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The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race

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posted on Oct, 9 2011 @ 10:41 PM

Archaeologists studying the rise of farming have reconstructed a crucial stage at which we made the worst mistake in human history. Forced to choose between limiting population or trying to increase food production, we chose the latter and ended up with starvation, warfare, and tyranny.

That's right! The advent and adoption of Agriculture was the worst mistake....ever.

Hunter-gatherers practiced the most successful and longest-lasting life style in human history. In contrast, we’re still struggling with the mess into which agriculture has tumbled us, and it’s unclear whether we can solve it. Suppose that an archaeologist who had visited from outer space were trying to explain human history to his fellow spacelings. He might illustrate the results of his digs by a 24-hour clock on which one hour represents 100,000 years of real past time. If the history of the human race began at midnight, then we would now be almost at the end of our first day. We lived as hunter-gatherers for nearly the whole of that day, from midnight through dawn, noon, and sunset. Finally, at 11:54 p. m. we adopted agriculture. As our second midnight approaches, will the plight of famine-stricken peasants gradually spread to engulf us all? Or will we somehow achieve those seductive blessings that we imagine behind agriculture’s glittering façade, and that have so far eluded us?

These are a few excerts from an op-ed published in Discover Magazine by Jared Diamond in May of 1987. Found Here At the time of publication, archaeologists were making discoveries that painted a different picture of the past than was being postulated. The evidence provided by this article suggests that agriculture is to blame for social and sexual inequality as well as disease and despotism.

The progressivist theory, according to Diamond, was a simple one: The lives of our primitive ancestors improved as they adopted farming and let loose of their hunter/gatherer roots. It makes sense. Food became readily available and one would assume that liesure time and socializing ensued, allowing for the development, perhaps, of technology and the progression of human evolution.

In one study, the Bushmen’s average daily food intake (during a month when food was plentiful) was 2,140 calories and 93 grams of protein, considerably greater than the recommended daily allowance for people of their size. It’s almost inconceivable that Bushmen, who eat 75 or so wild plants, could die of starvation the way hundreds of thousands of Irish farmers and their families did during the potato famine of the 1840s.

Scattered throughout the world, several dozen groups of so-called primitive people, like the Kalahari bushmen, continue to support themselves that way. It turns out that these people have plenty of leisure time, sleep a good deal, and work less hard than their farming neighbors. For instance, the average time devoted each
week to obtaining food is only 12 to 19 hours for one group of Bushmen, 14 hours or less for the Hadza nomads of Tanzania. One Bushman, when asked why he hadn’t emulated neighboring tribes by adopting agriculture, replied, "Why should we, when there are so many mongongo nuts in the world?"

Diamond goes on to provide evidence from paleoanthropologists who can determine age, sex, average height (with a large enough sample size), growth rates of children and even identify certain diseases and conditions from a skeleton alone. The data suggest that, compared to our hunter-gatherer ancestors, we became shorter, grew slower, became malnourished, lived shorter lives and were inflicted more frequently and easily by infectious disease in the post-agriculture societies.

Of course, you haven't heard of any of it's likely that the theory was disproven. Right? Not so much. Over the past 30 years, evidence has been mounting in support of Diamond's opinions. Most recently, published in July of this year in the journal Economics and Human Biology, researchers release some damning evidence that delivers quite a blow to the progressivists theory.

Stature and robusticity during the agricultural transition: evidence from the bioarchaeological record.

The population explosion that followed the Neolithic revolution was initially explained by improved health experiences for agriculturalists. However, empirical studies of societies shifting subsistence from foraging to primary food production have found evidence for deteriorating health from an increase in infectious and dental disease and a rise in nutritional deficiencies. In Paleopathology at the Origins of Agriculture (Cohen and Armelagos, 1984), this trend towards declining health was observed for 19 of 21 societies undergoing the agricultural transformation. The counterintuitive increase in nutritional diseases resulted from seasonal hunger, reliance on single crops deficient in essential nutrients, crop blights, social inequalities, and trade. In this study, we examined the evidence of stature reduction in studies since 1984 to evaluate if the trend towards decreased health after agricultural transitions remains. The trend towards a decrease in adult height and a general reduction of overall health during times of subsistence change remains valid, with the majority of studies finding stature to decline as the reliance on agriculture increased.

