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Null

Why the gap between human evolution and civilization?

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So I'm sure I am making an error in my thinking somewhere, but in my head when I look at the technological progress of the last hundred years, much lesthe last thousand. It seems there is a gap. In what humans were doing between evolution of modern homosapians, and the foundation of the first civilizations.

from wikipedia: homosapians evolved 400,000 and 250,000 bc

 

with "behavioral modernity" being evident around 50,000 bc.(cave paintings, tool use, pottery, etc)

Let us assume that the first human civilizations arose ~6,000 BC based on who you ask, and what you consider a "civilization" and ever since then, it appears technology, philosophy and scientific advancement hums right along, and gets better continuously. To such a degree that a mere 7,000 years from our assumption of civilizations origin, men were walking on the moon.

 

So if we take the date of "behavioral modernity" at 50,000 bc there is a "gap" of 44 thousand years, were the pinnacle of human achievement was living in tribes and discovering agriculture.

 

If we take the earliest suggestion of homosapians the gap gets even more pronouced.

 

For 394 thousand years there was barely any appreciable scientific advancement. Biologically modern Humans living in tribes as hunter gatherers.

 

I find it hard to beleive that the same species, that has been capable of going from discovering agriculture,  to space travel in 7,000 years, would have no scientific growth for either of the above periods.

 

 

 

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4 hours ago, Null said:

So I'm sure I am making an error in my thinking somewhere, but in my head when I look at the technological progress of the last hundred years, much lesthe last thousand. It seems there is a gap.

I think what is skewing your eye is that the nature of exponential growth is not intuitive: over a human life span we only see a small interval of the curve . Over geological times though, the nature of that curve is apparent. It started shallow, but now we're seeing just how steep it is: societies and landscapes changing within single lifetimes. It's an old story.

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Some technology relies on other technology, and they often aren't in sync. The steam engine was discovered long before we had practical mechanics to take advantage of the power produced.

Much of what the OP is talking about is what happens when a species has to spend all it's time gathering food. Coming to grips with what to do with all the free time agriculture gave us took some time. Better ways of making everything were discovered once only a fraction of the population was needed to procure sustenance.

More than all that, making the shift from tribal nomadism to concentrated population centers was obviously a hard sell for many at the time. The best and the worst of humans is amplified as population density increases, and we still see distrust and division today. 

Also, remember that scientific methodology won't be a thing for several millennia. When questions arose in early human civilizations about specific phenomena, answers were readily available. It was the gods, obviously. When people are given answers, they stop asking the question. It wasn't until we started treating science as theory that we stopped looking for answers and started looking for the best supported explanations. From there, our knowledge had firm footing to build upon, and thus grew so quickly in the last several centuries. Human knowledge is a lot like a roasting marshmallow; ignorance keeps us from absorbing knowledge like a white marshmallow resists radiation, until finally enough is absorbed to change the color, which allows a lot more to be absorbed, which changes the color even faster. Every generation of humans knows more, and knowing things leads to knowing more things. Nowadays, we absorb more facts in a day than some folks back then did in their entire lifetimes. 

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Also, remember that there are still people living pretty much the same hunter-gather lives as people thousands of years ago. And this is not just due to lack of knowledge of modern developments in science and technology. It is often is spite of it. Some such tribes have not just turned their back on outside contact but have actively rejected it. They prefer to live as they do.

So, some sort of "cultural inertia" is probably a factor - our life is good enough, why would we change it with this fancy "agriculture" that you speak of.

Also, it wasn't until the development of agriculture, and the consequent surpluses, that it was possible for there to be a class of people who had enough time to think, tinker, share ideas and develop new ways of doing things. That was probably the point at which the acceleration started (in both the growth of cities and the development of technology). 

Both agriculture and textiles (the word "tech[nology]" derives from "textile") date from about 10,000 BC.

I'm sure I have read a book that said quite a lot of this, but I don't remember what. (And people nowadays would probably watch something on youtube!)

 

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The other thing that struck me, was these early men, are just as smart as you or I. They are essentially us. Not some primitive ape-man.

 

They just didn't have the advantage of education/knowledge that we do.

 

But as a thought exercise, I imagine myself in the role of one of those hunter gatherers. After 20-30 years of migrating around the same area, I beleive I would personally notice that the places where fruit/seeds fall to the earth, produce fresh food the next season. I might not know why, but I feel like I would certainly notice that. And be able to tell me children about it. From there agriculture seems like a short step. Not a ten thousand year jump.

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36 minutes ago, Null said:

 They just didn't have the advantage of education/knowledge that we do.

That's part of it. A lot of invention is built on previous invention, and if some crucial part is missing, the invention won't be realized.

Another is that you need to have people with time to think about such things, and a society that values it.

Quote

But as a thought exercise, I imagine myself in the role of one of those hunter gatherers. After 20-30 years of migrating around the same area, I beleive I would personally notice that the places where fruit/seeds fall to the earth, produce fresh food the next season. I might not know why, but I feel like I would certainly notice that.

I have no doubt they did. Maybe they even planted a few things, hoping for more next time, and returned to known food sources repeatedly.

