III. The Cain Gene of the AdrenalinomaniacsIII. The Cain Gene of the Adrenalinomaniacs Print
 Cain "was the first begotten of those two that were mankind's parents, and he belongs to the city of man; Abel was the later, and he belongs to the city of God."
   So says Saint Augustine 1 indicating that he, too, looked upon this well-known power struggle from the fourth chapter of Genesis as the human Ur-archetype in the city of man.
   To recall the story: the first two brothers of the Jewish world each made a sacrifice to God. God accepted Abel's. He rejected Cain's.
   God said: "Abel, you are Number One. And you, Cain, are Number Two."

III:1. The Cain Gene

Cain "was the first begotten of those two that were mankind's parents, and he belongs to the city of man; Abel was the later, and he belongs to the city of God."
   So says Saint Augustine 1 indicating that he, too, looked upon this well-known power struggle from the fourth chapter of Genesis as the human Ur-archetype in the city of man.
   To recall the story: the first two brothers of the Jewish world each made a sacrifice to God. God accepted Abel's. He rejected Cain's.
   God said: "Abel, you are Number One. And you, Cain, are Number Two."
   Nobody likes to be Number Two. So Cain got mad, killed Abel, and became, himself, Number One. That is how power-hungry Adrenalinomaniacs behave!
   My interpretation of Genesis may not be strictly orthodox. But it is one of innumerable possibilities, beautifully collected by Ricardo Quinones 2.
   For me, at least, the myth of Cain and Abel is the Ur-archetype of the human power struggle, especially in those marginal situations which constitute life in the city of man.
   It is the first fratricide in the Jewish version of world history. It is the first literary version of something that seems to be endemic in human history.
   All this is well-known.
   What may be new is my suggestion that fratricide is so old and so general that it may form an innate part of our genetically inherited human nature.
   We already know that genetic variations exist which affect degrees of aggressivity. A struggle for power between rivals ñ especially brothers ñ is most likely to have some genetic basis in our evolutionary history. Possibly it has even been reinforced with the increasing complexities of life when we left Africa. Or, to sharpen the idea into at least a weak biological determinism: I predict that within a few decades, the HUGO-researchers will find a group of genes which has determined the human power struggle throughout history. I will call this gene family, "the Cain genes", or, for short, in the singular, "the Cain gene".

III:2. Four pillars of Western civilization

Osiris, the civilizing ruler of old Egypt, was not only murdered by his evil and jealous brother Seth, also called Typhon. He was even chopped up into small pieces, which Seth divided among his companions. Except for the genitals, Osiris's wife, Isis, however, succeeded in collecting the remains ñ nothing can so provide strength as a loving wife. She put him together again and made Osiris into the founder of the Phallica festivals and a god of fecundity.
   Seth vanished into oblivion.
   In Greece, the malediction of Oedipus was passed on to his sons, Eteocles and Polynices. After the death of their father, they agreed to share the power over Thebe. They should alternately reign each a year. But after the first year, Eteocles refused to hand over the crown to his brother. Polynices, like Cain, got mad, went to Argos, formed an army with six famous generals and returned to Thebe to throw out his oath-breaking brother.
   As beautifully told by Aeschylus in Seven Against Thebe, the war finished with the two brothers killing each other.
   (In the early 1990's, some three thousand years later, the breaking of a similar pact to circulate power between the various republics was the spark that ignited the fratricidal warfare in the Yugoslav Federation.)
   Quarrelling about where Rome should be founded, on the Palatine or the Aventine, Romulus and Remus also turned to the Gods. They sent twelve vultures to Romulus. Remus got only six, a certain omen of inferiority. Romulus thus started to plough a furrow around the future city on the Palatine. In his violent envy, Remus insultingly jumped across it, ridiculed Romulus's defense efforts, and was killed.
   In various versions, the Cain and Abel myth is repeated in Egypt, Greece, and Rome. All the four cultural pillars of Western civilization rest upon this fratricidal Ur-archetype.

