May 12, 2015 at 11:32 pm #109799
This recently added video of a talk by WSPUS member, Karla Rab, may be of interest to some participants of this thread …(and a bit about language, too)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8V4uV0_NxEMay 13, 2015 at 10:15 am #109800AnonymousInactive
Maybe some passages from a book I have just read, "The Artificial Ape" by Timothy Taylor, might be of interest, too.Taylor argues that the tool came before brain improvements. He says we are now so dependent on technology that there is now no way back.As regards cannibalism – he cites cannibalism in several primitive societies, e.g., Tasmanians, the tribes of Tierra del Fuego. These two societies are two of the least tool-dependent we know of (as far as I know, robbo and others more up on these things).Interestingly, contrary to Jared Diamond, he thinks the Tasmanians chose to de-skill themselves – for a highly portable existence:“One of the things that have stood in the way of our appreciation of the existence of cannibalism has been the (biologically correct) idea that we are all one species. We may fail to understand that, for particular human cultures, humanity extends to their borders and no farther. Those creatures in the next valley or on the next island are considered animals, and therefore appropriate targets for predation. And if, as seems likely, Homo sapiens emerges from an evolutionary period of intense survival competition between different species of upright-walking ape, then the mental faculties for identifying otherness and difference may be both finely tuned and indelible.” P 94/95Taylor's concept of "visceral insulation" below is very interesting. Whether Darwin was duped, or not, about the behaviour of the people of Tierra del Fuego, I don't know. The Jemmy Button referred to was a native Fuegian captured on a previous visit as a child and brought up in England:“Darwin wrote without demur that, around Cape Horn, “the different tribes then at war were cannibals.” They ate each other aggressively, as part of war, but also within a tribe, selecting the weak, the defenceless, and the no longer economically productive to be food when resources got critically scarce. Jemmy Button told Darwin that the victims were often old women, and they were eaten in preference to the dogs who could be employed in otter hunting. Darwin found Button’s account independently corroborated by a Fuegian boy employed (presumably as a slave) by a local sealer, one Mr. Low: “This boy described the manner in which they are killed as being held over smoke and thus choked.” Darwin considers that “Horrid as such a death by the hands of their friends and relatives must be, the fears of the old women, when hunger begins to press, are more painful to think of; we were told that they then often run away into the mountains, but that they are pursued by the men and brought back to the slaughter house at their own firesides.”Despite Darwin’s account, and the fact that he was there, on the spot, able to observe and cross-examine his informants, one of his modern editors, James Secord, tells us that “unequivocal” anthropological literature denies the possibility of cannibalism in Tierra del Fuego. Second cites no authority for his view, but it follows a recent fashion in scholarship that is repeated by Darwin’s principal modern biographers, Adrian Desmond and James Moore. They write of a “gullible Darwin” who believed the Fuegian “joke” about eating relatives during famines (although they are careful that their picture of Darwin does not render him typically gullible, or there might be little value in any of the conclusions he reached with the help of native informants). The problem here does not just have to do with a pick-and-mix approach to Darwin. Nor is it simply the inverted imperialism of quite a lot of modern sociocultural anthropology (where native people are allowed to be exotic only on the surface, while underneath they aspire to the same moral – and dietary, for it often boils down to the same thing – standards as in the developed , urban middle-class worlds). More profoundly, it has to do with something I have called “visceral insulation”.Cooking adds energy to food, and the comforts of modern civilization reduce the amount of food we biologically need to burn metabolically in order to keep our bodies warm. But the technology that insulates us from the cold and exhaustion also insulates us from the psychic rawness of nature. Visceral insulation is the trend toward disengagement from the actuality of hunting, killing, and gutting, or, in the case of domesticated animals, of rearing for the table and then physically dispatching – something which, in parts of the modern world, now requires an official licence. We are no longer empowered to kill. And when we open a clean, white Styrofoam meal pack, our food – burgers, chicken nuggets, fish bites, hotdogs – no longer looks like it has been killed. Many of us have never seen a food animal killed, and must try to imagine what it would be like. But we are unlikely to try very hard. And if we cannot easily imagine a pig squealing its last as it is dragged to the shambles to be converted into bacon, ham, pork and blood sausage (or, more euphemistically, “black pudding”), how can we be expected to imagine that some tribal groups might have done the same, disarticulating articulate fellow humans?” p 97/98May 15, 2015 at 7:36 pm #109801AnonymousInactive
