Martin Sweatman’s 2017 breakthrough publication was a shot heard around the world. Stunned silence was the general reaction. We are privileged to be among the first to break that silence.
Sweatman’s key discovery was to translate paleolithic art into a vocabulary of constellations. He proved, to a statistical certainty, that a stone pillar at the prehistoric site of Göbekli Tepe represents the sky at summer solstice circa 10,950 BC – earlier than the date of the site by almost 1,500 years.
This alone revolutionizes our understanding of human prehistory.
But Sweatman went much further than that.
He inquired why the architects of Göbekli Tepe took such pains to record this specific date from their deep past.
He found that it coincided with a period of devastating climate change known as the Younger Dryas event.
The nature of the Younger Dryas event has long been in dispute. Many have maintained it was a gradual shift. A minority have suggested a sudden catastrophe.
Sweatman found that ca. 10,950 BC, earth’s orbit intersected the Taurid meteor stream – debris from an immense, decaying comet. He found corroborating evidence in inscriptions at Göbekli Tepe representing swarms of meteors emanating from the appropriate constellation.
In 2018, Sweatman published additional tests of his extraordinary theory, analyzing two more famous paleolithic sites: Lascaux (ca. 15,000 BC) and Çatalhöyük (ca. 6,000 BC). In each case he found a coherent vocabulary of constellations little changed from that used at Göbekli Tepe. Crucially, he found representations of disaster emanating from the radiant of the Taurid meteor stream.
With their periodicity of 3,000 years, the Taurids were now implicated as a major driver of human history – wiping out entire cultures, obliging survivors to commemorate the events in art, history, and ultimately myth.
Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence, and as anthropologists, we were eager to read the rebuttals.
We are aware of only two, but they fell far short of overturning Sweatman’s evidence.
Stunned silence, then, was the understandable reaction to undermining decades of archaeological orthodoxy. What could it all mean?
Sweatman did not stop there.
In 2019, he published the subject of this review: Prehistory Decoded, his eminently readable synthesis of all the current evidence for his astonishing theory.
The book is a tour de force of the scientific method.
Sweatman includes many jaw-dropping suggestions that we will not spoil for you here.
His bombshell conclusion is that these cometary catastrophes may have engendered civilization itself, with agriculture as a secondary effect.
We believe one reason Sweatman’s book has not garnered worldwide attention is the high level of education required to appreciate the gravity of his findings.
Sweatman ably summarizes the science for the layman. But to appreciate not only the weight of his evidence, but the staggering implications of his theory, the reader requires acquaintance with the following disciplines:
The list is not comprehensive, but representative.
Who, even among scholars, will bring this breadth of understanding to the subject?
Vitamin D3, “cholecalciferol,” is created from cholesterol in human skin.
It is a sort of human photosynthesis using ultraviolet light.
As “calcifer” implies, D3 “carries” calcium where it is needed.
Too little, and the body starves for calcium. Bones and teeth become weak, brittle and deformed.
But calcium is not merely a structural mineral.
Calcium is necessary for many cells to function at all.
Calcium ions flowing into and out of cells fire nerves, contract muscles, regulate hormones, drive gene expression and more.
When calcium or its co-factors magnesium and Vitamins D and K are insufficient, our bodies withdraw support from less urgent concerns like cardiovascular health to maintain essential functions like coagulation.
Even assuming dietary Vitamin D is digested, absorbed, and circulated everywhere it is needed, this clearly differs from synthesizing Vitamin D locally throughout our skin in carefully regulated quantities.
For example, Herodotus observed that ancient Persians had soft skulls from wearing turbans, though they were not otherwise deficient in sunlight.
Do all men who wear hats go soft in the head?
At a microscopic level, calcium ions are corralled by voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCCs).
Many of these VGCCs are sensitive to various wavelengths of light.
We consider it no coincidence that the body uses light both to power and to shape calcium metabolism.
Sunlight blasts us with an intense rainbow of photons from infrared to ultraviolet. Brighter blues during a sunny day; intense reds at dawn and dusk.
Life on earth has evolved photosensitive proteins called opsins that respond to light.
There are many thousands of opsins in every branch of life. Some bacteria use them to harvest solar energy in a sort of photosynthesis.
In vertebrates, opsins convert photons into electrical signals in a process called phototransduction.
Opsins work because they are sensitive to specific wavelengths of light. They are most likely to react to photons of a certain wavelength (λmax), with weaker reaction to photons that are more blue or red.
Human eyes contain four visual opsins:
Rhodopsin or “visual purple” disintegrates rapidly in light, making it unsuited for brightness, but effective in darkness. This is the opsin in the “rod cells” of the human retina.
“Red,” “Green” and “Blue” opsins have λmax roughly corresponding to the colors after which they are named. These are the opsins in the “cone cells” of the human retina.
To the extent light is available, our brains integrate the red, green and blue signals to calculate a true color value — the color we “see.”
Visual opsins vary dramatically among species.
Many mammals, like mice, have only two cone opsins. They have a hard time with reds and greens, but see deeper into ultraviolet.
Birds and fish can have many opsins, enabling exquisite color sensitivity.
Visual opsins also vary between human individuals.
Perhaps such women would be more sensitive observers of health and emotion, or better at discriminating between food and toxins.
Why would such useful sensitivity not be universal among all humans?
Perhaps because it redirects resources from other opsins.
Non-Visual Opsins: Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Eyes
Only recently have we discovered that tissues throughout our bodies capture light just as our eyes do.
Without lensing and a connection to the visual cortex, tissues with non-visual opsins do not contribute to sight.
But they respond nevertheless to light of certain wavelengths, just like the visual opsins.
Opsins belong to a larger group of G-Protein Coupled Receptors which control our senses of taste and smell, create neurotransmitters and regulate hormones.
In other words, non-visual opsins determine how cells read and respond to the environment.
There are five non-visual opsins known in humans.
Science is only beginning to understand their functions.
What little we have learned is unexpected and significant.
In 1994, panopsin became the first opsin in mammals observed outside the eye.
Panopsin was originally named “encephalopsin” because it was discovered in the brains of mice.
