Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #51  
Old 05-29-2017, 08:19 PM
snfaulkner snfaulkner is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2015
Location: 123 Fake Street
Posts: 5,076
Quote:
Originally Posted by Machinaforce View Post
Interesting responses, but what about Jared Diamond arguing that agriculture was the greatest mistake of mankind.
The real question is what does Chuckles Manson think about agriculture.
  #52  
Old 05-29-2017, 08:32 PM
Velocity Velocity is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2014
Posts: 10,192
Quote:
Originally Posted by Machinaforce View Post
Interesting responses, but what about Jared Diamond arguing that agriculture was the greatest mistake of mankind.
It sure beats the alternative.
  #53  
Old 05-29-2017, 09:07 PM
LSLGuy LSLGuy is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Southeast Florida USA
Posts: 20,110
Quote:
Originally Posted by Machinaforce View Post
Interesting responses, but what about Jared Diamond arguing that agriculture was the greatest mistake of mankind.
Jared Diamond has quite a good rep amongst lay readers of his books.

Most of the pros in his field think he's full of it. Or so we've been told in other threads by people who really are anthropologists, not popular authors of pop-anthropology.

Last edited by LSLGuy; 05-29-2017 at 09:07 PM.
  #54  
Old 05-29-2017, 09:49 PM
Machinaforce Machinaforce is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2016
Posts: 758
Quote:
Originally Posted by LSLGuy View Post
Jared Diamond has quite a good rep amongst lay readers of his books.

Most of the pros in his field think he's full of it. Or so we've been told in other threads by people who really are anthropologists, not popular authors of pop-anthropology.
Pop anthropology? But his book won a pulitzer prize though.

I was just hoping for a non noble savage answer to the question. Some previous authors thought agriculture as well as technology was a corrupting influence that would consume humanity.
  #55  
Old 05-29-2017, 10:05 PM
LSLGuy LSLGuy is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Southeast Florida USA
Posts: 20,110
A Pulitzer prize for pop anthropology dumbed down and converted into a convincing, albeit most false, narrative for the masses.

Many an inventor has been harmed or even killed by his invention. Might humanity as a whole suffer the same fate? Sure.

OTOH, if we were still living like slightly smarter chimps a hefty percentage of human man-years that have already happened would never have done so. Assuming we can keep it together for another 500 years then the vast majority of humans will have lived and died in the technological era.

A "decision" back in the smart-chimps days to never take the next move to technology or agriculture would have been a decision to condemn half of humanity to never living at all, and of the half that did live, leaving most of them living lives that were nasty, brutish, and short as Hobbes so memorably put it.

Net, net humanity is better off for what we have done to date. And with decent luck, our far descendants will look back on our era and wonder how anyone could have lived so badly, so ignorantly compared to themselves.

The only way to get to the answer of "tech/ag is bad/corrupting" is to use the noble savage argument. Which is, as you seem to know, bunk from end to end.


The defining characteristic of our species is social tool use. No other Earth species does tools, or social, anywhere near as well as we do. The synergistic effect of those two behaviors together is vastly more powerful than either one in isolation. It's not X + Y. It's more like XY.

Anyone saying it's somehow corrupting to do what we do best is essentially arguing that flying is corrupting to birds, or stinging is corrupting to scorpions. It doesn't even pass the laugh test. It's not just mistaken; it's contemptibly ignorant.

Last edited by LSLGuy; 05-29-2017 at 10:08 PM.
  #56  
Old 05-29-2017, 10:06 PM
DSeid DSeid is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Chicago, IL
Posts: 19,538
If one believes that creating civilization and increasing the number of humans on the planet were adverse events that will destroy the planet and our species before long, then agriculture was a bad thing.

And one can make that argument. Civilization brought with it massive social and resource inequalities. More who have lived and loved, more who live long, and more who have suffered. And maybe we will destroy the whole place.

Personally though I don't buy it.

Now not what Diamond thinks, what do you think? Which was/is better?
  #57  
Old 05-29-2017, 10:12 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: South Bay
Posts: 80,282
Humans are not going going to "destroy the planet". We might destroy ourselves, but the planet is going to get on just fine. If you remove the idea of what humans value from the equation, there is no condition of the planet that is "better" than any other condition.
  #58  
Old 05-29-2017, 10:57 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: NY but not NYC
Posts: 29,304
Quote:
Originally Posted by Machinaforce View Post
Pop anthropology? But his book won a pulitzer prize though.
Which really makes it the definition of a popular science text. How many true science texts have ever won a Pulitzer? (Interesting question, but the number of possible candidates can be counted on the fingers of one hand so the final count has to be tiny.)

In Diamond's case, the research he did is recognizable to others as having sound but basic popular science roots, although across a very large area. I did serious research on one of the topics in his book for a book of my own. I saw the books he footnoted and had read all of them. I think I used them well, but as popular science. Diamond's compilation of the varied research was fascinating but the strains where he didn't quite know enough about all those many subjects to make a convincing case showed. And many true subject matter experts weren't as kind to the book as the popular audience was. I'd still recommend reading the book as a good example of popular science. I'd also caution not to take every argument in it as settled truth and use it to start my reading rather than end it.
  #59  
Old 05-29-2017, 11:11 PM
race_to_the_bottom race_to_the_bottom is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2010
Posts: 500
Quote:
Originally Posted by igor frankensteen View Post
My theory is based on noticing that the various "cradles of civilization" that we have come to recognize, the so-called fertile crescent in the ME, the Nile basin, the valleys of China and so on, all had the same basic set of things in common: great fertility, concentrated in a location surrounded by a wide expanse of barren territory.
Fair enough, but Homo Sapiens has existed for around 200,000 years, and agriculture only got started around ten thousand years ago, more or less at the same time in multiple locations. Why didn't it happen much earlier at least somewhere? I remember reading somewhere that it had something to do with the end of the last ice age, and that could make sense for much of the northern hemisphere, but what about Africa, or most of southern Asia? I have always wondered about this.
  #60  
Old 05-29-2017, 11:45 PM
Machinaforce Machinaforce is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2016
Posts: 758
Quote:
Originally Posted by DSeid View Post
If one believes that creating civilization and increasing the number of humans on the planet were adverse events that will destroy the planet and our species before long, then agriculture was a bad thing.

