Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Helpful Soul

For single female readers, the Helpful Soul offers the following information, gleaned from Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond. The author observes that of the world's 148 "big wild terrestrial herbivorous mammals" that could possibly be domesticated, only 14 were so domesticated by humans. Curious, we think--only 14?

The author lists six reasons that the majority of species failed domestic duties, which, it strikes the Helpful Soul, are directly applicable to the failure of male homo sapiens to achieve similar domestication in relationship to female members of the species. So, readers of the female persuasion, take note of why many mammals, and perhaps men, failed to be usefully domesticated:

Diet--when an animal eats another animal or plant, the conversion of food to body mass is less than 100% efficient, usually around 10%. This efficiency curve, therefore, rules out many potential domestication candidates. Male humans, however, are the inverse to this rule, being 150% efficient in the conversion of food to bio-mass, by means of Lazyboy, couch, and TV remote, thereby rendering them mostly stationary domestic objects.

Growth rate--the best candidates for domestication need to grow quickly. Among animals, this rules out elephants and gorillas as good food sources. In humans, it also rules out most men, since their growth rate, emotionally at least, is measured quite often in multiple decades. As medical science increases life spans, the growth rate to maturity may also increase to centuries.

Problems of captive breeding--many animals, due to complex, if not bizarre, matings behaviors will not reproduce in captivity, thus ruling them out of the domestication race. Surprisingly, many male homo sapiens show a persistent avoidance behavior to captivity, but not to breeding. This renders them less reliable as partners in the nurturing of young humans and in "calling you later."

Nasty disposition--large mammals that might otherwise be good candidates for domestication fail due to the fact that they are rather nasty, such zebras who bite viciously; or that they tend to eat humans, such as grizzly bears; or that they have personal hygiene and anger management issues, such as male humans.

Tendency to panic--large mammalian herbivores that tend to group together in the face of danger are easier to domesticate. Those that are nervous, flighty, and tend to run, such as deer, antelope, and single males homo sapiens, are not.

Social structure--mammalian herd animals, such as horses, that have dominance hierarchies, imprint on a leader, have overlapping territories, and tend to bunch up will survive well in pens and will imprint on a human leader in the process of domestication. Herd animals that are territorial, that feature competition between males for breeding, and lack the ability to submit to dominance do poorly in domestication. Bighorn sheep, rhinos, and male homo sapiens tend to be the later.

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