Also known by its genetic name OPN3, panopsin was discovered to be even more concentrated in a surprising location:
Panopsin is not found in ovaries.
Research on mice revealed that panopsin is not distributed uniformly. It forms striped patterns across the cortex and cerebellum — ribbons of “eyes” in the back, and on top, of the head.
Unlike most other patterned proteins in the brain, panopsin patterning becomes more distinct over time, rather than less so.
Panopsin patterning is a bit like zebra stripes or fingerprints — similar but unique among individuals, with variations causing an unknown effect on function.
In the cortex, panopsin presents a “rostrocaudal gradient”: dense at the forehead, sparse at the back of the head.
Assuming a similar gradient in humans, we note that panopsin is concentrated in the area of brain uncovered by male pattern baldness.
That panopsin is found both in testes and under the male bald spot, but not in ovaries, is evidence of sexual dimorphism.
Are males wired for panopsin at the expense of color sensitivity?
We wonder if biases towards blue by males, and towards red or pink by females, derive in part from these biological differences.
Only a few months before the present article, new research uncovered panopsin in a surprising location: melanocytes.
It turns out panopsin drives creation of melanin, causing suntan.
In other words, it is blue light captured by panopsin that is principally responsible for darkening skin over time.
Panopsin apparently acts as a proxy for UV exposure to activate UV defenses such as tanning.
Might panopsin play a similar protective role in testes?
In testes, panopsin is concentrated in pachytene spermatids — the developmental stage of sperm when a male’s chromosomes are “split in half” to form his contribution to a zygote.
UV light is a direct threat to pachytene spermatids. DNA absorbs UV light and is easily damaged by it. Uncontrolled damage at this crucial stage of meiosis risks adverse reproductive outcomes.
We know that panopsin acts to protect skin cells from UV damage. How might it protect spermatids?
One action might be to drive resources to the testes by increasing male hormones.
Research in 1939 documented a 20% increase in circulating testosterone when men’s chests were exposed to sunlight for five minutes.
Exposure of the genitals to sunlight resulted in a 100% increase.
Are panopsin and IR hormesis collectively responsible for this effect?
The 2017 Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to researchers who described the process by which cells keep time. Proteins oscillating in feedback loops with each other create a molecular clock.
Our primary clock resides in the brain’s suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), but many other clocks exist throughout the body.
All our rhythms of sleeping and waking, feeding and fasting, activity and rest, sexual behavior, and more are governed by this clockwork orchestra.
The clocks must regularly be calibrated against the environment.
The Nobel Committee concluded: “The relationship between the central and peripheral clocks, and the multiple ways by which local and external cues affect them, is an active
area of research open to new discoveries.”
One major external cue is light.
All the visual opsins plus panopsin and neuropsin (described below) are known to play a role in calibrating the SCN.
But the leading role is played by melanopsin, which is capable of photoentrainment even without the other opsins.
While panopsin is tuned to the deep blue of the zenith, melanopsin is tuned to the cyan of the horizon.
Even better, Sunlight Inside’s product shifts from blue to red in synchrony with local conditions.
Sunlight Inside’s spectrum is still a far cry from that of a summer day.
Nonetheless, when we added it to our interior office — heretofore lit only by flourescents — the author experienced a tremendous increase in wakefulness and focus and significant suppression of appetite.
Our office mate claims that she feels warmer with the light turned on.
Psychosomatic, perhaps, but the outcomes are real enough.
Were it not for Sunlight Inside’s solution, we might never have finished this article.
We hasten to add that we received no consideration from Sunlight Inside or from Konrad Jarausch, its ingenious and intrepid founder.
We spent our own money and quickly recouped the investment.
Unfortunately, though Sunlight Inside is a massive spectral improvement over flourescents, it is nevertheless only a desk lamp.
One still needs to go outside for solar intensity and broad-spectrum blue.
Opsins and Male Health
One of the most intriguing questions from the infant science of optical nutrition is the role of panopsin and neuropsin in male health.
Humans are strongly sexually dimorphic in panopsin, as we have seen.
Panopsin captures intense blue light to promote cellular defenses.
Neuropsin captures UV light to inform mating behavior.
Remember the study that showed direct sunlight on testes doubled testosterone?
If you are male, we urge you to do the experiment yourself.
Doubling testosterone is not the sort of thing that goes unnoticed.
One begins with brief exposures and scales up gradually.
The hormonal effect intensifies as the body adapts.
The effect on quality of life is significant.
Doubling testosterone with nothing more than sun exposure would appear to have profound clinical relevance.
Homo erectus was easily the most fearsome predator the world had ever seen. With his unprecedented advantages of persistence hunting, cooking, sophisticated tool use and social organization, erectus was able to concentrate nutrition more effectively than any other predator in history. This unique diet drove a suite of unique adaptations, shifting biological resources from digestion and lean tissue into explosive growth in the nervous system — and, as we will see, into novel metabolic pathways.
With as many as eleven million years separating LCA and homo erectus, and an additional two million years between the emergence of homo erectus and anatomically modern homo sapiens — culminating in the orgy of 50,000 years ago, when homo sapiens hunted nearly all the world’s megafauna to extinction — tribe Hominini became carnivorous. We have argued in the Journal of Anthropological Engineering whether homo sapiens is a facultative carnivore: although we can survive and reproduce on a non-carnivorous diet, and although such foods offer interesting supplementary effects, any divergence from carnivory takes us away from the core suite of human adaptations.
None of these adaptations are more uniquely powerful than nutritional ketosis.
It is no coincidence that humans, possessing the largest and most energy-intensive brains, also possess by far the greatest ability to utilize ketones in place of glucose. Newborn baby brains derive nearly half their energy from ketones, an adaptation that persists even while breastfed with significant carbohydrate. Considering that a primary mechanism of human evolution is neoteny (retention of childlike characteristics into adulthood), this offers insight to both the origin and adaptive value of ketosis over glycolysis.
Regrettably, as humans grow to their adult phenotype, they also grow desensitized to ketosis, to the point that even small amounts of glucose block ketosis completely.
