Evolution vs. Creationism
A review of Jared Diamond's book, "Guns, Germs, and Steel." (Jun 01)
As part of my research for my review of the book of Daniel, I have just completed reading a fascinating book called "Guns, Germs, and Steel -- The Fates of Human Societies" by Jared Diamond. This book has won a Pulitzer Prize and is a national best seller--for good reason. Although Mr. Diamond doesn't come right out and say that he was following God's two most fundamental commandments (Matthew 22:37-40) without restrictions when he wrote that book, it is clear that he really WAS following those two commandments throughout most of his life and while writing that book. By doing so, he was able to recognize things about people that most people never notice and thereby able to provide profound, highly credible answers to questions regarding the development of human societies that most historians have never even thought to ask.
For this review, I shall dwell primarily on the Mr. Diamond's points as they relate to the roles of religious organizations and on the religious implications of some of the other points he made. For this purpose, I shall present his points in an order that differs from the way he presents them in his book, but I'll cite the page numbers where he makes these points, so that readers of his book can verify for themselves not only these points but also the references which Mr. Diamond cites to support these points.
In chapter 14, "From Egalitarianism to Kelptocracy", Mr. Diamond describes how human societies have typically evolved from bands, to tribes, to chiefdoms, and ultimately to states.
1. Bands are essentially extended family units of (perhaps a few dozen) nomadic hunter-gatherers who own no land and who move to wherever edible herds of wild animals or wild plants are "good for picking." Their society is essentially egalitarian, having no formal laws and no bureaucracy. Instead, they rely on informal conflict resolution where other family members step in to help "keep the peace."
2. Tribes are comprised of hundreds of people (many interrelated families), which have learned how to grow their own crops (or breed and raise livestock) and have therefore settled down at a particular location that they have come to regard as being their "property." Their society is still essentially egalitarian, though they often have a well-regarded "big man" who may function as a leader from time to time. But they don't grow enough crops or livestock to continually support a bureaucracy or religious establishment, and they still rely on informal conflict resolution where other family member or friends step in to help "keep the peace."
3. Chiefdoms are comprised of thousands of people living in nearby fixed locations (villages), which do grow enough crops and livestock to support the establishment of a governing bureaucracy and religious establishment. Chiefdoms are no longer egalitarian in nature, because by then they have evolved essentially two "classes" of people: administrators, and workers (a class that may be subdivided to become so-called "free men" and "slaves"). Chiefdoms have no paramount village that might be regarded as a "capitol", and they do not grow enough to support a full-time military establishment. In Chiefdoms, conflict resolution is pretty much centralized, depending more on the judgment of "wise" leaders and their subordinate "judges" rather than on established laws. This pretty well describes the "twelve tribes of Israel" starting with their 40 years in the wilderness and through the horrific incidents described in the book of Judges until the elders finally demanded that their administrative establishment (the Levites) be replaced with a king (with its own bureaucracy, full-time military establishment, etc.).
4. States are comprised of 50,000 or more people who reside in more widely dispersed fixed locations (villages and cities) which together grow enough crops and livestock to support the establishment of many classes of society (as a minimum: administrative, religious, military, and merchant establishments). The state's elite power wielders tend to be centralized in one location (a "capital"), and they rely on the creation and enforcement of man-made laws to help "keep the peace." The Bible's description of the reign of ancient Israel's King Saul describes the period when Israel transitioned from a chiefdom to a state. It was David and Solomon who finally organized Israel into a true state (with taxation, a full-time army, etc.).
It's interesting to note that Mr. Diamond does not include "empires" (comprised of many states) as one of these types of society. That's because, from a type-of-society point of view, an empire is merely larger example of a state. As Adolph Hitler so clearly demonstrated, any demagogue can define the physical boundaries of a "state" in any way he pleases, and if he has sufficient military power at his disposal, he can make his new definition of that particular "state" become a reality.
