Are Savages Noble?

Two new books ask whether our ancestors were right about food, sex, war, and trade.

Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us About Sex, Diet, and How We Live, by Marlene Zuk, Norton, 304 pages, $27.95

The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?, by Jared Diamond, Viking, 499 pages, $36

Modern anthropological research may be settling the great debate between the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes and the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Was the state of nature a “war of every man against every man” in which life was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short,” as Hobbes wrote? Or did “savages” live in utopian bliss, thanks to “the tranquility of their passions and their ignorance of vice,” as Rousseau believed?

Two new books, Marlene Zuk’s Paleofantasy and Jared Diamond’s The World Until Yesterday, examine the data on how hunter-gatherers and subsistence farmers have eaten, loved, socialized, fought, reared children, and lived. Both side mostly with Hobbes.

Yet the books offer a radically split decision on what lessons we can draw from Hobbes’ triumph. Zuk, a biologist at the University of California–Riverside, aims at destroying contemporary myths, or as she calls them “paleofantasies,” about our Stone Age ancestors. She rejects the idea that there was “a time when everything about us—body, mind, and behavior—was in sync with the environment.” For Zuk, anthropological knowledge mainly raises questions about how we moderns should live, without providing much in the way of answers.

Diamond, a geographer at the University of California–Los Angeles, is more prone to prescription. He blends his personal experience of living and working for decades among contemporary subsistence farmers and hunter-gatherers in New Guinea with extensive anthropological and ethnographic data from around the world to draw conclusions about how we moderns ought to function.

Both Zuk and Diamond are unconvinced by Rousseau’s notion of the noble savage. In his 1754 Discourse on the Origin and the Foundations of Inequality Among Men, the Frenchman claimed that “more murders were committed in a single day of fighting and more horrors in the capture of a single town than had been committed in the state of nature during entire centuries over the whole face of the earth.” But archaeological and modern ethnographic data show that small-scale stateless societies—which were once called “savage” or “primitive”—are far more violent than are modern state societies. To the extent that they are a good proxy for Rousseau’s state of nature, they reveal Rousseau to be wrong.

Zuk cites archaeological and ethnographic work finding that 14 percent of deaths in ancient and contemporary pre-state societies resulted from human violence. Diamond notes that while the level of violence varies among traditional societies, it “usually ranks as either the leading cause or (after illness) the second-leading cause of death.”

These arguments jibe with the data reported by the Harvard neuropsychologist Steven Pinker in his 2011 book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (Viking). After examining evidence from 20 sets of archaeological data from all over the world ranging from 14,000 to 700 years old, Pinker reported that societies were very dangerous, with the percentage of human deaths attributed to violence ranging from 60 to 15 percent. Similarly, data from 27 stateless societies studied by modern ethnographers found war deaths averaged 500 per 100,000 people, whereas all deaths from wars, genocides, and man-made famines in modern societies in the 20th century amount to a mere 60 to per 100,000.

“It may astonish you readers, as it initially astonished me,” Diamond writes, “to learn that trench warfare, machine guns, napalm, atomic bombs, artillery, and submarine torpedoes produce time-averaged war-related death tolls so much lower than those from spears, arrows, and clubs.” So how can this be? Because “state warfare is an intermittent exceptional condition, while tribal warfare is virtually continuous.”

Activists on behalf of tribal societies, such as Stephen Corry of Survival International, have pushed back against Diamond, arguing that the researchers he relied upon have jiggered the statistics on violence in ways that flatter moderns. Researchers will continue disagreeing about the extent of violence in traditional societies, but Diamond is correct when he observes, “If scholars have been denying traditional warfare’s reality for laudable political reasons, the discovery of the facts will undermine the laudable political goals.”

He adds, “The rights of indigenous people should be asserted on moral grounds, not by making untrue claims susceptible to refutation.” Meanwhile the balance of the evidence suggests that Hobbes was far more right than wrong when he asserted that life in pre-state societies boils down to “war of every man against every man.”

One of the chief paleofantasies that Zuk takes on is the view that modern humans are little more than “cavemen in condos,” which is her way of characterizing the claim that we’re stuck with the same set of genes as the people who walked out of Africa 60,000 to 40,000 years ago.

