In popular culture, one commonly hears the term “alpha male or female,” in contrast to “beta male or female.” For the past several years, I have almost never used these terms but these popular, influential terms deserve critical examination. In this article, I examine the different definitions of alpha and beta, and explain how the terms presuppose the egocentric, Darwinian mindset, in contrast to the universal mindset. Ultimately, I argue that we should embrace the universal mindset and disassociate ourselves from the egocentric, Darwinian mindset (although doing so may prove very difficult) and thus we should minimize and eliminate our use of the terms “alpha” and “beta” with respect to humans.
The definitions of alpha and beta
Strictly speaking, an alpha male or female is the most dominant, powerful, assertive, or highest-ranking male or female in a particular group. A beta male or female is the second-most dominant, powerful, assertive, or highest-ranking male or female in the group. If the alpha dies or is overthrown, the beta becomes the alpha. 
However, these strict definitions differ from the colloquial definitions. Colloquially, a beta male or female is anyone who is not an alpha, which includes everyone from the second highest person to the bottom person of the hierarchy. And popular culture has its own representations. In popular culture, the stereotypical alpha male or female is dominant, strong, aggressive, highly confident, high in self-esteem, decisive, and fearless. He or she does not fear stepping on others, hurting their feelings, or throwing them under the bus. He or she does not follow but leads. In contrast, the stereotypical beta male or female is submissive, weak, passive, insecure, low in self-esteem, indecisive, fearful, and excessively nice. He or she does not lead but follows.
The egocentric/Darwinian mindset
According to the egocentric or Darwinian mindset, you are your own separate person with your own ego-self. You are separate from everyone else and everything else. You view life as a (ruthless) competition between you and others: survival of the fittest. At its most extreme, this ruthless competition can lead to a war of all against all: a war of every man for himself, in which “the life of man [is] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”  Furthermore, you believe that you and the universe are fundamentally separate, and so you think the universe does not care whatsoever about you.
Alpha and beta in terms of the egocentric/Darwinian mindset
The terms “alpha male or female” and “beta male or female” presuppose the egocentric or Darwinian mindset: they presuppose that your ego-self exists and that you are separate from everyone else and everything else. Since we (i.e. our ego-selves) are separate from one another, our ego-selves clash and fight against one another. Thus, according to the Darwinian mindset, we all compete (perhaps ruthlessly or violently) for the alpha male or female title so that we can acquire more resources (money, material possessions, etc.) and mating opportunities. We want more resources and mating opportunities, so that we can fulfill our ultimate life goals: to survive and reproduce. Whoever lives the longest, has the most children (or sexual partners), and/or has the most resources, wins. According to the Darwinian mindset, this is the miserable game that we are playing, and there is no other game in town.
This Darwinian account is the basis for evolutionary psychology, which itself is the basis for the pick-up artist community. Evolutionary psychology and the pick-up artist community strongly emphasize this contrast between the alpha male and beta male. According to pick-up, in order to attract and date women, every straight male should strive relentlessly to become an alpha male. But this approach has a fundamental problem: in a given group, there can be only one alpha male (by the strict definition) and all other males are beta or worse. Thus, by the strict definition, not every male can be an alpha. In fact, the larger the group of males, the higher the percentage of non-alphas. In a group of 1000 men, only one (0.1%) will be alpha and 999 (99.9%) will be non-alphas. Since there can be only one alpha male, this will likely lead to fierce competition and possibly conflict and violent combat. If you put 20 extremely competitive, aggressive, straight men (who do not know one another) in a room and ask them, “Which one of you is the true alpha male? There can be only one. Now prove it,” you will likely see highly egotistical, dysfunctional behavior. Conflict will inevitably result.
To the extent that people strongly believe in and act according to the Darwinian mindset, they will act dysfunctionally and clash with one another. I believe that virtually all the world’s dysfunction results from the Darwinian mindset: terrorist attacks, mass shootings, (unjust) wars, genocide, assassination, murder, assault, rape, theft, infidelity, suicide, lying, etc. After all, the Darwinian mindset entails that we are all (ruthlessly) competing for status, resources, and mating opportunities. So it should come as no surprise when people act immorally, violently, or criminally in order to get ahead or dominate the competition. Similarly, it should come as no surprise when people who think they are losing the “game” in terms of status, resources, and mating opportunities, retaliate and commit violence. For example, consider the 2014 Isla Vista killings by Elliot Rodger.  In short, he couldn’t get any girls, he strongly resented guys who were getting girls, and so he decided to go on a killing spree and then commit suicide. He ended up killing seven people (including himself) and injuring 14 others. This is a perfect example of the extremely dysfunctional, violent behavior that can result from the Darwinian mindset.
