may we narrow the evolution debate for a moment to clarif

Tue, 10 May 1994 21:28:25 EDT

by the participants in the evolution discussion thus far. The brilliance of
the generalizations formulated earlier today has had a disorienting effect
on this writer by obscuring some of the actual, readily observable or at least
abundantly preserved in written records, archeological evidence of violence,
and intensification of exploitation given that the same methods of cultivation,
land use, land tenure, in short society's way of making a living, persist such
that aggrandizement of states with their ruling classes and administrative
centers represent intensified parasitism. That sort of thing. But I am inter-
ested in one particular change, which is one of several which spread rapidly
over the Eurasian landmass. The change in question is not of productive or
military technique. It is - surprise! - in the broadening and deepening of
relgio-philosophical systems in each of the major civilization-areas of that
Eurasian landmass.

Let me remark right here that instances of diffusions of weapons systems
such as the chariot, drawn by a pair of horses, light and mobile, deployable
in mass on flat terrain, and carrying three men, charioteer and one (Egypt)
or two (Empire of Great Khatti, Shang China) armed warriors, spread from Nile
and Aegean to Huang He/North China Plain in the Late Bronze Age. Other
innovations, such as the wheelbarrow, did not: The latter came into widespread
use in China, in the third century, as Chinese Classical Antiquity was
succumbing to epidemic disease with invading nomadic tribes pouring into
the resulting demographic sink. (The Roman Empire, for no good reason, eked
out a sordid existence and survived its own third century crisis before the
string ran out not much later.) The wheelbarrow was introduced into Europe
to save expensive labor in Medieval cathedral-building. It was brought to
the Near East by the British in 1907 for oil exploration by the Anglo-Persian
oil company. With the abundance of human musclepower in China, however, use
of wheelbarrows declined in the land of their origin.

The spread, however selective, of innovation over vast distances quickly
attracted the attention of World System theorists, who have continued, in
recent years, to push the inception of the world system of Eurasia back in
time. One scholar, Andre Gunder Frank, insists on 3100 BC, the very beginning
of the Early Bronze Age, as the birth date of the world system. He has even
charted 60-year Long Waves for the whole Bronze Age. Frankly, I find this hard
to believe.

One such critical diffusion or simultaneity just happened, all over the
place, about 500 BC. Let's see what was happening in various and assorted
places just before and after this date, concentrating on relgio-ideolgical
and philosophical innovation. In mainland Greece Kleisthenes reformed the
Athenian constitution, giving rise to "democracy" and *isonomia* (equal
right to expression for citizens). The pre-Socratics and Pythagoreans had
already appeared; but the former's homeland, Ionia, fell to the Persians. The
latter bungled two invasions of the Greek mainland, giving the Greeks a
superiority complex they retained for centuries. Athenian democracy was
associated with the wealth of maritime empire which in turn funded the
floresence of Athenian culture in the fifth century, with its disastrous

Near East: In Mesopotamia, the exiles carried off by Nebuchadrezzar II in
589 BC were granted permission by Koresh The Great, with the fall of Babylon
in 539 BC, to return to Judea; their elite was given rule over a third-rank
subsatraphy with some slight autonomy once the walls of Jerusalem were
rebuilt before the project could be stopped. The codification of Jewish
religious law, redaction of many scriptures, and dogmatic monotheism were
developments of the Exile and Post-Exilic periods. Unlike the situation
under the Judean monarchy, the Post-Exilic urban elite had colonialist-like
dominion over the peasants, whose standard of living declined under Persian
and Hellenistic rule, as documents attesting to indebtedness, slavery, and
debt servitude exist.

It is possible to maintain, and has been maintained with such acceeptance
I cannot say whose idea it was, that peasants have no vested interest in
monotheism: First, an unmarried youthful wargod represented Nothing But
Trouble, crop destruction, property damage, and suchlike. The peasants
were in the business of making vegetaion, animals, and people grow, breed,
elsewise flourish. The subsequent god of Judaism, Yahweh/El, was one god
among many, especially fertility cults, with the inevitable struggle ammong
priesthoods for market share (El vs Baal, and so on; with the neverending
struggle against "whoring after false gods" recorded. Quite likely the
struggle was one in principle, not much of one in practice).
The victory of official monotheism, in other words, reflected the unchal-
lenged dominion of the city, Jerusalem, over the subject countryside, where
the earlier Davidic kings had depended upon peasant popular support in waging
wars among petty states: for fighting and revenue. Persian imperial rule
eliminated that need for popular support; and the ruling class in the main
and practically only city waxed secure, if not quite entirely, of revenues
in support of Temple and officials alike. (The origins of Christianity and
Islam both show enormous urban bias to the neglect or detriment of the rural
population: The Islamic calendar, notoriously slighting of peasant interests,
is a lunar one of 355 days, which ensures, in the absence of a local solar
calendar as in Egypt, the celebration of religious occasions earlier and
earlier until they return to the approximate original dates. Another piece
of evidence is the divergence of popular religion, in both Christianity and
Islam, from monotheism as cities decayed or, to put it elsewise, with the
ruralization of society. Fertility goddesses and spirits were long beyond
the reach of the Latin Church for this reason.)

