Cultural Evolution & History

Dr Ilfryn Price (
Wed, 11 Jun 1997 15:06:32 -0400

Date: Wed, 11 Jun 1997 15:06:32 -0400
From: Dr Ilfryn Price <>
Subject: Cultural Evolution & History
To: "" <>

Bill B asks

>Why Europe? From the 15th century CE on, Europe went into a period of
extraordinary cultural growth and creativity. Why?

I can't help but think that part of the answer to this question has to do=

with meme flow though and around the eastern Mediterranean. I can almost=

imagine that we had a greater variety of memes flowing though that area
over a longer period of time than any other area of comparable size.

What kind of work has to be done to determine whether or not this is so?
How does one estimate meme variety & meme flow for times & places past?>

Good question Bill. Wearing my ex-geologist hat I have always seen it as
one of those events when meme's learnt to tap a whole host of new resourc=
[fish, Northern European Forests, and Latin American gold seem to be the
big three. This is the equivalent of, say, plants learning to colonize la=
in the late Devonian.

I also can't help wondering how much contingency there was about the even=
There follows - excuse me and delete now if you want to - a tongue-in-che=
effort to make the point. I hope the disguised memeticist is visible:


If Price


To: Her Excellency, The President of Europe

=46rom The Millennium Historical Commission

Executive Summary

You asked, Madam President, that our commission identify the defining
moment in history from which to trace what the world now acknowledges as
the European economic miracle of the last thirty years.

With the benefit of a demi-millennium's hindsight we conclude that the
origin of that miracle lies with the establishment, by the early
Seventeenth Century, of the Spanish hegemony. That single episode endowed=
united continent with the benefit of a common language and heritage. We
reject the conventional argument that, by stifling the emergent Lombardia=
renaissance and the religious freedom of Europe's North-western seaboard,=

the Spanish hegemony condemned the continent to the sidelines of history.=

It is indeed true that the final crumbling of the power of the inquisitio=
in the face of Nineteenth Century, Islamic, science and technology was a
necessary prelude to our own renewal. However from 1600 onwards European
energies were turned in on themselves. They were diverted from early
colonial endeavours permitting the rebirth of South American civilisation=
The competition to settle North America from the South would not otherwis=
have happened. Who knows what the result would have been had that contine=
been settled by the, incessantly squabbling, maritime tribes of Europe'=
medieval sea-board?. The many North American nations who are only now
seeking economic and political union would have had a very different
complexion. Indeed it might even have come to pass that North America,
rather than Europe enjoyed the later advantages of a common linguistic
tradition through which to capitalise on the mental diversity of its

How different, Madam President, history might have been had not the
inadvertent delay of the Spanish Armada by one week fortuitously resulted=

in its missing the unseasonal cyclonic storms which, as the victorious
Admiral acknowledged would otherwise "have frustrated our Holy Majesties'=

great enterprise". It is easy to forget, now that we have grown used to
reliable meteorological forecasts, the debt owed to chance by the great
events of our glorious past.

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