The impact of agriculture, accompanied by increasing population density and a rise in infectious disease, was observed to decrease stature in populations from across the entire globe and regardless of the temporal period during which agriculture was adopted, including Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, South America, and North America.

Among health deterioration was social wasting. Sexual and social inequality, according to Diamond, was also the direct result of agriculture.

Only in afarming population could a healthy, non-producing élite set itself above the disease-ridden masses. Skeletons from Greek tombs at Mycenae c.1500 B. C. suggest that royals enjoyed a better diet than commoners, since the royal skeletons were two or three inches taller and had better teeth. Among Chilean mummies from c. A. D. 1000, the élite were distinguished not only by ornaments and gold hair clips but also by a fourfold lower rate of bone lesions caused by disease.


Farming may have encouraged inequality between the sexes, as well. Freed from the need to transport their babies during a nomadic existence, and under pressure to produce more hands to till the fields, farming women tended to have more frequent pregnancies than their hunter- gatherer counterparts–with consequent drains on their health. Among the Chilean mummies for example, more women than men had bone lesions from infectious disease.

What if starvation, warefare and tyranny aren't conspiratorially driven facets that plague the modern world? Is it really possible that the simple act of trying to increase food production led, ironically enough, to starvation and disease? Or that in an effort to increase population, we effectively paved the way for its division and social classifications? It's an interesting theory..but if it's true, can we dig ourselves out of the rut?

posted on Oct, 9 2011 @ 11:03 PM
reply to post by DevolutionEvolvd

While I've had the same standpoint as the author of the article quoted in your OP for as long as I've considered the starvation in Africa and abroad, I have to disagree that responsible breeding and agricultural wealth need to be mutually exclusive. We can certainly have the comfort of always knowing where our next meal will come from without having to breed like friggin jackrabbits. Also, the problem with the starvation of the Irish during the Potato Famine wasn't only because they weren't as diverse in their diet as their stone-aged predecessors. I blame the root of the problems that arise due to agriculture, on man's complacency and inability to be independent from the social norms that surround them, such as monoculture.

There certainly is something to be learned from the article though, and I think that it applies to a situation that may just be at its beginning stages in developed countries: When the system around you begins to crumble, do you have a backup plan? The Irish didn't when their potato crops failed, the various cultures in Africa don't when they face drought. Will Americans know what to do when their buying power is lost and they have no grocery stores from which to obtain food?

Personally, I've obtained a decent knowledge of hunting and gathering for just such an occurrence. A nice resource for edible plant knowledge is This doesn't mean we should rule out responsible agricultural practices as well. With the proper infrastructure of rain water catchment and cistern storage, along with proper seed storing practices, one really should never have to resort to hunting and gathering except for in a true survival situation.

A little research on topics such as permaculture and the square foot gardening method can show you how a person could easily support a very diverse and healthy diet with very little effort and very little resources. There really needs to be an agricultural revolution to counteract the negative affects you spoke of, but there also needs to be a revolution of thought when it comes to responsible reproduction. We shouldn't teach people these farming methods without teaching them how to utilize them in a socially responsible manner.
edit on 9-10-2011 by Q:1984A:1776 because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 9 2011 @ 11:13 PM
I have subscribed to this basic premise for years. The human race could have gone on just about forever as hunter-gatherers. You start doing the farmer in the dell thing, things go well just long enough for you to forget how to forage. Then...there goes the topsoil, the grass, the trees, and you have to move on, leaving a new desert behind. It is no coincidence that so many ancient civilizations are found in deserts.

posted on Oct, 9 2011 @ 11:15 PM
reply to post by Lazarus Short

That's another good point. People don't realize that just how damaging agriculture is to the planet. And it's why I laugh when vegetarians tell me: "Go Green! Go Vegan!

posted on Oct, 9 2011 @ 11:18 PM

The advent and adoption of Agriculture was the worst mistake....ever.