As Jean-Jacques Rousseau might have said — had he not been a vegetarian chauvinist — “Man is born free in ketosis, and everywhere he is in chains of glycolysis.”
How did we reach this tragic state? Slowly, at first, with the introduction of agriculture; then rapidly, with the introduction of modern food-substitutes and technology.
Readers familiar with the Sisson oeuvre have rightly inquired of The Keto Reset Diet: “How is this not the Primal Blueprint?”
The titular “21 days” is, indeed, indistinguishable from Sisson’s long-held paleo recommendations: ancestral food choices; ancestral activity patterns; “earning one’s carbs” while averaging less than 150g net carbohydrate each day from healthy sources; avoiding added sugars, eliminating grains and seed oils, and minimizing toxins like damaged fats.
But “keto” (hereafter without scare quotes) represents an “NLS shift” (defined in the book) beyond these well-worn paleo recommendations.
Just as cold water turns to ice at 0 degrees Celsius, human metabolism undergoes a phase shift when dietary glucose is capped at incidental amounts and protein is restricted to no more than is necessary for growth and repair (so as not to create excess glucose through gluconeogenesis).
Keto is the ancestral macronutrient ratio that drove our most cherished human adaptations over millions of years.
The best part of The Keto Reset Diet is the first section wherein Sisson and Kearns summarize the current science surrounding nutritional ketosis, which has advanced significantly in recent years. The advantages are convincing: reduced inflammation, boundless energy, reduced oxidative stress, and improved neural efficiency across the entire body.
With the health benefits of keto abundantly supported both by the anthropological and biochemical evidence, the reader must feel compelled to investigate for himself.
Sisson then outlines the 21-day paleo adaptation, but this is only the beginning. At the end of the 21 days, an ingenious quiz developed by Cate Shanahan determines whether the reader is prepared to proceed with the extreme carbohydrate restriction of actual keto. If so, distinctive keto adaptations can be expected over the following several weeks.
You knew that “21 days to [nirvana]” sounded a bit too good to be true, and of course it is, but a few months are still a small price to pay for the advertised benefits.
But will you be able to hack it?
Glucose, for all its distressing side-effects, represents an effective solution to the challenges of our highly unnatural modern environment.
Glucose provides ready calories around the clock for profoundly dysfunctional humans. Locked indoors, bathed in artificial light, sleep-deprived, sedentary, diabetic, obese, sexually perverted, mentally retarded, hysterical: today’s stunted zoo humans gibber in cages at odds with their ancestors’ wild frontiers.
Glucose in its many forms can be considered a sort of performance-enhancing drug that enables humans to function in this profoundly life-denying environment. Yes, yes, we all agree, the long-term consequences are dementia, frailty, and a decades-long nightmare during which the soul rots in the body. But we’ve got to get these TPS reports filed five minutes ago.
Grant that keto is the holy grail of human nutrition and gave birth to almost everything we recognize as human today. Well, that was then! This is now!
It is one thing for a self-employed millionaire to transition from carbohydrate addiction, to paleo, to keto. Monkeys trained to dance ceaselessly in cages, however, may find it somewhat more challenging to reject zoo pellets and tranquilizer darts in favor of hard wild fare and stoic freedom.
As noted in the book, keto requires frequent, low-level activity to upregulate fat metabolism. Keto requires low levels of stress to limit cortisol-driven gluconeogenesis. Keto requires ample periods of rest — not least proper sleep, which we suggest is completely unknown in modernity. Keto requires low toxic load from food, air, and water; keto requires exposure to sunlight and other natural factors; in short, keto requires the environment of evolutionary adaptedness to be maximally effective.
Can you manage all that between filing TPS reports?
Humans are no strangers to adversity. We survived a volcanic eruption that reduced the entire race to perhaps 1,000 breeding pairs. We’ve overcome warfare, rape, infant mortality, epidemics, famine, migration across the latitudes, and countless other species-threatening events. Human evolutionary history is an unbroken series of novel challenges.
But today’s challenges are categorically different. Technology grows at an exponential rate, while genetic and cultural adaptation proceed at a linear pace. This may be the explanation for the Fermi paradox — every technological species must eventually create an environment so mismatched to its biology that it is finally unable to replace its losses through reproduction.
Everyone who takes up the keto challenge is going to have to blaze their own trail in a world that will fight them almost every step of the way. Sisson genially assures us that he’ll be there coaching us all along, that our new habits will eventually become so deeply ingrained that we will not even want to go back to carbohydrate consumption. This may well be true, but when one’s kids are screaming, one’s house is falling apart, and one’s wife is keening about the “emotional labor” of the “unending hell that is laundry” in the era of washing machines — all while one is unable to rise from the sofa due to the “low carb flu” — our human ability to adapt (without cortisol!) is tested to new limits.
My personal story may provide some context. I’ve been living almost exclusively paleo (by Sisson’s 21-day definition) for eight years. I went from inactive, infertile, trans-fat-fed couch potato to sledgehammer-swinging, barefoot-rickshaw-pulling, competitively powerlifting father of three. I have seized every opportunity for low-level activity and exposure to nature within the confines of a dense city.
Whenever time permits, I spend the entire day engaged in heavy labor from shortly after waking until my first meal at 5pm, when I break the fast only because otherwise there would not be time to sleep. This satisfies Sisson’s criteria for being a “fat-burning beast” prepared to go full keto.
These adaptations occurred with carbohydrate under 50g about half the time, refeeding at about 200-300g the other half the time, along with copious amounts of protein and intense exercise. This approach elevated my health beyond that of many of my peers. I’m 41 years old, have all my original body parts, and can even afford both rent and foodin Los Angeles, all thanks to carb-cycled, high-protein paleo.
But this is still a lamentable, even unforgiveable compromise from the fitness of our ancestors!
I write this in my second week of ketogenic carb restriction.
In the first few days of <50g carbs every day, my testosterone tanked so hard that I was texting my wife to apologize for leaving my own headphones at home. Carb cravings which I hadn’t known for years began tormenting my private moments. Without the appetite-stimulating effects of carbohydrate, I found myself unable to clear even 2,000 calories a day, resulting in greatly reduced fat intake, and this sustained deficit eventually led to severe afternoon bonking after a “mere” handful of hours of maximally intense exercise.
