Did Human Genetic Changes Produce the Industrial Revolution?

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Abject poverty is humanity's natural state. But during the last two centuries, a portion of humanity (those of you reading this for example) managed to escape into a world of previously unimaginable affluence. How did this happen?

University of California, Davis, economic historian Gregory Clark thinks that genetic changes to human nature are responsible. According to the New York Times, Clark

…believes that the Industrial Revolution — the surge in economic growth that occurred first in England around 1800 — occurred because of a change in the nature of the human population. The change was one in which people gradually developed the strange new behaviors required to make a modern economy work. The middle-class values of nonviolence, literacy, long working hours and a willingness to save emerged only recently in human history, Dr. Clark argues.

Clark appears to be arguing that the rich (with good habits) simply outbred the poor (mired in vice). The result is that those whose genes incline them to thrift have inherited the earth.

Generation after generation, the rich had more surviving children than the poor, his research showed. That meant there must have been constant downward social mobility as the poor failed to reproduce themselves and the progeny of the rich took over their occupations. "The modern population of the English is largely descended from the economic upper classes of the Middle Ages," he concluded.

As the progeny of the rich pervaded all levels of society, Dr. Clark considered, the behaviors that made for wealth could have spread with them. He has documented that several aspects of what might now be called middle-class values changed significantly from the days of hunter gatherer societies to 1800. Work hours increased, literacy and numeracy rose, and the level of interpersonal violence dropped.

Another significant change in behavior, Dr. Clark argues, was an increase in people's preference for saving over instant consumption, which he sees reflected in the steady decline in interest rates from 1200 to 1800.

"Thrift, prudence, negotiation and hard work were becoming values for communities that previously had been spendthrift, impulsive, violent and leisure loving," Dr. Clark writes.

Clark lays out his arguments and evidence in his new book, A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World.

Frankly, I think that genetics can't be the explanation for such a rapid shift in human fortunes. On the other hand, once the cycle of immiseration is broken, people who are no longer on the edge of subsistence can begin to think about the longer term. Thus a virtuous cycle of enhanced productivity got established. For another view take a look at Northwestern University economic historian Joel Mokyr's interpretation of the economic history of the Industrial Revolution in his magisterial, The Gifts of Athena: Historical Origins of the Knowledge Economy.

Whole New York Times article on Clark is here.

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  1. I’ve never seen the conservative inclination to baselessly impart virtue to the holders of wealth more clearly expressed than in the assumption that medieval nobility had greater thrift and diligence than the peasantry, merely because they were rich.

    Some of us have read about how the medieval nobility came to their station. Eschewing violence and being thrifty don’t rank very highly.

  2. its about time social darwinism made a comeback

  3. Ron,

    Are you denying the SCIENCE again?

    Now if we only had some science based mechanism of using State power to prevent those undesirables from reproducing think how much better, how much more progressive we could be.

  4. Abject poverty is humanity’s natural state.

    That is a debateable assertion.

    But during the last two centuries, a portion of humanity (those of you reading this for example) managed to escape into a world of previously unimaginable affluence.

    So, in the 18th century man existed in his natural state everywhere? I don’t think so.

    …believes that the Industrial Revolution – the surge in economic growth that occurred first in England around 1800…

    The problem with this thesis is that the surge was based upon hundreds of years of technological, etc. development.

  5. Anyway, there is massive amount of literature on why the 18th century industrial revolution started when it did (as opposed to previous industrial revolutions), where it did, etc. Much of it is clearly simply due to “accidents” like geography (Britain’s fairly unique access to coal and natural waterways for example).

  6. I suppose one could test the converse theory by establishing a society where the least affluent people bred at a far greater rate than the most affluent and then examining the progress or decline of that society.

    Oh, wait, I guess that test is already underway.

  7. Bailey,

    BTW, of Mokyr’s books I tend to recommend The Lever Of Riches.

  8. “Thrift, prudence, negotiation and hard work were becoming values for communities that previously had been spendthrift, impulsive, violent and leisure loving,” Dr. Clark writes.

    How to tell the two kinds of people apart?
    Anthropometry and phrenology.

  9. Another significant change in behavior, Dr. Clark argues, was an increase in people’s preference for saving over instant consumption, which he sees reflected in the steady decline in interest rates from 1200 to 1800.

    Uh, when the vast majority of the populace is making barely enough money to survive (and some are making even less), the fact that they’re spending all their money doesn’t make them spendthrifts.

    What an idiotic analysis.