At this point, you may be thinking, "Hey, I've heard theories like that before, what's so great about this fairly obvious summary of the evolution of societies?" What's so great about it is that for each step along the way, Mr. Diamond provides a VERY credible explanation as to WHY each step occurred, and he supports his points with geological, archeological, biological, and botanical evidence as well as man-made historical evidence. He not only explains why this progression occurs, he also explains why it occurred far sooner and at a much faster rate in Eurasia (starting in the Fertile Crescent) and in China than in North or South America, sub-equatorial Africa, Australia, or New Guinea. The following quotations from his book illustrate the kinds of profound insights that he provides to support his conclusions [as ususal, until we get to the end, my own comments will be included in brackets]:
Page 55: "Since as hunter-gatherers they did not produce crop surpluses available for redistribution or storage, they could not support and feed non-hunting craft specialists, armies, bureaucrats, and chiefs."
Page 89: "A hunter-gather mother who is shifting camp can carry only one child, along with her few possessions. She cannot afford to bear her next child until the previous toddler can walk fast enough to keep up with the tribe and not hold it back. In practice, nomad hunter-gatherers space their children about four years apart by means of lactational amenorrhea, sexual abstinence, infanticide, and abortion."
Page 120: "When humans then planted those harvested mutant seeds, any mutant seeds among the progeny again became available to the farmers to harvest and sow, while normal [wild] seeds fell to the ground and became unavailable. Thus human farmers reversed the direction of natural selection by 180 degrees; the formerly successful gene suddenly became lethal, and the lethal mutant became successful."
Page 88: "By selecting and growing those few species of plants and animals that we can eat, so that they constitute 90 percent rather than 0.1 percent of the biomass on an acre of land, we obtain far more edible calories per acre. As a result, one acre can feed many more herders and farmers--typically 10 to 100 times more--than hunter-gatherers. That strength of brute numbers was the first of many military advantages that food-producing tribes gained over hunter-gatherer tribes.... In addition, some big domestic mammals served as sources of milk and of milk products such as butter, cheese, and yogurt. Milked mammals included cow, sheep, horse, reindeer, water buffalo, yak, and Arabian and Bactrain camels. Those mammals thereby yield several times more calories over their lifetime than if they were just slaughtered and consumed as meat."
Page 139: Of the thousands of species of wild grass, only 56 species had seeds large enough to be candidates for human domestication as crops. "Virtually all of them are native to the Mediterranean zones or other seasonally dry environments. Furthermore, they are overwhelmingly concentrated in the Fertile Crescent or other parts of western Eurasia's Mediterranean zone, which offered a huge selection to incipient farmers: about 32 of the world's 56 prize wild grasses. Specifically, barley and emmer wheat, the two earliest important crops of the Fertile Crescent, rank respectively 3rd and 13th in seed size among the top 56. In contrast, the Mediterranean zone of Chile offered only two of those species, California and southern Africa just one each, and southwestern Australia none at all. That fact alone goes a long way toward explaining the course of human history."
Page 159: A domesticated animal is defined as an animal selectively bred in captivity and therefore modified from its wild ancestors, for use by humans who control the animals' breeding and food supply.
Page 141: "The goat, sheep, pig, and cow were developed very early in the Fertile Crescent."
Page 44: "But regardless of whether the overkill hypothesis or the climate hypothesis proves correct, the disappearance of all of the big animals of Australia/New Guinea had, as we shall see, heavy consequences for subsequent human history. Those extinctions eliminated all of large wild animals that might have been candidates for domestication, and left native Australians and New Guineans with not a single native domesticated animal." [The same was true for the native North Americans. It was the Europeans who re-introduced horses, sheep, cattle, and pigs, etc. to the Americas.]
Page 248: "Ancient Native Mexicans invented wheeled vehicles with axles for use as toys, but not for transport. That seems incredible to us, until we reflect that ancient Mexicans lacked domestic animals to hitch to their wheeled vehicles, which therefore offered no advantages over human porters."
Page 90: "Stored food can also feed priests, who provide religious justification for wars of conquest, artisans such as metalworkers, who develop swords, guns, and other technologies, and scribes, who preserve far more information than can be remembered accurately.
