Europe and the Americas

Tue, 20 Feb 1996 13:25:00 PST

Kavanagh writes:

"This is not to argue the basic point, which is not that "the" Americas
were 'ahead' of "the" Old World (too much lumping there), but that at, say
ca. 1000 AD *most* of Europe and *most* of the Americas were on the same
basic cultural level--minus a few technological materials (wheels, iron,
etc.)--local level political organization with some chiefdoms, local level
production and some long distance trade in prestige goods."

His comment is similar to others responding to the quotation from the Ayn
Rand webpage (I hope I have said that correctly!) and all of these comments
make, I believe, the same problematical assumption. By arguing that "new
world cultures" were at the same level as, or more advanced than, "old world
cultures" of the same time period, the assumption is being made that there IS
a scale of "advancement" along which cultures can be measured or ranked.
What constitutes this scale?

Further, suppose that it were the case that from time of entry into the
americas until 1492, all indigenous peoples were living a lifeway basically
unchanged with respect to say, resource base and general form of social
organization (e.g., all folks continued to be, say, small scale
hunting/gathering societies). Would this in any way justify the assertions
made in the quoted text from the web page? I think not, and if so the issue
is not the relative status of "new world" versus "old world" peoples, but
that a comparison is used which is fallacious in its framing--not in the
misuse, wrong use, false use, and incorrect use of factual information.

D. Read