Kicking the habit of “performance-enhancing drugs,” even in the form of a modest reduction in carbohydrate, is not something anyone will accomplish on a whim.
However, we cannot unsee the benefits of keto. We cannot ignore the examples of exponents like Luis Villasenor. We cannot turn our backs on millions of years of hominin evolution. We cannot dismiss the science until we perform our own experiments.
And indeed, despite this hormonal and metabolic pandemonium, I dropped two pounds of stubborn inflammation after just a couple of days. My lifts improved dramatically near the end of the first week — just as Sisson described, they felt easier for neural reasons, not because I had gained lean mass. If anything, I had shed muscle tissue. My active periods were at least as energetic as ever — though at this early stage, they are shorter, such that my overall productivity has dropped.
This has significant ramifications for an adult locked into responsibilities. Stuff won’t get done; failures will happen. We each must decide whether we are both willing and able to manage such risks during the 2-3 months until full adaptation.
But after such wandering in the desert, the keto promised land…! Benefits of glucose metabolism without the costs; benefits of fasting without caloric restriction; unlocking countless forgotten adaptations our ancestors used to conquer the world.
Arthur Saxon had shocked the world at the turn of the 20th century by developing a physique that his contemporaries had only seen in classical sculpture.
Sixty years later, Steve Reeves, one of the last bodybuilders before anabolic steroids were invented, developed such an impressive physique that he was the highest paid actor in Europe at the peak of his career.
A few short years later, steroids had completely redefined the boundaries of masculine athletic performance.
Today, there is as much difference between Dianabol and modern anabolic androgenic steroids (and related interventions) as there is between a telegraph and a smartphone.
Ronnie Coleman and Jay Cutler demonstrate the state of the art:
Virilization is not as simple as pressing the “testosterone” button. The human body contains powerful homeostatic adaptations to keep its hormones in optimal proportion, fine-tuned by countless generations of natural selection.
Introducing exogenous testosterone — an unprecedented novelty — upregulates conversion to estrogen, requiring aromatase inhibitors. Excessive testosterone results in excessive dihydrotestosterone, causing an array of unwanted side-effects from acne to prostate cancer, requiring 5α-Reductase inhibitors. And so forth.
The more we squeeze a tube of toothpaste in one spot, the more it bulges in another, requiring a biochemical Rube Goldberg machine to suppress unintended consequences of yet more unintended consequences.
We can’t improve a finely-balanced, complex machine by blowing one of its components out of proportion. A butterfly flaps its wings in a man’s androgen receptors and a hurricane blows through his scrotum.
What does steroid abuse have to do with TRT?
Testosterone Replacement Therapy is steroid abuse in “moderation.”
Testosterone Replacement Therapy is an Orwellian euphemism.
“Replacement” — as if some testosterone had just, you know, gone missing, and is simply being put back where it belongs.
“Therapy” — literally “the treatment of disease or disorder.” Low testosterone is a disease! A disorder!
Reason #1: Nature is working as intended
Every normal human body, male or female, is producing exactly the amount of sex hormones that it needs for its current responsibilities.
Male hormones exist to facilitate traditional masculine responsibilities. As discussed in our earlier article, those specifically masculine responsibilities include protection from physical threats, provision of physical resources, and procreation of physical offspring.
Not protection from social threats. Not provision of social resources. Not social, recreational sex.
These are the traditional feminine responsibilities!
The more men disengage from the physical responsibilities that are their very reason for differing from women, the more they assume feminine responsibilities for which they are, by definition, not as well suited by nature as are actual women.
Women are not as well equipped by nature as men to press heavy weight. But if you put a woman on a rigorous program of pressing, her hormones will adapt, and she may even outperform the men.
Men are not as well equipped by nature as women to navigate palace intrigues. But if you cut a man’s balls off and lock him in a seraglio, his hormones will adapt, and he may even put the next emperor on the throne.
In the dying Roman Empire, eunuchs and women managed palace intrigues. Today we don’t castrate men physically because there are many more subtle methods of driving feminized behavior — methods men don’t even recognize because they were born into them.
Low-fat diets. Forced sitting. Automobiles. Forklifts. Elevators. The list of emasculating innovations is endless. When men don’t need to be masculine, they aren’t.
As a man becomes older, his responsibilities naturally become more feminine. (Something like the opposite happens in babushkas.) He is less suited to physical challenges due to accumulated physical insults, and more suited to social challenges due to accumulated experience. The younger men take over the masculine responsibilities; the older men bridge the gap between masculine and feminine — a critical responsibility — and this is all carefully choreographed by natural changes in sex hormones.
The human body has been exquisitely adapted to recognize reproductive challenges and fine-tune its hormones, including sex hormones, to suit.
You’re going to override that with a testosterone patch?
Good luck, Nancy.
Reason #2: Your nutrition is a joke
How often have you heard a man say he eats “80% healthy”? That man is 80% full of shit.
Nobody outside of our most successful paleolithic ancestors ever managed to eat 80% healthy. Are you dining on mastodon liver? Auroch brains? You have a valid excuse but you’re still not eating it.
The latter was one of the favorite foods of men who grew near seven feet tall, ran down bison on foot and killed them with knives. They would be delighted to meet a man who had learned to eat 80% healthy and would surely offer him the first, choicest bites with apologetic hospitality.
Claiming to understand what foods are healthy today is breathtaking hubris of the starkest pig-ignorance.
Mr. 80% wasn’t there when the human race evolved by concentrating nutrition under far more demanding conditions than we can imagine.
Most of those ancient discoveries are now lost.
Read anthropology, read biochemistry, and understand that we don’t know what we don’t know.
That said, there is a lot the average man could do to patch up his diet. Try that rotten-fish link. Are you eating raw liver? Tripe? Homemade pemmican?
Are you getting healthy fats? Plenty of saturated-, monounsaturated-, and the ideal ratio of Omega-3, Omega-6 and Omega-9 polyunsaturated fats — whatever that ratio might be?