Really ?¿¿?¿?¿???

Try harder!! perhaps a deep look at the mirror can offer us something more.
edit on 9-10-2011 by greenCo because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 9 2011 @ 11:19 PM
I think the the worst mistake ever made by the human race was in becoming human in the first place. We should have stayed in the trees.

posted on Oct, 9 2011 @ 11:40 PM
reply to post by greenCo

Just got back from the mirror and, I must say, it was hard to walk away.

Anway, what's your point?

posted on Oct, 10 2011 @ 12:10 AM
It was a choice driven by necessity. Hunter-gatherers don't have the easiest lives in the world but yes we could have stayed as hunters and gatherers and part time horticulturalists. Living in the style of many of earths successful tribal groups - what would we have lost - most of our technology. Most tribal groups are involved in never ending warfare, 40% of males tend to die in such fighting. We have always looked with envious eyes on the barbarian, the Native American warrior, Bedu raider, Mongol tribesman, Polynesian oarsman but would we be willing to exchange that for what some of us have now? Many people in the world are still subsistence agriculturialists, around 45%.

It makes an interesting philosophical discussion

posted on Oct, 10 2011 @ 01:22 AM
reply to post by DevolutionEvolvd

I dont think farming and personal/social health are mutually exclusive.

I do think that populations of creatures that exponentially increase because the vast majority of population checks have been removed, and long term prosperity, are, however, mutually exclusive.

Hell, even humanity believes this! ... For every single animal species on the planet... except itself. When it turns its eyes towards itself, all of a sudden its playing a game of Sid Meirs Civilization, and thinks that higher total population = more end game points

Any population that grows unchecked will eventually, if nothing else, exhaust its food supply. Immediately once that happens, while it might have took centuries and millenniums for the population to reach its peak, itll take only a ten-thousandeth of that time to be reduced to perilous level in which extinction is not out of the question.

When the food bubble bursts (all it would take would be one critically bad harvest for any of the major grain producing nations), civilization will be brought to its knees.

You can bet that those "primitives" will still be around after in all likelyhood your dead, though

posted on Oct, 10 2011 @ 01:36 AM
and God commanded the Man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge
"You will not surely die," the Serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves...

^ i'm not sure if its entirely a mistake, assuming some version of above did happen in some dimension/reality, God put the tree of knowledge i the center of the garden for crying out loud, for a reason. he gave us the opportuity of immortal existential carefree living, or mortal free-will based living, and we (our first of kin) chose the latter.

so we chose to be our own caretakers and with that the responsibilities and powers that come with that, including breeding(overpopulating) and blowing(nuking) ourselves to extinction.

posted on Oct, 10 2011 @ 02:06 AM
reply to post by DevolutionEvolvd

OP (and anyone else), if you've never heard of or read anything by Daniel Quinn, I recommend it. His work really expounds on these ideas. Titles: Story of B, Ishmael, My Ishmael + others

posted on Oct, 10 2011 @ 03:09 AM
reply to post by DevolutionEvolvd

I remember watching a Ray Mears episode when he visited the Reindeer herders of the Taiga forest (which is the largest forest in the world) these people live a humble existence, but all seemed to be very happy and content.

Ray asked the herders... "what do you do if one of you gets sick?" referring to the fact that they are so far from the nearest hospital "We don’t get sick" was their reply.

I’ve always believed that most of our illness’s and disease are caused, if not directly from pollution, from living out of harmony with nature.


posted on Oct, 10 2011 @ 03:36 AM

Originally posted by DevolutionEvolvd
reply to post by Lazarus Short

That's another good point. People don't realize that just how damaging agriculture is to the planet. And it's why I laugh when vegetarians tell me: "Go Green! Go Vegan!