I have gone back over the discussions on this thread, and have appreciated the contributions of many thoughtful and well read members; robbo, stuartw and hud, among others.I am getting to a point where I seem to be repeating myself, both on this thread and on the Nature v Nurture one, so I am going to take some time out. I have collected some names of authors from both sides of the debate on HGs, so hope to be able to find some cash to buy some books, or get the local library to order me some in.In the meantime, the opinions I expressed in my posts #242/#245 still stand.May 16, 2015 at 7:39 am #109802robbo203Participant
" I still think that we rely too much on "proving" that either HGs – or bonobos – were/are peaceful, therefore we must be (innately?) peaceful, therefore socialism is possible.I am not at all sure about that line of reasoning. Chimps/bonobos aren't all that close to us anyway, according to some recent reading I have done." Hi Meel,Just to connect up with some of your comments from the other thread….I agree with your last point above although I note that both the blank slaters and the genetic determinists have a tendency to fall back on claims about chimps/bonobos anyway…. Regarding your first point , the way I look at it is this – that it is the thesis that human beings are inherently warlike, advanced by people like E O Wilson, that is questionable and what makes it questionable is the track records of HG societies themselves. Given that for 95% of our existence on this planet as a species we lived as hunter gatherers if anything can throw light on what might constitute our "human nature", it would be a hunter gatherer way of life. And the evidence purporting to demonstrate HG violence is weak and often misleading (so for example , pastoralist or horticulturalist tribal societies are quite often presented as proof of this thesis even though such societies are not immediate-return HG societies at all and unlike the later have a developed sense of territoriality) I wouldn't say the fact that HG societies were relatively peaceful proves that we are innately peaceful or that socialism is possible (although it might support the claim that socialism is not impossible?) It is interesting that Pinker advances the view that, relatively speaking, society is becoming more peaceful for the several reasons you mentioned earlier, which seem to be fundamentally social in origin and would pit Pinker against a strict determinist position. I would re-orientate the whole discussion away from this simple blank slate/genetic determinism dichotomy. Have a look at this link on the work of the anthropologist Sarah Mathew http://phys.org/news/2015-04-anthropologist-explores-warfare-cooperation.html Mathew's work focuses on the relationship between "moral boundaries" and "cultural boundaries". In other words, who do we morally identify, or cooperate, with and how is this constrained by our sense of cultural belonging? The paradox of war , she argues, is that it is both a highly co-operative project as well being incredibly socially divisive – although on this case she is looking at the Turkana people who are pastoralists and not HGs. Her proposed research will focus on two areas. First, what are the social boundaries of people's moral and cooperative dispositions? This issue is paramount because some theories of the evolution of human cooperation predict that the social boundary will be defined by the cultural or ethnic boundary.Second, Mathew will attempt to determine whether there are consistent cross-cultural patterns in the psychological costs of killing in warfare.Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2015-04-anthropologist-explores-warfare-cooperation.html#jCpThis whole argument that "in-group amity necessitates out-group enmity" goes back a long way – to Social Darwinists like W G Sumner (Folkways, 1906) and beyond him to Darwin and Huxley themselves. The ramifications of this argument for socialists are important and need to be confronted. We talk about the development of a global cosmopolitan capitalist monoculture (the Communist Manifesto itself predicted this development!) but what are the implications of an alternative path of development towards greater cultural diversification which some of us endorse? How do we achieve (global) unity in, or through, diversity? Its a fascinating subject….. " I can see that HGs living in harsh circumstances would have a harsher life style whereas others in more lush surroundings would not need to kill their grandmothers! "Actually, I would see it, if anything , the other way round. Harsh circumstances tend to make for more, not less, cooperation. The examples I gave you in an earlier post of the !Kung and the Australian Aborigines in which there are widespread and far flung cooperative networks between HG groups, happen to coincide with particularly harsh arid environments . Amongst the Bedouin of North Africa there is a strong tradition of hospitality towards strangers. I've had personal experience of this when my family and I were travelling in the Sahara