Last video, I looked at this idea of human domestication, thinking about how we share some of the features of an animal that’s been domesticated when we compare modern civilized life to some kind of wild past.
And I wonder how far we can take this analogy.
And it seems that it goes a lot farther than I imagined.
I had no idea that it’s a whole theory within evolutionary biology and psychology, which I know very little about, but it’s a whole thing, a whole debate, about how much this idea of domestication can be applied to humans.
Applying what’s known about the most famous domesticated animals, we have our dogs, cats, cows.
And we can look at the features that they show compared to their wild neighbours, their wild relatives, and then compare them to humans.
So even back 150 years ago, Charles Darwin, Mr Evolution, did a study on domesticated animals and what they share, the traits they share.
And some of the main traits are described as “tameness and docility”.
And this seems to be one of the biggest things, that there is reduced aggression and reduced reactivity.
So this is where you can think about, you imagine sort of the classic caveman image, someone who is very aggressive and reactive, someone that would just out of nowhere club your skull.
And that is something that is reduced in modern humans.
In fact, we could see that as one of the central requirements of being a civilized human, is that you do not club your neighbour’s skull.
And so this helps to make everything in the modern world possible.
And then there’s some other ones that I wonder about.
The next one on the list was floppy ears.
So you see that with dogs.
You see pet dogs with their floppy ears, whereas the wolf has the pointy ears.
Now, I don’t know where that comes from.
And a lot of this is not understood at all.
It’s just observed, it’s not known why.
Now, I have no idea what’s going on with human tails, so I don’t know how that one fits.
New coat colours and patterns, including white spots.
So you see those kind of spotted dogs, compared to the wolf with the grey coat or whatever.
OK, I guess that doesn’t apply to humans.
Not too many spots.
But then here’s a surprising one: reduced brain size.
This one surprised me.
See, I thought one big part of being civilized is that we trade in some of our physical strength.
You imagine creatures living in the wild, living based only on our ability to physically fight, basically.
And instead we replace that with using some kind of abstract thinking to do things within civilization.
So if we’re having a fight, a civilized struggle would involve a lot more brain power than the traditional caveman club fight.
But it seems to be a universal feature among all domesticated animals that they have smaller brains.
And so I wonder what that’s about.
I mean, do we just become less- do we just have to do less?
I mean, is it just becoming more passive and doing nothing?
Not needing to have that alertness and the sharpness that a wild animal would need?
Do we just become dumb?
Do we just have to think less?
So I wonder about that.
And of course, there’s the reduced body mass and the smaller teeth.
So we compare these.
And then some other features that also show up: flattened face.
And so yeah, you can see that, the modern humans with the flatter face compared to the apes.
And one thing that is kind of interesting is that the features of a domesticated animal, they tend to be more cute.
They’re more baby-like, neotenic features, that the adults look more like babies compared to the wild counterparts.
So these are features, of course, they don’t change just from being domesticated directly, but they evolve over generations, as it seems like living in a tame state, we have different features that tend to win.
So like a wild animal in nature, certain kinds of aggressive qualities would lead to more success, but in a tame environment, a domestic environment, one where it’s more important to get along with others rather than being aggressive, then those more docile, tame features, and maybe even more cute features, tend to become more successful.
So yes, so much of this is unknown, it’s debated, but I find it very interesting to think about this comparison, and imagine: what does it mean?
#domestication #domesticatedhumans #becomingtame