The universal mindset
Unlike the egocentric, Darwinian mindset, the universal mindset holds that the ego-self truly does not exist. You are not separate from everyone else or everything else. At the transcendental level of consciousness, everything is one. You and the universe are one and the same. According to the universal mindset, we all come from the same source: the universe or totality. We manifest the universe, and the universe manifests us. We are the universe acting upon itself, and the universe is us acting upon ourselves. In particular, you are the universe acting upon itself, and the universe is you acting upon yourself. Since you and the universe are one and the same, the universe cares deeply about you, just as you care deeply about yourself, and you should care deeply about the universe.
The universal mindset finds strong support in every major religion: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Daoism. The fundamental principle of all major religions is the Golden Rule. The positive Golden Rule is, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The negative Golden Rule is, “Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you.” The Golden Rule holds precisely because everything is one, at the transcendental level of consciousness. Precisely because you and others are one and the same, you should (not) do unto others as you would (not) have them do unto you. Thus, at the transcendental level, if you harm someone else offensively (i.e. not in self-defense), you are also harming yourself, since you and all others are one and the same. For example, if you lie egregiously to others, you are lying egregiously to yourself. If you cheat ruthlessly on your spouse, you are cheating ruthlessly on yourself. If you violently assault another person who has done nothing to you, you are violently assaulting yourself.
Since everything is one and thus deeply interconnected, the universe will hold you accountable for your actions. To the extent that you harm others offensively, the universe will uphold justice in one way or another. This is the law of karma. Just consider the following historical examples.
1. The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche glorified the “will to power” (i.e. the egocentric or Darwinian mindset) and championed the “master ethics” of the strong, dominant, powerful, noble, wealthy Ancient Greek and Roman aristocrats and leaders. In contrast, Nietzsche condemned the “slave ethics” of Judeo-Christian morality, which he thought represents the interests of the weak, submissive, disempowered, and poor. However, later in his life, Nietzsche once saw a horse being flogged, threw his arms around it, and ended up having a catastrophic mental breakdown. 
2. Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime were responsible for killing 11 million people (including 6 million Jews) in the Holocaust.  Overall, in World War II, they were responsible for killing roughly 19.3 million civilians and prisoners of war. Hitler ended up committing suicide in his bunker as the Allied forces were approaching Berlin.
3. Joseph Stalin and his communist regime were responsible for killing 10-20 million people (including famines).  Stalin ended up dying from a stroke and stomach hemorrhage. His political opponents likely poisoned and thus assassinated him.
4. Bernie Madoff created the biggest Ponzi scheme in US history and ended up stealing $18 billion from investors.  Most of his victims were charitable organizations, elderly people, and Jews. Ultimately, he was arrested, prosecuted, and sentenced to 150 years in prison. One of his sons hanged himself exactly two years after his father’s arrest.
Alpha and beta in terms of the universal mindset
With the universal mindset, the terms “alpha male or female” and “beta male or female” lose significance and fade away. Yes, some people are more talented, accomplished, stronger, aggressive, confident, decisive, or wealthy than others. Yes, some people lead and others follow. But this is all contingent and non-essential. It is mere happenstance. As Eckhart Tolle says:
“The most common ego identifications [i.e. based on the egocentric mindset] have to do with possessions, the work you do, social status and recognition, knowledge and education, physical appearance, special abilities, relationships, personal and family history, belief systems, and often also political, nationalistic, racial, religious, and other collective identifications. None of these is you.” None of these things is really you because, at the transcendental level of consciousness, the ego-self does not exist. At the transcendental level, everything is one. Thus, you, everyone else, everything else, and the entire universe are all one.
Indeed, the universal mindset has many advantages over the egocentric, Darwinian mindset. To the extent that you think in terms of the universal mindset, your relationships will improve and you will get along better with others, especially high-performers. You will not get upset or feel threatened if someone else performs better than you do. After all, your ego-self does not exist, and so your ego-self is not fighting against the ego-selves of other people.
To the extent that we all think in terms of the universal mindset and take it seriously, we avoid the ruthless, miserable, Darwinian competition and the Hobbesian war of all against all. We achieve (relative) peace, and we are much more likely to cooperate with one another. Indeed, the universal mindset lends itself to social cooperation to a much greater degree than the Darwinian mindset does. If everything is one, then cooperation seems natural. In comparison, if we are all individual ego-selves competing against one another for scarce status, resources, and mating opportunities, then cooperation seems unnatural and difficult, unless we form alliances for selfish reasons (i.e. to help us acquire status, resources, and mating opportunities). Overall, social cooperation seems much easier and more natural with the universal mindset. And social cooperation is critical because humankind has evolved and progressed intellectually, scientifically, and technologically largely through social cooperation.
