Modern men are wimps, according to new book

Oct 21, 2009 by Lin Edwards weblog
Manthropology: The Science of the Inadequate Modern Male
Manthropology: The Science of the Inadequate Modern Male.

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new book claims even modern athletes could not run as fast, jump as high, or have been nearly as strong as our predecessors.

The book, Manthropology: The Science of the Inadequate Modern Male, by Australian anthropologist Peter McAllister, describes many examples of the inadequacy of the modern male, calling them as a class, "the sorriest cohort of masculine Homo sapiens to ever walk the planet."

Given spiked running shoes, Indigenous Australians of 20,000 years ago could have beaten today's for running 100 and 200 meters. As recently as last century, some Tutsi males in Rwanda could have easily beaten the current high jump world record, and bodybuilders such as Arnold Schwarzenegger would have been no match in an arm wrestle with a Neanderthal woman.

Twenty thousand years ago six male Australian Aborigines chasing prey left footprints in a muddy lake shore that became fossilized. Analysis of the footprints shows one of them was running at 37 kph (23 mph), only 5 kph slower than Usain Bolt was traveling at when he ran the 100 meters in world record time of 9.69 seconds in Beijing last year. But Bolt had been the recipient of modern training, and had the benefits of spiked running shoes and a rubberized track, whereas the Aboriginal man was running barefoot in soft mud. Given the modern conditions, the man, dubbed T8, could have reached speeds of 45 kph, according to McAllister.

McAllister also presents as evidence of his thesis photographs taken by a German anthropologist early in the twentieth century. The photographs showed Tutsi initiation ceremonies in which young men had to jump their own height in order to be accepted as men. Some of them jumped as high as 2.52 meters, which is higher than the current world record of 2.45 meters.

McAllister, interviewed in his temporary residence in Cambridge, UK, also said women of the extinct hominids such as the carried around 10 percent more muscle than modern European men, and with training could have reached 90 percent of the bulk of Arnold Schwarzenegger at his physical prime. Her shorter lower arm would have given her a great advantage in an arm wrestle, and she could easily have slammed his arm to the table.

Other examples in the book are rowers of the massive trireme warships in ancient Athens who far exceeded the capabilities of modern rowers, Roman soldiers who completed the equivalent of one and a half marathons a day, carrying equipment weighing half their body weight, and Australian Aborigines who could throw a spear over 10 meters further than the current javelin world record.

McAllister attributes the decline to the more sedentary lifestyle humans have lived since the industrial revolution, which has made modern people less robust than before since machines do so much of the work. The fact that we are constantly improving and breaking athletic records is because they are only in comparison to the performances in recent decades. If you compare today's athleticism with that of humans much further back we see a real decline.

According to McAllister humans have lost 40 percent of the shafts of the long bones because they are no longer subjected to the kind of muscular loads that were normal before the industrial revolution. Even our elite athletes are not exposed to anywhere near the challenges and loads that were part of everyday life for pre-industrial people.

The Cro-Magnons, the first anatomically modern Europeans, living around 30-40,000 years ago, were impressively tall (many over 6 feet 6 inches), strong, fit, and with larger brains than humans of today. They had an active lifestyle and an abundant and balanced diet of meats and vegetables.

The advent of agriculture (described by Jared Diamond as the worst mistake in history) meant a steady supply of food, but it also meant our diet became lower in quality, less varied and contained fewer nutrients. The result was that we became smaller and weaker, only regaining size and strength in the last century or so after improvements in sanitation and the development of medicines such as antibiotics.

The good news from the findings described in the book is that the human body is plastic, and can change over generations. Each individual body can also change over much shorter periods of time. With a good balanced and varied diet and with plenty of exercise, there is plenty of scope for improvement in almost all of us.

More information: More info about the book can be found here.

© 2009 PhysOrg.com

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User comments : 40

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Bob_Kob
3.5 / 5 (15) Oct 21, 2009
Yeah tell Cro-Magnon to assemble himself 450 GeV supercollider with the possibility to create miniature black holes.

