The Question...ID: 531
posted: 03 Jan 2002
updated: 02 Apr 2002
Mr. Quinn, here is an interesting question that a member of our discussion group asked: DQ relies heavily on natural selection as a framework to explain why early American civilizations were abandoned--they didn't work as well as another form of social organization (presumably tribalism), so the people "walked away." (like the children of Israel "walked away" from Egypt, pillaging and looting) So my question is, what's to stop anthropologists and other naive puppets of Mother Culture from using the same argument to explain why tribal peoples "walked away" from tribalism to civilization? DQ would say that wasn't a free choice; they were misled and coerced -- but how do we know that the people of, say, Teotihuacan weren't misled and coerced, when we have no records of what happened and there are signs of conflict (or at least looting and pillaging)? DQ might then say that the civilizations weren't environmentally sustainable, while the tribal cultures that our civilization "civilized" were sustainable. But how does that figure into natural selection when the unsustainability is not yet affecting mortality? The way our civilization wiped out tribal cultures was no less "natural" than the way crazy ants (Paratrechina longicornis) wipe out other species of insects -- meanwhile, the Teotihuacanis and Maya had not even come close to reaching the environmental limits of their surroundings... so their behavior is *not* explainable by natural selection.
I won't attempt to justify the things you say I would say, because they're NOT things I would say. I will point out, however, first, that the folks who gathered into the first farming villages in the Fertile Crescent didn't have the remotest idea that they were "walking into" civilization (which was still 5000 years away, after all), and, second, that gathering into farming villages doesn't mean walking away from tribalism. Most of the extant tribal peoples living today live in farming villages. The folks who walked away from Teotihuacan, however, definitely knew what they were walking away from--and what they were walking back to: a societal system that was still flourishing all around them. (And they DID walk back to it; they didn't commit mass suicide or just vanish from the face of the earth.)
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