Re: diseases and immunity

Philip Deitiker (
Fri, 05 Jul 1996 00:31:03 GMT (Domingo Martinez-Castilla) wrote:

>The "above" I refer below :-) applies to the method of discourse
>employed, not to the specific claim about mesoamerican mortality rate,
>which Sisial did not make. What that mysterious Sisial person does is
>to state things like:

Does giving him/her a name increase the validity of the statement or
make it more/less believable, or does it just identify someone who is
inside or outside your particular cliche. Sounds like the lines in
this argument have already been _concretely_ drawn.

>" A city is defined as a population center where ..."

>which sounds very, very matter-of-fact, and then, in the next post or
>so, s/he recognizes that

>"As far as definitions, they were my own..."

>That confuses the reader at best, and is openly misleading at worst.

Talk about concrete thinking, if this is about dogma then it isn't
really science, if its science then follks should be open to discuss
thoughts or opinion and give support or refutiation accordingly. I
think the idea here really is about how disease and immunity played
into the population reduction seen as a result of european immigration
into the new world. I get the feeling here that alot of people would
rather pretend it didn't happen or at best say that it was
a-parametric in nature (like genetic drift or a freak occurance of

>In article <>, wrote:
>>Domingo Martinez-Castilla wrote:
>>> 2. Example on above (also applies to some of the more recent unsigned
>>> posts coming from the address where did the
>>> "fact" that mortality was lower among mesoamericans came from? Mr
>>> Deitiker repeats it like a well-known fact, but I have never seen a
>>> comment on that in the literature. It sounds like the most extensive
>>> works on the subject have not even been prused. I strongly recommend
>>I do not think I've stated anything about mortality being lower among
>>Mesoamericans. In fact, I do not think I stated anything regarding
>mortality. I
>>did try to address Mesoamerican and European population densities and
>> technology.

>Also, the very peculiar definition of manufacturing vis-a-vis production
>of "raw materials"is dubious at best. The most important category to
>show complexity is, I believe, division of labor and not the nature of
>the products themselves. What about the fact, chronicled in multiple
>instances by Europeans, that the market of Tlatelolco was the biggest
>organized market in the world?

[long reply ommited because of the uselessness here of doing so, see

> Is that an invention too, or
>revisionism? What may be the meaning of such a large and well organized
>market, regarding the complexity and organization of that civilization?

No, you hit on an important point, with mesoamerica in particular the
comparisons start to break down except only when one considers the
scope and mass of civilization and connected civilizations, this is
where I think eurasion civilization breaks away (even if one considers
the incas and forces the eastern woodland culture into this
grouping). What it basically means is that as one mega-civilization
begins to disintegrate there are one or two adjacent cultures which
have heavily borrowed from that culture which begin gelling. I could
give so many reasons why europe c. 1450-1650 had such an advantage
over the inhabitants of the new world as to make the outcome more or
less predictable. The only really random occurance was the actual
timing of first contact and the scope that each native population had
been disrupted. Beyond this lets consider the advantages....

A: Large (c. 1450) ships, advance design had been evolving in the
mediterranean, indian ocean, north and black sea area for a long time
in some areas more than 5000 years. This is not an argument that
native americans did not have good water craft, its clear that many
did, but where these watercraft capable of transporting both people
and industry great distances and allowing immediate transformation
(europeanization) of the regions they settled.

B: Gunpowder, an introduction as a result of _trade_ with _china_
(ah-hem). BTW, it would have been easier for native americans to have
imported this resource or its technology if they had continous and
facil trade routes with china. This was to have a huge impact after
the 1850's

C: Manufactoring Industry centered around the fabrication of iron and
composites of iron and many other types of materials. The canon,
musket are examples of composites. The ability to recreate an industry
at a distant location (See E and F). Apriori I dont see why many items
could also not been made of copper and its alloy's so its not just an
issue of what metal age europeans were in, but the _sophistication_ at
which they used these metals.

D: The implimentation of these technologies in war between both
european peoples and peoples of africa and the middle east. Written
accounts of war and which strategies and technologies were beneficial
and which were not.

