Human beings are symbol-using animals. They have found it more economical to think in symbols and to plan with symbols than to move real objects in the world.
Why use combat to develop military strategy when you can use war games? Of course, you will at some point have to engage in armed combat, but war gaming or preplanning is surely more economical.
Many people believe that the advent of symbols—be they tokens or words—made humans human.
Now, under the aegis of evolutionary science we learn that the decisive shift, the founding moment of human civilization occurred when our ancestors became feminized.
Adam Gopnik reports on the scientific research. By the new account, when humans discovered symbols they took a great leap forward, from the old aggressive chest-thumping testosterone-filled male behavior into a world of cooperating and chattering.
Before the advent of civilizing symbols men would threaten and intimidate each other. After, a newly feminized humanity discovered the value of “social tolerance.” Then, human communities began to resemble afternoon talk shows.
Gopnik has his doubts, but the hypothesis is plausible. Or better, it is plausible if you buy into the narrative of the stereotypical division of the sexes. In truth, these versions of male and female human behavior are contemporary caricatures.
Since no one much questions them, they have been allowed to infect the culture, unmolested.
You will note, of course that this version of male behavior is not only a caricature. It is slanderous. I represents an effort to transvalue values, to diminish and demean masculine behavior and to exalt and glorify feminine behavior.
Without the superior virtue of women we would all be uncivilized brutes.
Such is the party line. It has become so engrained that no one seems to question it any more.
And yet, the caricatures of male individuality and female cooperation are far from being self-evident. Open up the sports pages one day. How many team sports will be reported on? How many of those team sports are male-dominant?
By the evidence of the sports pages, to say nothing of the military, men to do better than women at functioning in teams.
Let’s accept that human beings embraced symbols because symbols allowed them to cooperate? Why would we not believe that our ancestors embraced cooperation because it made them stronger, more efficient and more effective… in war and in hunting?
Didn’t Benjamin Franklin say, at the signing of the Declaration of Independence:
We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.
Call it strength in numbers. Call it the power of a group that is well-coordinated. If human beings learned how to work together to achieve a larger goal, there seems little doubt that this served the interests of the male of the species… or better, that it enhanced the group’s chance to survive and to prosper.