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Law of the Jungle: Powerful Men Have More Children

• August 25, 2011 • 11:35 AM

Anthropologist Christopher von Rueden’s studies of a Bolivian tribe suggest that men’s instinctive drive for power is a strategy to seed their descendants thickly.

Two generations after the beginning of the feminist revolution, men still dominate positions of power in the United States. Why are men still over-represented in corporate board rooms, halls of government, and other places where decisions are made?

One reason might be that men are evolutionarily programmed to seek positions of high status, as a means of upping their reproductive output. In the podcast, Christopher von Rueden, an anthropologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, talks about his research into the connections between status and reproduction among the Tsimane, an isolated tribe found in the rainforests of Bolivia.

Von Rueden finds that, in the Tsimane community, men with high social standing have more children and those children live longer. Although the link between high status and number of children has been mostly severed in our own society, von Rueden discusses the possibility that men may still be unconsciously pursuing power as a way of maximizing their own reproductive output.

Click to hear podcast


Music in this podcast includes Bring It On No Vox by Jamie Miller and David Matheson; and Pink Clouds Reprise Mix by Lasswell.


Jai Ranganathan
Dr. Jai Ranganathan is a biologist and his research focuses on questions of species conservation. He can be reached at jai.ranganathan at

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