by Jon Cleland Host
A few days ago, I watched a couple bucks fighting, heads down, dust flying, their rage clear even from the safety of my tree stand 80 yards away. It was exciting to see, and it reminded me that the peak of the crazy time is just a few weeks away. “Crazy time”? Yep. Soon, here in Michigan, the bucks (yes, those peaceful, docile deer) will go crazy for the rut season. They’ll make a lot of noise, take dangerous risks, and fight each other, sometimes to the death – just for the chance to mate. There are plenty of good videos on out there, here’s one. What could bring this on? Crazy juice (testosterone). Testosterone will flood their bloodstream, warp their minds, and they’ll each be lucky if they survive to see December.
But we sophisticated, civilized humans are far superior to these dumb animals, right? We’d never be chemically induced to risk so much, right? Wrong. Crazy juice gets us too, especially us guys – because we all carry the same lizard legacy that the bucks carry, buried deep in our brains. It can strike at any time (especially after success, as described here).
There are many important ideas to discuss about crazy juice, but one that jumps out for me is that this crazy juice is the source of one of the biggest evolutionary mismatches brought on by our modern world. An evolutionary mismatch is when evolution has properly prepared us for life in the world of our Ancestors, and that preparation backfires in our modern world. Classic examples include our tastes for fats and sweets, where our Ancestors needed a taste for these just to survive, yet in our modern world filled with junk food, we end up obese as a result of them. In the Pleistocene, there was a big payoff in mates and status to teenage boys who took risks, fought for dominance, and threw caution to the wind. In today’s world, with cars, guns, and jails, (none of which our Pleistocene Ancestors had) teenage boys are often pushed toward life-destroying trouble by their own brains. It’s no surprise that the majority of crime is committed by unmarried males ages 15-30, and that car insurance companies know very well that teenage boys are serious risks.
With four young sons, my family has a tsunami of crazy juice on the horizon. I only have a few years to teach them about crazy juice - why we have it, why to appreciate it, when to look for it, and especially, how to act responsibly in spite of it. Doing so without an evolutionary perspective would not just be difficult, it would be almost impossible. Knowing how much the safety of my sons means to me, I shudder to think what it would be like if I, like 95% or more of the mothers and fathers out there, let them become teenaged boys without equipping them with a strong understanding of our evolved brains. They’ll need that to help control the results of the inevitable surge of crazy juice that is just around the corner for them — a huge evolutionary mismatch. My heart goes out to everyone hurt by the mismanagement of crazy juice. These may be some of the most preventable harms we are faced with today.