Persia: Career of Zarathustra, dates uncertain.

India: Career of Siddhartha Gautama, The Buddha. Foundation of Buddhism
as a great world-religion.
Jainism and other dissident religio-philosophical schools.

China: Career of Confucius. Hundred Schools of Thought develop in the
ensuing Warring States period.


Sociologists do not really believe in coincidence. Causal connection,
howbeit complex multicausal connection, is the sociociological mind's
system default. What common causal variable might have been fostering
these developments in widely scattered places simultaneously? I happened
to have lying around downstairs Kevin Greene, The Archeology of the Roman
Empire, California, 1986[1990]: It would appear from the chart on p. 83,
where measurements from "Glaciers," "Tree Ring Growth," and "Carbon 14,"
that warmer-than-usual climate prevailed worldwide - the tree ring data
come from the North American Bristlecone Pine - from 500 BC or at latest
400 BC until 500-600 AD.

Let's suppose there's some direct or indirect connection somewhere. What
might it be. Here, I dump the can of worms in your lap; as if I were a
presidential candidate, having guaranteed that I am above and beyond all
temptations of the Flesh I then say, "I NEED YOUR HELP." Here's one possible
place to start: A fairly sudden warmup means that the cultivators expend less
energy to grow more crop, consequently possessing more leisure time, than
hitherto; affording increased revenues to parasitic ruling classes, cities,
and states than before, at the same percentage-of-the-crop assessment schedule.
Momentarily, at least, the division of labor and accretion of wealth within
the "macroparasitic" (O'Neill, 1976) sector proceeds apace without this having
to be at the cultivators' direct expense.

All right, take it from here.

Just two pointlets.
1. Graber today commenced a sentence with, "As societies grow, they become
more differentiated structurally and functionally," as if he has beheld an
ear of corn or an animal embryo, when he's describing something closer to
a conquest empire. There is nothing "natural" about this process; it is
not to lyrically depicted as occurring of its own accord. To the extent that
there may be some tendency, genetically fostered or elsewise, toward prefer-
ential distribution of resources among close relations, there is no innate
altruistic urge nor any affectively rooted motive to divert scarce resources
from one's own relations, including offspring, to total strangers with whom
one is forbidden to informally socialize and forbidden sexual relations; who
may speak another language; whose claim upon the crop or other products of
labor must be paid before one's own family is fed; who are armed and dangerous;
yet whose lives and activities are what the entire social order is somehow
"about." Such a state of affairs, however stably hierarchized it may look at
some given halcyon-days-like point, being unnatural in the sense used here,
must nevertheless get intially established by means of extreme coercion, in
the means whereof human sacrifice has been conspicuous at least early on:
Dynasties I and II in Egypt; Early Dynastic Sumer; all the "pristine civiliza-
tions," in whatever sense Mighty Killers are pristine, not least Mesoamerica
and Peru. (So much less of it in Peru than further north, it's almost omitted
from concise accounts of the Inka Empire; but it was there, nevertheless.)
2. Evolution is a mixed-metaphorical usage in describing what happens to
cultures and societies. A society may be terminated by forced migration,
conquest-resocialization, migrations and other large-scale demographic fluxes
and refluxes, &c. Societies cannot think. They exist in that their existence
is enforced by coercion/convention hence are presumed existing. Societies
may cease to exist without harm to any of the human organisms previously
comprising them.
Culture is even more problematic, in that, for the reproduction of culture,
the mental life of society and the material objects wherein the latter are
objectified, it must continually change, etically, in order to remain emically
the same; and must quite likely change emically also in order that it be put
up with: *boredom*, for one thing; and Experienced *decadence*, for another.
"Kids today, I just dunno; wennIwuz their age, ya dint catch me doin' suchan-
such like ya see em doin'." Which may well be what the parental generation
actually did; this construction is of course emic. The present as Experienced
is *meaningfully different* from *what what was was supposed to have was*. O
tempora o mores, O presidential blowjob unprecedented in armenian history, O
amber waves of $gain$.
You can't hardly ever tell the improvements from the sideways changes or
cyclical fluctuations, until massive storage of cultural products commenced
with printing. You the observer, you the Native.
For culture and society, there are no analogues to organismic death, hence
none, too, to Natural Selection. The usage "evolution" is a metaphor, as said
above; also a snare and delusion.
Yet still, however, looking at the broad sweep of things, it certainly
looks, from the Observational mountaintop, that something looking very much
like evolution seems in some sense to have transpired. Look at the democratic
freedoms accorded the Dog of the Internet to present unwanted e-mail for your
irritated deletion using your own precious energy to do it; it's the weekend
and the ubiquitous female slaves and workstudy students are Out. Geewiz. Maybe
so, but just don't get fooled into supposing you're dealing with real Darwinian
type evolutionary stuff.
Neglecting for the sake of argument the two thirds of the human species
whose wellbeing, material or elsewise, is deteriorating. How should we count
them in assessing rates of onwardandupwardness, statistically speaking? Ask
our demographer, Dept Chair Andrea Tyree; she is the soul of helpfulness. Don't
ask me; demography's too much like People, mostly Normals, for me to want to
go near it. What else is people? Let's hear it, Advanced People!

Daniel A. Foss