In this fantasy, our paleolithic ancestors were perfectly adapted to their environment and we are the ones who are out of place. The agricultural and industrial revolutions, this theory suggests, have created novel environments to which our bodies, brains, and behaviors are maladapted, resulting in increased disease, disorder, and discontent. Relying on recent findings in genetic science, Zuk shows that people, like all other creatures, are constantly evolving and adapting to whatever environments they find themselves in.

For example, Zuk takes on the current paleo-diet fad, in which proponents argue that because our hunter-gatherer ancestors supposedly ate a lot more meat and a lot less starch than we do, we should do likewise. If it was good enough for great-granddaddy Og, it must be good for us. Zuk points out that the diets of various groups of ancient peoples and modern hunter-gatherers vary quite considerably with regard to the relative proportions of how much protein and starches they consumed. In fact, natural selection has inscribed that dietary disparity among groups in our very genomes.

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  • Lord Humungus||

    I demand the return of White Indian to refute these outrageous claims!

  • WTF||

    Yeah, I thought Ron might be trying to summon White Indian.

  • ||

    It's pretty much a gold embossed invitation.

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  • AlmightyJB||

    I demand the right to Gambol!

  • UnCivilServant||

    Denied. You have not filed the proper Gamboling permit application.

  • wareagle||

    newsflash: the Dept of Gamboling is allegedly giving higher scrutiny to applications from some groups while others get preferential treatment.

  • UnCivilServant||

    It was all in the prodcedural manual provided by central administration. I was just following orders.

  • Suellington||

    After comment registration took effect he went to Gambolers Anonymous.

  • ||

    I took an anthropology class once and for a project I had to do research on what killed off the Neanderthals. I determined that while it was mostly climate change and an unsustainable division of labor in Neanderthal culture that led to their decline, what finished them off was the arrival of Cro-Magnon, who emigrated into Europe and wiped out the Neanderthal by raping, killing, and cannibalizing them.

  • WTF||

    Neanderthals were wiped out by STEVE SMITH?

  • LTC(ret) John||

    NOT STEVE SMITH BUT CRO-STEVE SMITH!

  • Lord Humungus||

    STEVE SMITH IS FOREVER. NOT EVEN THE END OF TIME CAN KILL HIM.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Nah, interbreeding. They weren't killed off. They were fucked off. Cro-Magnon genes for the win!

  • ||

    IIRC, it is still unclear how many of the offspring of those rapes were fertile. Some of them may have been mules.

  • Pro Libertate||

    You just want to oppress those of us with Neanderthal genes.

  • Generic Stranger||

    Anyone with European ancestry has neanderthal DNA, so the majority were probably fertile.

  • kinnath||

    Everybody just got to keep fucking everybody till we're all the same color

  • LTC(ret) John||

    I think it was Larry Niven's future in the Ringworld series(?) where mobility was so high that everyone ended up screwing everyone else and we all ended up looking vaguely Polynesian and really attractive.

  • kinnath||

    There was a guy, extremely smart, but terribly ugly. He married a woman of staggering beauty, but devoid of brains. He hoped to have bright and beautiful children, but they all turned out dumb and ugly.

  • ||

    There is a story told that the dancer Isadora Duncan (other versions have other great beauties of the day in this role) suggested to George Bernard Shaw that they should have a child together. "Think of it!" she said, "With your brains and my body, what a wonder it would be." Shaw thought for a moment and replied, "Yes, but what if it had my body and your brains?"

  • AlmightyJB||

    "Everybody just got to keep fucking everybody"

    I'm in

  • WTF||

    I'm in

    Well, except for the fatties.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Yeah, but I think it's likely you'll be dissatisfied with half of the choices.

  • Raven Nation||

  • Pro Libertate||

    Cro-Magnon racist science.

  • Raven Nation||

    +100

  • BigT||

    That study maintains that in Africa populations remained separated to keep the Neanderthal DNA separate from Africans. Really doubtful. Their theory is a competing theory, but does NOT displace the hybridization theory.

  • prolefeed||

    Cro-Magnon, who emigrated into Europe and wiped out the Neanderthal by raping, killing, and cannibalizing them.