III: 3. A Scientific Hypothesis

Fratricide has been selected for in evolution, because it has improved the reproductive success of our species.
   This, I claim, is a scientific hypothesis. It may not be empirically testable, as it is slightly difficult to repeat evolution. But it can be decently supported.
   Expressed in a less scientific but politically more relevant way, this hypothesis suggests that the weakest human beings live, not in spite of, but thanks to the murderous behaviour of the wildest Adrenalinomaniacs!
   In studying animals, reproductive success is the major, almost the only criterion for explaining why any behavioural trait has become fixed into the genes.
   No other animal has had such an enormous reproductive success as Homo sapiens.
   Fratricide is a behavioural trait. If it is as important as is indicated by our four Cain-myths, it is probably because it has promoted the "population explosion", which is another term for reproductive success.
   Improved reproductive success in practice means that children, who otherwise would have died at an early stage of life, now can survive. Those who would have died were the weakest.
   It is in the struggle between the strong that the strongest become even stronger, even more capable of protecting the weakest of his off-spring.
   My hypothesis says that this is true also for the so-called civilized phase of human existence over, say, the last ten thousand years, as well as today.
   This hypothesis is, of course, not new. Herbert Spencer formulated it. Charles Darwin accepted it. It was hated then, particularly by Bishop Wilberforce. It is hated today, for instance in its Bell Curve-formulation, especially by Stephen Jay Gould and Leon J. Kamin. 3 (3)
   Today, however, the hypothesis can be given some elaboration.
   In the aspect upon which I concentrate, it now says that in the fratricidal struggles, Cain has succeeded in developing ever better instruments and ever bigger markets which permit an ever more refined division of labour. In this process, the productivity of our limited earthly resources has increased immensely, providing ever more children with the possibility to survive.
   In general, the unmatched reproductive success of our species might be a result of the fratricidal struggle between the wild Adrenalinomaniacs. Or, to be even more specific: most of the latest five billion men and women, added to the human stock, may live thanks to these Adrenalinomaniacs, in the modern form of Schumpeter's creative and innovative capitalist entrepreneurs.

III:4. The Political Implication

So, I claim, it has been. At least so far.
   There are, however, dangers to this success. The survival of our species may be more threatened than ever, by its very success.
   Just because of this, it seems extremely important to understand one point of this argument, important enough to be repeated: that the weakest human beings live, not in spite of, but thanks to the often violent, murderous and destructive competition between the Cain-types.
   All popular christian or socialist theories of imperialism, colonialism, exploitation, or unjust distribution of income blame the strong for the suffering at the bottom of our social pyramids. They are wrong!
   Those who do suffer at the bottom, those for whom we certainly should feel compassion, are by definition the weakest. My argument says, however, that without the improved instruments, without the bigger markets resulting from imperialism but permitting a more refined division of labour, these weak individuals would not live at all.
   Surely, all these "good" instruments have not been created with the poor in mind. They have mainly been created by Cain to defeat Abel. But in between the wars and the fighting, they trickle down in productivity-raising effects also to the weakest of the species.
   In other words, had the Cain-gene not been selected for in our human evolution, those who now suffer the most would never have been born, or would have died at a very early stage in their lives.
   To sum up: The strong need the weak, as instruments in their mutual competition. But the very weakest also need a strong leader. Fratricidal struggle between the strong is to the benefit of the weak, as well as to the reproductive success of the species.

III:5. Why a selective advantage?

Why should a Cain-gene improve the chances of survival? Why shouldn't, on the contrary, a gene for cooperation between Cain and Abel against external enemies give an even better "fitness" in the selection struggle? Which conditions should be fulfilled for a Cain-gene to emerge?
   If Cain and Abel were two of many children who were born into a situation where only one of them would survive, and where both of two newborn brothers rarely or never survived to adulthood, it would be a selective advantage if one of them got a genetic mutation for killing his brother already in the cradle. Or, alternatively, as men normally fight about women, if they lived in groups with only one women for both brothers, then a "killing gene" might be good for reproduction.
   Such a mutation would then also be selected for: because the same survival advantage would spread and grow in generation after generation, until we end up with the envious, rebellious, revolutionary, warlike, and power-hungry beasts, which is modern, fratricidal man.
   Do we have any evidence for such a situation?

III:6. Eden, the Fall, and Babel

In order to answer that question, let us look at three other myths from Genesis and combine them with a few telling facts about the extreme precariousness of human life in the beginning of our existence.