Are you getting fat-soluble vitamins and minerals in quantities far exceeding the laughably inadequate Recommended Daily Allowances?
Try your damnedest to eat 100% healthy and you may, some day, reach 20%.
Until then, you have no business even thinking about exogenous testosterone. You already have two testosterone factories gathering dust in your nutsack.
Reason #3: Your exercise is terrible
Are you squatting, deadlifting, and pressing heavy weight regularly, trying your hardest for progression? Are you carrying half your bodyweight for miles most days? Are you sprinting now and then like your life depends on it?
If you’re not fighting off actual predators — animal and human — and carrying all your possessions for a dozen miles at a stretch, while occasionally sprinting from or towards an existential threat to you and your loved ones — you are living a ludicrously softer life than even your recent ancestors.
No wonder so much testosterone needs “replacing.”
Reason #4: Your lifestyle is an insult to your ancestors
Modern American men are trained from birth to sit down, shut up and pay attention to their (female) minders. Their ancestors learned to survive deadly wilderness by playing all day unsupervised.
Modern American men watch porn, simulating the lifestyle of a helpless voyeur. Their ancestors had actual reproductive sex or didn’t have hetero sex at all.
Modern American men have maybe two children to protect (kinda) and to provide for (by swiping a credit card). When hunter-gatherers have fewer than 5 children each it’s considered a demographic crisis.
And low testosterone is a disease requiring pharmaceutical correction!
Reason #5: Honesty is as important as strength
This might be the most important of all.
How many men are honest and open about steroid use? I can think of only one: Mark Sisson. And even though I disagree with him vehemently on this subject, we all must respect, and learn from, his habits of honest inquiry.
There is nothing but honor in honest experiments. That’s the only way we can truly learn anything.
But for every Mark Sisson, there are thousands of men juicing in the dark. Athletic or not; small doses or large; wherever we can actually measure it, even legal steroid abuse has reached epidemic proportions.
That guy at the gym with 80% of his body mass in his upper body who spends most of his time curling and checking his phone? Juicing.
That guy on Instagram who transformed from a 40-year-old ectomorph on a bike to a comic-book superhero with oak-stump forearms in two years? Juicing.
That swole geezer in the clickbait pic with a long white beard and a body like young Schwarzenegger? Juicing.
What is the consequence of living a lie, and being congratulated for that lie, day after day?
What is the consequence of looking at thousands of men with strength you can’t possibly match and crediting their results to byzantine workouts, superstitious eating and “willpower”?
If our world has a deficit of masculinity, it has an even worse deficit of honesty.
In our world, a man who told the truth about everything would be dead within days. A man who told nothing but lies would have many promising careers open to him.
This is precisely the opposite of the world of our ancestors.
# # #
I promised you 95 reasons, and this is a downpayment. We haven’t even discussed how steroids create hypermasculine bodies and hyperfeminine minds due to uneven testosterone resistance — a catastrophic combination about which more later.
But a word to the wise is sufficient.
The only way to develop an authentic male phenotype is to assume authentic masculine responsibilities.
Eat like a hunter. Lift like a gorilla. Fight like a trench-slogger. Fast long. Gorge hard. Carry your weight and the weight of all the bastards who refuse to carry their own. Wean yourself from physical “comforts” and learn the meaning of true comfort.
Be a man for your tribe — possibly the only man.
In the end, nothing substitutes for necessity. Jerking off is not making babies. But we might at least not confuse the two.
Salvation is earned, not bought and certainly not injected.
What could be more disappointing than a low-quality erection? Perhaps high-quality erections in the context of involuntary celibacy? No, this problem has seemingly been eliminated in our bonobo masturbation society.
Androgens make the man. The male body simply doesn’t work as well without them. Could it be that Nature has neglected the needs of aging men?
If so, perhaps we can rectify that oversight with testosterone replacement therapy (“TRT”).
How is TRT not steroids? In the words of its supporters, TRT merely restores testosterone to a biologically appropriatelevel. Some go so far as to assert that TRT re-establishes the ancestral baseline, although, admittedly, data on the free testosterone of our aged ancestors is lacking.
To evaluate these claims, let’s consider why men are hormonally different than women in the first place. What was the role of men in the evolutionary environment?
When men are engaged in protecting and provisioning behavior that challenges their physical strength and ability to manage risk, a high-androgen phenotype is adaptive. Androgens allocate biological resources better to solve these traditionally male problems.
When men are not engaged in such behavior, a high-androgen phenotype is maladaptive. Relative to their more feminized roles, such men would carry an excess of lean mass and a deficit of stored energy. They would expose themselves to inappropriate risks. Their mental focus would fall excessively on analyzing systems rather than navigating complex social networks. They would attempt to dominate social situations that would be better resolved by consensus.
So if a man’s contributions to his tribe are similar to those of women, in environmental circumstances similar to women, then he is obviously better off (reproductively speaking) with a more feminized phenotype — regardless of age.
Could this be why androgens naturally decline with age? A beat-up 60-year-old man simply doesn’t make as good raw material for soldiering and hunting as do his 20-year-old grandsons. Meanwhile, experience makes him increasingly more effective in supporting roles: childcare, food preparation, toolmaking, divination, conflict mediation, etc. So his comparative advantage in the tribe increasingly falls into a support role rather than in fighting on the front lines. In such a situation, declining androgens are adaptive.
Let’s contrast two completely fictitious case studies:
Aging Male “A” lives in a cramped apartment with three dependent children, supporting two wives (one of them ex-, but this hardly matters) using chronically limited survival resources. He sleeps on a rough bed, washes with cold water, does not have recreational sex, and is the only adult male in his tribe.
Aging Male “B” lives in a luxurious villa with no dependent children, supporting one wife using unlimited survival resources. He sleeps on a soft bed, bathes in a comfortable spa, has frequent recreational (but not procreative) sex, and has an adult male son as well as many masculinized adult male retainers.
Now, which of these men is more likely to experience low testosterone? Which will incline to TRT to restore his androgens to a “biologically appropriate level?”