  10. Now if we only had some science based mechanism of using State power to prevent those undesirables from reproducing think how much better, how much more progressive we could be.

    Cue Lemur and/or Grand Chalupa.

  11. de stijl,

    I say we bring back Saint Monday myself.

  12. S of S: Take a look at economic historian Angus Maddison’s World Population, GDP and Per Capita GDP, 1-2003 AD here.

  13. The Industrial Revolution never happened anyway.

  14. crimethink,

    One of the things that 18th century employers most complained about in their workers was their inability to control their behavior. They had a hard time forcing them to accept the rythm of what we might call a “work week.”

  15. “The change was one in which people gradually developed the strange new behaviors required to make a modern economy work. The middle-class values of nonviolence, literacy, long working hours and a willingness to save emerged only recently in human history, Dr. Clark argues.”

    Some of the things he’s talking about–literacy, long working hours, a willingness to save–they sound like the “protestant work ethic” to me. …but that’s what I was raised on. The period at the end of the Middle Ages is like magic that way–everybody that looks inside seems to find whatever it is they’re looking for.

    …not that I would discourage anyone from arguing with joe about whether genetic determinism justifies trickle down theory.

  16. To be fair to the underlying premise of the book…cultural transmission is also considered as the mechanism… it isn’t restricted to genetic transmission.

  17. Ron Bailey,

    The link your provided doesn’t seem to address what I am getting at.

    The issue is why people would form civilizations to start with (pre-civilization populations would probably more a kin to what is “natural” for human beings)? Why would they leave a life of relative ease and plenty for one of dramatic hierarchies which could call upon them to build massive edifices via back breaking work? So what is “natural” for human beings isn’t a life of poverty; what was “natural” for us was probably a life which had pretty decent resources and comparably low levels of work.

  18. How to tell the two kinds of people apart?
    Anthropometry and phrenology.

    Good to see not everyone around here is a SCIENCE denier.Gregory Clark does have a “Dr.” in front of his name, defer to the experts.
    I bet his “genetic” theory was peer reviewed!
    That is the fucking Gold Standard of SCIENCE.

  19. JF,

    It is probably the case that the terms we use for the rise in GDP, etc. in the late 18th century overly dramatizes what really happened. In other words, the label “industrial revolution” is overblown, just as the labels “Enlightement” and “Renaissance” are overblown.

  20. So, anywhere in this guy’s 440-page hypothesis does he point to any actual genes that support his idea?

  21. “So, anywhere in this guy’s 440-page hypothesis does he point to any actual genes that support his idea?”

    Oh you crazy people, you always want your proof!

  22. BTW, the Japanese government refused to believe Hiroshima was from a bomb, they at first said it was from a typhoon (!!) until Nagasaki.

  23. wrong thread sorry

  24. Year GDP per capita/world
    1 – $467
    1000 – $450
    1500 – $566
    1700 – $615
    1820 – $667
    1870 – $873
    1900 – $1,262
    1913 – $1,526
    1940 – $1,962

    The above is a selection estimates of per capita income in real dollars from Angus Maddison. My definition of abject poverty is trying to live on less than $667 per year in 1820.

  25. From my reading of the reviews of this book, it seems to echo the argument put forth by Kirk Hamilton in his book.

    http://go.worldbank.org/7M49XI1HT0

  26. Just to be clear, people living in 1820 had average incomes equal to $667 in today’s dollars. That’s like trying to live on $2 per day in today’s world. Unfortunately, about 2 billion people do live on less than now, and I’d say they suffer abject poverty.

  27. Crimethink,

    Steady saving, ie small amounts regularly, are all that is needed to rise out of poverty. See “The Wealthy Barber”.

  28. Ron Bailey,

    It is pretty clear that much of manking was not in his “natural state” in the year 1 CE. Many human societies were large, hierarchal, used technology extesnively, had large trade networks, etc. just like our society is.

  29. Neu Mejican:

    If the Times is accurate, you would be wrong.

    Hamilton’s work is an institutional analysis of wealth creation and Clark’s (again if the Times is right) is a genetic (social darwinian?) analysis. See my interview with Hamilton here.

  30. Like Ron said, whatever the causes of the industrial revolution, genetic change seems the least likely explanation, given the time scales involved.

    Besides, as has been shown in numerous cases, the propensity to have kids decreases with wealth. Now, I don’t know the extent to which increased child survival rates factor in, but when you have two noticeable effects pointing in opposite directions it’s very unlikely that one of them will so utterly dominate that it will effect a large genetic change in just a few generations.