Page 291: "Where population densities are very low, as is usual in regions occupied by hunter-gatherer bands, survivors of a defeated group need only move farther away from their enemies. That tends to be the result of wars between nomadic bands in New Guinea and the Amazon. Where population densities are moderate, as in regions occupied by food-producing tribes, no vacant areas remain to which survivors of a defeated band can flee. But tribal societies without intensive food-production have no employment for slaves and do not produce large enough food supplies to be able to yield much tribute. Hence the victors have no use for survivors of a defeated tribe, unless to take the women in marriage. The defeated men are killed, and their territory may be occupied by the victors."
[An example of this is described in Numbers 31 where the Levite "Moses under the veil" ordered the genocidal massacre of all Midianites (even though the original Moses was married to a Midianite)--including all captives except for young female Midianites who had "not known a man intimately." Mr. Diamond provides us with a "top down view" of such practices, whereas the Bible (especially the Old Testament) provides us with an "inside view" of how those who participated in such practices viewed (and/or rationalized) what they were doing.]
Page 226: "Alphabets apparently arose one once in human history: among speakers of Semitic languages, in the area from modern Syria to the Sinai, during the second millennium B.C. All of the hundreds of historical and now existing alphabets were ultimately derived from the ancestral Semitic alphabet, in a few cases (such as the Irish Ogham alphabet), by idea diffusion, but in most cases by actually copying and modification of letter forms."
Page 236: " Writing was never developed or even adopted by hunter-gatherer societies, because they lacked both the institutional uses of early writing and the social and agricultural mechanisms for generating the food surpluses required to feed scribes."
Page 92: Hence the availability of domestic plants and animals ultimately explains why empires, literacy, and steel weapons developed earlier in Eurasia and later, or not at all, on other continents. The military uses of horses and camels, and the killing power of animal-derived germs, complete the list of major links between food production and the conquest that we shall be exploring."
Page 78: "Throughout the Americas, diseases introduced with Europeans spread from tribe to tribe far in advance of the Europeans themselves, killing an estimated 95 percent of the pre-Columbian Native American population."
Page 77: "If it had not been for the epidemic, the Spaniards would have faced a united [Inca] empire."
Page 266: After the missionaries come teachers and doctors, bureaucrats, and soldiers. The spread of government and of religion have thus been linked to each other throughout recorded history, whether the spread has been peaceful (as eventually with the Fayu) or by force. In the later cases it is often the government that organizes the conquest, and religion that justifies it. While nomads and tribes people occasionally defeat organized governments and religions, the trend over the past 13,000 years has been for the nomads and tribes people to lose.... As recently as 1500 A.D., less than 20 percent of the world's land area was marked off by boundaries into states run by bureaucrats and governed by laws. Today, all land except Antarctica's is so divided. Descendants of those societies that achieved centralized government and organized religion earliest ended up dominating the modern world. The combination of government and religion has thus functioned, together with germs, writing, and technology, as one of the four main sets of proximate agents leading to history's broadest pattern.
[One might be tempted to say at this point, "Hey, combining religion with government has worked effectively throughout history; those who did so won." Not really, because nearly all states have been combining religion with government (either officially or unofficially). As Mr. Diamond points out so well, there were MANY reasons why the state system won out over band, tribe, and chiefdom systems. The involvement of relgion merely made that transitional process many times more bloody. God has not forgotten that; it's like an increasingly heavy "sword of Damacles" hanging over all of us. (Rev 6:10).]
Page 273: "With the rise of chiefdoms around 7,500 years ago, people had to learn, for the first time in history, how to encounter strangers regularly without attempting to kill them."
Page 286: [In larger societies...] "When two strangers fight, few people present will be friends or relatives of the combatants, with a self-interest in stopping the fight. Instead, many onlookers will be friends or relatives of only one combatant and will side with that person, hence escalating the two-person fight into a general brawl. Hence a large society that continues to leave conflict resolution to all of its members is guaranteed to blow up."
[An example of this is described in gory detail the final chapters of Judges.]