quite a few years ago and somewhere in Southern Algeria we encountered a Bedouin who invited us to a sumptuous meal of lamb , rice and dates (although as I recall the dish was topped with the eyeball of a lamb which was quite alarming and I couldn't quite bring myself to eat it!). Point is that this is part of a cultural tradition in which people are typically hospitable to strangers and which makes sense: you never know when yourself might be in need of support in your travels through the desertIronically it is in particularly lush and productive environments – such as in north American western coastal region where there are extensive salmon runs, that you find complex HG societies emerging which differ from simple HG societies in displaying more hierarchical tendencies and are perhaps, in a way, precursors of tribal societies proper" I no longer believe that capitalism "conditions" us into various personality types. At the extremes, yes, conditions of life can impact on us – think children that grew up in the awful Romanian orphanages, child soldiers being brutalised in Africa, American marines going through their training. I am convinced we are not born as "blank slates". I don't think this needs to be a barrier to changing society – as long as we don't look for perfection, a utopia!"I agree. I would say that capitalism conditions us in a generalised background sort of way but it is far from being the only factor involved. The impact of capitalism is mediated by all sorts of other factors including also genetic ones and historically contingent ones. That influence is still there though. The brutalisation of child soldiers in Africa happens in the context of vicious "resource wars" over things like diamonds and oil which cannot really be divorced from capitalism. And stress, particularly over financial matters , is a major cause of family break ups and divorce and again cannot really be divorced from capitalism. But even so we are not blank slates. We have different tolerance levels and react to different situations differently . That is actually not a bad thing. Because if capitalism was such a totalising system of conditioning as is sometimes made out, we would be well and truly stuffed! How could we ever overcome this systemic conditioning to overthrow capitalism in that case?August 19, 2015 at 9:54 am #109803Quote:The discovery of 26 bodies with lethal injuries in a 7,000 year old mass grave in Germany provides more evidence of organised large-scale violence in Neolithic Europe. The findings, reported in the journal PNAS, also help us understand the sudden and perhaps brutal ending of central Europe’s first farming culture.
Obviously, the key is farming culture here, we could be looking at the first evidence of warfare, about 5,000 BCE is about right, possibly sooner in the Middle East.Quote:While there is certainly evidence of conflict both before (including among the hunter-gatherers that preceded the Neolithic) and after 5000 BC, this usually takes the form of isolated incidents involving relatively few individuals. These mass graves were the result of something larger and more organised.
(note the term conflict, which gets us round the hat-is-war debate). Someone in the comments placwed this intriguing link:http://contraryperspective.com/2015/08/17/pro-war-biases-why-we-are-killing-ourselves/August 19, 2015 at 2:21 pm #109804
Another article and tv programme that might be insightfulhttp://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-33963372Quote:Blick Mead was a feasting and gathering place for thousands of years that people travelled large distances to reach. Far from it being a place nomads dropped into once in a while, time would have been spent there, ideas exchanged and new technologies discussed and adapted.December 5, 2015 at 9:59 am #109805
http://ourworldindata.org/data/violence-rights/ethnographic-and-archaeological-evidence-on-violent-deaths/Now, this is interesting, although it does raise a lot of questions. One is, how are we definign violent death found in a grave site? Any sign of bone damage whilst likely to be a human weapon, could be a fall, or other accident. Naturally, such data is patchy, due to the number of bones surviving long enough to give us any evidence, and not all violence will leave a trace in the bones.We also need to factor in the smaller populations of such societies. The death of one adult male would be a higher proportion than in a bigger community, so any 'background radiation'' of personal vioelnce would show up as much more significant.December 5, 2015 at 10:56 am #109806LBirdParticipantYMS wrote:…how are we definign…