    Ummm, raping women generally leads to the OPPOSITE of their genes being removed from the gene pool.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    But killing and cannibalizing them after the raping does.

  • prolefeed||

    I'm guessing the killing and cannibalizing would be confined more to the men and ugly women. Attractive women are not generally killed by conquerors.

    In any event, in the sequence "raped, killed, and cannibalize", which of these three actions results in the individual victim being removed from the gene pool?

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Which raises the question what did an "attractive" Neaderthal woman look like?

    And do we have pictures of STEVE SMITH's mom for comparison?

    Of the three actions, the first most likely does not, the second most likely does, and the third depends on how much you eat.

  • hotsy totsy||

    Cro-Magnons weren't such prizes themselves. Maybe they were just into the strange.

  • Randian||

    There is something to be said, however, for the fact that breeding is typically much more successful in peaceful communities rather than ones where rape is prevalent.

  • Dr. Frankenstein||

    Neanderthal women's bodies have ways to shut that whole thing down.

  • Almanian!||

    + nice

  • ||

    As I said above, it is possible that the offspring of Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal were mules, incapable of breeding themselves.

    Or as Pro L. said they could have simply been absorbed into the general population.

    Point being, primitive man was pretty savage and barbaric.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Only if they're very, very lucky.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I determined that while it was mostly climate change

    Big Oil committed full on genocide!

  • Sevo||

    "Diamond characterizes the goal of business transactions in modern societies as winning profits by inflicting losses,"

    This is the 'zero sum' claim and it's ridiculous on the face of it. If it had any validity at all, the current world population would still be eating the same amount of lichens that Zog and Zug were eating in that cave.
    Why does this clear evidence fail to register on Malthusians like Diamond?

  • UnCivilServant||

    Because Malthusians want to conduct a population purge, and aren't happy unless we're doomed.

  • Brandon||

    Jared Diamond is the most overrated anthropologist on the planet. Guns, Germs and Steel was a bunch of anecdotes edited to fit a preconceived conclusion, but it fit the liberal narrative, so millions of college students were forced to buy it. Since then, anything he shits on paper gets immediately published.

  • SIV||

    No, Diamond is the most overrated geographer.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    It's pathetic that anyone takes Rousseau's fantasies seriously.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Ride the subway to work enough times and you start to fantasize about a world with fewer people.

  • sarcasmic||

    http://peopleonthesubway.com/

    Yeah. I could see that.

  • Restoras||

    So, I commute into and outof NYC everyday. About half the population needs to be somewhere else to make this god-forsaken pisshole livable for normal human beings.

  • UnCivilServant||

    I wouldn't spare any of the people in the cesspit of the state.

  • Restoras||

    They aren't all bad. There are actually a surprising number of nice/good people. However, they are completely drowned out by the general dickishness of everyone else.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Then why do they keep sending so many of their evil kind to Albany to make bad laws?!

  • Restoras||

    Power attracts vermin?

  • ||

    And yet you continue to go there...

  • Restoras||

    Yep. Grade-A dumbass.

  • GILMORE||

    Yeah!

    Fuck those commuters!

  • Mickey Rat||

    People who live in the NYC area are there to make the rest of the country livable for normal human beings.

  • Mickey Rat||

    People who live in the NYC area are there to make the rest of the country livable for normal human beings.

  • Smells Like Tom Skerritt||

    Fred Flintstone was no savage, Bailey.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Good point. He had a regular job, lived in a house, had all the modern amenities.

  • Hugh Akston||

    And a hot wife! He was better off than I am.

  • ||

    Fred had a bit of a temper.

  • sarcasmic||

    Who's hotter, Betty or Wilma?

  • LTC(ret) John||

    You are just fishing for ginger denunciations.

    But Betty was hotter.

  • Lord Humungus||

    Well, I would go with Betty... but I'd be
    thinking of Wilma. /Red Dwarf

  • Restoras||

    Betty. Normally I would go with the ginger but Betty is clearly the MILF.

  • Tim||

    You know nothin John Snow!

  • prolefeed||

    Betty was clearly hotter.

