I was almost asleep but semi-conscious and I heard a noise outside. It could have been the wind knocking over a chair, but it might also have been a raccoon, a skunk, or a groundhog. Or even a coyote, a beast that we hear but almost never encounter. Whatever it was, I was immediately electrified, the "flight or fight" response fully engaged. Ready to go hand to hand with a groundhog or any other rodent. But then I thought, hey, I'm an apex predator. Why I am being so skittish, so fearful? I'm not a prey animal. I can hold my own with anything out there.
The first hand axes date from about 2.5 million years ago. (A hand axe is nothing more than a piece of flint or other stone, knapped into a point one side, adapted for cutting or throwing). The first spearpoint appears 250,000 years ago. Spears for throwing, or lances for poking are a major breakthrough for in hunting or self-defence.
I wonder why it took 2.25 million years for one of my hominid ancestors to think to mount an axe on a shaft of wood. How hard could it have been?
Eventually the bow and arrow appears in the archeological record, but not until 25,000 years ago. The pace was picking up.
My point, however, is that for a couple of millions of years, my forebears were not predators. They were prey, hiding from the European lion (50% larger than the modern African lion), from the giant hyenas, from the cave bear, from big old snakes, and other extinct mega-predators. Cowering on the savannah, clutching a hand axe, for millions of years. It hardwires the brain.
No wonder that a noise in the night makes me fearful. Two million years as prey doesn't disappear from the DNA just because we've recently eliminated or neutralized all the major predators.
I think that human beings haven't realized that they are predators and are almost entirely shaped by the prey experience. As a result, we're afraid of animals; we're afraid of our shadows; we're afraid of noises in the night. We're afraid of each other.
I doubt that we'll ever grow up and learn to comport ourselves confidently but not aggressively. As a species, we're just plain scared.
We should be lions, not chickens.