Anyway on topic, what about tribal people who have had almost no contact with the civilised world? They're not any stronger/faster than we are.
otto1923
3.8 / 5 (4) Oct 21, 2009
Hey Bob how do you know they're not? Most are residual refugees from regional conflict and disease anyways, most partake some form of agriculture.

Yeah I was going to mention agriculture but the article beat me to it. After pops exploded, the staple food for most became grass (grains), the last choice before bark and twigs among hunter/gatherers. Those who could subsist on it prevailed over those whose systems needed real food. Plants and animals were routinely selected for quantity over quality and became the bloated, fatty, mushy stuff we season and color and refortify today. We are what we eat. The nephelim- the giants of old- were only those usurpers who waited in the woods to raid our stores and steal our women. We overwhelmed them, drove them to extinction by sheer weight if numbers.
vit
4 / 5 (6) Oct 21, 2009
Yeah tell Cro-Magnon to assemble himself 450 GeV supercollider with the possibility to create miniature black holes.

Anyway on topic, what about tribal people who have had almost no contact with the civilised world? They're not any stronger/faster than we are.


Look up Jared Diamond on wikipedia.org and click on the Articles link. Click on "The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race" and you'll read about modern Maasai who are in better shape than we are. Also check out the Tarahumara. They are specialized runners, true, but these dudes can out-pace most American runners drunk. Can they assemble a supercollider? Hell no, but why would they want to? It's too bad it seems we have to trade physical prowess for technology since someday technology may not be enough (or around) to help feed us.
otto1923
3 / 5 (1) Oct 21, 2009
The good news from the findings described in the book is that the human body is plastic
I suppose epigenetics has something to do with this? Various genes get expressed and repressed depending on the mothers environment and frame of mind?
Doug_Huffman
3.2 / 5 (9) Oct 21, 2009
Maybe so, but I have outlived them.
MTd2
3 / 5 (2) Oct 21, 2009
"Some of them jumped as high as 2.52 meters, which is higher than the current world record of 2.45 meters." This is wrong. Those Tutsi counts the highest point as the point of the head, Olympic jump tries to measure the highest point achieved by the center of gravity, that's why they use a bar in a delicate equilibrium.

For example, the tip of the head of a male Volleyball player easily surpasses the hight 2.43m meters of the net. That is aiming for precision blocking, not merely achieving a great height only.
CptWozza
5 / 5 (7) Oct 21, 2009
"the Inadequate Modern Male"
"the sorriest cohort of masculine Homo sapiens to ever walk the planet."

Why the focus on men specifically? Yes, men are supposed to be physically stronger, but if the diet and lifestyle of modern humans is so inadequate, then surely this affects both genders. There's no cause to single out men specifically as "inadequate" as he puts it. Inadequate in what context? In this era, an inadequate male is one who is scientifically illiterate, not one with small biceps.

I just feel that this author has titled the book to pander to the currently popular man-hating in order to increase his sales. It's bad enough that this form of sexism is generally unrecognized and therefore tolerated; it's even worse that a man would provide people with more bullets to fire. The actual information is very interesting, which makes this all the more disappointing.
John_balls
1 / 5 (1) Oct 21, 2009

Anyway on topic, what about tribal people who have had almost no contact with the civilised world? They're not any stronger/faster than we are.


This is a good point. This kind of contradicts what they are saying.
BigTone
3 / 5 (1) Oct 21, 2009
Is the scientific consensus that Cro-Magnon man is really just us? From wikipedia pasted below -I know, I know, the wiki's are not always accurate...

The Cro-Magnon term falls outside the usual naming conventions for early humans and is often used in a general sense to describe the oldest modern people in Europe, while remaining, anthropologically speaking, a specific (but very frequent) subtype among the fossil remains. In recent scientific literature the term "European early modern humans" is used instead.
kasen
5 / 5 (1) Oct 21, 2009
It's too bad it seems we have to trade physical prowess for technology since someday technology may not be enough (or around) to help feed us.


Although I agree with your general view, I believe that, as a race, we've crossed a point beyond which only technology could save us from starvation.

As for technology not being around, that only applies to the network-dependent ones, like the Internet, or transportation. Most of the know-how and some materiel will survive any apocalyptic scenario.