Page 287: "Large societies can function economically only if they have a redistributive economy in addition to a reciprocal economy. Goods in excess of an individual's needs must be transferred from the individual to a centralized authority, which then redistributes the goods to individuals with deficits."
Page 275: "When a large portion of the goods received from commoners was not redistributed to them but was retained and consumed by the chiefly lineages and craftspeople, the redistribution became a tribute, a precursor of taxes that made its first appearance in chiefdoms."
Page 288: Considerations of conflict resolution, decision-making, economics, and space thus converge in requiring large societies to be centralized. But centralization of power inevitably opens the door--to those who hold the power, are privy to information, make the decisions, and redistribute the goods--to exploit the opportunities to reward themselves and their relatives. To anyone familiar with any modern grouping of people, that's obvious. As societies developed, those acquiring centralized power gradually established themselves as an elite..."
Page 276: "Kleptocrats with little public support run the risk of being overthrown, either by downtrodden commoners or by upstart would-be replacement kleptocrats seeking public support by promising a higher ratio of services rendered to fruits stolen."
Page 277: "What should an elite do to gain popular support while still maintaining a more comfortable lifestyle than commoners? Kleptocrats throughout the ages have resorted to a mixture of four solutions:
1) Disarm the populace and arm the elite....
2) Make the populace happy by redistributing most of the tribute received, in popular ways....
3) Use the monopoly of force to promote happiness, by maintaining public order and curbing violence.
4) The remaining way for a kleptocrat to gain public support is to construct an ideology or religion justifying kleptocracy. Bands and tribes already had supernatural beliefs, just as do modern established religions. But the supernatural beliefs of bands and tribes did not serve to justify central authority, justify transfer of wealth, or maintain peace among unrelated individuals. When supernatural beliefs became institutionalized, they were thereby transformed into what we term a religion...."
[The third chapter of Daniel describes how King Nebuchadnezzar attempted to do this when he built a sixty-cubit high image of gold and decreed that all of his subjects in Babylon must worship it (the penalty for those who refused to do so would be a fiery death in King Nebuchadnezzar's furnace). This observation by Mr. Diamond provides an independent confirmation of the fact the scarlet harlot called "BABYLON THE GREAT" described in Revelation 17 does indeed allegorically represent the transitional unholy alliance between church and state (or more precisely, the unholy subordination of church to state). Nothing that mankind has ever created has been more inherently evil (or gotten more people killed) than that unholy (idolatrous) alliance. And yet, most of our present religious organizations are STILL promoting that unholy alliance!]
Page 281: Over the past 13,000 years, the predominant trend in human society has been the replacement of smaller, less complex units by larger, more complex ones.... Obviously, too, part of the reason for states' triumphs over simpler entities when the two collide is that states usually enjoy an advantage of weaponry and other technology, and a large numerical advantage in population. But there are also two other potential advantages inherent in chiefdoms and states. First, a centralized decision maker has the advantage at concentrating troops and resources. Second, the official religious and patriotic fervor of many states make their troops willing to fight suicidally. That latter willingness is one so strongly programmed into us citizens of modern states, by our schools and churches and governments, that we forget what a radical break it marks with previous human history. " [How often have you seen an American flag prominently displayed inside a church?]
Page 410: "After the rise of the Fertile Crescent states in the fourth millennium B.C., the center of power initially remained in the Fertile Crescent, rotating between empires such as those of Babylon, the Hittites, Assyria, and Persia. With the Greek conquest of all advanced societies from Greece east to India under Alexander the great in the late fourth century B.C., power finally made its first shift irrevocably westward. It shifted farther west with Rome's conquest of Greece in the second century B. C., and after the fall of the Roman Empire, it eventually moved again, to western and northern Europe."
Page 411: "Thus, Fertile Crescent and eastern Mediterranean societies had the misfortune to arise in an ecologically fragile environment. They committed ecological suicide by destroying their own resource base. Power shifted eastward as each eastern Mediterranean society in turn undermined itself, beginning with the oldest societies, those in the East (the Fertile Crescent). Northern and western Europe has been spared this fate, not because its inhabitants have been wiser but because they have had the good luck to live in a more robust environment with higher rainfall, in which vegetation regrows quickly. Much of northern and western Europe is still able to support productive intensive agriculture today, 7,000 years after the arrival of food production. In effect, Europe received its crops, livestock, technology, and writing systems from the Fertile Crescent, which then gradually eliminated itself as a major center of power and innovation.