And one can make that argument. Civilization brought with it massive social and resource inequalities. More who have lived and loved, more who live long, and more who have suffered. And maybe we will destroy the whole place.

Personally though I don't buy it.

Now not what Diamond thinks, what do you think? Which was/is better?
I don't know, I mean I read all the downsides that resulted from the switch but that is more like hindsight speaking. The same would go if we went back, who knows what would happen. Certainly many would die off, millions.

Going back to hunter gatherer sounds good, but that's likely because people are still living in some kind of dream world to suggest that. I agree that technology needs to be met with skepticism but there has to be a middle ground between futurism and primitivism.

I personally like the life I have, I think life would not be worth living if we had to go back to focus on survival. It would just be living day to day, for what? Just to live? Nothing else? Doesn't sound like a world I would like to be in.
  #61  
Old 05-30-2017, 12:48 AM
DSeid DSeid is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Chicago, IL
Posts: 19,538
Simple reality is that best estimates had the global human population at under 5 million until agriculture and civilization started to take off with the best guess for average life span at about 10 years old. Lots dying very young; some not insignificant amount of infanticide; women dying in childbirth not uncommonly; men not infrequently in skirmishes. Get past your 20s and your odds of making to group elder were pretty good but fairly few did that.

That 5 million was likely the carrying capacity for humans without agriculture and civilization. So not millions who would die off but well over 7 billion, which is how far we are above what would be the carrying capacity in an HG mode.

For all of civilization's ills (and indeed they are myriad) I have a hard time waxing nostalgic for that.

But hey ... there was no philosophy!


FWIW an interesting article offering a take on the op.
  #62  
Old 05-30-2017, 12:57 AM
md2000 md2000 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 13,152
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Mace View Post
Are you agreeing or disagreeing with me? You sound like you're disagreeing, but traveling 13 miles a year is not "sticking in one place". Sticking in one place is sticking in one place.
My point is they did not have to spread like wildfire to cover six continents on an evolutionary timescale. 13 miles would be what they might cover each week chasing a herd. Perhaps population pressures might persuade them to cross less hospitable terrain in a generation or two - continental divides, etc. Or travelling along the shorelines of the continents or relatively short distances from island to island (in the case of Indonesia then Australia). So the truth is somewhere between "they didn't move" and "they moved quickly".

.
Quote:
I'm not seeing your point. Is there some research or published papers somewhere with evidence to support that hypothesis? Is this something you are quoting from an anthropology journal or textbook?


Just FYI, I purposely didn't say they were nomads. I said they didn't stick in one place once out of Africa. We really don't know much about how humans lived pre-agriculture since the fossil record is so scarce. It's quite possible that we lived various different lifestyles depending on the environment we found ourselves in. Our species is nothing if not adaptable.
Read a book like Farley Mowat's "Sea of Slaughter". It's essentially the catalog of how lush and rich the ecosystem was in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the rest of North America before Europeans brought industrial-scale slaughter to the continent. Even with generally agricultural nomads (slash and burn agriculture) fairly densely populating the area, the wild food resources were astounding. Buffalo herds that took days to wander past observers, passenger pigeons and arctic curlews in flocks so thick their migration darkened the skies, cod 6 to 10 feet long in schools that were so plentiful you could almost walk on their surface.

One can imagine that was the richness the original humans came across in the fertile areas, before humans practising agriculture cleared the wild areas, and slowly exterminated the easy game.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Machinaforce View Post
Pop anthropology? But his book won a pulitzer prize though.

I was just hoping for a non noble savage answer to the question. Some previous authors thought agriculture as well as technology was a corrupting influence that would consume humanity.
Agriculture was a series of progressive decisions, each the result of exploiting the easiest food sources. Once each option was exploited to its fullest, there was no going back. Population pressure pushed humans into denser food production, rather than nomadic hunting; the winners in that race could then displace the losers by both numbers and technology. When the farmers were also thinning the wild herds hunters depended on, and wrecked the best natural habitats, and had better defended homes - choices were limited. Adapt or move away.

Quote:
Originally Posted by race_to_the_bottom View Post
Fair enough, but Homo Sapiens has existed for around 200,000 years, and agriculture only got started around ten thousand years ago, more or less at the same time in multiple locations. Why didn't it happen much earlier at least somewhere? I remember reading somewhere that it had something to do with the end of the last ice age, and that could make sense for much of the northern hemisphere, but what about Africa, or most of southern Asia? I have always wondered about this.
There's the claimed population bottleneck about 70,000 years ago. We are descended from a very small group. So what was it? A climate event? Geological event like a major eruption? My money's on a substantial evolutionary event - better speech, conceptual/abstract thinking and planning, or something that suddenly gave a yuuuuge advantage to a small group. After all, humans had spread out in several waves well before then, it's hard to believe any physical event would reduce the population to barely survival level in a concentrated locale.

