One of the things that makes humans, well, human is the ability to make a fist. Other primates can’t do this.

The commonly accepted theory as to why humans developed the ability to make a fist is that they needed to do so in order to grasp tools.

But research conducted by my guests today have led them to posit a very different theory.

They argue that the reason we can make a fist is so we can give better knuckle sandwiches.

Their names are Dr. David Carrier and Dr. Michael Morgan. Dr. Carrier is a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Utah and Dr. Morgan is an emergency room physician. When Dr. Morgan was an undergrad at the University of Utah, he worked with Dr. Carrier on two papers which explored the role physical aggression may have played in the development of the human fist. Today on the show, we discuss that idea and the theory that human bodies, especially male bodies, evolved for fighting.

Show Highlights

  • What led Carrier and Morgan to look into whether aggression contributed to the human ability to make a fist [03:00]
  • Whether human violence is biological, cultural, or a little bit of both [06:00]
  • Why men in particular are prone to violence and aggression [10:00]
  • The ritualistic pre-fight dance men take part in without even thinking about it [12:00]
  • Why the ability to make a fist may have evolved to make hand-striking more effective [14:30]
  • How punching with a fist increases the “force impulse” of a punch [17:00]
  • The critiques of Carrier and Morgan’s paper and their responses [20:00]
  • How the human head may have evolved to take a punch, but has gotten weaker over time [23:30]
  • The physiological differences between men and women that make men more adapted for fighting [29:30]
  • Why a man’s shoulders are like a stag’s antlers [32:00]
  • And much more!

Resources/Studies/People Mentioned in Podcast

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