Christmas is the Story of the Mammalian Contract

Lionel Tiger: Christmas is perhaps the most popular holiday in the world because it gets right to the bedrock of what religion is about, which is you’ve got to take care of the mother and the child.

I don’t know about you, but sex is always potentially extremely troubling.  It can cause all sorts of ruckus in all sorts of lives on an endless basis. Just look at the latest politician or golfer and the fact is that because of its power, which Darwin understood when he saw that sexual selection was the engine of natural selection, you have to have some rules about it.


For one thing, men and women have different reproductive strategies as we call them in my trade because the costs of sex, unprotected sex for females, are infinitely different than for males. And so there always has to be in any community the basic mammalian contract, which is somebody has to take care of the mother-child bond.

And so if you look at kinship systems, what they do is try to insure that the mother and child are cared for by the community.  This is, after all, the story of Christmas, basically.  It’s the great mammalian fable, or story, and it works.  It is perhaps the most popular holiday in the world because it gets right to the bedrock of what religion is about, which is you’ve got to take care of the mother and the child.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

What’s behind our appetite for self-destruction?

Is it "perverseness," the "death drive," or something else?

Photo by Brad Neathery on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

Each new year, people vow to put an end to self-destructive habits like smoking, overeating or overspending.

Keep reading Show less

Physicists puzzled by strange numbers that could explain reality

Eight-dimensional octonions may hold the clues to solve fundamental mysteries.

Surprising Science
  • Physicists discover complex numbers called octonions that work in 8 dimensions.
  • The numbers have been found linked to fundamental forces of reality.
  • Understanding octonions can lead to a new model of physics.
Keep reading Show less

Douglas Rushkoff – It’s not the technology’s fault

It's up to us humans to re-humanize our world. An economy that prioritizes growth and profits over humanity has led to digital platforms that "strip the topsoil" of human behavior, whole industries, and the planet, giving less and less back. And only we can save us.

Think Again Podcasts
  • It's an all-hands-on-deck moment in the arc of civilization.
  • Everyone has a choice: Do you want to try to earn enough money to insulate yourself from the world you're creating— or do you want to make the world a place you don't have to insulate yourself from?
Keep reading Show less