It's also hard to believe that the ecological conditions that permitted agriculture - a rich river valley with a convenient high-yield crop - did not exist before about 10,000 years ago.

What happened? I'm still looking for some interesting hypotheses for the sudden emergence of agriculture.
  #63  
Old 05-30-2017, 02:36 AM
MrDibble MrDibble is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Cape Town, South Africa &
Posts: 21,328
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Mace View Post
Are you agreeing or disagreeing with me? You sound like you're disagreeing, but traveling 13 miles a year is not "sticking in one place". Sticking in one place is sticking in one place.
I think you misunderstand how this works - We stay here, at this nice place. Next year, my kid Num is a man, and moves 13 miles down valley because he needs the space for his new family. A year later, your daughter Lum meets some nice guy at Solstice, and has to move out - but she can't go 13 miles down valley, that's NumLand. So she moves 26 miles down. And so on, and so forth. We stick in one place, humanity moves on. Bearing in mind population is expanding continuously...all those fat glyptodonts make for soft living.
  #64  
Old 05-30-2017, 02:43 AM
MrDibble MrDibble is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Cape Town, South Africa &
Posts: 21,328
Quote:
Originally Posted by DSeid View Post
Just to clarify, that 2500 BCE is if anything early for maize in North America (was about 9000 years ago, 7000 B.C.E, in Mexico) but other crops, such as squash and sunflower, were domesticated in North America earlier.
That's date of domestication for the Eastern Woodlands, not the South West.
Quote:
And while Crane may be off about the decline of large animal prey as a potential factor accelerating towards more farming (that prey already being long gone) the basic concept is possibly true - fresh water mussel populations declined significantly around the time that maize production took off. Directionality is the question. Did agricultural practices cause the decline or did declines due to climate change increase the reliance on agricultural practices?
Or a mix.
  #65  
Old 05-30-2017, 02:50 AM
MrDibble MrDibble is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Cape Town, South Africa &
Posts: 21,328
Quote:
Originally Posted by md2000 View Post
What happened? I'm still looking for some interesting hypotheses for the sudden emergence of agriculture.
I'm not saying it was aliens - but it was aliens.
  #66  
Old 05-30-2017, 05:38 AM
Grim Render Grim Render is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2012
Posts: 815
Quote:
Originally Posted by Machinaforce View Post
I heard that initially hunting and gathering expended less energy, which makes me wonder why people would pick up farming if the alternative was less energy consuming?

http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/...e-to-own-stuff
Lots of theories. Agriculture seems to have been invented several times in separate places around the world, so more than one could be correct. And it occurred during the same general time period, when the climate stabilized.

The oldest farming by a narrow margin seems to be in the middle east. Farming seems to have originated in a fairly fertile region at a time when climate change reduced the available animal population. Presumably leaving the population with the choice of finding new ways of getting calories or starving.

New genetic research indicates that farming initially spread out from Anatolia by itself, i.e. without an accompanying population replacement. However, old genetic research indicates that all these farming communities grain descended from the same original stock. After the first few millennia, farming communities in Anatolia just took off, and farming spread through Europe from about 6 000 BC with the Anatolian farmers DNA becoming the major component of the European gene pool until the Indo-Europeans came.

My personal supposition is that farming had a "lag phase" where it was sufficiently successful to be adopted by neighbours, but not successful enough for the farmers to overwhelm their neighbours. After the farmers got things fully sorted out, the overwhelming started.

An interesting older piece of research generally forgotten in the flurry of exciting new discoveries is [I]Site of Einkorn Wheat Domestication Identified by DNA Fingerprinting[/I] from 1997. It tracks back domesticated wheat genetically, pinpointing the origin to a point in Turkey. That point is within walking distance of a hill where an archaeologist called Klaus Schmidt was working at the time. In 1997 I don't think anyone had heard the name of the hill -Gobekli Tepe.
  #67  
Old 05-30-2017, 06:55 AM
Nava Nava is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Hey! I'm located! WOOOOW!
Posts: 36,627
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kobal2 View Post
the most difficult period in purely agrarian societies is... dammit, what's the English word for soudure, do you even have one ? Anyway, it's spring/early summer (late Feb to early May), when the reserves from last year start running short but the new harvest's not in yet.
In Spanish we call it the same word as for the religious period of belt-tightening which, curiously enough (damn it's dusty here) happens at about the time that crops are not yet in: Cuaresma. Which ends up on that Sunday where you roast some newborn lamb...
  #68  
Old 05-30-2017, 07:53 AM
John Mace John Mace is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: South Bay
Posts: 80,282
Quote:
Originally Posted by md2000 View Post
My point is they did not have to spread like wildfire to cover six continents on an evolutionary timescale. 13 miles would be what they might cover each week chasing a herd...
"Chasing a herd" is not "on an evolutionary timescale". Yes, 13 miles a year is "wildfire", on an evolutionary timescale. That is the point you are missing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Dibble
I think you misunderstand how this works...
I think you are misunderstanding the post I was responding to. Note that he claimed humans stuck in one place because "No animals to carry things for them". Nonsense.
  #69  
Old 05-30-2017, 08:10 AM
MrDibble MrDibble is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Cape Town, South Africa &
Posts: 21,328
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Mace View Post
I think you are misunderstanding the post I was responding to. Note that he claimed humans stuck in one place because "No animals to carry things for them". Nonsense.
That is nonsense, but wasn't the part you replied to, that I then replied to. My point is that you can get 13 miles a year by simple population growth. Hardly "wildfire".
  #70  
Old 05-30-2017, 08:13 AM
John Mace John Mace is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: South Bay
Posts: 80,282
Mr. Dibble: Also, please see the last part of my post #37. Anyone who claims to know just exactly how our ancestors lived for 100,000 years or so before agriculture doesn't know what he's talking about. It's quite possible that some "pretty much stayed in one place", some were actually true nomads (following herds), and some moved around like crazy, for whatever reason, responding to the environment around them. Frankly, we really don't know other than the fact that once out of Africa, things happened pretty quick, and we start showing up in large parts of southern Asia, then Northern Asia and Europe. And finally making it to the Americas.