Anyone who knows how to build a generator, a radio, and a gun from scratch is liable to have a bunker ready. Anyone who knows how to build a computer, a laser, or a supercollider from scratch is most likely amongst the first people to know of a coming apocalypse.

Neither of those people will be athletic, even by today's standards. But in a heavily unnatural environment, which is where we're headed, they're the alpha males.
rubberjesus
not rated yet Oct 21, 2009
Would you rather be stronger or smarter anyway it doesn't matter how strong or fast our ancestors were they were still "whimps" compared to our animal counterparts, a 90 pound chimp could toss a 190 pound man around like a ragdoll and we're still painfully slow next to wolves or cheetahs. Man didn't rise to the top of the food chain by being strong or fast, we did it by being several orders of magnitude smarter than every other predator on the planet, and we are much smarter than our ancient counterparts, people of the past didn't have to process even close to the same amount of information that we do today on a regular basis, their brains were just as stunted as our muscles.

besides there's this beautiful thing called genetic engineering that will be widespread in a few decades
Sean_W
2 / 5 (4) Oct 21, 2009
I suppose living to a hundred and having cures for round worms and tetanus and being able to learn about the farthest reaches of the universe and the life at the bottom of the ocean and understanding the laws governing reality while enjoying electricity and indoor plumbing are pretty pathetic compensations for not being able to run as fast as some Kenyan or arm wrestle a Brazilian native who can catch bullets in his teeth or something. Yet somehow I think I will manage to muddle by with many disabilities. Maybe the Kenyan and Brazilian supermen will be willing to pay me a disability benefit.
Hemo_jr
5 / 5 (1) Oct 21, 2009
Evolution has taken H Sap down the gracile path. The more robust of the genus have died out. H Sap tends to be quicker, more agile, precise, and rely on tools and leverage more than muscle mass and thick bone.
Sean_W
2 / 5 (4) Oct 21, 2009
Alternative headline: Modern men deserve kick in the nads for being useless nancy boys. Film at eleven.
paulthebassguy
1 / 5 (2) Oct 21, 2009
I agree they are more 'whimpy' but it cannot be doubted that the majority of modern men are more educated, sophisticated and have the knowledge to make rational decisions and plan for future events.

Men of the past were more emotionally unstable and focused towards direct short-term physical actions, many of them violent.
Paradox
not rated yet Oct 21, 2009
McAllister attributes the decline to the more sedentary lifestyle humans have lived since the industrial revolution


I doubt that it was merely the "Industrial Revolution".
It is more likely to be the advance of tool making since prehistoric times.
freethinking
1 / 5 (3) Oct 21, 2009
It never ceases to amaze me how wimpy the men are nowadays. I lost track of the number of men that faint at the sight of blood or needle, who are out of shape, or layed low by minor injuries. I believe its cultural, men at schools are taught to be wimps, media portrays tough men as either crazy or evil.

Look at paulthebassguys comments about men in the past were more emotionally unstable. Nowaday only the bad guys are tough and unstable, while the good guys are taught at school to be wussies, and faint at the sight of a little blood....
NickFun
1 / 5 (1) Oct 21, 2009
If the cro-magnons were so huge, muscular and big brained, why did they die out we replaced them? I find a lot of holes in this story.
StillWind
1.8 / 5 (5) Oct 21, 2009
If the cro-magnons were so huge, muscular and big brained, why did they die out we replaced them? I find a lot of holes in this story.

While this is a real question, it is a fact, nonetheless. In fact, Neanderthals were bigger, stronger, and maybe bigger brained than modern homo, and they lived through weather that would freeze us solid, yet they died out, too.
"Survival of the fittest" must be re-evaluated.
BTW, at 6'2" 225#, I can haul more than 5 tons of stone a day, so I guess we're talking about the general population. Some of us can still carry the "male".
siliconboy
not rated yet Oct 21, 2009
The trend is clear, we are halfway to being sentient robots. arm wrestling wont count for much when the earth has been vaporized and you live across multiple universes outside time and space.
CyberRat
not rated yet Oct 22, 2009
Soon we will enhance our selfs with nano technology and genetic engineering. We will enhance our strength, health, memory, and even some skills to interact with the world with our mind. Fantasy you think? Lets say we always improved things as soon we were able to.
insectking
5 / 5 (2) Oct 22, 2009
Where did this guy get his data from? How did he test his hypothesis? I'm sure the average person then was much fitter, stronger and more active -- and practically psychopathic -- than those today but I don't see how this made them supermen.

