A Theory of Chronic Pain

A social and evolutionary theory of human disease and chronic pain

By Denis G. Rancourt

We like to nurture a species self-image where we are radically different from ants and bees. The idea goes like this. Ants and bees are automatons completely governed by chemical and physical signals and each individual in the colony has its place which determines its physical body characteristics, adapted to the function of its class.

We distinguish these colony insects from mammals which we project have much higher degrees of individuality. We like to think of herds or packs of mammals as individuals who “choose” to come together and cooperate. We generally don’t admit body characteristics of individuals as being associated with class in societal dominance hierarchies.

But humans, primates and ants and bees may be much closer than we care to admit, then we are easily able to perceive.

There is an area of scientific research which points to just how wrong we may be. It is the study of the effects of a dominance hierarchy on the health of the individual. It turns out that in mammals and birds, for example, the health of the individual, barring accidents of nature, is primarily due to the individual’s position in the society’s dominance hierarchy [1][2][3]. Here, one needs to stress “primarily”, as in by far the greatest determining factor — having a direct bio-chemical and physiological impact [1].

The dominance hierarchy in packs of monkeys, for example, determines fertility, resistance to disease, vigour, and longevity of the individual [1].

Now the dominance hierarchy as individual health determinant discovery is a paradigm-establishing discovery in medicine (if medicine is ever able to recognize it! [3]), akin to plate tectonics in the Earth sciences, Newtonian mechanics in physics and evolution in biology, but it naturally leads to a follow-up question: Why?

Is there an evolutionary advantage, for mammals say, to suffer severe individual health effects from the intra-species dominance hierarchy? Otherwise, how has individual health vulnerability to dominance hierarchy survived on the evolutionary time scale? Is there a use or a need for individual health vulnerability to dominance hierarchy in terms of species survival, or is it simply a remnant of pre-insect-divide or colony-forming cells evolution?

A first glance would suggest that the human species, for example, cannot possibly benefit from having individual health materially and negatively affected by society’s dominance hierarchy. But is this the correct conclusion?

I think not.

What is the most successful nervous-system-bearing animal species on Earth, in terms of both number of individuals and total biomass, and in terms of its transformative impact on the biosphere? Answer: Ants [4]. And the most successful large mammal? Humans [5]. Both live in highly hierarchical societies.

What is the sustaining biology of a highly hierarchical society of mammals? The individual must accept his/her place. All-out competitiveness of equal individuals (like a bar fight) is a recipe for disaster and does not lead to a highly stratified hierarchy. Pumped individuals who are and feel equally strong do not spontaneously organize into a stratified dominance hierarchy.

The built-in individual health vulnerability to dominance hierarchy is the biological (bio-chemical-metabolic) mechanism that sustains a positive feedback able to spontaneously generate a highly stratified dominance hierarchy.

If you are and feel sick from being dominated, you are not going to fight back. You are going to accept your place. The species is happy to have hoards of unhealthy individuals who will die young having spent their days doing the grunt work. What better way to stratify a successful species?

The impact on individual health also plays another key role, in addition to providing the feedback for stratification. It provides a needed mechanism of self-destruction for individuals who grow out or fall out of docility and compliance.

In a highly stratified society, individuals who cannot function must be eliminated, or they become a destructive force against the hierarchy. The police and jails would never be enough to achieve this without the built-in individual health vulnerability to dominance hierarchy.

As soon as the individual wants out and senses that there is no out, the individual self-destructs — rather than go on a destructive rampage, most of the time. This is called cancer and heart disease. It prevents the destructive rampage of the disillusioned individual and provides a natural end at the completion of the individual’s cycle of utility to the hierarchy, to the species.

No wonder anarchists are so few and far between! But as with any positive feedback-driven system, it is inherently unstable [6].


[1] “The influence of social hierarchy on primate health (Review)” by Robert M. Sapolsky, Science, vol.308, p.648-652, 2005. (and references therein)

[2] “Anti-smoking culture is harmful to health — On the truth problem of public health management” by Denis G. Rancourt, 2011.

[3] “Is establishment medicine an injurious scam?” by Denis G. Rancourt, 2011.

[4] “Is the burning of fossil fuel a significant planetary activity?” by Denis G. Rancourt, 2010.

[5] “Collective intelligence does not imply individual intelligence — Technology does not come from geniuses” by Denis G. Rancourt, 2011.

[6] “Institutions build hierarchy between politico-cultural re-normalizations” by Denis G. Rancourt, 2011.

Denis G. Rancourt is a former tenured and full professor of physics at the University of Ottawa in Canada. He practiced several areas of science (including physics and environmental science) which were funded by a national agency and ran an internationally recognized laboratory. He has published over 100 articles in leading scientific journals and several social commentary essays. He developed popular activism courses and was an outspoken critic of the university administration and a defender of student and Palestinian rights. He was fired for his dissidence in 2009. His dismissal case is in court hearings that will extend into 2012.

8 responses to “A Theory of Chronic Pain

  1. Looks like we’re headed for colony collapse disorder caused by the contagion of greed and bees are the canary in the coal mine

  2. We are evolving to realize that sickness is a symptom of a sick hierarchy.

    Any hierarchy where individuals are not allowed to express their full potential as human beings is bound to fall apart. Suppressed stress must ultimately express itself–which affects the whole system. Even the greedy thugs (who think they are on top) sooner or later can’t take enacting their own phony images. And those fear-mongering types are suppressing all kinds of mommy/daddy hierarchal family issues!

  3. So lets all accept our place in the social hierarchy so we don’t die of cancer. Need to get rid of those medical cards for the poor also, as they will interfere with natural selection. You know how those poor people like to make babies! More than the educated elite, who are population neutral at best! A question, though. I thought it was docility and just taking being walked all over that predisposed one to health problems and chronic pain?

  4. I wonder as to what ratio there is in the general population that are just too feisty to roll over and die on command from these bastards. Does one just give into the dichotomy that’s been engineered to manipulate us or do we make a stand. We know the two reactions to stressful situations as flight or fight. As stated earlier in this meandering there’s also, roll over and die or be trampled in the stampede. Feistiness suggests an awake and discerning spirituality and a purpose to action. We make our choices, red pill or blue pill, what’s it to be.

  5. A brilliant theory, well said and explained. How could we determine otherwise, given the overall and general state of health of MOST of the “worker bees” today – myself included. It was about the time I began to “wake up” and really realize the totality of mind control over the masses that I was diagnosed with CFS/Fibro and it has taken almost ALL of my energy and hope. Perhaps in some cases, ignorance IS bliss… ?

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