Furthermore, the universal mindset lends itself to the abundance mentality, whereby you believe that status, resources, and mating opportunities are abundant. In contrast, the Darwinian mindset lends itself to the scarcity mentality, whereby you believe that status, resources, and mating opportunities are scarce. In general, the self-improvement industry (including even the pick-up artist community, which otherwise promotes the Darwinian mindset) champions the abundance mentality as a necessary condition for success. Well, it is much easier to think abundantly when you believe that, at the transcendental level, everything is one: that you, everyone else, everything else, and the entire universe are all one and the same. This is abundance to the maximal and infinite degree.
Now, even though the universal mindset has so many advantages over the Darwinian mindset, many of us are caught somewhere between the two mindsets, and understandably so. On the one hand, we must lead our practical lives, compete, earn a living, support and protect our families, and deal with other people’s egos, as well as crime, terrorism, etc. On the other hand, many of us recognize the transcendental values underlying the universal mindset. Just consider the popularity of the major religions, all of which point toward the universal mindset. So we are conflicted between the two mindsets. Indeed, the tension and conflict between the Darwinian mindset and universal mindset is arguably the deepest, hardest problem in human nature and human history. We have been dealing with this problem ever since we first evolved as a species. Every civilization (Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Chinese, Indian, European, American, etc.) has faced this problem. Jesus and the Buddha faced this problem. So it is a very tough nut to crack.  For laypeople (i.e. people who are not monks, nuns, priests, rabbis, etc.), it may even be impossible to think only in terms of the universal mindset and eliminate the Darwinian mindset. Perhaps this is one major reason that certain people join monasteries: to escape the Darwinian mindset that figures prominently in general society, and to embrace the universal mindset.
Nevertheless, even if it is impossible to think only in terms of the universal mindset and eliminate the Darwinian mindset, we should still minimize and eliminate our use of the terms “alpha male or female” and “beta male or female,” for these terms presuppose a worldview that is ultimately divisive, dysfunctional, and destructive. So, instead of calling someone an “alpha male or female” and thereby promoting the Darwinian mindset, we should use more precise, neutral language. For example:
“He is a strong, decisive leader. He leads from the front.”
“She is highly motivated and performs at the elite level.”
“He is the champion in sport X.”
These statements are direct, straightforward, and accurate, without appealing to a “survival of the fittest” mindset, which, at its most extreme, leads to terrorist attacks, mass shootings, (unjust) wars, genocide, etc.
The terms “alpha male or female” and “beta male or female,” which presuppose the egocentric, Darwinian mindset, have some explanatory value when describing animal or human behavior. However, insofar as we strongly believe in and act according to these terms and the egocentric, Darwinian mindset, we will (likely) act dysfunctionally and clash with others, for we will see life as a (ruthless) competition for status, resources, and mating opportunities. However, it is very difficult to overcome the egocentric, Darwinian mindset and fully embrace the universal mindset. Nevertheless, we can minimize and eliminate our use of the terms “alpha” and “beta” with respect to humans, and think less in terms of the egocentric, Darwinian mindset and more in terms of the universal mindset. In doing so, we would make the world a much better place—with fewer terrorist attacks, mass shootings, wars, genocide, violent crime, etc.
 Often, the alpha/beta distinction seems to promote and reinforce the fixed mindset, which holds that your identity, skills, talents, habits, etc. are fixed and you cannot change them. You are who you are, and you cannot improve, progress, or grow. You’re either an alpha or beta, and you cannot change it. However, if a beta can become an alpha and vice-versa, this means that alpha status is not fixed but dynamic. In this sense, the fixed mindset is false. I will address this further in a different article.
 Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan. Ed. Edwin Curley. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1994. Print. p. 76.
 “2014 Isla Vista killings.” Wikipedia. 22 Dec. 2015. Web. Accessed 23 Dec. 2015.
 “Friedrich Nietzsche.” Wikipedia. 23 Dec. 2015. Web. Accessed 23 Dec. 2015.
 “The Holocaust.” Wikipedia. 16 April 2015. Web. Accessed 17 April 2015.
“Adolf Hitler.” Wikipedia. 17 April 2015. Web. Accessed 17 April 2015.
 “Joseph Stalin.” Wikipedia. 23 Dec. 2015. Web. Accessed 23 Dec. 2015.
 “Bernard Madoff.” Wikipedia. 22 Dec 2015. Web. Accessed 26 Dec 2015.
 Tolle, Eckhart. The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. Novato, CA: New World Library, 2004. Print. p. 46.
 Perhaps we can best crack this “nut” through intensive, daily, lifelong meditation (e.g. zazen). Such meditation can help make the universal mindset more lucid and apparent, which will help us realize and internalize it.