Even if they were these walking gods, I still like my modern conveniences like literacy, numeracy, books, science, computers with word processor software, internet, nutrition science, antibiotics and vaccines, human rights, travelling across the Atlantic Ocean in under 24 hours and all that shit my hunter-gatherer ancestors didn't have in their boring, miserable, cold, frightened, painfully short thirty-year-old lives.
otto1923
not rated yet Oct 22, 2009
There's no cause to single out men specifically as "inadequate" as he puts it.
I dont think the author wrote the book to give anyone ammunition. Why do many people think things need be written today to 'send a message?'

Men and women had long been specialized by that time. The size of human heads caused womens' hips to widen in concert to enable birth. Humans were and are born prematurely so their heads can continue to grow after birth. Babies required more maternal care and their mothers were as a result more sedentary with shorter legs and more adipose tissue to store nourishment and produce warmth. Men were busy mostly hunting and fighting over resources while women were busy replacing battle losses. Life was nasty, brutish, and short.
CptWozza
not rated yet Oct 23, 2009
Why do many people think things need be written today to 'send a message?'


I completely agree - that's my point exactly. It is the author who made this mistake, not myself. The content of his book appears to be interesting and well thought out, but it seems very obvious to me that he caved in to demands from his publisher to create a subtitle which will increase sales. This is very common.

Look at the subtitle again. "The secret science of male inadequacy" (which does not even question whether not it is true). Now reverse the gender and you will see clearly how unpleasant this statement is. The 'reverse the gender trick' is always a very effective way of exposing this prejudice, but it's surprising how few people notice this. Please don't try to defend the indefensible.
otto1923
not rated yet Oct 23, 2009
If the cro-magnons were so huge, muscular and big brained, why did they die out
Neanderthal had left the tropics much earlier than the Cro Mags. Their reproduction had started to become seasonal, out of necessity, like any temperate species. They were outreproduced by hot blooded modern people who could conceive anytime, anywhere. We are a tropical species in a temperate environment- a reason why we are so ruinous.
otto1923
not rated yet Oct 23, 2009
CptWuzzy
The book is about men. I see the title as rather tongue in cheek. Maybe your cognition is askew.
otto1923
not rated yet Oct 23, 2009
@freidenken
http://www.youtub...=related
-like this maybe??
otto1923
not rated yet Oct 23, 2009
@freidenken
OOP, forgot to include your quote:
media portrays tough men as either crazy or evil.
-Of which my response was the link above, clearly some very cultured individuals. So in other words we've ALL been indoctrinated in one way or another?
CptWozza
not rated yet Oct 23, 2009
CptWuzzy
The book is about men. I see the title as rather tongue in cheek. Maybe your cognition is askew.


This is the usual excuse making for prejudice, by claiming it is "only a joke". If you think the title being tongue in cheek is a suitable defense, then I ask again, reverse the gender to see how it sounds. It is not acceptable to title a book "the inadequacy of the modern female" and then say "it was only a joke", as if to imply that other people were having a sense of humour malfunction. Do I need to express prejudice towards someone's gender to be viewed as having a sense of humour? Obviously not.

As for your comment about my cognition not working, well it's clearly working better than yours. If my thinking ability is faltering, then yours must be positively non-existent. Finally, your mocking of my username is a form of contempt for which there is no worthy response.
otto1923
not rated yet Oct 23, 2009
CtnWoozy
title a book "the inadequacy of the modern female" and then say "it was only a joke"
Youre right. It wouldn't be funny. Hey, if you invert Otto you get 'toOt' :-)

Seriously, I believe you may have a problem recognizing sarcasm. I would guess you lost it about ... 1983 or thereabouts?
otto1923
not rated yet Oct 23, 2009
Question: does the picture of the naked little fat guy make you grin or angry? Uh huh... I rest my case. The facts in the book, according to the article, appear to be sound but they are presented encased in a little jocularity. Nothing yet?
CptWozza
not rated yet Oct 24, 2009
Question: does the picture of the naked little fat guy make you grin or angry?