    Also, it’s worth noting that immigrants to industrialized countries frequently do at least as well as those born there. This further argues against genetic effects.

  31. S of S: I think I see where you’re coming from. My view is that abject poverty is the natural state either in agrarian hierarchial societies or among pleistocene hunter gatherers. The average Roman lived on about $425 per year and that’s abject poverty.

  32. Ron Bailey,

    Yet most of them are not in anything resembling the “natural state” of mankind. The basic dividing line in human history is not the industrial revolutions it is the advent of, well, agriculture and cities (and other state like structures).

  33. Ron Bailey,

    Does the historical record demonstrate that the lives of hunter gatherers were ones of abject poverty? I don’t believe so. In general they lived longer and more healthy years than their counterparts in agrarian agricultural societies and they had lots of leisure time to create all manner of interesting cultural institutions.

  34. S of S: And yet they lived in abject poverty.

  35. Ron Bailey,

    Why? Because they lacked gameboys? Their lifespan was similar to ours as was their overall health during such. They had a ton of leisure time.

  36. Ron Bailey,

    Furthermore they generally weren’t burdened by oppressive states, taxes, etc.

  37. He doesn’t seem to address it directly, but isn’t he arguing economic evolution ala the Baldwin Effect???

  38. Ron Bailey,

    Even the Times article makes it clear that Clark is talking about cultural transmission of these traits.

    Here is a concise statement of his main premise from an early review.

    Clark’s bottom line? Economic growth and development are driven much more by “demography, technology, and labor efficiency” than by governmental and economic institutions and policies.”

    His work complements Hamilton’s in trying to explain what is needed for institutions to support growth.

  39. Ron Bailey,

    In other words, it is fair to say that it has taken us ~6,000 to ~7,000 years to get back to much of the position we started with.

  40. From the time article

    Because they grew more common in the centuries before 1800, whether by cultural transmission or evolutionary adaptation, the English population at last became productive enough to escape from poverty, followed quickly by other countries with the same long agrarian past.

  41. S of S: With regard to pleistocene hunter gatherers, it is true that many had access to more calories on average and that their life expectancy was 5 to 7 years longer than agrarian types, but still… they dressed in bearskins, wielded stone axes, and with an average life expectancy of 30 or so.

  42. Neu Mejican: No use us arguing now about whether a difference in emphasis amounts to a difference in kind between Hamilton (and other institutionalists) and Clark. I will get back to you after I read Clark’s book. 🙂

  43. We’re still in our natural state.

  44. Ron Bailey,

    Actually many hunter gatherer populations had average life spans that averaged into the 60s.

  45. Ron,

    Fair enough.
    I am just being pedantic.

    But I think it is clear that your characterization of Clark’s premise in your post is off the mark. He is not making a genetic argument. He is making a demographic argument. They are distinct.

    Notice how the comments here in this thread latched on to your characterization of the book as being about genes?

    Seeing as how you wish people would stop mischaracterizing your position on GW, I would think you would appreciate that.

  46. Clark don’t know he genes fum he memes.

  47. Matthew,

    I’m not talking about the poor in the modern US, who have color TVs and cable. I’m talking about the medieval poor, who needed to spend all their money just to avoid starvation. (In actuality, they probably weren’t spending money, just eating whatever was left over from their harvest after their thrifty, morally upstanding lord took what he wanted from it.)

  48. Neu Mejican: Regarding my “genetic’ characterization of Clark, see the Times article:

    Dr. Clark says the middle-class values needed for productivity could have been transmitted either culturally or genetically. But in some passages, he seems to lean toward evolution as the explanation. “Through the long agrarian passage leading up to the Industrial Revolution, man was becoming biologically more adapted to the modern economic world,” he writes. And, “The triumph of capitalism in the modern world thus may lie as much in our genes as in ideology or rationality.”

  49. Sof S: Not disagreeing with you but are you relying on ethnographic analogy or the archaeological record (or a combination)in inferring the situation of past hunter gatherer societies ? Sahlins? Who or what else?

  50. S of S:

    Could you please point me in the direction of any data that suggests that average life expectancy for pleistocene hunter gatherers was 60 years?

  51. Ron,

    Again,

    Fair enough.

    To maintain my pedantic stance:

    There seems to be a meaningful difference between Clark’s qualified statement and your summary…

    To wit, Clark does not say: “that the rich (with good habits) simply outbred the poor (mired in vice). The result is that those whose genes incline them to thrift have inherited the earth.”