  • Brandon||

    Betty seemed much more submissive, while Wilma was probably more adventurous and kinky. So...both.

  • mtrueman||

    You miss the obvious point that both Wilma and Fred were the first couple on American television to be shown, together, in the same bed at the same time. They were unprecedentedly sexual characters.

  • Restoras||

    I think you need only be lightly informed of human history to side with Hobbes on this one.

  • mtrueman||

    "only be lightly informed of human history"

    No doubt, but a casual acquaintance with pre-history might change your mind.

  • juliajanet03||

    my best friend's mother-in-law makes $67/hr on the internet. She has been without work for 8 months but last month her payment was $17497 just working on the internet for a few hours. Read more on this site..... www.daz7.com

  • UnCivilServant||

    So a 65 hour work week?

  • sarcasmic||

    Was the state of nature a “war of every man against every man” in which life was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short,” as Hobbes wrote? Or did “savages” live in utopian bliss, thanks to “the tranquility of their passions and their ignorance of vice,” as Rousseau believed?

    Rousseau's view was correct! And with a strong enough government with the right people in charge, utopia can be had again!

  • ||

    "the wife of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

    That's what Hobbes meant, he just slipped.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    "On the other hand, both Zuk and Diamond are right when they note that modern access to essentially unlimited quantities of salt and sugar is harming people’s health in both modern and traditional societies."

    Bloomberg applauds you.

  • UnCivilServant||

    But, the lower murder rates... with so many GUNZ!?

    /Nanny Bloomberg's dead inner voice.

  • prolefeed||

    I think if you compared life expectancies of primitive versus modern societies -- and the preferred body shapes of mates in primitive societies -- this claim seems a bit controversial.

  • Restoras||

    Controversial? That's generous. I'd go with just plain stupid.

  • Steve G||

    No reputable Paleo diet authority purports to know a single perfect human diet; they recogize the variance that Zuk brings up on her strawman takedown. Was really unimpressed w/ her recent video performance.
    What's missing from the European / African disease discussion above is sun exposure. There's a reason blacks are darker than whites, they are meant to get more exposure than whites. Now that we've both gone indoors, the lack of vitamin D has taken a greater toll on dark-skinned folk. My money's on vit D and sun exposure as the next reversal of conventional "wisdom".

  • WTF||

    I've already seen a couple of studies that indicate that moderate tanning is healthy. Many people have deficient vitamin D levels due to over-minimization of sun exposure.

  • Ptah-Hotep||

    Skin Deep - Our Solar-Powered Evolution

    The full show is really interesting, and well worth the watch.

  • WTF||

    Cool, I will definitely check it out.

  • Robert||

    What kind of watch did you have to sell to buy the full show?

  • Steve G||

    Because I work in an office all day, I hit the fake sun on the way home from work a few times a week, just for the vit D... a little color is the side benefit.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    a little color is the side benefit.

    As are the reverse raccoon eyes!

  • Steve G||

    Works for Brian Williams!

  • Brandon||

    I am always amazed at the criticisms of the Paleo diet. I have not seen a single one that wasn't based on a straw man. It kind of makes me want to try Paleo, but I like carbs too much. So I will continue my lifelong diet of eating whatever the fuck I want when I am hungry and stopping when I am full.

  • Live Free or Diet||

    As long as that works for you, cool! I wish I could too.
    In my case, it's simply nothing else ever worked for me. 1200 calories and two hours of exercise and I was obese and still gaining. On a LC/HF (paleo-ish) diet I eat two or three times that, exercise as I please and weigh 2/3 what I did before.
    The so-called "balanced diet" was killing me fast.

  • ||

    I'm having trouble thinking of an influential philosopher more vile than Rosseau. Well, I mean, besides Marx, obviously.

    For example, Zuk takes on the current paleo-diet fad, in which proponents argue that because our hunter-gatherer ancestors supposedly ate a lot more meat and a lot less starch than we do, we should do likewise. If it was good enough for great-granddaddy Og, it must be good for us. Zuk points out that the diets of various groups of ancient peoples and modern hunter-gatherers vary quite considerably with regard to the relative proportions of how much protein and starches they consumed. In fact, natural selection has inscribed that dietary disparity among groups in our very genomes.