So then, the evidence strongly supports Mr. Diamond's observation that:
Page 25: "History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among peoples' environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves."
These quotes are the "tip an the iceberg" (or "outcroppings of the gold mine") of the evidence Mr. Diamond presents that shows that there is no valid evidence to support the popular made-made (Satanically inspired) theories of "racial superiority" and racial bigotry that are still being taught by many so-call Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religious leaders these days. In fact, the evidence shows that such attitudes are a anachronistic carry-over from the days when the world was comprised mostly of bands, tribes, and chiefdoms--forms of society that have (with only a few exceptions) been "relegated to the trash heap of history."
Mr. Diamond also points out that because Eurasia is oriented along a latitudinal axis from the Atlantic shores of western Europe to the Pacific shores of eastern China, and because human migration has historically taken place much faster along a latitudinal axis (because climatic conditions remain pretty much the same at a given latitude), the potential opportunities for exchanging and proliferating ideas and inventions was far greater in Eurasia than in North and South America or in Africa which are continents oriented along longitudinal (climatically variable) axes. In other words, putting ones faith in isolationism (i.e. putting ones faith in the promises of men whose godly or satanic actions you believe you can influence, rather than in the power of God's guiding principles of truth and love) has historically led to the extinction of most of those who have done so--a lesson that America's isolationist "right wing conservatives" have so far refused to learn. In today's world, our extinction can occur within an hour or so, possibly triggered by a mere accident or misunderstanding. Do you REALLY want to follow their lead into extinction? Think about it.
Finally, while reading this book, one comes to appreciate how the "evolutionary" view of history explains a LOT of things that America's so-called "Creationists" don't even attempt to explain. And it explains human history in ways that conform with God's two most fundamental commandments, which means that such perspectives can contribute in very useful ways to our own decision-making. America's "Creationists", on the other hand, claim that human history must be viewd according to their "literal" interpretation of the stories in Genesis. This serves their purpose of exerting financially rewarding ideological control over the perceptions of their listeners by diverting attention AWAY from the love-your-neighbor-as-yourself allegorical lessons that the stories in Genesis were intended to convey and by turning the Bible itself into an idol for use as a "market basket" for "morally justifying" evil as well as good. No matter how much they claim to be telling "the absolute truth", their opposition to the theory of evolution, devotion to "national sovereignty", and isolationist appeals against a so-called "new world order" show that America's "creationists" are no more concerned about the truth or with following God's commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves (without restrictions) than those mid-evil leaders of the Roman Catholic Church who persecuted Copernicus and Galileo for pointing out the fact that our Earth isn't really the center of our solar system.
Luke 6:39 "And He spoke a parable to them: "Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch?" (NKJ)
Page 281: "Over the past 13,000 years, the predominant trend in human society has been the replacement of smaller, less complex units by larger, more complex ones...." Who or what do you suppose is causing that trend to happen? Who or what do you suppose is causing single-celled animals to evolve into multi-celled animals and ultimately into human beings? Ahah! Perhaps you have just "seen the light!" It's that cosmic "X" that the allegorical authors of the Old Testament referred to as "The Lord" or "God"! Were the Nazis or Japanese "helping that process along" by engaging in atrocious imperial conquests? Not really, their atrocities against mankind inspired reactions among the rest of mankind that ended up getting them brutally "squashed". Those who work with God to help futher this process of transforming smaller, less complex units into largeer, more complex ones in a PEACEFUL manner are indeed working with God. Those who oppose such efforts not only oppose God, more often then not, the get a LOT of people killed!
(one grain of salt)
|[Previous]||On AIDS, Alzheimer's Disease, and tax cuts|
|[Next]||Not facing up to the truth can be VERY costly.|
Last modified on Friday, May 03, 2002