The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race
by Jared Diamond

Our Self Image
"To science we owe dramatic changes in our smug self image.
Astronomy taught us that our earth isn't the center of the universe but merely one of billions of heavenly bodies.
From biology we learned that we weren't specially created by God but evolved along with millions of other species.
Now archeology is demolishing another sacred belief:  that human history over the past million years has been a long tale of progress.  In particular, recent discoveries suggest that the adoption of agriculture, supposedly our most decisive step toward a better life, was in many ways a catastrophe from which we have never recovered.
With agriculture came the gross social and sexual inequality, the disease and despotism, that curse our existence."

Progressivist View


20th Century Hunter/Gatherers

Can the Progressivist view be proved?
Did people's lives get better when they abandoned hunting and gathering and adopted farming?
Today the few indigenous hunters and gatherers (ex: Kalahari Bushmen) have more free time than their farmer neighbors.
The diet of hunters and gatherers is more varied than farmers eating high-carbohydrate crops like rice and potatoes.

Adoption of Agriculture
How about in the past?
The health of human populations can be deduced from skeletal remains.
Turkey and Greece: with the adoption of agriculture

Dickson Mounds Indians:
When farmers adopted maize agriculture Why did people adopt agriculture?
 Perhaps not by choice, but from necessity to feed constantly growing numbers.
Three problems with agriculture:
1) hunter-gatherers had varied diet
2) farmers ran the risk of starvation of the crop failed
3) crowding and high populations led to infectious disease and parasites

Class Divisions
Agriculture led to deep class divisions.
Hunters and gatherers can have no kings, no special class of parasites who grow fat on food seized from others.
Elites got the best food and were the healthiest.
Similar contrasts in nutrition and health persist on a global scale today.

Better to be a Bushman?
Americans are an elite.
If one could choose between being a peasant farmer in Ethiopia or a Bushman gatherer in the Kalahari, which do you think would be the better choice?

Inequality between the sexes
 Farming may have encouraged inequality between the sexes.
Since women did not have to transport babies in nomadic existence, farming women had more babies than hunter-gatherers, and thus poorer health.
Women in agricultural societies are sometimes made into beasts of burden:  women working while men do little.

Leisure Time
Original “Leisure Society”
There has always been art in hunter-gatherer cultures due to the amount of leisure time.

Most People Worse Off
With Agriculture, the elite became better off, but most people became worse off.

How did we get trapped into this?
Farming can support more people than hunting, but with a poorer quality of life.

Population and Conquest


Hunters of the World

Revisionist View
Daniel Quinn:: Ishmael, Story of B

Humans are Hunter-Gatherers

Tower of Babel

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