Everyone knows you have to leaven your evolutionary psychology with Jung, though

Adam Rutherford thought this quiz on evolutionary psychology might cheer me up. The laugh is on him: nothing will cheer me up.*

It’s a good quiz, though, and I like the pre-emptive question at the end.

“Why does this quiz only attack strawmen? Why does it fail to address very serious claims, like (((human biodiversity))), or how young women are genetically programmed to prefer older men even though older men’s dicks don’t work? Where can I address my angry emails? Are you making fun of me? Evolutionary psychology is very serious business! I AM TALKING TO YOU. MEN ARE TALKING.”

In your angry response to the editors, choose the extinct animal you believe most encapsulates your prehistoric rage. Please provide a plausible explanation of how you would take down this animal with only a few pointy sticks and no knowledge of modern physics. Since your ancestors were naturally selected to hunt these animals, and you’ve inherited their genes, you should be fully capable of the task.

a. Woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius)

b. Irish elk (Megaloceros giganteus)

c. Sabretooth tiger (Smilodon)

d. Dire wolf (Canis dirus)

The only problem with the question is that EP proponents live a rich fantasy life in which they are the manliest of men, and their disconnection from reality means they will regard an answer like, “I will wrestle the mammoth and club it to death with my penis” as perfectly plausible.

*OK, maybe something — my daughter and granddaughter are coming to visit this weekend. But it should tell you something that it’s going to take such extreme happy stimulus to make me crack a smile.


  1. unclefrogy says

    what a question, Is there evidence that humans hunted all of those beasts? why would they want to hunt saber tooth cats or dire wolfs instead of avoid them? The elk could be safely snared and the mammoth be driven of a cliff which would not take size and great strength nor a penis just string and a sharp rock and maybe a little fire.
    if that is the level of the questions I will pass.
    uncle frogy

  2. whheydt says

    Irish elk would be easy to take down. Lure it into a forest. The 12-foot spread of antlers will immobilize it pretty quickly.

  3. microraptor says

    @unclefrogy: Never underestimate what silly things humans will think up to do in order to prove how macho they are. There was almost certainly some group willing to actually hunt dire wolves and smilodons for some reason even if they didn’t eat them.

  4. blf says

    I must admit that, at first, I thought Smilodon was included as a trick answer since — or so I thought — they did not co-exist with modern(-ish) humans. No, turns out back in c.2015, evidence was found in Schöningen that Smilodon not only co-existed with H. heidelbergensis, the hominins may have “hunted” / killed them, presumably in self-defense, Did our ancient ancestors ‘kill the cat’? (BBC):

    Our ancient human cousins may have fought off big cats with spears, according to archaeological evidence.


    Several feline teeth — and a chunk of arm bone — were uncovered at a site in Germany known for the oldest discovery of human spears.


    Dr Jordi Serangeli, of the University of Tubingen, Germany, said the remains proved for the first time that the sabre-toothed cat was living in Europe alongside early humans.


    Homo Heidelbergensis was among the first type of early human to use wooden spears.

    Scatterings of animal bones found in their camps suggest they used the spears to hunt animals like the horse and deer.


    “The discovery illustrates the possible day-to-day challenges that the Schöningen hominins would have faced and suggests that the wooden spears were not necessarily only used for hunting, but possibly also as a weapon for self-defence,” Dr Serangeli, and colleagues at the University of Leiden, report in the Journal of Human Evolution.

    The cat’s humerus bone — worked by humans into a rudimentary hammer — is the first example of its kind anywhere in the world, he added.


    Evidence shows “hominins (humans and their ancestors) were already the top predator at this time; they were able to kill and butcher, without interruption and competition, large animals such as rhino, bison, horse and giant deer”, [Dr Mark Roberts of UCL] said.

    But it is uncertain if humans around at the time used weapons to kill the sabre-toothed cat, he added.

    “If it could have been demonstrated that hominins killed the cat then that would have been very interesting but without more skeletal material that is impossible to demonstrate.”


  5. ridana says

    #1 @ unclefrogy: The evidence would be the fact that we hunt their smaller counterparts, wolves, lions and other big cats, today for no reason other than trophies. Clearly the drive to do so is in our genes. /s

    Also, did you read the quiz? I think you’re taking it a bit too seriously.

    My answers were: 1-d, 2-b, 3-a, and 4-c (Smilodon) – I would smile back at it, thus confusing it with my non-saber teeth so that it would allow me to ride it into battle against our mutual enemy, the dire wolf.

  6. KG says


    I was going to suggest just waiting until the absurd size of its orthogenetically-evolved antlers caused it to die out on its own*.

    *Yes, I do know this isn’t a plausible answer to why there are none left!

  7. gijoel says

    This quiz is completely invalidated as it didn’t include ‘T-rex’ as one of its options. You can’t tell that evo-psych aren’t as dumb as creationists.

  8. lochaber says

    I especially enjoyed the illustration for number 2.

    That bit where EPs claim women like pink “because berries” is just offensively wrong, and could only be proposed by someone who’s never eaten berries, let alone picked them in the wild.

  9. evodevo says

    Well, seems simple enough to me lol – you use a pit-trap for the mastodon, and you steal the dire wolf and smilodon’s kills after they have done all the work…this is how humans probably started out in the first place. Fraud and mugging …if you have enough males with sharp pointy sticks to hold the predator off, you can cut nice large chunks off the carcass and then run away. With no cops or complaint desk, the predators just have to put up with it…