A. The Garden of Eden

Eden, the Garden of Innocence, may be seen as the very long gestation period of Nature's experimentation with humanoid creatures. It goes back, according to present knowledge, to Australepithicus ramidus, who lived some 4.4 million years ago.
   Whether the lions ever peacefully slept with the sheep in Eden is utterly questionable. The Greek creation myth, with the giants devouring their own children, seems somewhat more realistic. Because if they could, the lions ate the men. This was, indeed, a very harsh perod, in which our ancestors were sqeezed between microparasites and big cats who considered us to be the most delicious dish for a Sunday dinner.
   Half a dozen major species of our forefathers then emerged. All of them are now extinct, a clear sign of a precarious existence.
   Historical demographers claim that 10,000 years ago, only between three and five million human beings existed on our globe. For more than four million years Man could increase his numbers by only one single individual per year.
   This means that two newborn brothers rarely or never survived into adulthood. And if they did, they certainly had trouble finding two sisters.
   The conditions for a selection for our Cain-gene seem to have existed.

B. The Fall

Our expulsion from paradise may well stand for our exit out of innocence and animal lack of consciousness. In the Garden of Eden there wasn't much space. When the children of mankind became too numerous, they needed more food than was naturally available. Their hunger was stilled by eating of the Tree of Knowledge. This, in fact, is the origin also of today's environmental crisis.
   The precariousness of life forces Man to part company from his closest relatives, the other big apes. Selective pressure improved his brain and with that his tool-making capacity.
   The size of his brain grew from some 850 cubic centimeters in Homo erectus half a million years ago, to some 1,350 in us. He used it to produce weapons, the bow and arrow, the stone tools, language, and other instruments which had never existed before. He increased his efficiency in feeding himself, giving more children a chance to survive.
   Until they became too many, even for the continent of Africa.

C. Babel

There was a price for breaking God's prohibition on eating the fruits of the Tree of Knowledge. Man wasn't ripe for understanding good and evil. Man was exiled from Eden and condemned forever to overcome his natural laziness with hard labour in the sweat of his brow. The family of Adam and Eve, with their two sons, was forced to look for new gardens in new lands. It multiplied and spread out in all directions.
   Thanks to a fascinating study of The History and Geography of Human Genes by L.L. Cavalli-Sforza 4, we can now follow the genetic footsteps of our forefathers over the past 100,000 years. This is the epoch of Babel, in which we developed some 4,736 classified languages 5and no longer could understand each other.
   Genetically, however, "the most different humans on the Earth are less different than two lowland gorillas from the same forest in West Africa". Some unknown catastrophe may have killed most of those humans that lived only 200,000 years ago 6, leaving very few to father and mother all of us who live today.
   We can make at least one small calculation about the precariousness of life at the end of this period. In the paleontological remains we have plenty of specimens from Homo sapiens neanderthalensis as late as 35,000 years ago. 5,000 years later they are all gone. We don't know why, only that this is the case.
   Assume now that towards the end of our Babel-epoch Adam and Eve became the first completely unrivalled Homo sapiens 30,000 years ago. Assume also that they doubled their numbers every 100 years. Today, when we double our numbers in less than fifty years, that seems a fair assumption. After 20,000 years and 200 such doublings, the number of great grandchildren should be 3,000,0000000000,0000000000,0000000000,0000000000, 0000000000,0000000000.
   I have had a professor of mathematics check it, so the 63 zeroes are probably correct. In reality, as already said, there were only some three to five million humans, when we started agriculture some 10,000 years ago.
   The difference between 63 and 6 zeroes is, indeed, an indication of the extreme precariousness of life, even at the end of Babel, when we had eaten of the Tree of Knowledge for a couple hundred thousand years. Again, we can be rather sure that two newborn brothers rarely or never grew to adulthood together. We can be equally sure that if they did, they often came into conflict about the few available women.
   Wouldn't then a spontaneous mutation into a gene for fratricide give an advantage in the power struggle for survival? Isn't it possible, even likely, that such a Cain-gene would be selected for in the evolutionary process?
   We who are alive today may not be alive in spite of the warfare-creating effects of the Cain-gene, as we normally think but, to repeat, thanks to the improved survival capacity that the gene for fratricide may have given us.