Neither, in fact. It simply makes me think that the author is presenting a stereotype of the modern male in order to, as with everything else, increase his sales. So ok, fine, I don't find the fat guy particularly funny, but as before this doesn't mean I lack a sense of humour. If it makes you laugh, then I would guess that you probably favour those teen comedies which employ cheap humour, such as people getting accidentally naked or being hit in the face with a basketball. Those things make me positively curl into a ball with painful laughter. By the way, saying 'I rest my case' is no substitute for a soundly formed argument. That phrase is an artificial conversation terminator that I've encountered before.
otto1923
not rated yet Oct 24, 2009
Otto never capitulates
http://www.physor...088.html
-It would be fair to assume that cro-mag and Neanderthal may have shared a joke or 2, not unlike those between German and Brit in the trenches during the Great War-
Ethelred
5 / 5 (1) Oct 25, 2009
Where did this guy get his data from?


He got it from Bullshit Land. Assuming the article isn't leaving out all the details. Like for instance, the book might be trying to be silly.

Australian Aborigines who could throw a spear over 10 meters further than the current javelin world record.


First where did anyone ever see this happen? Second didn't they notice that the Australian Aborigines used a Woomera also known as Atlatl or in English a spear thrower. Its lever that is held in the hand to act as an arm extension. Its not used by modern athletes. Also the current record is shorter than the old record with the old javelin. When they where tossing the damn thing over 300 yards it was getting bloody dangerous so the javelins were changed to shorten the throws.

http://en.wikiped...i/Atlatl

If the rest of the book is as crap ridden at that its a joke. Possibly intentionally.

Ethelred
acarrilho
5 / 5 (2) Oct 25, 2009
"Wimp" should characterize an individual without the necessary set of skills to survive in its own natural environment. I don't care how muscular and "fit" some males used to be, they wouldn't last an hour in a modern city, for one reason or another. It's a jungle out there... Also, they wouldn't be very likely to get laid with our women, given their current priorities, so who cares how "fit" they were? I don't get this issue...
otto1923
not rated yet Oct 25, 2009
Ethelred, another homunculoid legend- (and his sidekick-?)
So we have yet another anthropological hoax ala casteneda? Maybe anthropologists are like climate experts. Hard to tell from so lean an article, but you seem to have found discrepancies; guess we'll all just have to buy the book to see if he's got substantive supportive evidence. I say we've been sold the WASP = wimp image because we've reached our quota, and this is yet more evidence of husbanding of the species. Is my opinion.
zevkirsh
1 / 5 (1) Oct 25, 2009
wenty thousand years ago six male Australian Aborigines chasing prey left footprints in a muddy lake shore that became fossilized. Analysis of the footprints shows one of them was running at 37 kph (23 mph),

this is a total joke. seriously analyzing speed from fossilized foor prints. please. this is less scientific than gambling on stock market predictions
frajo
1 / 5 (1) Oct 25, 2009
Life was nasty, brutish, and short.

You forgot to mention that "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short" was put by Thomas Hobbes in 1651 and has been challenged since then:
"According to Sahlins, ethnographic data indicated that hunter-gatherers worked far fewer hours and enjoyed more leisure than typical members of industrial society, and they still ate well."
http://en.wikiped...gatherer

otto1923
not rated yet Oct 25, 2009
You forgot to mention that "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short" was put by Thomas Hobbes in 1651 and has been challenged since then
Well-known quote. No need to ref. Yeah, I know. In some places, some of the time, part of the cycle. Mostly we were plagued by all the ills of overpop- conflict being one of them.
otto1923
not rated yet Oct 25, 2009
Except notice I left out solitary. Tribes were full of people, humans being the prolific gregarians that we are. I don't know where Hobbes got that notion, unless it was to encourage the pioneers leaving for the colonies.

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