I know that I've said this before, YMS, and that you'll continue to ignore it as part of your own unexamined ideological method, but, for the interest of other readers, unless the community examines 'who' and 'why' a particular 'definition' is produced, that is, the social ideology behind the science, then the issues will remain shrouded in misunderstanding and assumptions.This is as true of physics and maths, as it is of any (so-called) 'human' science, like anthropology or sociology.I know… 'Warning 1'…December 7, 2015 at 9:20 am #109807Quote:In examining the causes of Hiwi death, we note an important difference from the hunter-gatherer groups most commonly cited in the literature. Despite the postcontact massacres organized by local ranchers, the precontact period was characterized by even higher rates of violence, with 54% of the killings caused by the Hiwi themselves. In total, 36% of all precontact adult deaths were due to warfare and homicide. The Hiwi crude death rate due to warfare/homicide is 1,018 per 100,000 person years lived, six times higher than the hunter-gatherer median reported by Wrangham et al. (2006). The crude death rate from accidental trauma is 297 per 100,000. Indeed, among young adults, the combined death rate from violence and accident in the precontact Hiwi is about 1.1% per year, which is equal to the mean death rate for the Ache, Hadza, and !Kung from all causes combined. We suggest that reported modern African hunter-gatherer rates of violence may be low because of interference by powerful state-level societies prior to demographic study (cf. Blurton Jones et al., 2002), and there is considerable evidence that groups like the Bushmen engaged in much higher levels of violence prior to colonial repression (e.g., Schapera, 1930).December 7, 2015 at 12:16 pm #109808Hud955Participant
Yes, Hmmmm. The Hiwi may have been described in the past as 'nomadic hunter gatherers', but this is what my encylopaedia [Ed: Richard B. Lee] says of them. "Paradoxically, conquest may have increased the importance of foraging (hunting and gathering) at the expense of agriculture in the tropical lowlands, where some groups became less reliant on agriculture in response to disruptions. In areas where maize was the staple in late prehistory, modern groups such as the Shipibo, Jivaro, Huaorani, Cuiva [Hiwi], and Yaruro (Pume) obtain their calories from manioc or introduced crops and their protein from fish or game (less than 10% of calories)"To compare African band hunter-gatherers (Eastern and Western 'Pygmies', 'Bushmen' and Hadza) with South American horticulturalists is today disingenuous.The homicide rates among African hunter gatherers have always been regarded as high, particularly among the Hadza. Long term fieldworkers like Jerome Lewis and James Woodburn take the view that the threat of homicide in these groups is one of the means by which they maintain social harmony. This is unlike some Indonesian groups where the taking of human life is taboo.I would be interested to know how Hill established 'precontact' rates of killing among the Hiwi, but even more how he established that the majority of killings were by the Hiwi themselves. Have you read the full article YMS?December 7, 2015 at 1:28 pm #109809
Yes, it's mostly by interview with existing Hiwi, and cross referencing (in case someone 'forgot' an infant death).Quote:Data on individuals were ascertained by repeated census and reproductive-history interviews from September 1985 to January 1992. We completed six field sessions during this time for a total of 16 months with the Mahünemuthu group of Hiwi. Although KH and AMH became reasonably fluent in the Hiwi language during the course of fieldwork, all data were collected with the assistance of a bilingual informant (Hiwi-Spanish) to ensure accuracy. We used our linguistic proficiency to verify that questions and answers were interpreted correctly. Data on 779 individuals were entered into our demographic database during this period; 427 of those individuals had died by January 1992, and 17% of the reported deaths were from causes unknown to our informants. Because another small percentage could not be assigned an accurate year of death, we were left with 722 individuals, whose age, sex, and year of death were reported.Causes of death were tabulated by reported symptoms rather than cultural interpretations of cause (e.g., we ignored witchcraft, etc., and focused on manifest symptoms). These were aggregated into categories and then assigned to one of four major classes: disease, degenerative/congenital problem, accident, and violence. Disease included infectious disease (respiratory infection, skin infection, microbial-caused blindness, tetanus, measles, systemic infection, diarrhea and vomiting, gastrointestinal infections, malaria, fever and headache, general lethargy, and miscellaneous “illness”), organic and pathological conditions (heart problems, liver problems, body swellings, cancer, hemorrhoids, “swallowed tongue”), nutritional deficiencies (skinny, “ate dirt”), and mental illness. Degenerative/congenital problems included biologically based causes not due to pathogen exposure and deaths related to childbirth or old age. This category consisted of newborn death due to birth trauma, prematurity and early failure to thrive, death in childbirth, death due to mother's inability to produce milk, and death from old age. Deaths from old age are ultimately caused by some undetected pathology (e.g., cancer, stroke, heart attack), but we have no further information about these deaths. Accidents included outcomes associated with environmental hazards (drowning, falling, burns, animal-caused trauma, insect-caused trauma, choking, lost) and human-caused accidental deaths (self-stabbing, hunting accident, suffocated, poisoned, killed when playing or sleeping, accidents while intoxicated). Violent deaths consisted of intentional Hiwi-caused mortality (suicide, infanticide, child homicide, adult homicide, warfare) and “criollo”-caused deaths (murders and massacres).December 7, 2015 at 8:04 pm #109810Hud955Participant