E. Navigation, even if we look at very old text of western eurasia
and the middle east its clear that the culture had a keen
understanding of the bodies of water which they traveled in, knew how
to interpret winds and seasons and record these. Any literate person
could have record of bodies of waters where other had traveled and
recorded their experiences, and not neccesarily ever have met that
person or any person who had known that person. Rather than rely on
cheifly on instinct, europeans had developed several instruments for
circum-navigation and created reasonably accurate time peices for the
determination of longitude and latitude based upon stellar and solar
observations. In addition the discovery of the new world brought back
into the maintstrean that the world was round and thus finite. Being
finite it was infinitely explorable, calculations were quickly
available as to its size and the concurance of latitude with different
geographical landmarks. This facilitated the trips across the atlantic
and made it much less grueling. Knowlegde of the size of oceans and
characterisitics to be passed allowed the optimization of ships.
passage (see I've been watching my PBS, grin)

F. WRITING, the ability to make legible charts and graphs of the world
as they were discovering it. knowing which areas are suitable and
which areas are least suitable for colonization.

>It is not that I agree or disagree with every point sisial does, but
>her style seems full of sophisms.

The sophisms are coming from these very vocal americanist. They throw
out data that even they later on prove to be false.

> Sometimes, all of Europe is compared
>to the Aztecs; sometimes crops are important; etc., sometimes trade is
>important (but conveniently forgetting the size of the mesoamerican
>markets); sometimes writing is important; sometimes the wheel, or the
>horse, or iron, or whatever applies nicely to some preconceived notion.
>That is a sophist method.

OK. what then do we compare with what. Or just say comparison is
meaningless. (a scientific sophism)

I think in any case it gets subjective depending on what one is
examining, for example with diseases. I think that if one is going to
start grouping mesoamerica and incan civilizations and closely
associated cultures should be grouped as one, non associated groups in
south america and central america as one, eskimo and inuit culture as
one group, souix and other related groups as one, and the rest of
temperate north america as one group. On the atlantic side substates
of the sanctified (c. 1400) by the Holy Roman Church (vestiges of the
northwest holy roman empire) can be considered one, Turkic empire
another, The Vestiges of the eastern orthodox church, Subsaharan
africa, India, Northeast asia and south east asia. From this both
northeast asia and eskimo/inuit population should probably be
eliminated because they are continually associated.
So its obvious that all groups of eastern americas and regions
easily accessed by east-west passage should be considered (this
includes just about everywhere except artic northwest). On the eastern
side of the atlantic one has to include all european areas as being of
immediate importance, areas under turkic/arabic control as being
contributive, areas in SSA and india as being distantly contributive.
Think about it, thats a huge number of people even at 15th century