I'm not so much making an affirmative claim that all humans were constantly on the move, but refuting the idea that we all just "stayed in one place".

Last edited by John Mace; 05-30-2017 at 08:14 AM.
  #71  
Old 05-30-2017, 08:39 AM
John Mace John Mace is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: South Bay
Posts: 80,282
Quote:
Originally Posted by LSLGuy View Post
A Pulitzer prize for pop anthropology dumbed down and converted into a convincing, albeit most false, narrative for the masses.

Many an inventor has been harmed or even killed by his invention. Might humanity as a whole suffer the same fate? Sure.

OTOH, if we were still living like slightly smarter chimps a hefty percentage of human man-years that have already happened would never have done so. Assuming we can keep it together for another 500 years then the vast majority of humans will have lived and died in the technological era.

A "decision" back in the smart-chimps days to never take the next move to technology or agriculture would have been a decision to condemn half of humanity to never living at all, and of the half that did live, leaving most of them living lives that were nasty, brutish, and short as Hobbes so memorably put it.

Net, net humanity is better off for what we have done to date. And with decent luck, our far descendants will look back on our era and wonder how anyone could have lived so badly, so ignorantly compared to themselves.

The only way to get to the answer of "tech/ag is bad/corrupting" is to use the noble savage argument. Which is, as you seem to know, bunk from end to end.


The defining characteristic of our species is social tool use. No other Earth species does tools, or social, anywhere near as well as we do. The synergistic effect of those two behaviors together is vastly more powerful than either one in isolation. It's not X + Y. It's more like XY.

Anyone saying it's somehow corrupting to do what we do best is essentially arguing that flying is corrupting to birds, or stinging is corrupting to scorpions. It doesn't even pass the laugh test. It's not just mistaken; it's contemptibly ignorant.
Good post.

The only thing I'll take exception to is your claim that the defining characteristic of our species is "social tool use". I'm not a big fan of making claims about single, "defining characteristics", but if there is one for us it would be the transmission of knowledge and information through the use of fully articulate language. Perhaps that is more or less what you meant by "social" tool use, but it wasn't clear.
  #72  
Old 05-30-2017, 08:46 AM
md2000 md2000 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 13,152
Quote:
Originally Posted by Grim Render View Post
Lots of theories. ..

New genetic research indicates that farming initially spread out from Anatolia by itself, i.e. without an accompanying population replacement. However, old genetic research indicates that all these farming communities grain descended from the same original stock. After the first few millennia, farming communities in Anatolia just took off, and farming spread through Europe from about 6 000 BC with the Anatolian farmers DNA becoming the major component of the European gene pool until the Indo-Europeans came.

My personal supposition is that farming had a "lag phase" where it was sufficiently successful to be adopted by neighbours, but not successful enough for the farmers to overwhelm their neighbours. After the farmers got things fully sorted out, the overwhelming started.

An interesting older piece of research generally forgotten in the flurry of exciting new discoveries is [I]Site of Einkorn Wheat Domestication Identified by DNA Fingerprinting[/I] from 1997. It tracks back domesticated wheat genetically, pinpointing the origin to a point in Turkey. That point is within walking distance of a hill where an archaeologist called Klaus Schmidt was working at the time. In 1997 I don't think anyone had heard the name of the hill -Gobekli Tepe.
Of course, the major development in agriculture that raised productivity, IIRC, was that the variety of wheat used falls off the head of the stalk quite easily, making harvest a much easier task. It's not inconceivable that that is the reason one genetic variety of wheat appears to be the source of agricultural evolution - perhaps wheat of sorts was being grown in a variety of places, with different levels of dedicated agricultural activity, until some area found itself with a far simpler and more productive crop variety. I would imagine their neighbours also took to using that variety, and so on.


13 miles a year is not wildfire, especially in rich, fertile river valleys. Obviously it went in fits and starts, not a steady 13 mpy. What is fascinating is how migrations crossed the less hospitable ranges like mountains and deserts. But it seems humans were capable of decent sea voyages by 60,000 to 40,000 years ago, so most likely they followed shorelines when anything else was not as hospitable. Perhaps they were decent fishermen too, then - which means a less hospitable land just meant good protection for their villages. Never underestimate the motivational power of needing to get away from marauding neighbors.
  #73  
Old 05-30-2017, 09:03 AM
John Mace John Mace is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: South Bay
Posts: 80,282
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrDibble View Post
That is nonsense, but wasn't the part you replied to, that I then replied to. My point is that you can get 13 miles a year by simple population growth. Hardly "wildfire".
What is your source that hunter-gatherers can expand at that rate for extended periods of time "by simple population growth"? What does "simple population growth" even mean? What makes it "simple"?

