Hierarchies

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The Modern Hermeticist : A subject much needing discussion, thanks.

malignor : What makes you think that the model in other peoples' heads is so oversimplified? The simple dominance hierarchy is one of many dimensions of social behavior. Who told you that it's the only dimension of social behavior? Furthermore, who said that dominance hierarchy was merely a matter of aggression? I see many questionable assumptions in what you assign to your opponents' position. Likely a side-effect of some bias. Anyway, I did learn some useful things, Prof. Myers. Thanks for sharing. I loved the whole cuttlefish example. Hilarious. I'm not entirely sure what a society would look like if it were commonplace for cross-dressing men to sneak into people's homes and subvert existing relationships.

julia Ruva : Here's a quote from Kropotkin (I think he mentions) that seems relevant: "A soon as we study animals — not in laboratories and museums only, but in the forest and prairie, in the steppe and in the mountains — we at once perceive that though there is an immense amount of warfare and extermination going on amidst various species, and especially amidst various classes of animals, there is, at the same time, as much, or perhaps even more, of mutual support, mutual aid, and mutual defence amidst animals belonging to the same species or, at least, to the same society. Sociability is as much a law of nature as mutual struggle. Of course it would be extremely difficult to estimate, however roughly, the relative numerical importance of both these series of facts. But if we resort to an indirect test, and ask Nature: "Who are the fittest: those who are continually at war with each other, or those who support one another?" we at once see that those animals which acquire habits of mutual aid are undoubtedly the fittest. They have more chances to survive, and they attain, in their respective classes, the highest development and bodily organization. If the numberless facts which can be brought forward to support this view are taken into account, we may safely say that mutual aid is as much a law of animal life as mutual struggle; but that as a factor of evolution, it most probably has a far greater importance, inasmuch as it favors the development of such habits and characters as insure the maintenance and further development of the species, together with the greatest amount of welfare and enjoyment of life for the individual, with the least waste of energy. "Mutual Aid as a Factor in Evolution" as quoted in The Cry for Justice : An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest (1915) by Upton Sinclair"

Clifton Mays : Great and interesting video. Makes me realize that many on the right inappropriately use sciency sounding language to back up their miss-guided social opinions.

Bruce Hunter : But... but... lobsters! :'(

Lilo : thanks for that, all a bit more complex, than the lobsterheads would assume ;-)

Gabriel Wainio-Théberge : TRANS LESBIAN CUTTLEFISH

ALTON PLAYS : Wasnt one of the fundamental errors of the initial "alpha wolf" study that it was made on wolves in capivity in a zoo? With non family members being mixed hap-hazardly with the family unit and creating artificial conflicts that would not happen in a natural setting? I vaguely remember that as being brought up as a problem with the initial study and the reason why these wolves acted so differently than ones observed in the wild.

Sarah Collins : Brilliant. Thank you so much. I also tend to think there are more simplistic social structures the less responsibility males (or even both sexes) have in raising the young. Female mate choice will be far more limited if she is only looking for a sperm donation. However, if she needs a partner (or even cooperative group) to help raise the young, female mate choice will significantly broaden the traits she is selecting for. In other words, the more male investment in the young the less likely you are to see a simplistic dominace hierarchy.

Samuel Stephens : Damn, isn't nature fascinating? It's such a shame us humans often misrepresent it and then, on top of that, fallaciously appeal to it for the sake of convincing ourselves that prejudice and exploitation is not only just, but inescapable.

Mike Kuppen : Thanks for the chuckles :-)