  52. Ron,

    Average life expectancy for pleistocene hunter gatherers is unknowable.The archaeological record is not that complete.I’m not sure it is knowable for a given population or group as it would be difficult to determine whether the sample was representative of the population as a whole.

  53. Here is a nice recent piece of work estimating hunter gatherer lifespans

    http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1728-4457.2007.00171.x

    A fundamental conclusion we draw from this analysis is that extensive longevity appears to be a novel feature of Homo sapiens. Our results contradict Vallois’s (1961: 222) claim that among early humans, “few individuals passed forty years, and it is only quite exceptionally that any passed fifty,” and the more traditional Hobbesian view of a nasty, brutish, and short human life (see also King and Jukes 1969; Weiss 1981). The data show that modal adult life span is 68-78 years, and that it was not uncommon for individuals to reach these ages, suggesting that inferences based on paleodemographic reconstruction are unreliable. One recent study that avoids several common problems of skeletal aging used dental-wear seriation and relative macro-age categories (ratio of old to young) to demonstrate an increase in the relative presence of older adults from australopithecines to early Homo and, more strikingly, among Upper Paleolithic humans (Caspari and Lee 2004; but see Hawkes and O’Connell 2005). More compellingly, a recent re-estimation of several common paleo-mortality curves based on hazard analysis and maximum likelihood methods shows a life course pattern similar to that of our ethnographic sample (Konigsberg and Herrmann 2006).

  54. Neu Mejican: As I’m sure you well know, longevity is not the same as life expectancy. What I could turn up with a quick google search is here. See below:

    Life expectancy – Timeline for humans

    Homo sapiens live on average 37 years in Zambia and on average 81 years in Japan. The oldest confirmed recorded age for any human is 122 years, though some people in Asia are reported to have lived over 150 years. The following information is derived from the Encyclopedia Britannica, 1961:

    Humans by Era, Average Lifespan (in years)

    * Neanderthal, 20
    * Neolithic, 20
    * Classical Greece, 28
    * Classical Rome, 28
    * Medieval England, 33
    * 1800’s End of 19th Century, 37
    * 1900’s Early 20th Century, 50
    * 1940’s Circa 1940, 65
    * Current (in the West), 77-81

    Also see Jared Diamond’s famous 1987 article “The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race.”

  55. neu mejican,

    too bad for me it is a paysite
    Damn internet is to shallow.

  56. Does the historical record demonstrate that the lives of hunter gatherers were ones of abject poverty? I don’t believe so.

    Did they have Nintendo Wii and John Woo DVD’s?

    No?

    Then I rest my case.

  57. Pardon me for being dense, but what leap of faith do I have to make in order to see how biological development and economic participatory practices are related? Is someone claiming a causal relationship, here?

    Re: Poverty

    It’s all relative. Poverty is an artificial line in the sand separating those who have from those who have not. When everyone is making $627 per year, only those who are earning under “the poverty line” can be described as “living in poverty” … and I’ll give a fistful of clams to anyone who can divine where that line was in the Pleistocene Era.

  58. James,

    Is someone claiming a causal relationship, here?

    It doesn’t seem like it to me, despite some speculation regarding potential causes (biology or culture or a combination)…Clark seems to be claiming that demographic trends in the context of cultural institutions explain the economics better than a simplistic explanation based on the existence of certain institutions.

  59. SIV,

    Damn internet is to shallow.

    That’s okay. It is just one of those “Gold-Standard” peer review journals that SCIENCE.

    😉

  60. I’ll give a fistful of clams to anyone who can divine where that line was in the Pleistocene Era

    Well for a Pleistocene-American you could start by appraising his estate.

  61. neu mejican,

    Nearly fried my computer spitting out my ice tea.Anthropologists publishing in a Geography Journal ?…is…science?…OH you meant SCIENCE…haha …thats a good one …have to remember it.

  62. This is so ridiculous.

    Most scholarship on the causes of the industrial revolution is ridiculous.

    Almost nobody takes into account changes in economic freedom and respect for/enforcement of property rights.

    “Oh, it must have been human nature that changed, that’s why people suddenly got rich.”

    It’s like listening to a biologist look at monkeys in zoos and monkeys in the wild, and concluding that the different movement patterns of the monkeys in the zoos are due to their differing natures.

  63. Now if we only had some science based mechanism of using State power to prevent those undesirables from reproducing think how much better, how much more progressive we could be.

    Sounds great to me!

