Tuesday, June 9, 2009

We should dig up Margaret Mead and put her head on a pike

While I was growing up in the 1950's and 1960's the anthropologists were falling all over themselves to lecture us about how all those primitive tribesmen out there were peaceful, while we evil civilized people were murderous savages. Now it turns out that this meme that was sold by supposed scientists like Margaret Mead was a lie or at best the result of shoddy research biased by what the researchers wanted to find.

I have some problems with the analysis in this article from the NewScientist; but there was a very interesting factoid buried in it.

"On average, warfare caused 14 per cent of the total deaths in ancient and more recent hunter-gatherers populations."

By that standard modern man is an altruistic softy more akin to Mother Theresa than to Ghenghis Khan. Something like a hundred and fifty million people die each year in the current world. Warfare isn't killing anything close to twenty million people per year, which would be 14% of them. We're pathetic pikers in the killing department next to those "peaceful" hunter gatherers who lovingly polished their war clubs while coming of age in Samoa and elsewhere. Only in a very few top scoring years during the twentieth century did modern man manage to cause anything like 14% of overall deaths through warfare.

Crikey, it turns out that "war inflicted 30 per cent of deaths among the Ache, a hunter-gatherer population from Eastern Paraguay, 17 per cent among the Hiwi, who live in Venezuela and Colombia, while just 4 per cent among the Anbara in northern Australia." I'm guessing the Anbara are afflicted by a poverty of nearby tribes to kill.

The other day at Dolores' 70th birthday party and at a dinner the night before with Jas and Kathy and Bob and Michele N, people were talking about how much better things were back in the good old days. They weren't talking about days quite so far back; but it's useful to remember before engaging in such twaddle that in the really good old days Ghenghis is reported to have said "Man's greatest joy is to slay his enemy, plunder his riches, ride his steeds, see the tears of his loved ones and embrace his women."

I'm betting Ghenghis was a better observer and judge of human nature than either Mother Theresa or Margaret Mead, whether we care to like that fact or not.


And, for you sports fans, the scientists have finally explained why it's hard to hit a curve ball. It turns out that a curve ball is hard to hit more because it's spinning than because it's curving.



Hit this curve ball. What's the common thread linking the biographies of the following folks?

Virginia Apgar, Bashar al-Assad, Michael DeBakey, Francois Duvalier, Jack Kevorkian, David Livingstone, Josef Mengele, Albert Schweitzer, Harold Shipman, Benjamin Spock

Meanwhile, in other news, my frog retains his healthy appetite and continues to thrive, unlike this numinous amphibian whose followers obviously aren't providing Him the form of worship He requires.


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