Re: This used to be on disease and immunity

Philip Deitiker (
Sat, 06 Jul 1996 15:33:48 GMT (Domingo Martinez-Castilla) wrote:

>Well, there we go again,

Yeah, I think so........

>As I am being called revisionist historian, ethnocentric
>anthropologist, Inca, a trumpeter of superiority of somebody over
>somebody else, in a very happy succession of two posts by Mr Firl and Mr
>Deitiker respectively, and as I am not going to change this thread into
>a history one, I want to respond to them with some questions and
>affirmations (I have already privately responded to Mr Firl post,
>because I could add nothing to the debate: repetition does not improve
>the basis of my case). I beg you to bear with some personal insights,
>for there have been several personal references and implicit
>qualifications about my thinking in the two posts I am referring to.

>My points:

>1. I kindly request a quote of mine in which the superiority/inferiority
>of any ethnic group is claimed or even suggested. My point is exactly
>the opposite: no innate superiority in *any* respect can be demonstrated
>with the data.

Superiority is a subjective qualification. Superior in what, the
aztecs were superior in making glass knives compared to others, had a
better diversity in market than their conquerers, the spanish had big
ships and guns and a whole bunch of peripheral meso-american groups
who may have not had the best feelings for the aztecs. Take all the
beads and throw them in a big pot......walla, the spanish won
(although not convincingly and soon themselves were to be booted out)!
That's life.

>2. Linear history: it is clear that my two correspondents just cannot
>get away from this Judeo-Christian conception, which is, I presume,
>just OK. Progress (understood as general improvement) for them is
>tantamount to the passage of time. This is a philosophical point of
>view, widely prevalent and at the basis of Western-Christian thought (in
>which I was raised, of course), with which many people do not agree,
>some of them very influential and very Judeo-Christian by the way. A
>discussion on this belongs to the history groups, to which I would
>gladly move them.

If I've stated that history is 'linear' , meaning that the whatevers
of civilization were past through a defined lineage, I will debate you
on this. What I said was afro-eurasia had a humogous population and
civilizations (pristine as you call them) began to develope in the
region of the convergance of those three continents....the furthest
extent backwards of their civilization is probably a gross temperol
underestimate. By the 1500, there were a great number of eurasion
civilizations (comparable or larger than the meso-american/incan
average), there was much technological exchange, and most importantly
there was competition in europe to exploit any new resources which may
have been found.
Given this and the factors regarding exapnsion in the new world
its not surprising that mass population against mass population the
old worlders had an advantage, its not neccesary that it had to be
that way, but the expectation and the result correlate with one
another. Disease was part of the process but it is _not_ a monolithic

>3. Inca: if I have referred to them, it has been only to show the
>complexity and extension of their very short-lived Andean hegemony. Is
>it revisionist, Mssrs., to say that? I always have preferred Andean,
>which better reflects the antiquity and overall tradition of the area.

No, its not revisionist, but to suggest that andaens had a military
advantage over europeans is.

>4. Ethnocentrism: one of our 500-year dramas (for us Latin Americans) is
>to define our ethnicity. Some of us live very comfortably playing
>Andean tunes in the piano. My sisters grew up dancing flamenco and,
>later, huaynos in the middle of the Andes. The fact that I refer more
>to the Andes is obviously a consequence of my upbringing and knowledge
>of the area, in particular its agriculture and, more in particular, its
>animal husbandry. I do not think that there is anything wrong nor
>unusual with that. If it is, please tell me how can I better understand
>the original topic at hand (diseases and immunity) without referring to
>the indigneous populations.

The indigenous populations have a great deal to offer, however, I also
offered evidence for your 'Auca' (i.e. your barbarian brethren of the
amazon jungles), and the fact that these people demonstrate remarkable

and unexpected uniqueness in the HLA-A, B, and C repertoires. For the
purpoes of pure scientific analysis the Inca and associated
civilizations are not useful in current (state of immunity today)
because there has been some mixture, and one cannot do paternity
testing on long dead relatives. This is amplified by the fact that any
beneficial alleles will replicate at greator frequency compared to
neutral genes. As a result when we want to look at purely genetic
differences we must look at intact endemic peoples such as the

>5. Domestication: I humbly request any reference indicating which
>American animal and crop species were domesticable and had not been
>domesticated at the time of contact. In other words, how many
>indigenous American species of plants and animals have been domesticated
>in the last 500 years? Or even more: all over the world?