    I think that a lot of the paleo people talk about this. Nevertheless, the paleo fad remains an effective but silly way to not be a fatass. If it takes caveman LARPing to get you to get off the couch and stop eating shit from a box, then please, continue caveman LARPing to your heart's content.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Here's how it should work. Eat only food you find in the wild. Eschew nothing, not even rotten carrion or insects. No food at all from human sources, however indirect. Track game for days.

  • Restoras||

    This method sounds like it might require firearms and other fun things!

  • UnCivilServant||

    Flint knives and axes. You must be aithentic, no missle weapons.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    You could use an antelope bone spear thrower.

  • Brandon||

    I say any method of killing is allowed! Records from that era are spotty at best.

  • Pro Libertate||

    It could, but the preferred approach is to use an atlatl for long-range attacks and some sort of knife made from local stone. And, of course, bare hands and teeth are always okay.

  • Restoras||

    But what if I've stockpiled .30-06???

  • Pro Libertate||

    Look, do you want to eat and live healthy or not?

  • Cliché Bandit||

    Did I ever mention that documentary I watched where they took 12 "normal folk" stripped the near naked and threw them into Canada to live as wild people? They ended up bringing down and Elk with an atlatl...it was pretty intense. Even the guy who hunts every year was overcome with emotion both of hand killin' and hunger satiation.

  • Steve G||

    More like Colorado. And the guy who got the elk was Robb Wolf, author of the Paleo Solution...

  • ||

    Officer, am I free to gambol across the plain?

  • UnCivilServant||

    So long as you keep off the grass.

  • ||

    I just want Werner Herzog to teach me how to throw a spear.

  • Pro Libertate||

    It was not a significant spear.

  • Robert||

    Eschew nothing? What good esteeth then?

  • Libertymike||

    The stateless societies were more violent than modern nation state societies narrative is not a fact.

    Citation to "studies" and " 20 sets of archaeological data" does not carry the day.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Well, there's not really much evidence either way. Almost all of the anarchist and/or stateless societies predate the written word and are difficult to evaluate.

  • Libertymike||

    Whereas we know that the demise of at least several hundred million peeps since 1860 is attributable to the state's violence.

  • Randian||

    Wow, so all those deaths were unjustifiable you say?

  • Libertymike||

    No, they were all justified cuz Top Men tell us so.

  • Randian||

    That's because there is no such thing as a stateless society.

  • Libertymike||

    Even on that island you and MNG occupy or once occupied?

  • ||

    Love is a state... of mind.

  • Fluffy||

    The closest analogue to a stateless society we really have is the interior of a prison.

    Sure, all of the prisoners have one set of relationships with a state - but they have a second set of relationships, with each other, that are non-state relationships. Those relationships, not sanctioned by the state authority and existing outside of it and parallel to it, can give you an object lesson in Hobbes' correctness pretty quickly.

  • Libertymike||

    Does not your definition of inmate-vis-inmate relations, i.e., "relationships, not sanctioned by the state authority and existing outside of it and parallel to it" apply to black market relations, in general?

    Take prostitution. It is illegal in almost all American jurisdictions. Therefore, the relationship between john and harlot is not sanctioned by the state and it exists outside of the state. You would be on awfully shaky ground to argue that the relations between prisoners exists outside of the state but not so with john and hoe.

    Would you argue that there is more violence with hooker and hobbyist than with state and its targets? Good luck selling that proposition.

  • mtrueman||

    Tis the bars and walls that make a prison a prison. Bars and walls built and maintained by the state.

    Suggest you meditate on this analogue a little longer.

  • mtrueman||

    "while tribal warfare is virtually continuous"

    "Activists on behalf of tribal societies..."

    But tribal societies are not particularly primitive. Tribal societies are an intermediate step between band societies and states. An intermediate step, by definition, can't be primitive. Tribal societies share much with modern states, such as domestication, agriculture and entrenched political structures.

    To get to the truth of Hobbes and Rousseau, it is not much help to concentrate on tribal societies; we need instead to investigate life in band societies. Only band societies can truly be said to be primitive or savage. Savage means wild and untamed. Someone living in tribal society is not wild and untamed but enmeshed in a pre-existing social hierarchy.