We suggest that both men already have biologically appropriate levels of testosterone. Their phenotypes are already well matched to their environments. Nature has not arbitrarily rewarded A while punishing B. Nature has equipped them differently for the different reproductive problems they need to solve.
It is perfectly understandable that no man wishes to go gently into that flaccid night, but rather to rage,rage at the dying of his masculinity. Men make poor grandmothers.
But a man living a soft life, injecting the hormones of a man with a hard life, is creating a natural aberration. This is a combination unprecedented in human evolution. It is just as aberrant, and likely to have just as erratic results, as a man with masculine responsibilities who injects estrogen to transition to a feminine phenotype.
As a result of TRT, we may expect Aging Male B’s natural testosterone production to nosedive. We may expect his balls to shrink. When the TRT is withheld, we expect his hormonal climate to become more feminized than it was prior to TRT. If he persists in TRT, we expect his body will become increasingly androgen-resistant — the fate of all those who chronically overproduce any hormone — and even with the TRT, he will, over time, become increasingly and unevenly feminized.
It works the same for a man in his 60s as for a man in his 30s. Juicing is a means to mortgage future masculinity for an acute boost in the present.
And that’s okay. It’s all just a matter of taste and time preference. Who are any of us to tell a man whether he should enjoy a moderate level of masculinity later, rather than an enhanced level right now?
Of course human opinion doesn’t matter. But Nature has opinions of her own.
When our roles in life change, we can accept our new responsibilities and the new hormonal environments they bring, or we can prop up our old phenotypes with biochemical novelties — with potentially disastrous results.
Or we can establish new roles that align more closely with our personal preferences.
If we want to be hard men — at any age — we must live hard lives and face hard challenges. We lift hard weights. We take hard risks. We fight hard fights — real fights — and we win real victories.
That is the “ancestral baseline.”
We now return you to the bonobo masturbation society.
“If anyone tries to cheat,” threatened Bear, as Fox dealt the cards and Wolf counted them, “she’s going to get smacked right in her red furry face!”
Many simplified models of the brain attempt to compress the uncompressible.
“Science says you only use 10% of your brain.”
Not sure who this Science guy is, but let’s go ahead and remove the other 90% of that brain since it’s obviously dead weight.
“The left brain is the analytical half, the right brain is the intuitive and emotional half.”
Or was it the other way around? I always forget the difference between black bile and yellow bile, too.
But we don’t need phlogiston and epicycles to explain the inaccuracies in these models. As usual, human cultural tradition had a better explanation all along. The trouble is that we got so caught up in our schooling, we forgot to get an education.
Such as from Russian Fairy Tales.
You already know how they go!
Bear is huge and powerful, clumsy because he gets away with it, kind and generous to a fault because the other animals tend to stay out of his way.
Wolf is not strong like Bear, so he relies on guile and ruthlessness. Wolf will pose as someone’s grandma just to eat their liver.
Fox is small and delicate. She can’t use brute force like Bear and she can’t outgun Wolf. So she takes time to think out of the box and outfoxes Wolf and Bear every time.
Why is this more than a cute ensemble? Because it maps to neurological reality.
All animals solve problems with the best information they have.
When the central nervous system was first born, it collected sensory signals to provide coordinated, stereotypical responses to stimuli.
Poke a sea cucumber, it recoils. Poke it harder and it pukes its guts out and slithers away. It’s like a Roomba but much more gross.
Bear is when the brain stem calls the shots. There is a stimulus; there is an instant and overwhelming response. Bear is our tactical sense. Here is what Bear sees:
Novel puzzles don’t always respond well to stereotyped behavior, so natural selection produced the mid-brain. This part of the brain analyzes a set of stimuli and chooses from a library of possible responses.
Wolf is when mid-brain calls the shots. Nimble, creative, flexible, Wolf “zooms out” just far enough to apply a clever series of tactics. Wolf is our operational sense. This is what Wolf sees:
Wolf eats Bear every time. Wolf is an invincible problem-solver. How do you beat an invincible problem-solver?
Evolution answered with the forebrain: the problem selector.
Fox knows better than to meet Bear or Wolf on their home turf. She uses her imagination to solve completely different puzzles with outcomes far beyond what Bear and Wolf might imagine. Fox is our strategic sense.
Fox traps Wolf every time. But Fox needs time to get her plan sorted. If Bear realized what Fox was really doing, he could rush Fox. But how could Bear manage such a forebrained thing?
There’s our first practical takeaway. Not play Rock, Scissors, Paper, but your Bear, Wolf, Fox.
Wolf eats Bear. Fox traps Wolf. Bear rushes Fox.
Wolf is the problem-solver. Fox is the problem-selector. Bear is the problem-smasher.
You, lucky human, have access to all three. When they all work together, who could stop them! But we favor certain “animals” by nature and practice, and this has consequences for our personalities.
We are only as lupine as we need to be. Those who can get by with strength alone stop at Bear.
We are only as vulpine as we need to be. Those who can get by with problem-solving stop at Wolf.
(Full disclosure: the author is a Wolf; his wife is a Wolf; his oldest son is a Fox; his second son is a Bear; his baby girl is a Wolf-Pterodactyl hybrid, of which more later.)
Applying Bear-Wolf-Fox Analysis to Geopolitical Problems
Once upon a time in 1914, Bears (France) marched to battle in their garish red trousers and attacked a l’outrance. Wolves (Germany) machine-gunned them all and gassed the survivors. While the wolves congratulated each other for operational ingenuity, Fox (the British) borrowed so much money that their banker was eventually obliged to land an army in Europe and negotiate peace in their favor in an attempt (failed) to get the money back.
Test Your Personality With This One Weird Military Scenario
Unifying the various approaches, the USSR won 1945 because they best leveraged all three animals. This is perhaps because their storytelling technology had advanced to the level of Russian Fairy Tales.
The victorious Soviet strategists invented an ingenious personality test which you, too, can use!
Go with your gut instinct, now. Don’t think about it too much…
SITUATION: Enemy engaged on three fronts. First front is crumbling and our men are beginning to break. Second front is stalemated; a slight push might turn the tables either way. Third front is victorious and our men are breaking through the enemy lines.
