Re: Bad times traits

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Tue 15 Apr 2003 - 21:50:18 GMT

  • Next message: Jeremy Bradley: "Re: Bad times traits"

    At 05:29 PM 15/04/03 +1000, Jeremy wrote:


    >As always Keith, V busy. Just a few quick thoughts on your research, excuse
    >the generalisations.
    >Indigenous peoples used rivers as territorial boundaries but colonisers
    >used them for highways. The colonisers would always claim both sides of the
    >river as their territory, usually encompassing the lands of more than one
    >indigenous nation. As the rule of colonial power is to divide and rule,
    >this often meant the elevation of one people over the other thereby causing
    >intergenerational resentment. It has often happened that, after the demise
    >of the colonial power, the people thus effected start to fight.
    >Maybe you would like to comment on that?

    This is starting to topic drift already.

    What was the big difference between colonizing North America and Africa? The end result was that the native people in Africa are the vast majority and the native people in North America are very much a minority. Both places were at the ecological limit (for their technology) when Europeans with relatively advanced technology showed up. Part of the answer is that North America with its recent glaciations grinding up rock had much richer soils than Africa. While the native Americans grew crops, relatively advanced agricultural technology (steel plows, horse collars) was a major advantage for the Europeans. It allowed them to support at least ten time the population per area the native's technology could support.

    But disease was a major factor. Europeans may have given Africans some diseases, but Africa is loaded with co-evolved diseases and parasites the Europeans had largely left behind when they left Africa 50,000 years ago. Except at the southern tip, Europeans didn't thrive in Africa.

    The situation in North America was reversed. The urban diseases such as measles, TB, cholera, and smallpox that were endemic in European populations caused massive die offs among the natives. The huge mound builder populations of the Mississippi Valley had mostly vanished, killed off by disease, long before settlers entered the area from the east.

    Alcohol was another factor. The memes for how to make alcohol go *way* back, to the start of agriculture and possibly before. I have seen speculation that the desire for alcohol might have been a major motivation for planting crops that could be turned into beer.

    Europeans, exposed to alcohol for least 5,000 years, have made genetic adjustments, "natural selection" bringing those who drink to the point of damaging their reproductive potential down to about 10%. Among alcohol naive peoples the number goes as high as 95% (Greenland natives for example.)

    My comment re rivers as boundaries and such would be that if Africa had been divided up into states on tribal boundary lines, you would have wars between these states for "Lebensraum" instead of civil wars for the same reason. The problem is not population so much as it is resources per capita.

    And to bring it back to memes, when things get tight from population growth a latent human psychological trait emerges, which supports the spread of memes that dehumanize those your tribe is about to kill.

    Keith Henson

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