D. Conclusion

In summary, we can say that the history of the precariousness of human life can be broken down into three pre-Cain periods:
   Eden existed for 4,000,000 years, when microparasites and big cats permitted us to grow by one single individual per year.
   The Fall took place some 500,000 years ago, when environmental shortages forced us to develop knowledge, brain and intelligence, in order for us to survive.
   Babel is the period when we left Africa in search of new Edens. Even at the end of this long time, the 6 instead of 63 zeroes illustrate how extremely precarious human life must have been.
   Today we succeed in growing by some 90 million new human lives every year. I believe that this success is based upon the enormous inventiveness that Cain has developed in his eternal struggle with Abel.
   One conclusion is certainly granted: The genetic makeup of Cain was given him by the three preceeding epochs. Cain's genes have hardly changed at all since the dawn of agriculture. The behaviour of Cain, of the Adrenalinomaniacs, of today's leaders in the world is thus the largely determined result of at least 4.4 million years of Man's struggle against Man and against "Nature's inhuman redundancy rules".

III:7. Crocuta crocuta

Pleas of support from similarities with the animal kingdom, as well as with "primitive people", are always somewhat questionable. There are so many of them that the naturalness of almost any human behaviour can be "proven" or "disproven".
   Anyway, it is interesting that at least one other mammal exists which clearly has been equipped with a Cain-gene. It is Crocuta crocuta, or the spotted hyena.
   In that species litters usually consist of twins. If the second newborn is of the same sex as the first, the first immediately attacks the second, but violent fighting quickly becomes mutual, with the strong characteristic bite-shakes of the species. One sibling establishes dominance over the other already in the first days. One of four hyena children seems to die from this treatment 7.
   This starts in the first hour after birth, sometimes within minutes of the birth of the second. Not even the most rabid feminist can claim that this is culturally induced behaviour. Besides, females behave in the same polite way. But, in this type of hyena, the females are, of course, highly masculinized.
   There can be no doubt: this "Cain-gene" in Crocuta crocuta has been selected for because it has added to the reproductive success of that species. Specialists on siblicide have found similar behaviour in other animals, notably in predatory birds. The spotted hyena is, however, specially interesting for us for at least three reasons.
   First, it has evolved in the same geographical region from which Homo sapiens emerged, that is, if we accept the "out-of-Africa-hypothesis". Secondly, the hyenas are, like us, social and unusually murderous hunters. What is more, thirdly, they are also scavengers; they feed upon other dead animals. Before we became hunters and gatherers Man, too, seems to have been a scavenger, like socialists feeding upon the remains of the prey of the lions 8.
   Why shouldn't a gene that obviously has given a reproductive advantage to one scavenger species in East Africa also provide reproductive success for a competing species of scavengers, for the same food, in the same area?
   Crocuta crocuta does provide some verisimilitude to my hypothesis: A Cain-gene exists in the ever competing human Adrenalinomaniacs and this gene has been highly influential in human history!

III:8. Some consequences

A number of things follow, if my Cain theory is well founded. Let me point to six of them.

1. Central to this series of short papers is my "monotheistic theory of power" which says that strong A,s, or Adrenalinomaniacs, behave in such a way that they become fewer and fewer at the top of society. We now have a biological basis for this. A Cain-gene guarantees a political "tennis tournament" in which the players ñ people like Hitler, Stalin, Castro and Olof Palme or Churchill, de Gaulle, Nixon and Nelson Mandela ñ in their striving to become omnipotent and omniscient like God outcompete each other in such a way that we tend to get only one single political "Wimbledon winner", first inside their own nations, then in the world.

2. It is now also possible to construct a new theory of basic needs. There are only three: food, sex, and power. All the rest, including Maslow's famous steps, follow.

3. If hunger is abolished, we will have peace, many believe. No, we won't. People don't fight to fill their stomachs. They fight to become Number One. This is the difference between Marx's faulty and Tocqueville's superior theory of revolution.

4. A leading specialist 9 in the age-old subject of determinism has concluded that we suffer from "near-determinism". My Cain-gene fits well into this. An individual may have a degree of free will, but the unchangeability of the genetic deck of cards predetermines certain regularities on the social level, such as wars, male dominance, and long-term integration. However much we may dislike it.