If one is going to compare societies the focus should be group
per group who invaded versus who was invaded. For example spain and
france both had some influence upon the events in aztec mexico. But
spain over the previous five hundred years had been affected by Jewish
semites (who contiually had extensive contacts with the rest of the
semito/turkic world), rome, france, the moors (and indirectly the
turks), visigoths, portuguese, and just about the whole rest of
europe. Spain was just ending a very violent period in which the power
structure of 'christian' spain had changed and was in the process of
regaining control from the moors. There was intense competition
between spain and the rest of europe for wealth for a variety of
reasons as they vyed for political control of europe. In addition
spain was developing advanced water craft not just for exploration,
and trade, but also for war. Most importantly spain was about to peak
as a world sea power.
France. At the beginning of the 15th century france was actually in
a better position than spain to colonize the new world, france was
peaking in europe and managed to at times vye for power in the new
world against spain and england. More than anything else, rather than
holo-colonize the new world france sent in groups of traders which
exposed the new world to european life at a very basic level,
introduced many new diseases into the heart of the americas
and while this may have been intially destructive allowed the internal
populations to recover from many diseases before the bolus of
immigration began. Unfortunately for france many of the the immigrants
melded into the endemic populations and never represented much of a
political threat in the new world. There are notable french colonies
in the new world which represented important waypoints in the
colonization of the new world.
Portugul. Spain and portugul had some strange agreement to colonize
differentially along a north/south divisor, spain apparently move that
divisor south for political reason and portuguese focused on south
america. Portuguese influence on the cultures of the 'expanding
european world cannot be underestimated. I had a chance to visit a 400
year old church in Hirado, Japan which looks as if had been drop there
strait out of gothic europe (give the hiradoans credit for preserving
the church and keeping it looking as if it were built yesterday).
England. for whatever reason there was great tension between england
and its european neighbors to the south, throroughout the 1.5 millenia
(and even before) since roman occupation england had been the victim
of repeated invasion by just about every two-bit power which manged to
rise up in northwest europe. As has been pointed out here England was
a bit of a late comer, and political instability created by these
invaders was a likely reason, but in the next century, england was
going to make a number of moves that was going to set in motion events
in north america and the rest of the world which would allow England
to peak in world domination. Retrospectively Englands strategy was
rather clever in the new world. As apposed to brute force conquest
england negotiated when it was the only conviniently open door and
took when taking was convinient. England had already picked up on the
strategy of the dutch in operating its colonial exploits as a business
and open up several colonial business operations most notibly the
hudson bay and east india companies. This allowed the english to gain
large amounts of information about the new world under under the
universal pretense of trade. Unlike the spanish, french and
portuguese, who undertook rather immediately to europeanize the new
world, the english were more in the business of extracting whatever
resources had been brought forth by the populus of the new world.
Disease, religion, famine, and the changing face of europe. If
you've found above what I put forth as being irrelevant or incorrect,
you'll should have fun here.... Of all the events in europe which
provided an alteration of the balance of power, I personally believe
that religion was a the top of the list. Martin Luther inadvertantly
and indirectly unleased a number of what had been very underground
movements in europe which force the dealing with non-accepted beliefs,
because of the way the movement spread people were often caught in the
politics of religious orientation, and probably the most important of
these is when the King of England created the anglican church formally
splitting any control of England from the roman catholic church. In
doing so tension was created between England and other parts of the
british isles. All of these orientiation problems in europe created a
pressure for people to leave. In certain instances individuals were
fed up with the unproductive infighting and sought to avoid
conscriptation ('draft dodgers'). Others where fringe minorites, other
were convinced to become religious missionaries in the new world.
Still others amanged to get on the wrong side of a losing political
battle. This create some internal migration in europe, and from my
own family records and from others that I know many were living as and
treated as foriegners in foriegn lands. Thus america represented a
risky but reasonably rewarding alternative to remaining in turmultuos
europe. This can be look at as a thermodynamic disequilibrium.
There was also the 'second son' phenomena in which the first son
inherited the land and the second son either subordinated to the first
or left. There was dwindling agricultural resources, problems created
by overurbanization and disease associated. From a north american
point of view the splitting of England from the church couldn't have
come at less convinient time because it formally pitted england
against most of the rest of europe and meant the england was now
dependent on resources it could directly secure to survive and defend
itself. This increased the pressure to gain a foot hold in the new
world and create bases faster than its competitors. In doing so
England managed to remove france from some of its underexploited
territories and begin the exploitation of those territories. So
desperate were the english that they had established post on virtually
the opposite side of the world putting a stop to increasing spanish
territorial claims in the pacific northwest. The overthrow of the
European control over major european colonies and the establishment of
the united, mexican and various other neo-american states accelerated
the drive toward europeanization by encouraging the settlement of the
internal areas of the continent. At this point, disease or no-disease
the endemic peoples of north america were in great danger.

There were several events which are notable in all of this.
1. One was the expedition fo Lewis and Clark and some of their
contemporaries and the role of the media in promoting the resources of
the west.

2. The failure of the spanish to gain control of the southwest and
their poor decision to elicit help from american settlers. The failure
of the mexican govt and the success of the Texas colonialist
romanticized across the americas and into europe the settling of the
west. If the spanish had gained control of texas there could have been
expansions in the associated native american populations
much in the same way as had happened in mexico and populations by the
nineteeth century would have been fourishing. By failing they became
comtemptable by some because of there connection to the mexicans.
Even as late as 1985 the State of Texas has taken differential action
against those whose still possess lands granted by the spanish even
though the current occupants of the land are neither spanish or
mexican. They use their reserved right to diminish these claims much
as the state of New York use eminent domain legislation to kick people
off their land for water rights.