Anthropologists are often remarking on how quickly humans got from Africa to Australia. If you want to use "quickly" instead of "wildfire", be my guest. Our species stayed in Africa for ~100,000 years. We then left Africa and showed up in Australia a few thousand years later. Use whatever term you feel works for how quickly that happened, but "simple population growth" doesn't cut it.

Last edited by John Mace; 05-30-2017 at 09:04 AM.
  #74  
Old 05-30-2017, 09:14 AM
John Mace John Mace is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: South Bay
Posts: 80,282
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Mace View Post
What is your source that hunter-gatherers can expand at that rate for extended periods of time "by simple population growth"? What does "simple population growth" even mean? What makes it "simple"?

Anthropologists are often remarking on how quickly humans got from Africa to Australia. If you want to use "quickly" instead of "wildfire", be my guest. Our species stayed in Africa for ~100,000 years. We then left Africa and showed up in Australia a few thousand years later. Use whatever term you feel works for how quickly that happened, but "simple population growth" doesn't cut it.
Mr. Dibble: Sorry, that was unnecessarily snarky. Even if we were to assume that "simple population growth" (however we define it) accounted for the spread of humans, it was still remarkably fast compared to our history in Africa. In evolutionary terms, it was very rapid, and I don't think "like wildfire" is an unreasonable descriptor, whatever mechanism was in play (and I suspect there was more than one). I'm not particularly wed to that term, but our species, as a whole did not "stay in one place". That is, on the face of it, simply wrong.

Last edited by John Mace; 05-30-2017 at 09:14 AM.
  #75  
Old 05-30-2017, 09:19 AM
RobDog RobDog is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: London, England
Posts: 1,834
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kobal2 View Post
... dammit, what's the English word for soudure, do you even have one ? Anyway, it's spring/early summer (late Feb to early May), when the reserves from last year start running short but the new harvest's not in yet.
FWIW; not a single word, but in the UK that period is referred to as the "hungry gap".
  #76  
Old 05-30-2017, 10:11 AM
MrDibble MrDibble is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Cape Town, South Africa &
Posts: 21,328
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Mace View Post
Mr. Dibble: Sorry, that was unnecessarily snarky.
No worries
Quote:
Even if we were to assume that "simple population growth" (however we define it) accounted for the spread of humans, it was still remarkably fast compared to our history in Africa.
I put it down to the exponential nature of population growth from the bottleneck, myself. That, plus the African part of the story is woefully under-studied, with only Olduvai and Sterkfontein localities getting really intensive study.

But my personal experience, in the South African context, at least, is of fairly sedentary HG occupations in prehistory (fuck-off huge shell middens, for one, and pottery, for another), so that's the model I find more likely. If the cultures you're more familiar with were more migratory, you'd likely see it differently.
  #77  
Old 05-30-2017, 10:34 AM
race_to_the_bottom race_to_the_bottom is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2010
Posts: 500
Quote:
Originally Posted by md2000 View Post
(For a description of the wildlife to be found in a relatively untamed land, read Farley Mowat's "Sea of Slaughter" if you can find it - and keep in mind, this describes the St. Lawrence valley and gulf, and much of the rest North America, after centuries or more of fairly intense agricultural settlement, just no firearms. Or read about the size of the buffalo herds in the great plains - where it could take days for the entire herd to go past observers.)
Sea of Slaughter
  #78  
Old 05-30-2017, 10:38 AM
Kobal2 Kobal2 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Paris, France
Posts: 16,516
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nava View Post
In Spanish we call it the same word as for the religious period of belt-tightening which, curiously enough (damn it's dusty here) happens at about the time that crops are not yet in: Cuaresma. Which ends up on that Sunday where you roast some newborn lamb...
Oh, carême !
Huh. You know I'd never made the link between the religious ritual and the season/time of the year. I strongly suspect they're linked - you know, "Good folks, god says to not eat so much right now (because unlike you I can count, and at this rate you'll start digging into the sowing reserves soon)". Or, possibly "yes, brothers, I know you're starving, but it's a good thing ! Jesus did too, everything's FINE !"

Which would also explain why these days the "fast" of Lent is not exactly drastic and more symbolic than anything.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RobDog
FWIW; not a single word, but in the UK that period is referred to as the "hungry gap".
Yup it had been answered upthread, but thanks all the same, friend.
  #79  
Old 05-30-2017, 10:50 AM
RobDog RobDog is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: London, England
Posts: 1,834
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kobal2 View Post
Yup it had been answered upthread, but thanks all the same, friend.
Gah! Sorry. Missed that.
  #80  
Old 05-30-2017, 11:09 AM
TriPolar TriPolar is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: rhode island
Posts: 37,179
Quote:
Originally Posted by igor frankensteen View Post
As an Historian, I have become aware (apparently more than most) that most explanations of human behavior come AFTER THE EVENTS THEMSELVES. In fact, the whole notion of coming up with a question like the one posed for this thread, is the result of people getting into the habit of explaining human events as being due to deciding things in advance, when a careful and unprejudiced study of the actual past, reveals that most of what has happened before was not premeditated at all.
Getting back to this, of course the 'Why' cannot be answered in any detail. We know something of the pre-agricultural conditions and somewhat more after agriculture began to flourish. The clear but unhelpful answer to the 'Why' is that it worked better than hunting and gathering. Populations grew, hunter gatherers dwindled. But simply saying that farming produced food more reliably isn't all of it. Farming changes the way people live, they can build structures that they don't have to carry with them or leave behind. They will build more of anything they can because they don't have to carry things to keep them. They'll build more baskets, they'll build more pointy sticks, they'll build food storage structures, they'll build out of stone and heavy wood, they'll build walls, they'll make more rope, they'll make more pottery, they'll change their environment to suit them instead of seeking new places to live. And they'll have more free time. Not a lot more, a lot of that free time maybe starving while they wait for the crops to bear fruit, but they'll have the time needed to plan and prepare for the future and expand their farms. They'll also become more territorial and develop more complex social structures. But the 'Why' is still to the extent of our knowledge that they tried it and it succeeded.
  #81  
Old 05-30-2017, 11:25 AM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: NY but not NYC
Posts: 29,304
America is an excellent example of populations expanding rapidly into new lands. You can see it on several scales.