Alix Mordant : My thoughts on Jordan Peterson and his "fanboys": For the sake of argument, I want to switch the blame - Peterson would be nothing without his fans. They are the "preexisting condition": He is attracting people with issues (authoritarian personality, daddy problems - blaming their mommy for driving their daddy away etc.). He voices loudly what goes on in their twisted little brains, giving their biases a pseudo-intellectual foundation and legitimisation. Short, he makes them feel all fuzzy and warm inside. (I am now provocative, no false equivalence intended:) What would have become of Hitler without his grotesque followers? An unsuccessful painter, frustrated, mumbling antisemitic opinions into his stein while sitting lonely in the Munich beer hall. Could another Pied Piper have taken Hitler`s place? Sure. Because there are always nasty people, ready to be the fanboys/followers of their own petty thoughts. Just look at Trump: disgusting as he is, is just the symptom, not the disease. Trump bashing is useless, one has to get to the core of the problem. (Also, see the myriad of authoritarian leaders in the making that is cropping up: Orban, Erdogan, Duterte, Sisi, Le Pen etc.) Some Peterson fan boys are just young and dumb/delusional and will grow out of this phase. Their intellect actually might start developing and they will see the error of their ways. Others may become full blown psychos. The first category should get helped along the way, to speed up the process. But we have to throw the kid gloves away and call their "ideas" out for what they are: authoritarian, misogynistic bullshit, tailored to appeal to a sick brand of youth culture. There were much to many disgusting articles in the mainstream media, fawning over Peterson`s (his fan boys) "ideas" and "renegade thoughts", guilding them with false legitimacy. Yeah, right, blaming women for everything that hurts a (young and/or disturbed) men`s ego is a deep and innovative thought. Following authorities and glorifying hierarchies is also groundbreaking. What could possibly go wrong with that? "I am just following orders!" Oh... People like those "hierarchy lovers" were possibly (!) the reason for thousands of years of feudal servitude, all kinds of oppression and general lack of progress. Btw, I am sick of hearing that "cleaning up their room is good advice"! Is there anyone here who really thinks that their mommies (aka "agents/dragons of chaos") did not tell them a million times to do just that? Does it really take someone with testicles to get through those thick heads? Come on! Peterson`s fanboys are not popular at school, with the opposite gender, etc.? Guess what, lots of people (including many, many girls) share that experience and do not act like lunatics because of it! Wow. Maybe we should give them the Noble Peace Award (the bar lies low anyway) for their achievement. This whole Peterson-farce is about some cry babies with "victimhood envy". So. F-ing. Sick. Of. Them. Send them to live in a migrant camp, prison, a poor country, Palestine or something so that they can really experience some trauma. Maybe that will cure them, stop their obsessive navel gazing and teach them some empathy. And then we can finally tackle some real life problems, like wealth inequality, poverty, wars, Climate Change and other ecological time bombs.

Tsu Sugawara : this is really well explained. thank you.

Khaine's Lair : I love when you talk about cuttlefish, octopi, and squid. So cool!

Scarlett Cunningham : WE NEED ENFORCED MONOGAMY FOR CUTTLEFISH!!!!

amn7319 : Thank you for this. I really appreciate that you can articulate the nuances and subtleties that have been observed in an evolutionary context, and that life in general is incredibly complex. And so attempting to universalize or generalize the human experience across all facets is grossly disingenuous, or at the very least, being willfully blind to what actually is.

Monkey Fez : An interesting question is why it is that "some individuals are better at concentrating those surpluses in their hands"? and if the human hierarchy/structure is flattened, how does this flattened structure deal with these individuals to keep things "fair"?

Brad Keen : When or where haven't human societies been organised in a hierarchical fashion of one sort or another? The Pareto distribution at work?

NewtonDynamics : Oh that's easy to answer, the people who are all work up about hierarchies are Christians Republican, we no study necessary for that. How else do you think all Christians coalitions are unanimously on the side of Donald Trump regardless of the immoralities and teh corruption? Republican Christians do not really like democracy, the constitution and the bill of right are just foils to these people, they love a strong white dominant alpha male in control. Some of these Christian pastors are now telling their quires that God told them that Trump is a prophet of God, like Mousses or Abraham.

GorillaGuerilla : Let me guess, we're poking a little fun at the JBP fanboys....? Love it!

Astariol : I left a comment on your last video that may have been more contrarian than I intended. I validated the notion, possibly the fact even, that posture does affect your state of mind. That said, I think Peterson's message tends to be simple. So simple in fact that a certain type of person adores it because you don't really have to think or explore any complexity. You just soak it up and nod your head while someone authoritative validates your biases.

