This post has been dusted off from the Drafts folder, which is full of half-written things.
I had a rather long post in the works during August regarding recent science that discredits the popular (mis)understanding of how certain dominance hierarchies are structured along the lines of alpha, beta and omega members of a social group.
While I was procrastinating, John Scalzi tweeted the following:
Hey, dudes: If you spend any real time thinking about who’s an “Alpha Male” and who is not, YOU ARE NOT ONE.
— John Scalzi (@scalzi) August 17, 2012
Then David Futrelle of the ManBoobz blog added his scathing contribution: Yo, dudes: Alpha males are a myth, according to actual experts on wolves. The commentors there dropped even more links to actual science debunking simplistic alpha/beta myths, alongside mocking the stompy defenders of tautological question-begging pseudoscience (paraphrase: since I define alphas as those who get more sex than betas, so how can you possibly deny the scientific fact that alphas are more sexually successful than betas?)
I was going to link to lots of these substantive posts/articles but not finding the time is the reason why this post has been sitting around in my drafts folder since August. In summary, dealing with the science of how what we understand about various hierarchies in different animal species, including our own, debunks the simplistic self-help alpha/beta mythology which originated from a study of captive wolves in zoos (which the original scientists have long since repudiated as not having adequately considered the pathologies of non-related subjects in captivity versus the norms of family groups in the wild). The same scientists have updated the terminology so that individuals once designated “alpha” are now designated “breeder”, and individuals once designated “beta” are now designated “offspring still cohabiting with their parents”: the primary role of breeder males and females is the care and socialisation of their young, and once the offspring mature they strike out on their own to find a partner from a different pack with whom they will become the alphas of their own pack.
The linked posts above have many relevant links which point to the science of how dominance in most animal species is correlated with seniority and breeding status rather than the outcomes of aggressive/hostile incidents designating winners and losers. If you happen to have any relevant links bookmarked, please do share them in comments.