The first Americans arrived from Asia. Considerable debate exists today whether they came over the Bering Land Bridge or arrived in boats farther south. Both might have happened. A few anthropologists also contend that island-hopping made migration from Europe independently possible.

Whatever and wherever the first point of entry was, evidence of human inhabitation is found in large areas over a short contemporary time period. Although communities that were sited on the Pacific and made heavy use of seafood for their diet were continuous throughout post-arrival centuries, other groups traveled farther inland. The presumption is that they followed game into unhunted areas. Staying in one place would have led to conflict over hunting grounds and tribal boundaries, as is known from other hunter-gatherer societies.

A similar process can be seen in speeded-up form after the American Revolution. Americans established a myriad of towns and cities along the eastern seaboard. They're all still there. But a small fraction of the population saw untouched land and opportunities farther west. They went from New England into western new York, from western New York into Ohio and the Northwest Territory, from the Northwest Territory into the Great Plains. A southern route took them from Virginia and the Carolinas through Georgia into Mississippi and eventually Texas. The is the exact opposite of nomadism. It is settle, some move on and settle, some move on and settle, etc. Many of the original settlers never set foot out of their villages for the rest of their lives. The population boundary moved instead.

That in some fashion describes every Out of Africa and subsequent population dispersal argument. The details are hotly debated; the overall scheme is not. We have piles of historic documentation of the American westwardly movement as well as the smaller one inland from the Pacific in California, Oregon, and Washington. All others can be traced through archaeological records.

The remnants of true nomadism can still be seen in northern Africa among tribes that move along the edges of the various great deserts seeking food supplies and driving cattle long distances. The long-term use of cattle has selected for lactose tolerance, giving them genetic markers that are easily distinguished from most African tribal peoples. (In the same way, lactose tolerance can be traced out of Anatolia or the Middle East north and then west to Britain, as well as east to India. When tolerance shows up and the percentage in current populations dispersion pattern give excellent timelines for the population dispersal.) African nomadic behavior has been thoroughly studied and is different from either hunter-gatherer or farming communities. Could it have been an intermediate state between the two? Possibly, although I don't remember anybody seriously postulating this. Nor is it necessary as an explanation. We have a good one in boundary expansion backed with loads of evidence.
  #82  
Old 05-30-2017, 03:54 PM
md2000 md2000 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 13,152
Quote:
Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
America is an excellent example of populations expanding rapidly into new lands. You can see it on several scales.

...
An equally fascinating example is the Polynesian expansion - in a matter of about 1,000 years they covered the entire Pacific despite the effort required to find new lands. IIRC population pressure was the driving force for most expansion - something more immediate when most societies are on smaller islands; population can grow quickly enough to provide a need to expand, given good resources.
  #83  
Old 05-30-2017, 04:14 PM
aceplace57 aceplace57 is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: CentralArkansas
Posts: 22,285
Wild edible plants aren't a reliable food source. You may have seen wild berry bushes growing along a fence. A couple handfuls of berries won't keep several people alive for even a few days. A small group of people would exhaust all the edible plants in a area very quickly.

People had to develop plants that could be grown & harvested each year. Giving a constant source of food. Saving starter seed to plant again the following spring.

I doubt a human would live very long from only wild game animals. I know it's dangerous eating too much rabbit. It's such a lean protein that people in a survival situation get very sick.
http://knowledgenuts.com/2015/01/21/...h-rabbit-meat/

Plants are an essential part of a humans diet. Farming isn't something done by choice. We have to do it to survive.

Last edited by aceplace57; 05-30-2017 at 04:18 PM.
  #84  
Old 05-30-2017, 04:39 PM
Hari Seldon Hari Seldon is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Trantor
Posts: 11,177
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kobal2 View Post
It's also interesting to note that, while winter has long been a source of utter dread for mankind (as evidenced by myths, legends and rituals - we don't celebrate the rebirth of the Sun, I mean the birth of baby Jesus, for nothing) the most difficult period in purely agrarian societies is... dammit, what's the English word for soudure, do you even have one ? Anyway, it's spring/early summer (late Feb to early May), when the reserves from last year start running short but the new harvest's not in yet.