Fast : Nice glimpse at the complexity of social affairs! I thought part of the problems with the initial observations of the captive wolves was that the packs were not family units as much as they were a bunch of male and female wolves forced to live in a confined space, in dull environment. It's certainly an interesting topic, to wonder how much of our perception is colored by our presumptions! That's the reason why I was very confused with the beginning of this video, it didn't match the end at all... You spoke about the Romans and Egyptians. Why do you explain a very complicated human social dynamic using the same terms that you know for a fact were too simple to explain a wolf family dynamic? Is it just because the human society is not a family? That seems like an arbitrary decision. The wolves lack the ability to keep larger units cohesive, humans don't.The pack is a cooperative hunting group, also dealing with the harsh environment, disease, defense etc., the human society is a cooperative group doing the same things and more. Of course there are oppressive practices, but all the things you say about wolves and the other animals holds for Romans and Egyptians. They've developed over generations, I'd say evolved. It's not just top-down oppression. The women have never been just trophies, there's sexual selection happening, the peasants are not just oppressed pawns, the king is not just a bully. The reason we have this immense spectrum of culture is precisely because there has been a strong incentive to create sidetracks, ways to slip past any pre-existing local or global dominance hierarchy. It's all very complicated two way cooperation, mutual interests dynamic interplay etc. Don't you precisely use the animals here to prove that just because you see a pattern of dominance hierarchy, doesn't mean that that's what the incredibly complicated system fundamentally is? It's very strange to me that you would enthusiastically explain how incredibly complex the animal relations are and still be happy with the one-sided view you have on autocratic human societies. Throughout the history tyrants have been overthrown and kingdoms have failed precisely because excess of inequality causes instability, yet these empires, and the basic hierarchical structure has lasted for thousands or hundreds of years and been the home for thousands or hundreds of thousands of humans. The explanation that poems and religion has kept the masses fooled seems like wishful thinking. The estimation that the hierarchies are unstable seems wrong. They can become unstable, the elite certainly has incentive to support the stability and offer distractions to subdue the population, but they are not necessarily unstable just because there are very powerful and wealthy people at the top and poor masses at the bottom. As long as the system serves the interests of everyone, it is not unstable and it remains in function, just like the wolf family or the Roman empire. Also if this hierarchy does seem to pop up everywhere and if it is a result of humans being industrious and having differing skill sets and abilities, isn't saying "the social hierarchy emerges all the time and it's rarely a good thing" a bit like saying "it's rarely a good thing that humans have societies and can accumulate wealth"... Certainly there is a problem with all the stuff being at the hands of a minority, and it's an issue all societies have to deal with (or they eventually fall). No question about that.

Johnny Drivebye : I love how complex nature is. Love the way you narrate it. One thing that fascinates me the most is the way such things as wolves being reintroduced into Yellowstone’s tropic cascade has changed the erosion rate of rivers which comes from the deer changing their feeding patterns. Perhaps off the video topic but I don’t think people give much thought to these things. As a species we would seem to have inherited a responsibility for our backyard that is in place as we have the ability to recognize our own influence which is world wide. Pity that so much bias goes into belief in a book written to tell people to just be quiet and not to question whether or not we can do harm to our environment. I hope we can all leave a bit of wisdom for the future generations. I suppose it is hard to see damage done to people that aren’t in existence yet. It’s my hope that someday these people will exist and get a chance to do better for their children. I get accused of being a perpetual optimist a lot. I don’t see that as a bad thing. Thanks for all the work you do PZ. I’d like you to know that I’m one person who respects it. Cheers!

Joe Smith : This won't sit well with the Peterson beta lobsters.

Orson Zedd : Haha urinalysis

Adam Rainstopper : Lawbsters.

Misa Toman : Read Kropotkin <3

Jan-Lucas Deinhard : Gotta say, I love your examples of the funny turns evolution can take. But boy, you're taking the concept of a straw man to the next level when you say people want natural hierarchies with one arrow of dominance and that's the problem. No sane person could ever think of nature in such a way.

boing3887 : Fascinating!

Alix Mordant : Thank you for the video and the insights.

Richard Richard : That bowerbird with the ten-dollar note gets it.

Jon Avery : So, I see you have no problem making behavioral comparisons between humans and lesser species but when Jordan Peterson does the same thing, all of a sudden it's almost too stupid for comment. I see. Very enlightening.

ozan yigit : thank you for this discussion, and esp. references above.

Drew John : Myers, I have been trying to find a good all round book on the controversies within evolutionary biology. Do you know of a good, but not too technical history of the development of evoutionary theory?

Drew John : Ahhh...video on hierarchies! Guess this is what I was asking for...

Symonds : I liked this video. Sometimes people just aren't ready for their preconceived worldviews to be destroyed by 'the truth' about alpha/beta Wolves and knowledge of Cuttlefish and such. Like when "macho guys" get so confused about why a woman would choose a less macho boyfriend.

Scottie Westfall : Mech pronounces his last name "Meach."

SECRET SPY : Jordan Peterson says hierarchy its biological .

mrobins71 : https://writing809.wordpress.com/2018/03/19/jordan-b-peterson-appropriates-lobsters-from-the-master/

Ryansarcade9 : I see this as an important first step in understanding income inequality.

Juicexlx : HA! Bringing back Ecology. A long overdue and excellent video in a Ocean of internet bullshit and ignorance. Thanks PZ.