Hi Bill. Thanks for this. There is mention in the extract you posted of 'precontact' figures. Does it say anywhere what precisely they mean by' precontact', how they obtained these figures and particularly how they determined the percentage of precontact deaths that were casued 'by the Hiwi themselves'. I think this needs explaining!December 8, 2015 at 1:53 pm #109811Quote:The Hiwi in our study population initiated first peaceful contact with Venezuelan nationals in 196o…Despite this rather bleak situation, we discovered, through systematic interviews, that mortality rates had been even higher in the precontact period.Data on individuals were ascertained by repeated census and reproductive-history interviews from September 1985 to January 1992Year of birth is known for all children born after 1983. Year of birth before 1983 was derived from a calendar of dated events (46 dated events between 1957 and 1992) that could be matched with each birth or by using the age-chain method. All individuals who were born before 1957 were assigned year of birth based on their place in the relative-age list, the age-chain year of birth, or the year of birth determined for individuals born at about the same time (see Hill and Hurtado, 1996). The age-chain was constructed using interviews with informants who reported having been the same developmental size as a 12-year-old when an individual of known year of birth was born. Such reports allowed us to assign probable year of birth to the older individual in the pair, and then we repeated the process back through time until all living individuals were assigned a year of birth. Small adjustments (a year or two in either direction for older individuals) were made in the age-chain when there were discrepancies between it and the relative-age list we had constructed. This method produced age estimates with likely error of less than 5 years for adults, as in our prior Ache study (for verification of birthdates obtained by this method, see Hill and Hurtado, 1996). Ages at death (and thus year of death) in the precontact period were assigned by matching the person's appearance at time of death to an individual in the living population of known age.
Basically, they asked them.January 21, 2016 at 12:04 am #109812
An update on this thread that some may find of interesthttp://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/jan/20/stone-age-massacre-offers-earliest-evidence-human-warfare-kenyaQuote:“The deaths at Nataruk are testimony to the antiquity of inter-group violence and war,” said Marta Mirazón Lahr, from the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies at Cambridge, who led the study. “These human remains record the intentional killing of a small band of foragers with no deliberate burial, and provide unique evidence that warfare was part of the repertoire of inter-group relations among some prehistoric hunter-gatherers…The Nataruk massacre may have resulted from an attempt to seize resources – territory, women, children, food stored in pots – whose value was similar to those of later food-producing agricultural societies among whom violent attacks on settlements became part of life…Nataruk may simply be evidence of a standard antagonistic response to an encounter between two social groups at that time.”
The study’s co-author, Prof Robert Foley, is marginally more optimistic about the human condition: “I’ve no doubt it is in our biology to be aggressive and lethal, just as it is to be deeply caring and loving. A lot of what we understand about human evolutionary biology suggests these are two sides of the same coin.”January 21, 2016 at 6:54 am #109813robbo203Participantalanjjohnstone wrote:An update on this thread that some may find of interesthttp://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/jan/20/stone-age-massacre-offers-earliest-evidence-human-warfare-kenyaQuote:“The deaths at Nataruk are testimony to the antiquity of inter-group violence and war,” said Marta Mirazón Lahr, from the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies at Cambridge, who led the study. “These human remains record the intentional killing of a small band of foragers with no deliberate burial, and provide unique evidence that warfare was part of the repertoire of inter-group relations among some prehistoric hunter-gatherers…The Nataruk massacre may have resulted from an attempt to seize resources – territory, women, children, food stored in pots – whose value was similar to those of later food-producing agricultural societies among whom violent attacks on settlements became part of life…Nataruk may simply be evidence of a standard antagonistic response to an encounter between two social groups at that time.”
I dont quite undestand the logic behind this. The attempt to "seize resources – territory, women, children, food stored in pot" surely presupposes a sedentary society which is not what hunter gatherers are. The standard response of HGs to external aggression is flight not warfare.
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