Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri & Alien Crossfire > The Theory of Everything

The Progenitors, and an introduction to the challenge of Xenopology Pt.1


Buster's Uncle:

Progenitors are most likely herbivores with an intense dominance hierarchy based in herd-species origins. 

Both Caretakers and Usurpers, -and we don’t know that the difference between them isn’t gender diversity1 or the difference between two individuals - have somewhat prominent tusks, some of which don’t look to be good for anything but show.  They also have a splayed feature at the base of their necks that appears to be a rill.  On Earth, these are traits of species that in which individuals compete heavily for dominance - the most significant evolutionary benefit to the Alpha of a grouping being breeding privileges, but the tendency to be deferred to by individuals of lesser rank and get first crack at any rare/preferred food being extremely non-trivial benefit, likely of equal or more personal advantage.  Such species always engage in a great deal of display behavior, and have evolved physical traits to aid in it.

Omnivores like humans, apes, and pigs tend to fight for dominance, but exhibit less physical alteration to aid in dominance displays.  In them, evolution often stopped at whatever level of gender dimorphism the species possesses, mostly in the form of size, although male mammals are usually hairier, too.

Predators sometimes engage in playful social “roughhousing”, and indeed male lions have manes with no apparent use but for show, but on the whole, like any species, evolutions has selected their physiognomy to, above all, enhance their ability in their primary mode of feeding. Predators, of necessity, are built for deadly violence, and thus do not evolve showy-but-useless features to display their virility, such as exaggerated coloration, genetalia, inflatable throat pouches, or tusks they can’t use to kill.  Manes aside, this is true of lions and any predators - ability to kill effectively trumps all other physical advantages, and is thus selected for before all other traits.

It is important to note several things at this point - the social habits of a species, to wit; the extent to which they tend to live in herds, prides, or any close-bound, close-proximity group larger than a simple family, have a far more profound effect on the traits under discussion than mere diet - although that effect is invariably a significant one in Earth species.2 Species that live in isolation from one another almost always lack showy dominance traits, as do species that are more monogamous; herd/pack/troop-dwellers near invariably are extremely polygamous, breeding privileges being the evolutionary point of pouring so much time, energy and growth resources into intra-group dominance competition.

Complete monogamy, “mating for life”, invariably results in little or no gender dimorphism (differences between males and females in size and other traits not linked directly to reproductive function), given the much lower level of reproductive competition, (indeed complete absence of such strife once one has obtained a mate).  Complete polygamy, on the other hand, (in species like the typical two-gendered, roughly equal birthrate for both, Earth model), virtually guarantees profound gender dimorphism, as no mate is ever certain, and competition is, Q.E.D., very high.  Whichever gender is traditionally more aggressive/competitive is going to be MUCH larger (or faster, conceivably, though not on Earth) and display FAR greater specialist adaptations to aid in dominance displays. -Again, tusks, horns, rills and the like.

(Humans, in fact, are clearly not evolutionarily focused on polygamy by nature, or cheating spouses would be unheard of or considered a rare and unnatural perversion, or monogamy and concepts such as  marriage and fidelity to one’s breeding partner would simply not exist.)

Xenopologists who have studied the appearance of the Progenitors known to them are confident, barring some unforeseeable condition on the Progenitor’s world of origin, that they derived evolutionarily from a grazing species that lived in a herd-type social structure.  This strongly implies that Progenitor society is always a dictatorship, and often not a terribly stable one.

This cannot be underlined too strongly, as it provides the two most useful conclusions applicable to dealing with/planning for the aliens; the evolutionary origins of even an INTELLIGENT species inevitably have a profound effect on shape of their basic thinking, and way their sensory apparatus is arranged, their emotional makeup, the foods they prefer, and their typical social organization.  It is difficult to believe that a Progenitor leader could be anything but a dictator so absolute as to make Joseph Stalin look like Gandhi.

However, it does have the positive implication that the Progenitors would produce many rogues - individuals aggressive and powerful enough to challenge the leader and not be defeated casually, and therefore driven from the herd.  This means that many defectors, many of them very high-level, are to be expected from the two Progenitor contingents.

In part two, we’ll be engaging in detailed examination of the of the two examples of the Progenitor species(s?)

1 The assertions in prominent reports (see profiles of Lular H’minee and Judaa Marr) as to gender and other matters cannot be considered authoritative, being intelligence reports, not the work of qualified xenopologists - hints in alien computer files are no substitute for detailed examination and the testimony of the subjects, and the very assumption, however tentative, of equivalent genders/gender roles to the most familiar Earth species is itself suspect. 
  The notion piled atop it, that any meaningful information can be pulled from utterly alien system architectures with files in an utterly alien language renders the assumption that even the names given for the Progenitor leaders have any basis in fact/true equivalents of such simplicity/brevity in Human languages utterly absurd.  Absent much more extensive contact and meaningful communication with Progenitors, only the information derived from direct observations is to be taken seriously.  Intelligence’s nomenclatures for the two individuals under discussion are used here for convenience’s sake, and for no other reason.

2 It is an oversimplification to say that herbivores need not sneak up on a blade of grass or overcome it with violence, and thus can “waste” energy and finite physical resources on growing traits like horns that they use mostly to fight each other, but not a gross oversimplification at all.

It is of my humble opinion, that in our early evolutionary history, we were not extremely monogamous; in fact, genetic tracing indicated 40% of male ancestors and 80% of female ancestors managed to pass on their genes.

Indeed, polygamy is far more prevalent in less advanced societies; it is my belief advanced societies developed by diverting energy away from constant competition over multiple women and investing it into civilization and providing for one woman/set of children.

While much that is good in life, such as improved living standards, life expectancy, gadgets, transportation, even this mass of transistor based electronics I'm writing this very message on can be attributed to Monogamous social states- such states are not necessarily natural.

In nature, we often find chaos.

Buster's Uncle:
My bad.  I though I had explicitly stated that humans clearly fall somewhere in between, but I see on review that I did not.  I, myself, have no fangs, but am also nearly twice the mass of the average woman.

Just as I like variety in my diet, typical of an omivore, I get bored watching porn with the same performers too often... Whe're something of a Golilocks species.

Welcome to AC2, BTW; we want you here and we need you posting.  Keep up the good work.

Apologies again. My life turned upside down last year and I could not play SMAC/ think about games at all.

I'm back now.


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