But until you can sustain a population on that food, you can't settle down.

 

Quote

And be able to tell me children about it. From there agriculture seems like a short step. Not a ten thousand year jump.

Not that short. Wild version of many foodstuffs aren't as nutritious or as easy to harvest as modern versions. Our ancestors had to recognize that they could change the traits of the foods by selecting desired traits. And then take the time to do that.

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42 minutes ago, Null said:

The other thing that struck me, was these early men, are just as smart as you or I. They are essentially us. Not some primitive ape-man.

 

They just didn't have the advantage of education/knowledge that we do.

 

But as a thought exercise, I imagine myself in the role of one of those hunter gatherers. After 20-30 years of migrating around the same area, I beleive I would personally notice that the places where fruit/seeds fall to the earth, produce fresh food the next season. I might not know why, but I feel like I would certainly notice that. And be able to tell me children about it. From there agriculture seems like a short step. Not a ten thousand year jump.

Yes. That is the reason why they are "theories" , mostly  wild imaginings (elucubrations) that insert others mysteriously lost civilizations in between. There is plenty time for it to rise, exist & disappear, many times. The problem is the lack of evidence. IIRC there are threads on this Forum about this question.

49 minutes ago, Null said:

The other thing that struck me, was these early men, are just as smart as you or I. They are essentially us. Not some primitive ape-man.

That is a very good observation. I agree.

1 hour ago, Phi for All said:

When people are given answers, they stop asking the question.

That counts today. At this level nothing has changed. See this entire Forum.

I suspect that climate change is the reason for the gap. I mean the end of the last glaciation, not today's climate change.

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45 minutes ago, michel123456 said:

I suspect that climate change is the reason for the gap. I mean the end of the last glaciation, not today's climate change.

That's a good point. The development of agriculture would have needed more than just an observation that new plants sprout from the unwanted seeds of old plants. You need a place and time where there is enough fertility to support a large enough population.

You need to have enough people that it is worth doing the extra work, but not so many that there is never a surplus to allow some seed to be planted.

It took many thousands of years for the techniques and the domesticated plants to spread form the original sites of agriculture.

54 minutes ago, swansont said:

That's part of it. A lot of invention is built on previous invention, and if some crucial part is missing, the invention won't be realized.

Each new technology (writing, metals, new materials, money, new source of energy, etc) stimulates and enables further advances. We live in a world built on 10s of thousands of years of development and innovation.

1 hour ago, Null said:

The other thing that struck me, was these early men, are just as smart as you or I. They are essentially us. Not some primitive ape-man.

Absolutely. If you could transport a baby from 20,000 years ago to the modern day, there is no reason they wouldn't be able to do a PhD in astrophysics or whatever.

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One further thing that comes to mind is the resistance to change. I can imagine a tribe getting sedentary but at some time being destroyed by an "old fashioned" nomad group. Another example would be in the tribe, the prominent druid getting mad at those ones who make fire outside the cavern causing the melting of the ice.

 

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6 hours ago, Null said:

The other thing that struck me, was these early men, are just as smart as you or I. They are essentially us. Not some primitive ape-man.

 

They just didn't have the advantage of education/knowledge that we do.

 

But as a thought exercise, I imagine myself in the role of one of those hunter gatherers. After 20-30 years of migrating around the same area, I beleive I would personally notice that the places where fruit/seeds fall to the earth, produce fresh food the next season. I might not know why, but I feel like I would certainly notice that. And be able to tell me children about it. From there agriculture seems like a short step. Not a ten thousand year jump.

How to Get Shunned from the Tribe 101...:D

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When you have a successful way of life in a harsh and unforgiving landscape making fundamental changes to how things are done is neither necessary nor especially attractive. It is not a matter of resisting progress or lacking intelligence. Most people even now are not inventors or innovators; sit someone in front of chunks of flint, with a finished stone blade for an example and they probably still will not make the connection.

 Observing food plants growing where food scraps are discarded is more likely to prompt hunter gatherers to return to those places and/or engage in re-planting seeds/roots/shoots to make those plants more likely to grow and be productive the next time they visit than to prompt people to stay there permanently and become gardener/farmers. This occurred in Australia and in some places where more reliable harvests could be obtained more sedentary lifestyles arose but more often it was supplementing nomadic hunting and gathering than the other way around. Incorrect assumptions were made, mostly after those practices were disrupted - despite early observations of cultivation practices - about primitives who grew no crops, that flattered European settlers. https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/archived/bushtelegraph/rethinking-indigenous-australias-agricultural-past/5452454

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When someone is talking about invention of agriculture is really thinking about seeding and harvesting grain. It is inedible raw! Human had first to figure out how to process grain by blending and mixing it with water and placing on hot stone heated by fire to make pancakes to make it edible. It is not so straight forward and obvious. Attempt of eating unknown plants might end up in death if they are poisonous. Somebody had to be the first one to try every currently known plants, including toxic and poisonous. Knowledge which plants are edible is shared by older generations. Easy to lose knowledge in the world without even paper..

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