5. If genetic determination is as high as is suggested here, it will not help us to blame Cain for his murderous actions. He is no more guilty than the cat which presents you with his latest mouse in his mouth. Cain types are bound to rebound, once in an historic while. We can build institutions against their misbehaviour. We can educate our children to eternal vigilance against the abuse of power which lies in our human nature, and that no amount of blame will cure.

So let us leave the game of finding scapegoats, be they Jews murdering Christ or Germans murdering Jews. But let's do what we can to rein in the Cains!

6. We can also be pretty sure that this theory, proclaiming our strong men to be almost powerless to change society, much less history, will be very detested by those so described, be they politicians, bankers, industrialists, or real or media popes. Who wants to be compared to a spotted hyena?

III: 9. Evolution in caring exists!

Two small glimmers of hope should be permitted to finish this possibly rather dim view of human nature. Biological determinism is surely higher than is normally recognized. But culture is not impotent! We do have some culturally created evolution in caring!10
   Don't think that old Biblical stories may not be useful today! In 1991 I was invited to Moscow. It was in April just at the time when Yeltsin had been deeply insulted in Western Europe, and came back home hating the West's pet darling, Gorbachev. The smell of a military coup was in the air. Knowing that the KGB by their presence would most likely honour some of my six lectures, I decided to deliver a message to the leaders through the myth of Cain and Abel.
   Having told all of my audiences some of the content of this essay, plus the first Russian epos, The Song of Igor's Army, in which the two brothers Igor and Vsevolod were at each other's throat, I finished with the following words: "But imagine now that Cain had not killed Abel but that the two brothers had joined forces against common enemies. Then the Babylonian captivity might not have occurred. The Jewish diaspora and all the persecutions and pogroms and Auschwitz might never have come to pass. For 3000 years Israel might have been a strong and united nation with fixed borders. If only Cain and Abel had been wise enough to cooperate!"
   "Today, my friends, the names of Cain and Abel are Yeltsin and Gorbachev."
   The two gentlemen obviously got the point because two weeks later they joined forces. So when the drunken Adrenalinomaniacs a few months later tried to expel Gorbachev, Yeltsin saved him and with that, so far, Russian democracy.
   Surely thanks to my Cain and Abel story!!!
   An even more positive and also slightly more serious message is to be found in the same myth. After the murder, God asks Cain: "Where is your brother?". "Am I the keeper of my brother?", retorts Cain, in his heart knowing full well the right answer.
   Our Ur-archetypical myth also contains this first sign of the "evolution in caring" for our brothers and sisters, which has resulted in the attempts by Western democracies to prevent the worst excesses of Cain and to create a modicum of respect for human rights, generalized to all human beings on the globe.
   We do have some progress!

Stockholm in February 1995.

Gunnar Adler-Karlsson ©


1. Saint Augustine, The City of God. Everyman's, 983, vol.2, p.64. BACK

2. Ricardo J. Quinones, The Changes of Cain. Princeton UP l991. BACK

3. Richard J. Herrnstein & Charles Murray, The Bell Curve. The Free Press l994. For Gould's criticism, see The New Yorker 941128; for Kamin's, Scientific American, Febr. l995. The truly upsetting, but not necessarily untrue book is J. Philippe Rushton, Race, Evolution, and Behavior. Transaction Publishers l995. BACK

4. L. Luca Cavalli-Sforza et.al., The History and Geography of Human Genes. Princeton UP l994. BACK

5. M. Ruhlen, A Guide to the World's Languages. Stanford UP l987. BACK

6. Virginia Morell, "Will Primate Genetics Split One Gorilla Into Two?", Science 940916, p. 1661; from Maryellen Ruvolo et.al., "Gene trees and hominoid phylogeny." Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, USA, Sept. l994, p.8900. BACK

7. Laurence G. Frank et.al., "Fatal Sibling Aggression, Precocial Development, and Androgens in Neonatal Spotted Hyenas.", Science 910503, p. 702. BACK

8. Robert J. Blumenschine and John A. Cavallo, "Scavenging and Human Evolution." Scientific American, Oct. l992, p. 70. BACK

9. Ted Honderich, How Free Are You? Oxford UP l993. BACK

10. The concept of "evolution in caring" is coined by Robert Kates, formerly of Brown University. BACK



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