3. The reversion of Texas to US control and the transfer of
territorial claims for the west and pacific west coast (and the
porocurement of the pacific northwest), de-facto negated every treaty
previously made by the US had made with native american tribes. The
reason is obvious....... how does one get from point A to point C
without crossing B. What was B, all those prime transportation centers
which both the native americans and settlers needed. The US never
told these groups you can't go, and if you do your supposed to respect
the traditions and customs and property of the native americans. And
as a result people created conflicts which acted as leverage against
native americans putting the US army in a political role as a mediator
of land disputes some of which were with non-citizens of the united
states, of course its obvious how they sided, and this escalated into
a campaign against the plains indians which ended in the results seen

>However, if a summary is made
>of the reasons why American civilizations fell so easily, they prefer to
>ignore them. Check any history book. Chances are that disease is
>mentioned either marginally or not at all. Instead, a litany of
>"writing, wheel, iron, freedom, horse" is repeated at nauseaum. Very
>self-serving, to say the least.

Why is gaining freedom from several oppressive european religious
institutes considered a self-serving explanation not every one of
these groups is responsible for the dimunition of native american
territories. There were folks that took a personal oath not ever to
fight again in war and managed to take a part in the freeing of the
slaves in the south by putting up a vocal resistence.
The horse was equally used by native americans over most of the
period of conquest. I'm not certain but I beleive the mesoamericans
had carts for transport, they just weren't drawn by animals.
Metal _technologies_ and writing were most certainly advantagous.

I'm sorry, but no amount of revisionist history can change
biology, I never said the distruction of populations was do to some
manifest destiny or fate, and disease was part of the destruction
process just as everything else; however, to genotypically quantitate
and say this is purely a genetic thing is equally ludicrous. There is
evidence that there could have been appreciable nongenetic differences
in immunity and this shouldn't be swept under the rug for _politically
correct_ anthropological reasons (and since this is a realm of medical
studies of medical importance I can garantee you it's not). Third,
the europeans had the advantage all things else beign held equal of
knowing where they were going and whether or not they were in over
their heads (i.e. being in better control of their destiny, phil
dodging incoming flames). Things could have gone differently if a
really bad pathogen managed to transport back the other direction
(i.e. _if_ they did get over their heads). __Circumstances__ were as
they were this didn't happen.
One might then want to produce arguments as to why they were in
better control. See above. Add additional parameters below.

>And I repeat again: there is not a one-way road towards the future or
>the past for that matter. If it were, we could dispense of
>anthropologists altogether.

The past is the past, it is a multifactoral equation manifested by
events over time which is best explained by chaos theory, but with
some truely predictable occurances. For example, I can predict that
within the next few years china will vye as the leading entity of
political control in the world with the US. I have several argumetns
for this but I will not present them.
What changes is interpretation, interpreation changes when one
obtains data which illuminates something previously not known. This is
certainly true for the 16th and 17th century since
1. Not everyone was literate, or created stories about transpired

2. Not every literate recording was preserved and/or studied for
value. Not every verbal story was carried forth to the next
generation, and some stories have been altered as a result of social

3. Not every event was subject to human interpretation. (i.e. if
everyone in a village died who is there to record the circumstances of
their death). In addition changes in the enviroment may have been so
subtle as to not be noticed until a much later point when their
affects were predominant. Not every event was comprehendable by its

4. Not every literate event was interpreted correctly or expressed in
a manner which has concise scientific meaning.

Given the above any concrete, holoexplanatory theory is probably an
oversimplification of real events.

BTW, newtons first law tells us that no two objects can occupy the
same place at the same time. reality is the occurance of objects in
positions with respect to time (in normal space, that includes earth).
Thus the reality of the past is fixed, only the interpretations can be
subjective. The big wrench that gets thrown into the works is
motivation, there is no completely credible way of knowing what
motivates another to do something. Unfortunately, history wraps itself
up in these explanations of what the principle motivating factors are
or were. The law of mass action as it applies to social phenomena
tells that although a majorty may fit into certain catagorizations
there are always exceptions, and sometimes the exceptions are
noteworthy in the manner at which they except <grin>.