  64. SIV,

    For what it is worth, the article seems to use solid methodology and keeps their discussion well within the realm of reasonable based on their data.

    But I am not a population anthropologist, so I would not be a qualified peer to review the article on more than a cursory level.

  65. Here is a set of freely available materials from the publisher of the journal which linked above

    http://www.popcouncil.org/publications/pdr/LifeSpanTOC.html

  66. Was a large portion of the labor in the U.S. during the industrial revolution either slaves or indentured servants? Greed being the primary fuel of the factory?

    Was Thoreau living in abject poverty? Isn’t abject poverty determined more by the expected lifestyle of a given society?

  67. neu mejican,

    I wanted a look at the paper’s bibliography and footnotes. I’m actually more curious about their data, methods, and weight given to ethnographic analogy than to their conclusion.As I stated above the answer is largely unknowable.

  68. Ron Bailey,

    Given the high infant mortality rate in the paleolithic that explains the difference. However, unlike hierarchal agragrian societies or industrializing societies, post-infant mortality drops dramatically in paleolithic societies and hunter gatherer societies tend to have long-lived populations which do survive infancy.

    Also note that pleistocene is not the proper term of use here. It is more a geological term (since it largely concerns itself with periods of glaciation) not an anthropological one.

  69. Ron Bailey,

    BTW, if I am not mistaken the article you link backs up my general position – that agriculture, the creation of cities, etc. was in general a bad deal for the majority of humans who came to belong to societies with these trademarks.

    An equally significant issue is why these societies came to adopt such practices. At one time warfare was a favored explanation – but with the discovery of such sites as Caral that seems less plausible now (one wonders what Hobbesians think of that!).

  70. S of S:

    Late Pleistocene is commonly used in NA archaeology to refer to the Paleo Culture phase.
    As is Early Holocene for the Archaic. Don’t get me started about the usage of “Late Holocene” however.

    Late Pleistocene refers not just to the time but the environment, with presumed widespread exploitation of megafauna by nomadic hunters.

  71. S of S:
    Construction of large earthworks,or mounds,widespread trade and division of labor precedes clear evidence of agriculture in parts of North America. See Poverty Point Culture and the Ouachita Valley mounds in Louisiana for examples.As to whether this evidences hierarchical society-who the fuck knows?

  72. I suspect Ron and Thoreau are right. Dr. Clark has a related working paper on his website. It’s also in The Journal of Economic History (log in required for full article).

  73. Damn everybody is linking pdfs.
    My computer hates them and they are a pita regardless.

  74. Fitzgerald: You know, Hem, the rich are really different than you and me.

    Hemmingway: Yes, they have more money.

    Hemmingway later used this exchange in The Sun Also Rises. After publication of the book, Fitzgerald got a gun and ran around Paris for a week swearing he was going to kill Hemmingway when he found him.

  75. @thoreau

    Like Ron said, whatever the causes of the industrial revolution, genetic change seems the least likely explanation, given the time scales involved.

    Well, genetic change wasn’t really necessary. Remember, the Black Plague wiped out nearly half of Europe only a few centuries earlier. There’s the possibility the less hardy population was killed off, and resulted in the concentration of beneficial genes already present.

    Of course, that’s yanked-out-of-the-ass speculation, and I don’t know if there’s any practical way to test whether the Plague was actually Nature’s exercise in eugenics. Still, if I was looking for a biological explaination for the abrupt rise of Europe, the Plague would certainly be high on my list of possible causes to investigate.

    Besides, as has been shown in numerous cases, the propensity to have kids decreases with wealth. Now, I don’t know the extent to which increased child survival rates factor in, but when you have two noticeable effects pointing in opposite directions it’s very unlikely that one of them will so utterly dominate that it will effect a large genetic change in just a few generations.

    That was addressed in the article. Apparently the opposite was true in the time-frame being discussed. It might be worth considering that easy access to birth control wasn’t available in those days, so the well-to-do wouldn’t have had as much control over reproduction. Also, consider there were other incentives to reproduce that aren’t necessarily operative now. Children were largely a retirement plan, to be relied upon for support in old age.

    Coupled with higher survival rates due to better living conditions, those factors may account for why the well-to-do were more prolific in those days than they are now.

    Clark has an interesting theory, but unfortunately no hard data to back it up. I await further research before drawing any conclusions.

  76. Pig Mannix,

    The plague was an extreme case of natural selection. It wiped out between a third and half of Europe in one generation, which means it could cause rapid changes in the gene pool. None of the epidemics between 1820 and 1920 came close to that.

