Why God Chose Humans: Grandmothers

Most calories in modern hunter-gatherer societies come from the efforts of women gathering tubers.

If you’re like me and don’t spent much time listening to NPR, you might have missed yesterday’s story (Why Grandmothers May Hold The Key To Human Evolution).

Turns out the “neanderthal hunter-man bringing home the bacon” idea is debunked. The main reason humans evolved to live long (and prosper) was the role of the grandmothers.

Humans are the only primates where mothers let others help. The primary “other” helping raise the new generation is the mother’s mother (grandmother). This placed an evolutionary premium on women living long enough to nurture the child’s children. Men, being part of the same species, got to live longer as a side benefit. It’s interesting to note that women as a population enjoy longer lifespans than their male counterparts.

What does provider-grandmother look like in the nurture of our current generation?


A provider-grandmother acts to maximize the outcome for her child(ren) and the child(ren) of her offspring. She does that by doing those things modern statistics and science tell us are crucial for children to thrive:

  1. Create a stable relationship with the male parent of the child. Adults who are not the biological parent of the child are less likely to act to protect the child. In extreme cases, adults who are not the biological parent may actively attempt to harm the child.
  2. Continue to model a stable relationship with the male parent even after it is no longer feasible to conceive an additional child. This explains from a scientific standpoint why it is important that older adults remain in stable relationships that resemble the desired biological/reproductive pairing.
  3. Provide resources to the child to reduce risk to the child(ren) of the child. In primitive societies this specifically looks like providing direct care for the child’s child and providing food for the child’s child. In modern times this can look like providing care and resources (cookies always appreciated, of course).
  4. Model behaviors that will enhance the prospects for the child and the child of the child. Good tuber-digging is crucial in primitive societies. Living a provident life seems like the right thing to do in modern societies.

To the title, I know people who are entirely content with the idea that humans were designed and inserted onto this sphere at the time that the spirits of Adam and Eve needed mortal frameworks. And I don’t mind if that is the case. However there is another model, in which the planet evolved and species on the planet evolved, with God picking the species best-adapted to the unique requirements of His spiritual offspring.

So did grandmothers invite God to pick humans, or did God create long-lived grandmothers as an adaptation to existing species as a necessary bespoke modification to meet the unique requirements of his spiritual offspring?

I’m certainly feeling better about the “irrational” things I’ve done to ensure my grandchild had parents who were supported in their efforts to survive and thrive.

And I’m looking forward to living long enough to support my children as they take on the role of grandmother, so that an orderly transition may take place. Guess it’s time to put away any habits that might not be consistent with living long enough to fulfill that role in my family’s survival.

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About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ (of Latter-day Saints) for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but may have privately defied the commandment for love of his wife, Emma.

10 thoughts on “Why God Chose Humans: Grandmothers

  1. While I can conceive a philosophical space for the notion that Man was allowed to evolve biologically to a point where “Adam”‘s physical form could house the spirit Michael and get this party started, I’m curious about how that claim gets defended.

    Meg, how does this jibe with scripture phrases like “created in His image”? What’s the response to that?

  2. How about this model. Evolution occurred in such a way that there were bi-pedal options. Then there were prototype bi-pedal precursors to humans.
    Then one bi-pedal precursor was used as the primary basis for creating the mortal vessel for Michael. This vessel was adapted to the divine specification.

  3. Only whales and humans experience menopause. Other primate and mammalian females often bear children when they are too elderly to take care of them. In contrast a woman in her mid-40s usually no longer has pregnancies, though modern fiddling with hormones can reverse that. Since a woman in her 40s and 50s, 60s and even older still has plenty of energy to help raise grandchildren, this is a real benefit to humans in general. I’m not too worried about the method God used to bring about the bodies created for Adam and Eve. I do believe it was a directed process and that menopause was part of the design.

  4. “The purpose of the Universe is to turn hydrogen into humans.”

    Spoken to me by an atheist friend.

    In response to which, I said something along the lines of: “That fits in perfectly with Mormon theology.”

  5. We are on the brink of a reproductive revolution. Even today the technology is available to produce children without male input. They have done it with sheep and mice. Men are too aggressive and don’t socialize as effectively. A future society made entirely of women will have enormous advantages. Already girls outperform boys in every important activity. A few of us men might be kept in zoos or as playthings for amusement. But societies dominated by women will have a strong evolutionary advantage in the future.War, the primary male activity throughout most of human history and the only advantage men really have over women, will end.

    Grandmothers will be the future rulers and leaders of the brave new world sans maleness.

  6. What a strange comment. Just because a thing may be possible doesn’t make it feasible on a grand scale, even if it were deemed ethical.

    Typical biological reproduction is easy, fun, and inexpensive. Why transition to your proposed alternative? Besides, there is no reason to suppose your all-female society would be “better.” And what would you have your future Amazons do with baby boys?

  7. Michael,
    If you have a look at the book “The Boy Crisis: Why Our Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do about It” you’ll be overwhelmed by the sheer number of statistics showing just how bad off the next generation is without a father in the home.

    The stats aren’t just correlated, but directly causal very often controlled for class or race, and so on. The entire book is just one depressing statistic after another highlighting the myriad of ways our children have been left behind by a society that doesn’t even recognize the problem.

  8. Michael’s scenario would make for a good science fiction novel or movie. But it doesn’t take into account the Plan of Salvation/Exaltation. And the Second *Coming will be here within a generation (25 years), or a lifetime (75 years) at most, and usher in the Millennium when the Lord will personally reign on the earth, and the world will move from a telestial to a terrestial condition.

    (*As for me, I’m guessing the year 2033, plus or minus 4 years. “No one knows the hour or the day”, but I think speculating on the year is fair game.)

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