RESERVES: Three companies of infantry and a battery of artillery.
CHALLENGE: Deploy your reserves where they will do the most good and win the war for the Mother/Father/Gender-Ambiguous-Parentland!
Okay, time’s up!
Here’s what the animals chose:
Bear felt the sting of impending defeat and committed all his reserves to the losing front. He held the line, but the other two fronts broke and Bear Country became a vassal nation.
Wolf spied an ingenious solution to the second front. He deployed his first company in a feint to draw the enemy into a concentrated position, at which point his artillery unleashed a devastatingly precise fire mission. He flanked the shattered foe with his second company, and broke through to the rear with his third company. First front collapsed; second front broke through; third front fell quiet. The war continued with much loss of life.
Fox thought for a moment, deployed all her reserves to the third front, cut off the first and second fronts from the rear, and won the war in six weeks. Everyone was better off, even the losers.
Did you choose one of the above? Or some mix of the above? Well, there you have your current personality expressed in ratio of Bear:Wolf:Fox.
The Soviets were mystified, incidentally, that their NATO counterparts in practice ignored their own advice: “never reinforce failure.”
This fairy tale does not have an ending, but now we have some education to go with our schooling.
When faced with a difficult decision: What would Bear, Wolf, and Fox do?
Can I smash this puzzle and move on? Can I find an ingenious solution? Should I be looking for a different problem?
Guaranteed to inform all stories and problems until the evolutionary successor to the forebrain arrives.
“It seems strange how men occupied themselves after all weapons and gear had been squared away for an impending attack. We had learned in boot camp that no pack straps should be left with loose ends dangling (any such loose straps on a Marine’s pack were called “Irish pennants” — why Irish I never knew — and resulted in disciplinary action or a blast from the drill instructor.)
“So, from pure habit I suppose, we carefully rolled up the loose straps and shaped up our packs. There was always a bit of cleaning and touching up to be done on one’s weapon with the toothbrush most of us carried for that purpose. A man could always straighten up the lacings on his leggings, too. With such trivia, doomed men busily occupied themselves, as though when they got up and moved forward out of their foxholes it would be to an inspection rather than oblivion.”
— E. B. Sledge, With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa
Sledgehammer and his friends were, in fact, headed to the strictest inspection. It simply wasn’t clear what Death was looking for.
Bullets and tracers snapping overhead, a man dives into a thicket of razor-sharp kunai grass — and his Irish pennant catches high on a blade, flagging the entire squad for mortar fire.
An uneven pack sprains a man’s back on the 20th mile of a fighting retreat. A rifle smudge makes its way into a misfire or a wound. A loose lace snags a branch and gives away an ambush.
60 years of life thrown away for want of 60 seconds of attention to detail.
Precision is the habit of noticing details.
For easy tasks, details don’t matter. You don’t notice they exist. But at a certain point the smallest detail becomes the difference between success and failure.
When you have to move five pounds, foot placement hardly matters. When you have to move five hundred pounds, foot placement saves lives.
When you’re carrying water to the car, how you do it hardly matters. When you’re carrying water past a lion’s den, every movement matters.
When the stakes are high, it’s too late to learn precision. There is a knowledge problem: out of a panorama of detail, you don’t know which details matter. You never had to find out.
Precision is a habit learned by making details matter.
For those of us living in an all-too-safe space, the simplest expedient is adding weight.
You understand that lifting heavier weights requires increasingly specific form.
What about running?
Most people run with appalling form. Because they can.
A man’s slight asymmetries while walking hardly matter. His right shoulder turns in; his chin sags; his left foot lands a little forward of his right. At Starbucks, this hardly matters.
At speed, these details are magnified grotesquely. His right arm flails like he’s shredding air guitar, violently torquing his hip. His head and neck bob forward, straining his atrophied back. His left heel strikes viciously, grinding away at his knee.
Mile after mile, he remains curiously unaware of his predicament. When his knee gives out, he will sooner have it replaced than conceive of fixing his stride.
It’s not necessarily that he’s lazy or stupid. There’s a knowledge problem.
Drape this very same man with a 40-pound pack and send him for a walk. All his asymmetries disappear as if by magic! The weight of the pack cues him to keep his arms in line, his chest up, and his gait even, because if he doesn’t he feels discomfort immediately. And to the extent he balances himself, the load feels lighter.
The added weight is teaching him the details of posture and efficiency in a way that spastic flailing never could. No need for personal trainers. No need for physical therapists. No need for surgeons.
When he finally takes the weight off, the budding habit of precision remains.
Finally learning to walk, he may someday be prepared to run.
Let’s assume you’ve worn X pounds all over the neighborhood and you’re starting to appreciate the impact of posture and efficiency.
Don’t take the weight off yet. Go make your bed.
This is a whole different game. Suddenly it matters if you bend over at the waist. If you have to bend, you better use that time wisely before your back fatigues. Fix your foot placement. Keep your chest high. Keep your breathing steady, through the nostrils. What is the fastest way to put a pillow in its case? You never thought much about that before, but now details matter.
A week later, it’s not so bad. So you raise the weight.
A couple weeks after that, to be honest, shit is still heavy. That’s when you start making your bed for time.
Do the dishes. Take out the trash. Vacuum the floors. Scrub the floors —to white-glove standards. This is infinitely more relevant than some goofball CrossfitP90xInsanity workout, because you’re actually doing useful work, and you’re learning to do it more efficiently, gaining strength and endurance in the process. While having fun.
And here’s the thing: Housework is more than mere exercise. You are learning:
To put things where you need them
So they will be there when you need them
With a minimum of effort
In the shortest amount of time
Having made your bed, it will be there to welcome you just when you need it most. Your past self reached out to help you in a way no gym workout ever could.
When you consider the impact these skills have on your entire life, on and off the battlefield, you realize that you cannot let a housework opportunity go to waste. You realize that letting other people do housework for you is like letting other people lift weights for you.