But in that period, well, you *can* supplement your diet with gathering and hunting/fishing - and so even though lean years and famines around that time have been a very regular staple throughout recorded history, it hasn't become a central cultural or religious focus of doom and gloom like winter used to be - to the point that English might not even have a bloody word for it that I can find .
My wife's French is pretty good, but the only meaning she knows for soudure is solder. Perhaps the word you want is "thaw", which here in Quebec is called "le degel". At any rate that is the time when the food has run out and there is no new harvest yet. We have just started gathering early greens (had sorrel soup last night), but there are generally few calories to be had yet. A farmer has to learn to store his grain and maybe salt his meat and make jerky, but he will usually have a steady supply of food. And then, and only then, population will increase, people will discover war and all that.
  #85  
Old 05-30-2017, 04:40 PM
Kobal2 Kobal2 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Paris, France
Posts: 16,516
Quote:
Originally Posted by md2000 View Post
IIRC population pressure was the driving force for most expansion
Well, that's what you get when you keep telling people "Ohana means family, family means no one's left behind" !
  #86  
Old 05-30-2017, 04:54 PM
even sven even sven is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 1999
Location: DC
Posts: 19,401
Why did humans start farming?

It seems pretty clear to me that farming became a fall back when population density got too high to support hunter-gatherer economies. The increased political capacity that comes with farming likely then made it possible to push remaining H-G groups to increasingly marginal land.

I think this thread in general overstates the insecurity of hunter gatherer economies and overstates the upsides of farming. Small holder low tech farming is a singularly insecure and miserable way to live, and one that our ancestors stopped doing as soon as possible.

Quote:
Originally Posted by aceplace57 View Post
Plants are an essential part of a humans diet. Farming isn't something done by choice. We have to do it to survive.

That seems pretty unlikely, given that we spent 90% of human history as hunter-gatherers.

Last edited by even sven; 05-30-2017 at 04:58 PM.
  #87  
Old 05-30-2017, 05:46 PM
sbunny8 sbunny8 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Eugene, Oregon
Posts: 1,024
What succeeds continues and what fails does not. But there is no easy definition of "success".

Imagine a campfire near a wood pile. There's a person chopping dead wood and adding it to the pile. There's another person slowing feeding wood onto the fire. The surrounding trees are growing very slowly, but fast enough to keep up with the wood chopper. It's a stable system. Then the fire jumps to the wood pile. In five minutes, the entire wood pile is up in flames. Suddenly you have ten times the light and ten times the heat. Would you call that success? It's not sustainable.

Exponentially increasing population seems like success in the short run but it could lead to disaster in the long run. It may be too soon to call modern civilization a success yet. In the few thousand years that we've been doing it, modern civilization has been successful (like a forest fire is successful) and could not have done so without agriculture. But how would a time traveler judge that success when, in the year 3000, the human population has shrunk back down to a quarter billion hunter-gatherers?
  #88  
Old 05-30-2017, 06:31 PM
Machinaforce Machinaforce is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2016
Posts: 758
Quote:
Originally Posted by sbunny8 View Post
What succeeds continues and what fails does not. But there is no easy definition of "success".

Imagine a campfire near a wood pile. There's a person chopping dead wood and adding it to the pile. There's another person slowing feeding wood onto the fire. The surrounding trees are growing very slowly, but fast enough to keep up with the wood chopper. It's a stable system. Then the fire jumps to the wood pile. In five minutes, the entire wood pile is up in flames. Suddenly you have ten times the light and ten times the heat. Would you call that success? It's not sustainable.

Exponentially increasing population seems like success in the short run but it could lead to disaster in the long run. It may be too soon to call modern civilization a success yet. In the few thousand years that we've been doing it, modern civilization has been successful (like a forest fire is successful) and could not have done so without agriculture. But how would a time traveler judge that success when, in the year 3000, the human population has shrunk back down to a quarter billion hunter-gatherers?
I wouldn't want to be around when that happens.
  #89  
Old 05-30-2017, 06:32 PM
Machinaforce Machinaforce is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2016
Posts: 758
Quote:
Originally Posted by even sven View Post
It seems pretty clear to me that farming became a fall back when population density got too high to support hunter-gatherer economies. The increased political capacity that comes with farming likely then made it possible to push remaining H-G groups to increasingly marginal land.

I think this thread in general overstates the insecurity of hunter gatherer economies and overstates the upsides of farming. Small holder low tech farming is a singularly insecure and miserable way to live, and one that our ancestors stopped doing as soon as possible.




That seems pretty unlikely, given that we spent 90% of human history as hunter-gatherers.
So then what's the truth? Are you saying the Noble Savage argument holds water here?
  #90  
Old 05-30-2017, 06:45 PM
Chimera Chimera is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: In the Dreaming
Posts: 21,590
Quote:
Originally Posted by even sven View Post
Small holder low tech farming is a singularly insecure and miserable way to live, and one that our ancestors stopped doing as soon as possible.
Since there are people doing that today, I'm going to call this factually incorrect.
  #91  
Old 05-30-2017, 08:01 PM
Machinaforce Machinaforce is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2016
Posts: 758
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chimera View Post
Since there are people doing that today, I'm going to call this factually incorrect.
Still seems like they say agriculture was a mistake as well as civilization.
  #92  
Old 05-30-2017, 08:12 PM
DrFidelius DrFidelius is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Miskatonic University
Posts: 11,936
Sentience and tool making was a mistake for this world. But you play the hand you were dealt and make the best of the situation.
__________________
The opinions expressed here are my own, and do not represent any other persons, organizations, spirits, thinking machines, hive minds or other sentient beings on this world or any adjacent dimensions in the multiverse.
  #93  
Old 05-30-2017, 08:12 PM
Chimera Chimera is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: In the Dreaming
Posts: 21,590
Quote:
Originally Posted by Machinaforce View Post
Still seems like they say agriculture was a mistake as well as civilization.
"They" is wrong. Whoever you're quoting with such silly beliefs.
  #94  
Old 05-30-2017, 08:17 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: rhode island
Posts: 37,179
Quote:
Originally Posted by even sven View Post
It seems pretty clear to me that farming became a fall back when population density got too high to support hunter-gatherer economies. The increased political capacity that comes with farming likely then made it possible to push remaining H-G groups to increasingly marginal land.
Farming could have been a clear choice for and not just a fall back. Gathering was the start of agriculture and may have appealed to HGs for a long time until they were able to reliably sustain crops and give up the minimal HG lifestyle.