  • Overt||

    He points out stateless societies TODAY, and corroborated with archeological evidence of previous societies.

    Could they be wrong? Perhaps. But is there evidence to the contrary?

  • sarcasmic||

    Oh nooooooooo! They finally blocked the Daily Mail at my work! What will I do!?!

  • sarcasmic||

    Whew. Just a hiccup in the firewall. I was really scared for a second there.

  • WTF||

    I was scared, too. I'd hate to have to go find all the decent shit myself.

  • ||

    Proxies, you fool.

  • sarcasmic||

    Q: How many software developers does it take to screw in a light bulb?

    A: None. That's a hardware issue.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Here, we block proxy sites, but allow the daily mail, go figure.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    How many of us are really just Warty's proxies?

  • WTF||

    It's Warties all the way down.

  • DenverJay||

    But some places block proxy sites, so you can need to learn how to tunnel, using your home router

  • Steve G||

    Zuk's grasp of evolution seems comical. You don't just evolve to an environment by virtue of being in it. You evolve when lots and lots of unfit folks die without passing on their genes.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Or more fit people spread their genes around, including into some of those unfit groups.

  • Steve G||

    Yeah, same idea, but there's at least some sort of SELECTION going on.

  • ||

    depends on the definition of "fit".
    See: sickle-cell anemia in central Africa.

    Or, cystic fibrosis mutations in Northern Europe.

  • ||

    "You don't just evolve to an environment by virtue of being in it."

    That's kind of Zuk's entire point. What makes her grasp of evolution "comical"?

  • Steve G||

    "are constantly evolving and adapting to whatever environments they find themselves in" She makes it sound like we just 'get used to' things during our lifetimes and therefore we have evolved to it. Like we've evolved to eat grains and dairy merely because we've eaten grains and dairy. The problem is grains/dairy have short-cutted evolution since most of the problems appear after reproductive age. There's been some evolutionary movement (see northern europeans and lactose tolerance), but by in large most paleo-oriented nutritionists agree we have not adapted to grains and dairy, so we are maladapted to our environment.
    Add to that agriculture and grains enabled large population growth thus effectively drowning out small evolutionary mechanisms working opposed to it.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    This, while true, is not the only factor. Emigration/immigration is a big factor a now there is talk of genetic activation a la all that "junk" dna actually being for short term and rapid adaptation to specific environmental stimuli. Much new and awesome science to come in the near future i believe.

  • BuSab Agent||

    Lysenko laughs from his grave.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Is Bloomburg Nobel? What a dick!

    http://www.nypost.com/p/news/l.....lH7Cu9iG6M

  • WTF||

    He really is the epitome of a petty tyrant. What a fucknugget.

  • Goldwyn Smith||

    Yawn. What about breaking the warp barrier and the effects of mutation into giant horny salamanders? What does that say about libertarianism, transhumanism, evolution and shit?

  • Auric Demonocles||

    The main effect of that seems to be to be to repeatedly bring it up in unrelated threads.

  • Goldwyn Smith||

    No I only bring it up in Ron Bailey threads since he is all about evolution and transhumanism and shit.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Nothing really, it was a non-deterministic mutagenic effect.

  • Live Free or Diet||

    On the other hand, both Zuk and Diamond are right when they note that modern access to essentially unlimited quantities of salt and sugar is harming people’s health in both modern and traditional societies.

    Sugar, absolutely. Salt, results are mixed at best. Half your salt intake and lower your blood pressure by a point and a half or so.

  • Jerryskids||

    On the other hand, both Zuk and Diamond are right when they note that modern access to essentially unlimited quantities of salt and sugar is harming people’s health in both modern and traditional societies.

    Modern societies have access to essentially unlimited quantities of Drano and yet somehow their health hasn't been harmed by that. Maybe Drano hasn't yet evolved the ability to force its' way down peoples throats the way salt and sugar have? Or are you saying that salt and sugar have some critical mass wherein their mere existence at such levels creates spontaneous human
    consumption?

