I have been asked why I am belaboring the issue of human male longevity. Here’s why: I want to know why human females live longer than males! Let’s face it; human females aren’t stronger in the physical size or sense. Put next to the human males; the average human female is smaller, shorter and weaker!
All the things I’ve mentioned in the last posts only show how human males have shorter lives than females. The scientific studies present a multitude of explanations of the reason for males’ inability to survive everything from problems in utero to the fact that males tend to be rather reckless and die in an accident or in war! But all the research I’ve done shows that the experts tend to be redundant in their idea that men die more than women. That’s useless for pointing to the real reason for human females living longer than men.
So I looked at what I found out from the multitude of scientific studies and noticed something that seemed to go beyond simple proximate cause of human males dying sooner than human females. Every single study, from all around the world, pointed out the greatest problem males face: their physical inability to survive in various stressful situations – both before and after birth!
The light bulb went on! The ultimate reason that males succumb so quickly to stress is because the survival of the human species depends on the healthiest, strongest and most intelligent males to survive and protect the females during their childbearing and childrearing years.
The first thing we needed to survive as a species was protection. Most hominids were fairly small and most likely prey – until we became the top predator in nature. As we moved up the evolutionary ladder our children developed the need for very long childhood. Among other things our brain was developing into an exceptionally large and complex organ. As we developed into bipedal apes, the female birth canal was not large enough to allow the human brain to mature in utero. A human infant at birth is effectively years behind the mental and physical development of a great ape at birth.
Among the great apes, including our closest relative the chimpanzee, their offspring are expected to be independent by 8 years at the most. Our species has what is known as an extended childhood and individuals are unable to live independently of its parents until near or into puberty. As hunter/gatherers and even as we advanced into the agricultural revolution, humans may have harnessed the physical abilities of children. However, even that is limited because human children rarely develop the physical strength they need as adults until they are past puberty. The mental acuity of children lags significantly behind their physical development. In fact, as we humans developed more settled lives, childhood was effectively expanded into the mid-twenties based on the educational needs of a complex society.
This leads me to the conclusion that we needed strong people who weren’t burdened with the screaming, mewling infants that had to be held and taught the multitude of things needed as adults. Humans need men. Not just any man, but a strong, intelligent man who is capable of surviving a fight to protect the pack. So evolution, nature, God or whatever entity is responsible for our becoming humans – made certain that only the strongest, healthiest males survive.
These males required the testosterone-driven need for excitement and adventure that enabled them to protect the females and children. Because these very activities cause the possible elimination of human males, evolution has insured that there are more
males than females through the years where the females are tied up with bearing and raising their children. The ability of the human male to protect the group was extended to the entire group including the older men and much older women. When you actually figure it out, even as many human males did not survive much beyond early adulthood, it was their efforts and strength that allowed our species to survive.
The older women were protected as much as the younger women by the younger men. The older males were almost superfluous at that point. Yes, they could help in hunting and protecting but the younger males were more important. But older women were needed to provide knowledge that might have been lost when younger women died in childbirth. Humans need grandmothers.
Well, and this is only my opinion, I think that the benefit to the human species of a healthy, strong intelligent male is most needed when the men are young. Reproduction, even in males who don’t carry babies, but who can continue to produce infants well into old age takes energy but the species no longer needs the energy of the older male as protection. Just like the elderly female apes carry babies until they literally drop dead, older males can impregnate younger females as much as they want. There’s no negative OR positive outcome FOR THE SPECIES if the older males continue to produce viable sperm because no human female is going to reproduce beyond a certain age (except with modern technology).
In our modern, very complex society, the need for protection of the human females and children is, in fact, very important. Note that armies don’t draft older men, but younger men. In fact, at the time thatmost young men enter into military service their brains have not yet reached its maximum maturity. Whether we look at the need for protection in our ‘War on Terror’ or wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s the young, healthiest and very intelligent men our society uses to protect us.
I’m finally satisfied with my own interpretation that the reason human males are placed in situations that increase their mortality is that their intelligence, strength and youth not only protected our species as we became bipedal hominids but continue in that role now.
Filed under: Anthropology