Pardon me, but this is stupidness. Why would I domesticate a mountain
goat when I already have 1000 varieties to choose from world wide. Why
would I domesicate a Bighorn sheep for the same reason. I can tell you
that these wild varieties are very closely related to the domesticated
stocks, some might call them the same species). Would you domesitcate
a new strain of gritty potatoe given the 10,000 varieties already
present in your vicinity? For what possible reason would we desire to
domesiticate deer given the fact that there are already so many more
productive (and artificailly selected) animals already in production.
If I'm a rancher and I have a plot of land available but for whatever
reason I just don't like bovine, I would choose any number of animals
including llamas over deer. The amerinds had a choice over
domesticating european horses and domesicating some other animal (such
as caribou which the laplanders did, elk or moose) they choose not to.
The eskimo exposed the nothern amerinds to pack animals such as sled
dogs but wolves were not made part of their repertoire of animals.
The issue is clearly not one of what animal was domesticated after
such a broad repetoire of animals have been presented, even though I
can give you examples of fur/pet animals which have been domesitcated
over the last 500 years, but the issue is which of a reasonable number
of endemic animals was domesticated for the purposes of providing a
more stable and controllable food supply, for textiles (such as was
done in the andeas) for transportaion as was done in the artic
northwest. The answer is the numbers and scope are much reduced in
comparison with europe. BTW, a fellow down the raod from were I grew
up had a corral full of zebra, if all he did was take one a year for
its coat, I'de call it domesticated.

> In the world
>there may be some (arguably some trees and forages, like Eucalyptus
>globulus and Leucaena leucocephala; some fish like Tilapia and trout,
>but I really do not know how domestic they are --note that there is no
>direct correspondence between tameness and domesticity), but I do not
>know of many.

ROFL, sorry, all over the world, alot. There are redfish in texas, red
snapper in Japan, certain types of oyster, lobsters, clams and
scallops (go down to the coast sometime there are some very big
american companies now farming the pacific south america). From the
amazona, >> 200 varieties of fish alone, I happened to raise one type
myself informally called Discus (representing 4 species of fish), sell
for about 50-200 dollars each.... want to buy some? Several varieties
of parrots and snakes. From africa, asia and austrailia, a great
number of animals, from the reefs of the world a great number of
corals are now being artificially raised. If I had to make a guess of
how many animals are now being artificailly rasied worldwide which had
not been domesticated in the last 500 years I would say between 10E3
and 10E4. Now since you begged the point how many were domesticated
faunal species in the new world before 500YA.

>6. Why? My interest, if I may ....... I may be incredibly biased, so I humbly, again,
>request references indicating that Andean agriculture was "backwards"
>or "behind" at the time of contact.

Again you want to use these subjective arguements.
OK, lets just compare andean agriculture to measoamerican agriculture
(just for the hell of it)?
1. Number of different genera of plants domesticated
2. Nutritional and intercomplementing value of those plant genera.
3. Basic subsistance rates on naturally selected plants versus
artificially selected plants.

> I can give you some (Cieza, Cobo,
>Pedro Pizarro --brother of Francisco, Betanzos, Estete, etc., all of
>them Spaniards and several with previous European experience outside the
>Iberian peninsula). There are some seminal works indicating that the
>basic agricultural paradigm in the Andes was very different from that in
>temperate Eurasia, which should not be that surprising taking into
>account the unique nature of the Andean terrain. The problem is that we
>do not yet completely understand it.

But for disease issue I'm looking at physiological health and
reference specifically immunity. If the diet was too monotonous then
there may not be a full complement of vitameints in that diet and
individuals might have had to rely on more temporally variable
naturally occuring plants. Thus this becomes a critical ingrediant
when considering immunity. The folks of the amazon jungle have an
advantage because the denisties are so low that fluctuations in the
production of naturally occuring fruits, berries and roughage are
not-limiting. The meso-americans had mastered the agricultural
production of precisely the types of fruits and vegetables which would
provide optimal protection from infectious diseases.

>6. Why the indigenous Americans fell so easily to European domination?
>My point is that disease was very important.

This is like saying rain kills when its heavy. Yeah ,sure if

A. one is not lucky and is in the rains torrent path (synomous with
genetic protection)
B. one has not taken precautions to sure up ones domicile so that it
is above the flood and strong enough to resist it ( this is a case in
which all the non-genetic aspects of disease resistence have been
optimized for whatever reason). And even doing this is the flood is
bad enough won't help. You wouldn't argue with the rain parable, but
you seem to consest the idea that, Yes, maybe if these groups knew of
the impending disater they might have better prepared themselves. With
the rain you always know it will come, diseases are more insideous.

I can tell you without wallering in all this ethnocentric
counterflame, that there are instances here in the US amounst
european-originated populations which were very heavily hit by
epidemic diseases prior to modern immunization programs, the most hard
hit had a number of circumstantial conditions (the way individuals
were housed, climate control and diet) which correlate with the
intensity of diseases in those populations. I think if you ask the US
army they might be happy to provide some of their stuides on the

So to just say disease killed alot of people really doesn't illuminate
the whole picture, other facets must be considered.

> If I have said something
>about its comparative order of magnitude vis-a-vis culture, technology
>and such, I shouldn't, because that is not a something that can be
>measured. Notwithstanding, please check common history books and tell
>me which ones mention disease as a significant factor. I need to know
>if those books (any level, from elementary to post-graduate) really
>exist, so I can recommend them.

That's a long time back, but I vaguely remember the mention and some
rather horrifying drawings of native american succumbing to measles or
smallpox or something.

(Dr.) Philip (Deitiker, Ph. D.)
(Dept. of Biochemistry)
(Baylor College of Medicine)

Phil or Philip will do, thanxs.