You obviously have no grasp what-so-ever of how damaging to the environment raising animals for food is. You can farm vegetables in ways that increase the fertility of topsoil with techniques like permaculture as I linked to in my previous post. It's fairly clear that you are only saying that based on a bias that has no foundation in reality. Certainly, that was a reality in the past, before we developed better farming methods, but it has no validity now that we know how to farm properly. I'm not trying to deride you, but you really should check out the links that I posted if you think all forms of farming are so damaging.
edit on 10-10-2011 by Q:1984A:1776 because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 10 2011 @ 04:26 AM
the propensity for self hatred amonst humans never ceases to amaze me, wishing we were dead or still monkeys or some such guff.

posted on Oct, 10 2011 @ 06:42 AM
You could say, that agriculture is when we began to be a cancer to earth, instead of serving our purpose. Its sad when you look at us from a 3rd party view, without time restrain. Culture, like a virus.

posted on Oct, 10 2011 @ 06:45 AM
Jared Diamond is an intellect of the highest order and he has some pretty damning evidence to back up his claims.
Agricultural practices led to land ownership, government, inequality in wealth distribution and the class system.

For a real eye opener read his book "Collapse, why societies choose to fail". You will never see the world in the same way again.

posted on Oct, 10 2011 @ 08:22 AM
Thought provoking!

I can see us becoming sicker because instead of constantly residing in a clean environment, we began living in our own crass, however hard we try to clean our living quarters.

We were physically acting differently, but were also exposed to more oxygen, which could explain why we would have been bigger and stronger. Once we settled in, smogs of sorts appeared, and the oxygen concentration probably rapidly decreased, a thing exacerbated by the removal of a large portion of plant life, making less oxygen available in large, or larger centers of human population. Plus animal gasses of all sorts, now constantly concentrated in the same spots...

And some humans, now finding themselves with the responsibility of larger groups, quickly saw the opportunity of Power over their former brothers and sisters, ransoming people in a way, up to this very day. ( In Canada, if milk production goes over a certain amount, milk over produced is simply thrown on the ground... )
So for that part, there is a hunger industry going on more than an inability of the Earth to sustain our present numbers. I mean, when you eat a quarter pounder, don't you think it could have been shared with one, or two other human beings...?
One part of the world is over-eating, and another under-eating, and a large part of food is discarded to maintain prices level... Do the math.

Thanks for this thread, OP!

posted on Oct, 10 2011 @ 08:23 AM
reply to post by DevolutionEvolvd

Thank you, I knew this to be true, but always nice to have it confirmed. If you are Paleo, hunter-gatherer/Primal or have been in the past, you know this to be true, and there is quite a bit of evidence for this in books on that lifestyle.

posted on Oct, 10 2011 @ 08:35 AM

Originally posted by fixer1967
I think the the worst mistake ever made by the human race was in becoming human in the first place. We should have stayed in the trees.

or, according to Douglas Adams...

Many were increasingly of the opinion that they'd all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans.

posted on Oct, 10 2011 @ 08:44 AM

That's right! The advent and adoption of Agriculture was the worst mistake....ever.

Let's qualify that: failing to limit our reproductive output in conjunction with the development of Agriculture was the worst mistake ever.

Educate the ladies of the world. Empower the women, and they are far less inclined to submit to societal pressure which forces them to pump out the babies.

Provide a REAL safety net for our elderly. In most societies, your kids are your insurance against the lean times when you are too decrepit to provide for yourself.

And to the rest of you that live in post-industrial societies; please, please, wrap it before you tap it. And I'm talking to you, America, seeing as Europe already has negative population growth.

On another note, it's interesting to look into what the archelogical record indicates was afoot in the SW 9K years ago. Wide-spread agriculture, then doh! Water-table tapped out. Subsequent evidence of wide-spread cannibalism. Let's NOT go there, shall we?

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