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.