Alix Mordant : Just a few remarks off the top of my head in response to Peterson`s ideas on hierarchies: Hierarchies much, much predate Capitalism. Do not conflate those two things. The vast majority of the population was at the bottom of this hierarchy, keeping up society with their labour, making civilisation possible. Technology, science and knowledge developed slowly. Sometimes there where periods where knowledge made some advancements, but in general this did not hugely change everyday life of people (till the Industrial Revolution); technology/machinery was extremely rare, people`s labour was still the main source of "energy". And again, the work that held up civilisation was done by the common people, not the elites. Often, hierarchies (including the religious elites) actively kept down free thought through dogma and ruthless oppression, hindering (scientific) progress. Free and critical thinking was never in the interest of what you call "natural aristocracy". Brutal dynastic wars, endless quarrels, unfair distribution of the fruit of the labour of the commoners, and the whole list of what we now call "human rights violation" was the order of the day. If the top of the hierarchy was so essential for human development and society, why did they not show it, e.g. through brilliant inventions? And I do not count the occasional great mind from that class, like Antoine Lavoisier, but really a significant number, clearly proving their mental superiority. So, the ruling elites were much known for being vicious, not brilliant, despite the fact that they had time and money at their hand to dedicate their minds to study and learning. Some better of quasi "middle class-ish" people did advance science and technology, but they did by far not belong to the top of the hierarchy. They were closer in rank to the "normal" people than the aristocrats. The commoner (peasant) at the bottom lacked leisure and money and was totally deprived of education. In fact, their life situation was quite similar to slavery. Never forget, more likely than not, your and most other people`s ancestors belonged in that group, not to the nobility. Where your ancestors "naive and weak"? Or stupid and lazy? I do not think so. When science and technology finally gained steam, it changed the "natural" order by bringing up some new elites from the middle. Than money did play a role (before that it was mostly land.) Even with the new machinery, work was hard and abundant and done by the base of the population pyramid - very likely the ancestors of most of today`s population. Living circumstances were appalling, the payment a pittance. The surplus of their work, the profit, made the owners of the factories rich. Were the factory owners inventors who "deserved" to collect all that money? In some cases, especially in the early times of the Industrial Revolution, yes. In the vast majority of the cases not at all. They just had the money, most often from land that "belonged" to them only through their lineage, once "lend" to their ancestors by the king (the owner of all land in feudal times). This did not keep them from enclosing the commons, chasing away the peasants who used it before, creating the underprivileged workforce who made the Industrial Revolution possible. When hierarchies started to become a little more permeable, it was with lots of effort and huge amounts of luck possible for a "common" person to contribute to science, proving that intellect is not a privilege of the higher strata of the hierarchy. Best example is the brilliant Michael Faraday. Since then, our scientific and technological progress became huge, due to the fact that the masses are included and educated and hierarchies became less and less of a constriction. (Also, team work is now common in the STEM field). Descendants of poor working class/peasant people, women, people of colour from all "races" contribute now to humanities intellectual evolution. They are the living proof for: 1.) the fact that there are no "natural" or "genetic" elites/hierarchies 2.) brilliant people can come from all strata, all races and genders 3.) exclusion and oppression of huge parts of the population (women, poor, coloured people) did keep us backwards, socially and also intellectually. 4.) that a society without an oppressive strict hierarchy is more peaceful and prosperous, a much better place to live in. If at all, we need more democracy and participation, more education, a fairer distribution of the fruits of labour. P.s.: Technology advancement is not "made possible by capital accumulation", it is the fruit of learning, science, inventions. Making more money for personal profit from those ideas/inventions (and working class labour), that is made possible by capital (the old "the rich are getting richer"-thing; the wealth gap is growing and this is absolutely not justified by any means).

F. Teixeira : Hierarchies and capitalism are outdated systems...similar stuff but better will appear soon hopefully.

ajs1031 : Well, looky here...

rares mircea : " Just like any cell thrives when the Body thrives, human beings reap the global condition of things. You might say that there are exceptions, as a wealthy individual has the best possible of lives under any social surroundings. This is true, granting that it’s a very ignorant individual, having more to do with an animal psyche than human. But if we take the bigger picture, we see that it’s not quite true after all! If people across the last thousand of years would of been free, having access to a decent life and education, we would of had the computer, virtual reality or medical revolutions (and who knows what else) maybe 100 or 200 years earlier. This is true also for everything else, from making art to garbage disposal. The “blissful” life of any of today’s billionaires would seem a pale and short life, in comparison. And there would be a place and means for everybody because scientists say the laws of physics allow for unbelievable degrees of freedom in devising greater computing power per volume of matter, energy capturing technology, as well as energy efficient and nonpolluting technologies. Just think how much technology has changed in the last century. Another, more accelerated century of technological advance, and we’ll be nowhere close to “extract” the maximum out of the laws of nature! So, any individual that thinks it has it all, is just like any nobleman from centuries ago that thought the same, without ever suspecting jet-skis, Ferraris, snowboarding, airplanes, internet, Oculus Rift, LSD, painkillers, antibiotics, kidney transplant or MRI machines. "