  • Live Free or Diet||

    I quoted the text of the article to address the biological fact of "harming people’s health," not the nature of volition.
    That said, how much volition does a person have when they are held captive by the twin chains of authoritative misinformation and addiction? Yes, "addiction." When I first went on a low-carb diet, for the first 2 1/2 days you would have thought I was coming off heroin.

  • Live Free or Diet||

    Zuk notes that genetic testing of populations with relatively high and low starch consumption finds variations in the number of copies of a gene for the protein amylase, which aids in digesting starches.

    Nobody is claiming we don't digest carbohydrates well. If anything, they claim we digest refined carbohydrates too well. The problem comes not in the digestive system, but in the rest of the body, especially the liver and pancreas.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    As my doctor put it..."It is an inflammation problem from over abundance of insulin in the blood serum."

  • Live Free or Diet||

    Your doctor is more enlightened than mine. Other than a specialist, the doctors I've seen over the last ten years call my new, improved numbers "a fluke." And in spite of seeing my food log my GP keeps telling me that eating the way I do works because I'm too bored to eat. I eat over 2500 calories. I have days when I eat close to 5000 calories. Bored? Not likely.

  • Fluffy||

    One problem is that some Neo-Rousseauian anthropologists rely excessively on skeleton studies to try to determine the level of violence in a society. (White Indian was very fond of these.)

    That methodology is flawed, because you'd find the highest level of healed skeletal damage in a society of relatively free and equal individuals regularly engaging in occasional friction-intense conflict with each other.

    You'd find extremely low levels of healed skeletal damage in a society totally dominated by "brute" values. Because the rape-ees and exploit-ees are so beaten down that they don't resist.

    As an example, consider two individuals:

    1. An urban slave female in Ancient Rome
    2. An urban American female circa 2013

    Subject #1 is raped every day and is exploited every day, but never has a bone broken because her lot is just part of what everyone in her society perceives to be the natural order of things.

    Subject #2 is assaulted in an alley one evening and successfully resists and fights off her attacker, and breaks her arm in doing so.

    The skeleton studies the neo-Rousseauians love so much would classify Subject #2 as living in a violent society, based on the healed broken bone in her skeletal remains - and would classify Subject #1 as having lived in a non-violent society, based on the absence of the same.

    And that's just absurd.

  • mtrueman||

    "while tribal warfare is virtually continuous"

    "Activists on behalf of tribal societies..."

    But tribal societies are not primitive. Tribal societies are an intermediate step between band societies and states. An intermediate step, by definition, can't be primitive. Tribal societies share much with modern states, such as domestication, agriculture and entrenched political structures.

    To get to the truth of Hobbes and Rousseau, it is not much help to concentrate on tribal societies; we need instead to investigate life in band societies. Only band societies can truly be said to be primitive or savage. Savage means wild and untamed. Someone living in tribal society is not wild and untamed but enmeshed in a pre-existing social hierarchy.

  • DenverJay||

    You know who else was in a band?

  • Live Free or Diet||

    Billy the Kid?

  • Live Free or Diet||

    J. Geils?

  • gaoxiaen||

    A bunch of Brothers?

  • Robert||

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  • Robert||

    But seriously, folks, how much of a threat is this "noble savage" idea when practically nobody believes it? Consider how we use the word "savage"! All the images we're fed of primitive people have them clubbing people over the head, cannibalizing them, fighting each other when they aren't fighting dinosaurs, etc. So whatever propaganda campaign is going on in their favor isn't working. Even GEICO can't rescue them.

  • mtrueman||

    The "noble savage" has the ring of truth to it.

    The noble tamed? The noble domesticated? These are laughable. There's nothing noble about being dominated by another. Shouldn't have thought it necessary to point this out on a libertarian board of all places.

  • chris goodwin||

    Sorry, you lost me. I'm not sure who is being quoted (end of §7) where you write, " data from 27 stateless societies .. found war deaths averaged 500 per lac, whereas...all war deaths .. in the 20th century amount to a mere 60 to ????? per 100,000"

    What should I read ? 500 dead per lac PER ANNUM ?

    60 to ???? per lac? Per Annum? Per century ?

    Only ask because I want to know.

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