Quote:
I think this thread in general overstates the insecurity of hunter gatherer economies and overstates the upsides of farming. Small holder low tech farming is a singularly insecure and miserable way to live, and one that our ancestors stopped doing as soon as possible.
Why do you think agriculture started with small holders? That would have been highly impractical. Whole tribes would have worked as much land as they could. The concept of individual land ownership likely followed the development of agriculture. I can't imagine individual or small families of HGs starting to farm by themselves.

Last edited by TriPolar; 05-30-2017 at 08:17 PM.
  #95  
Old 05-30-2017, 08:34 PM
silenus silenus is offline
The Turtle Moves!
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: SoCal
Posts: 48,442
Quote:
Originally Posted by sbunny8 View Post

Exponentially increasing population seems like success in the short run but it could lead to disaster in the long run. It may be too soon to call modern civilization a success yet. In the few thousand years that we've been doing it, modern civilization has been successful (like a forest fire is successful) and could not have done so without agriculture. But how would a time traveler judge that success when, in the year 3000, the human population has shrunk back down to a quarter billion hunter-gatherers?
Bullllllshit. Totally and completely.
  #96  
Old 05-30-2017, 08:57 PM
md2000 md2000 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 13,152
Quote:
Originally Posted by sbunny8 View Post
What succeeds continues and what fails does not. But there is no easy definition of "success".

Imagine a campfire near a wood pile. There's a person chopping dead wood and adding it to the pile. There's another person slowing feeding wood onto the fire. The surrounding trees are growing very slowly, but fast enough to keep up with the wood chopper. It's a stable system. Then the fire jumps to the wood pile. In five minutes, the entire wood pile is up in flames. Suddenly you have ten times the light and ten times the heat. Would you call that success? It's not sustainable.

Exponentially increasing population seems like success in the short run but it could lead to disaster in the long run. It may be too soon to call modern civilization a success yet. In the few thousand years that we've been doing it, modern civilization has been successful (like a forest fire is successful) and could not have done so without agriculture. But how would a time traveler judge that success when, in the year 3000, the human population has shrunk back down to a quarter billion hunter-gatherers?
If things can't go on like this... they won't.

Your analogy would be like someone gave you a metal axe now so you can cut 10 times as much, but the forest can still keep up. Then (industrial revolution)you get a chainsaw, so you can't cut as fast as you want to any more - you have to hold back some.

But note that the system is self-correcting somewhat also. In developed countries population will start shrinking. A revolution is starting in electric vehicles, for example, that will significantly dent oil consumption. Solar cells and batteries. The question is, can these sort of tech save the planet before the old tech destroys it? In 1000 years we could be flying around the world in electric flying cars, or we could be hunter-gathers with only scrapped wreckage for metal resources.

But places like Egypt have sustained stable agricultural ecology for 10,000 years, until the industrial revolution came along, so I wouldn't call that a runaway forest fire. Other places have succumbed to problems like irrigation leaching salt, so not all such situations are stable.
  #97  
Old 05-30-2017, 09:20 PM
even sven even sven is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 1999
Location: DC
Posts: 19,401
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chimera View Post
Since there are people doing that today, I'm going to call this factually incorrect.

From 1960 to 2015, the global urbanization rate rose from 34% to 54%. In high income countries, its rose from 64% to 81%. In middle income countries, the rise has been a whopping 24% to 51%. Even in low income countries, where at least a family farm offers some basic access to calories and where the city has next to no safety net, the urbanization rate has rose from 10% to 32%. And all this despite a generally higher fertility rate in rural areas.
  #98  
Old 05-30-2017, 11:30 PM
Kobal2 Kobal2 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Paris, France
Posts: 16,516
Quote:
Originally Posted by even sven View Post
Small holder low tech farming is a singularly insecure and miserable way to live, and one that our ancestors stopped doing as soon as possible.
It's not so much that they stopped doing it as much as social & market forces destroyed it as larger farmers, rich city folks and the Church bought up all the small, individual plots over time.
  #99  
Old 05-31-2017, 01:29 AM
MrDibble MrDibble is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Cape Town, South Africa &
Posts: 21,328
Quote:
Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
Why do you think agriculture started with small holders? That would have been highly impractical. Whole tribes would have worked as much land as they could. The concept of individual land ownership likely followed the development of agriculture. I can't imagine individual or small families of HGs starting to farm by themselves.
Yep. The same Anatolian HGculture that built Göbekli Tepe is one of the ones that we think first transitioned to agriculture and built the first proto-cities like Çatalhöyük - they seemed big into collectivism.
  #100  
Old 05-31-2017, 06:33 AM
even sven even sven is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 1999
Location: DC
Posts: 19,401
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kobal2 View Post
It's not so much that they stopped doing it as much as social & market forces destroyed it as larger farmers, rich city folks and the Church bought up all the small, individual plots over time.

In other words, small scale non-mechanized farming is largely economically unviable, given any alternative.
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 10:21 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright © 2017 Sun-Times Media, LLC.

 
Copyright © 2017