control the destructive power of the alphas, that the benefits are for the group.

Still in just-so storyboarding mode, my first attempts to flesh this out will follow my heart and postulate that altruism is not a group function, not only a non-alpha strategy against one’s own alphas but rather a status or class function that seems able to work across groups, as in the parable of the good Samaritan, or as with the global goals of political movements, rather than an inter-group competitive one, which inter-group competitive strategies I’ll postulate as alpha methods.

Back to our cousins. First, I got questions.

One, it’s clear that the bonobos have a hierarchy, isn’t it? Bonobos got alphas? I mean, my just-so story here says, “no, they don’t,” or at least they’re not the be-all, end-all of their social structure like they are with the baboons.

LOL – apparently the female alpha bonobo is the big Kahuna!

Two, same for chimpanzees, I guess, they got alphas? I know their aggression is portrayed as a result of male bonding and spare time, very much a group hunting party, but where is the alpha in that? Again, that’s inter-group stuff, the raiding parties and it’s what’s brought out in discussions of primate aggression, but I need to research, find out for sure if Sapolsky’s baboons’ champagne fountain of stress is observable among all the versions of chimpanzee as well – meaning not just humans and baboons. Well, having accidentally put it that way, I guess that’s my answer, so I’m just gonna push ahead.

Along that same just-so vector, bonobos as some degree of mean and dangerous, chimpanzees as more so and humans as the most, or the worst, this probably correlated to an increase in the relative power of the alpha within groups of these apes – whups, starting to sound a little Nazi, like it’s a good thing, leader worship insures world domination – nope, that’s not it. Alpha rule insures harsh nature. Alpha rule exists today among all sorts of creatures that cannot read or write or think not to eat their last bit of food the minute they’re hungry.

Alpha rule is well documented by Sapolsky, again, a champagne fountain of cortisol would seem to be the structure of baboon life. I think it’s a mistake to assume that structure is associated with increased cranial capacity, though. We’re fairly sure that it was something about the inter-group conflict that did that, I think mostly, the daunting task of gleaning friend from foe. Social hierarchy among primates would seem to be more foundational than the giant human brainpan – random alpha violence and all.

(Oh no, new disruptive thought: alpha-ism increases with human dominance of other creatures, providing our own predator audit on the old and sick, the weak links, when external predation is successfully controlled? Never mind! Later.)

This is a thought I would rather avoid, but that’s not a voice to follow if you’re lucky enough to notice it, so, what about this – altruism developed as a cooperative strategy among the non-alphas, eventually evolving to civilization and law, morality, religion, all the nice things in modern human life – art? Sure, why not? LOL. Unfortunately, despite all the great things the non-alpha’s strategy has produced, success in the original venture isn’t one of them. Law has not replaced the alpha or the primate social hierarchy. The truth may be somewhere on a spectrum between that the best examples of humanity’s highest moral achievement show that the non-alphas and their altruism are making inroads and on the other hand that this non-alpha strategy simply can also provide a terrifying level of organization for the alpha’s violence.

That’s an awful thought and it means it’s a very high stakes contest.

Perhaps, with this little bit of apparent success, now it is time to step it up and get conscious about it, if we knew what the goal of being good was, which we didn’t, we might have a chance at more progress. The current, Trivers’ defined version of biological altruism, that’s the opposite of the altruism we need in this shrinking world, altruism just for your existing social group, that is not morality, that is a recipe for war. In conversations about morality, altruism is much bigger, more global – and this idea, that it’s a hedge against alpha-ism, well.

That might be closer to the right order of magnitude. That might work. This is one we need to stop going to our archetypal “leaders” for, and start to think in terms of reigning those guys in instead.

. . . continued, probably, still thinking.


Dec. 5th., 2017


Altruism VS Alphas, the Ten Commandments



Brainstorming. I’m going to look at the commandments as non-alpha expressions, efforts to contain and usurp authority from the alphas

On this idea that this sort of action is the definition of altruism, containing the alphas and establishing and maintaining an affiliative society of non-alpha control . . .


This from Wikipedia:


The Ten Commandments


Different religious traditions divide the seventeen verses of Exodus 20:1–17 and their parallels at Deuteronomy 5:4–21 into ten “commandments” or “sayings” in different ways, shown in the table below. Some suggest that the number ten is a choice to aid memorization rather than a matter of theology.[25][26]



My comments in the chart below are in black, in Georgia

LXX P S T A C L R Main article Exodus 20:1-17 Deuteronomy 5:4-21
1 1 (1) I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 2[29] 6[29]
1 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 Thou shalt have no other gods before me


–         A symbol did this, God did this, not this Moses character, not the leader of the moment. Indicative of competition between the priests (the church) and secular or military leaders – a version of beta VS alpha

–         With God as the replacement alpha speaking here, the meaning is clear: you worry about what I’m going to do to you first and worry about the enemy second. Our own alphas are always around.

3[30] 7[30]
2 2 1 2 1 1 1 2 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image


–         Again, symbols, not concrete images and therefore not the image of a concrete person, a human leader/alpha

–         With God as alpha speaking, perhaps this adds up to “Don’t listen to what I said. Listen to what I’m saying.” We don’t hold alphas to custom, they don’t have to explain to us if their policy shifts.