  77. SIV,

    For the Andean world the cotton and fish trade seems to have been a major catalyst for the development of large, hierarchal societies that built temples, etc. Cotton was grown in the interior and shipped to fishermen to use for, well, fishing and fish were sent in return to these new population centers.

    As for Poverty Point, etc. I believe they have in common with Caral and other early locales in what is today Latin America an absence of pot sherds. Trade in some good seems to be the common factor in all such sites, whether local population were agriculturalists or not.

  78. SIV,

    BTW, I will note that it is often difficult to determine exactly what an agricultural activity should look like and what evidence one should be looking for. For example, for a long time it was assumed that the “aborigines” of Australia were not agriculturalists, but it has become apparent that they were, if not agriculturalists in the sense that Europeans knew it, master shapers of the Australian landscape, using fire and other techniques to create yearly crop cycles and the like.

  79. @jtuf

    The plague was an extreme case of natural selection. It wiped out between a third and half of Europe in one generation, which means it could cause rapid changes in the gene pool. None of the epidemics between 1820 and 1920 came close to that.

    I understand that. I’m not crediting the epidemics between 1820 and 1920 with rapid changes in the gene pool. I’m saying those changes, if indeed they occurred at all, were a possible effect of the plague. There’s no reason to believe the changes in society occurred at precisely the same time as the alterations in the gene pool. However, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to guess that the genetic alterations were a prerequisite to the changes to society.

    I assume the opposable thumb evolved somewhat before the stone hammer was invented.

  80. “Frankly, I think that genetics can’t be the explanation for such a rapid shift in human fortunes.”

    There is the theory of “punctuated equilibirium” in evolution that would allow for a very rapid evolution in this manner.

  81. Actually, wayne, I think you’re making the common error of confusing punctuated equilibrium with saltation.

    At least some of the comments here still seem to support the idea of a genetic factor in starting the Industrial Revolution. But I’m pretty sure that geneticists can’t point to any meaningful difference between, say, the French and Chinese.

    In any event, there’s no reason to believe that the various pandemics of Europe affected people along genetic lines, so it’s incredibly unlikely that a particular trait would have been favored as a result. (Also, the use of “fit” in a Darwinian context does not mean “hale,” nor “strong.” Any analysis relying on such a meaning is flawed from the start.)

  82. After skimming the article and doing some back of the envelope calculations, I’ll grant that most of 1950’s Brittain was descended from the upper middle class. However, I still don’t buy the genetic explaination for the industrial revolution. After all, the US developed economically even though very little of the US gene pool comes from Brittish upper class. The gains made by many groups after removing educational barriors suggest that cultural transmission can swamp any genetic predispositions.

  83. “In any event, there’s no reason to believe that the various pandemics of Europe affected people along genetic lines, so it’s incredibly unlikely that a particular trait would have been favored as a result. (Also, the use of “fit” in a Darwinian context does not mean “hale,” nor “strong.” Any analysis relying on such a meaning is flawed from the start.)”

    This is not true. Europeans are less susceptible to HIV infection. It is thought this is a result of Europeans who survived exposure to the black plague, i.e. modern day Europeans carry genes that allowed them to survive the black plague and this gene also confers some immunity to HIV.

  84. If “saltation” occurs in one generation, i.e. Mom gives birth to a more-or-less radically changed baby, then I stick by my punctuated eqilibrium remark.

    The sort of change postulated for this “industrial revolution explanation” clearly occurred over more than one generation so it seems to me that it fits PE better.

  85. S of S, Ron Bailey, Neu Mejican,

    Jean of Samsos asks Why would they leave a life of relative ease and plenty for one of dramatic hierarchies which could call upon them to build massive edifices via back breaking work?

    They wouldn’t. Societal evolution, like biological evolution, comes about under situations of extreme stress, when body counts are high.

    I agree with you, S of S, that many pre-agricultural hunter-gatherer societies may have had high standards of living, but that does not mean they all did.

    Perhaps sustained, settled agricultural life came about as a response to the problems a hunter-gatherer society encountered when they grew large enough to surpass the natural carrying capacity (if you’ll forgive the archaic term) of the land they were on, and a group that had been an idiosynchratic gang of plant-tenders suddenly found themselves the most sought-after people in the village during some bad times.

  86. joe,

    The problem is that the archaeological record does not reflect that. At early sites like Caral there is no sign of warfare or other catastrophic problems. So “extreme stress” as an explanation is not reflected in what I have seen of the research on this subject.

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