I want to try and draw some parallels, but before this is possible we need a common text.
- The podcast opens with the increased percentage of people who don’t believe human beings will ever stop waging war because “it’s in our nature.” Just one of those sad but inevitable things we can’t change.
- We then meet Sapolsky’s study subjects, a community of “textbook” baboons. The group is highly-aggressive, hierarchical and dominated by alpha males.
- A tourist lodge opens up nearby and a different group of baboons stops foraging and starts feasting on cakes, hamburgers, etc, everyday.
- Sapolsky’s group discovers the dumping ground and wants in on the free-for-all. The tougher males fight their way into the food dump every day, for years.
- One day, some of the baboons start getting really sick. Turns out they’ve consumed contaminated meat and contracted tuberculosis. The disease kills off most of the aggressive alpha males.
- Sapolsky is devastated by the deaths of his alphas. He also starts to observe changes in the clan. The beta males start doing things the alphas never did, like grooming the females and even other males. He figures the study group has been scientifically compromised by a freak event and moves on to a different clan.
- Six years later, Sapolsky visits his old group. To his amazement, the less violent culture remains! This despite the fact that the community is full of new males that grew up under the “old world order.”
- Surprisingly, the new males adapted to the relatively peaceful culture of the group instead of trying to become the new alphas.
- Lots of theories are thrown around, but the idea of hard-wired and inevitable aggression is called into question, especially because this more peaceful baboon behaviour has now lasted 20 years.
- Many behaviours thought to be hard-wired changed, and very quickly!
- The podcast ends with a question: can this scenario teach us something about the human potential for change?