4–6[31] 8–10[32]
3 3 2 3 2 2 2 3 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain


–         These so far seem to be the church, establishing its god as the new, symbolic alpha. This sentiment, I believe is explained that we don’t get to say which of the world’s phenomena were God’s and which weren’t, so again, we don’t get to hold the alpha to anything.



7[33] 11[33]
4 4 3 4 3 3 3 4 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy


8–11[34] 12–15[35]
5 5 4 5 4 4 4 5 –         I’m not clear on anything specific about this. Maybe having a day to press this set of rules, a day for the non-alphas to meet and reinforce this system. Otherwise, the rest of the commandments are basically “thou shalt not” the alphas’ to do list, adding up to “thou shalt not behave like an alpha.”

Honour thy father and thy mother


–         I imagine this goes to the most basic of alpha business, succession, and surviving it. Betas would like to have an old age and this sentiment is part of it – plus again, not an alpha concern, an alpha honours his father by killing and usurping him, so again, “thou shalt not go about behaving like an alpha.”

12[36] 16[37]
6 7 5 6 5 5 5 6 Thou shalt not kill


–         ditto

13[38] 17[38]
7 6 6 7 6 6 6 7 Thou shalt not commit adultery


–         ditt0.

14[39] 18[40]
8 8 7 8 7 7 7 8 Thou shalt not steal


–         ditto.

15[41] 19[42]
9 9 8 9 8 8 8 9 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour


–         ditto.

16[43] 20[44]
10 10 9 10 10 10 9 10 Thou shalt not covet (neighbour’s house) 17a[45] 21b[46]
10 10 9 10 9 9 10 10 Thou shalt not covet (neighbour’s wife) 17b[47] 21a[48]
10 10 9 10 10 10 10 10 Thou shalt not covet (neighbour’s servants, animals, or anything else)


–         ditto.

17c[49] 21c[50]
10 Ye shall erect these stones which I command thee upon Mount Gerizim [citation needed] [citation needed]
  • All scripture quotes above are from the King James Version. Click on verses at top of columns for other versions.



Me again now. I know, I lost heart half way through.

I wanted to talk about adultery in terms of Prima Noctis and genes, and bearing false witness as a thing a powerless person can’t get away with like the alpha can, but what seems more important is this.

All these rules, generally, the non-alphas sort of follow more than the alphas do already, and mostly only reinforce that these behaviours are not for you, but for your leaders, for the alphas. It’s a reasonable debate as to whether this is the operative function, possibly more than that the rules control the alphas, and this is the sense of oppression people have always felt from the churches, that they whip the poor in line and support leaders of all quality gradients.

What I am suggesting is this, that altruism is a non-alpha strategy not to eliminate the alphas, but simply to create a society despite them, a society, really, without them. When we – non-alphas, or anyone behaving in non-alpha ways – perform an altruistic act for one another, this isn’t always for individual quid pro quo, and it isn’t always for the human tribal/family group or nation either. We say altruism is for “humanity,” but I think maybe it’s just for most of humanity, a principle held by all but the most blatant and brutal alphas, a second vector for power where the power is shared, and trust develops.

Sapolsky’s cortisol cascade, that is life when the alphas design the game, and it appears that primates are evolved in such a way that if those above you play it, if the alpha at the top, or the fellow on the tier just above yours is playing it, raining random violence down on you to deflect from above or simply to let you know your place, then it’s best if you play it too, for your health, he says. No-one blames the baboon who does that, and I suppose no-one should blame me when I do, or anyone, and I’m not blaming, OK, I am but that’s not the point. The point is the baboons are still battling it out on the savanna and losing ground. That is not the system that got some of into shoes and using toilet paper – I know, bad examples.

I think this is a normal idea, right, altruism as a force to balance aggression?

It only seems new to me, because I’m coming at it from a different direction, I can’t hear “aggression” as a cause for anything, aggression is a noun, a drive, an attribute. We didn’t evolve fighting words, concepts, we evolved fighting people, that’s what this cranium is for, so altruism isn’t a strategy to fight “aggression,” we really haven’t been in one long peace movement all our history and prehistory.

Altruism is a strategy to fight alphas.

We lesser people, we learn to trust one another a bit, we coordinate, we all agree on these laws, and at least some of these alpha or alpha wannabe types are curtailed. So, this must be the roots of socialism, right? Morality isn’t about siding with your tribe or your nation, it’s about siding with non-alphas, with people not playing the alpha game. I think this may be a biological explanation, and I’m afraid it puts all the combative stuff in the OT on the wrong side of the line because it is so very difficult to claw our way out of our biology. Patriarch is another word for alpha, and while I’ve guessed here that the church of the time was attempting to replace the real alpha with the god symbol, that that is a move within the game, they were keeping and using the alpha principle, co-opting it. That’s just another way of saying it was pragmatic, working within the game. But altruism predates all that organization considerably.

It’s been there all along, it’s observable in nature generally and among primates specifically, and I like that I now feel I know that it’s not some universal principle we are imposing, but an organic one with a logical function. Ah! Having said that, that is quite a nebulous benefit we get from our altruism, “humanism” generally. We intuit that maybe, but it must be sort of impossible to get your hands on and feel. Certainly, it’s been difficult to explain. It’s reciprocal, I guess, but it’s a leap of faith that it is at this level, as a principle among the less than alphas of the world, literally billions of us and most locked away from one another behind borders and cultural walls.



Dec. 4th., 2017