Every activity is made more challenging, and therefore more educational and meaningful, by adding weight. Even walking to work from the parking lot each day is a combat drill when you put 40 pounds in the pack. It starts at 5 or 10 pounds. Then you attend to details and harden up.
It’s important to realize that nothing is stopping you from doing this right now. If you have to, throw your woman’s pink dumbbell in her purse, wear it to the store and prove that you care more about outcomes than appearances.
Everyone has a bag, everyone has a weight. Put the weight in the bag, put the bag on your body, and enjoy your new, more detailed, more meaningful existence.
The bravest warriors in the tribe pissed themselves in fear as the roaring silver bird descended from the sky, preparing to devour the village.
Terrified screams turned to chilled silence as the bird alighted on the ground. And from it emerged… another bird? A bird in human form, tall, pale, stork-like, wrapped all in white. A demon? An ancestor?
Did it come from the ground? The sky? The ocean?
Silence turned to tears of supplication as the spirit creature broke open shiny rocks to reveal strange foods, sharing them with the tribe. Taking an ornate staff from his back, he pointed at a pig. A thunderclap — the pig’s head exploded. The power to give life and to take it! Was this a god?
The spirit gestured that he wanted to eat the pig. In return, he offered impossible wealth — a giant, unbelievably iridiscent seashell, the likes of which had rarely been seen before. Tears turned to elation.
“This strange man, he’s not a spirit, he’s the shellman!” Ndika screamed to his family in delight. “Hurry quickly, there’s a lot more shells!”
# # #
Small improvements in technology are the work of men. Huge leaps in technology resemble magic, and magic is the province of gods.
Gods are not subject to the reality of men. They do as they please. But they share certain appetites with men, and perhaps men can gain their favor by appeasing those appetites…
# # #
“My people gave me to the strangers to get their wealth. We were terrified! We thought they’d eat us,” one woman recalled.
“But they were kind to us. We had sex together. Then we knew they were men,” she laughed. “Not spirits, just men!”
Kirupano took a different tack. “When we saw their strange loincloths and trousers on their bodies, we thought they must not have bodily wastes in them because they were wrapped up so neatly.”
Hiding in the woods, he made a discovery.
“Their skin is different. But their [feces] smells just like ours.”
# # #
A few decades later, Melanesian aborigines encountered the Imperial Japanese Army. In a whirlwind of activity, the strangers built airstrips, control towers, barracks, and more. After a series of peculiar rituals, aircraft began to land on the tribal islands, bringing unbelievable bounty. Preserved food, medicine, clothing; a cornucopia of 20th-century wealth piled up all around. The strangers shared generously with the locals in exchange for their labor.
Soon the Japanese left, replaced by the Americans, who brought an even greater bounty. But after a few short seasons, the strange men departed, the bounty of the gods stopped coming, and the islanders were left all alone.
The tribal leaders were under tremendous pressure to bring back the gods’ favor. So they constructed wooden airplanes, cleared airstrips, and called out to the skies, but the gods remained silent. The priests performed exactly the same rituals as the strangers, but nothing happened.
The problem, obviously, was that the rituals were not passionate enough. The temples were not elaborate enough. With redoubled energy, the whole tribe pulled together to build ingenious monuments to the gods and consecrated them with ceaseless devotions.
Although the priests lived well, the gods never came back.
# # #
These aboriginal antics may seem absurdly naive to urban readers, but we are men just like them. We fall victim to the same fallacy of confusing cause and effect.
The tribesmen were content before the arrival of the strangers, but after exposure to modern food, medicine, shelter and tools, they couldn’t bear to return to aboriginal poverty. They were willing to do anything to gain those riches back.
Modern men have all the material comforts the tribesmen spent their lives desperately trying to regain. But in an ironic twist, today’s men lack what the tribesmen took for granted, and without which all else means nothing: health.
Their grandparents were healthy. As children, they themselves were healthier. As young men, they could run a mile without losing their breath. They could lift every weight you can think of — just ask any gym patron over 30. They had one chin, not three. Their penises worked.
So they spend their lives hiring priests and performing baroque rituals in a bid to regain their mojo. They are forever just one step away from the one weird trick, the magic pill, the stylized dance that will bring back the favor of the gods.
They know the priests of fitness by their ornaments: flat abs, big biceps, Rube-Goldberg machinery.
They know the priests of nutrition by their ornaments: framed certificates, obscure vocabulary, white coats without a single speck of feces.
The priests know where their meals come from. They are not in the business of selling an outcome, because they hardly know better than their congregation how to control outcomes. They are in the business of selling a fantasy.
For fantasists, ritual is everything. Outcomes mean nothing, because when outcomes fail to materialize, the answer is simply more ritual.
Blast the core! Feel the burn! Stand on one leg with a 5-pound dumbbell while we talk about your weekend!
Eat less fat! Eat more fat! Take metformin! Lose the gallbladder! Cut your spine, shave your elbow, bolt your ankle!
Truth is unique, but bullshit presents infinite kaleidoscopic manifestations.
So how do we close in on the truth instead of worshiping a series of cargo cults for the rest of our lives?
WE TAKE PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR REAL-WORLD OUTCOMES.
How much can you squat compared to your own weight? How much weight can you carry for a mile? How quickly?
Can you clean your house? Can you make your bed?
Can you skip a meal? Can you sleep through the night?
Compared to your previous self?
When you measure outcomes, you identify trends. When you decide on a trend in advance and make it happen, you are a free man, not a cultist.
When a man goes to conditioning class for a month, waiting for something good to happen, he’s a cultist.
When a man runs an extra mile every weekend with the goal of doubling his distance, he is a free man.
When a man takes a handful of pills for a month, waiting for something good to happen, he’s a cultist.
When a man measures his food intake, measures his body, and adjusts his food intake to change the measure of his body, he’s a free man.
Cultists act from obedience. When they fail, they repeat what didn’t work. They adjust their perception of reality to justify obedience. Or they find a new priest.
Free men act from theory. When they fail, they experiment to discover what does and doesn’t work. They adjust their theories to match reality.
For a free man, outcomes are everything. Ritual is nothing.