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#1
Old 04-04-2006, 03:13 AM
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Why were African civilizations so technologically far behind?

It seems odd to me that if Africa is the "cradle of life" that it would be discovered during its colonization that most African countries were so far behind much of the rest of the world as far as technology is concerned. Not saying that they had no technology, but they were way behind, as far as other civilizations, especially in much of Europe and Asia, even though life likely began in Africa, followed by large, yet slow migrations of people. One of the reasons I would think, would be that there was no reason or pressure to create new technologies, because they could maintain their way of life without doing so. I could be completely wrong. Thoughts?

Last edited by tomndebb; 04-08-2013 at 06:01 PM. Reason: This thread was revived as a ZOMBIE thread in Post #120 in April, 2013.
#2
Old 04-04-2006, 03:30 AM
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Cecil explains
#3
Old 04-04-2006, 07:35 AM
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It's not PC, but have a look at a chart that breaks down IQ by nation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_IQ

A lot of countries in Africa have really low average IQ's. Logically technological development is more likely with more smart people rather than less.
#4
Old 04-04-2006, 08:09 AM
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PC or not, that chart isn't an independent reference chart; it's an excerpt from a book of questionable validity and accuracy, and further, Wikipedia is a dangerous* source to use for any topic that's potentially controversial. Even if accurate, the chart also fails to account for IQ changes over time and the movement of populations through time. And it assumes that IQ can be properly measured in all cultures (using small or nonexistent datasets in some cases). And we have to assume that IQ can accurately measure, without cultural or educational bias, intelligence as it relates to technological innovation.

Half the article you linked to is debating that very data and the article itself questions its own neutrality. I don't think it's reasonable to draw such a certain conclusion from such uncertain data.

*I love Wikipedia, but there's no way to judge a contributor's experience or knowledge in a field and the default article view doesn't show whether an article has recently been edited/vandalized. This isn't GD so I'll say no more.
#5
Old 04-04-2006, 08:18 AM
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Africa had one of the world's oldest civilizations, that of Egypt, not to mention the impressive early accomplishments of Nubia (the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has a room devoted to Nubia). They also had the towers of Zimbabwe, the university of Timbuktu, and the kingdom of Oubangi-Shari, with its renowned horsemen. Tribes in central Africa had learned to make iron very early on -- not a trivial technology. Certainly many of these were not long-lasting, and few left written works (I suspect that would be a difficult thing in much of sub-saharan Africa), but to say that Africans were technologically far behind is to ignore these and many other examples.
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#6
Old 04-04-2006, 08:23 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lskinner
It's not PC, but have a look at a chart that breaks down IQ by nation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_IQ

A lot of countries in Africa have really low average IQ's. Logically technological development is more likely with more smart people rather than less.
Oh get a frigging grip. "Dem dar Niggers is Dumb!" as a driving force in world history? Linking to a wiki article which has 'Dispute' warnings all over it plus several paragraphs pointing out fundamental flaws in the data and interpretation of the original 'study'? Please don't bother paying the membership fee.

My favoured explanation is that generally the climate in the tropics is a little too friendly to diseases and pests, a little too hostile to settled agriculture, and too difficult to traverse for trade. Few places in Africa managed to achieve high population densities and advanced civilizations, and they were generally too far apart to easily trade key resources with each other and maintain economic growth, which slowed their development.

Europe basically got lucky in that for most of history it was a primitive backwater compared to India/Asia/Egypt/Mesopotamia, but it could absorb technologies from those areas through trade, while the climate and geopgraphy was favourable enough to let economies gradually develop to a decent size. Access to the gold and silver looted from the Americas stimulated European economies enough to get them to the critical 'jumping-off' point (where technology allowed global expansion) earlier than China. They then had a nice big incentive to go rampaging around, because many places were very wealthy.
If the chinese hadn't been so focused on internal order and stability they could have jumped the gun and expanded earlier, but why would they bother conquering poverty-stricken barbarians?
Other civilizations were held back by periodic climate/environment-induced collapses (such as irrigation-induced salinity in Mesopotamia, droughts etc.) or similarly just weren't interested.
#7
Old 04-04-2006, 10:18 AM
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Originally Posted by pool
One of the reasons I would think, would be that there was no reason or pressure to create new technologies, because they could maintain their way of life without doing so.
Rush out and obtain a copy of Guns, Germs, and Steel. The book was written to answer your exact question. I'm about halfway through it at the moment.

As to your supposition above, the author demonstrates how hunter-gatherer societies don't have the need (or leisure time) to develop sophisticated weapons, but farming/ranching societies do develop warrior classes. This makes the hunter-gatherers easy targets. Obviously, there's a lot more to it than that. Check out the book!
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#8
Old 04-04-2006, 10:24 AM
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Originally Posted by InvisibleWombat
Rush out and obtain a copy of Guns, Germs, and Steel. The book was written to answer your exact question. I'm about halfway through it at the moment.

As to your supposition above, the author demonstrates how hunter-gatherer societies don't have the need (or leisure time) to develop sophisticated weapons, but farming/ranching societies do develop warrior classes. This makes the hunter-gatherers easy targets. Obviously, there's a lot more to it than that. Check out the book!
I just want to second that "Guns, Germs, and Steel" by Jared Diamond addresses exactly this question.

I am also in the midst of reading it.
#9
Old 04-04-2006, 10:47 AM
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This is a GD, rather than a GQ. I think what complicates the whole thing is that there's no single factor to explain the technology gap, just as you'd be hard put to define what the technology gap actually is. A couple of other factors that haven't yet been mentioned: Africa's astonishingly poor soil, and its relatively low population densities. For all that Africa was the cradle of mankind, many parts of it weren't occupied until fairly recent times.

On the incendiary subject of intelligence, much of it is a question of nutrition. I quote from a University of Sussex website: "The World Bank states that iron, vitamin A and iodine deficiencies reduce the GDP of developing countries by 5 per cent. Research in Ecuador found that when iodine deficiency causes average IQ to fall from 100 to 79 in a community, income halves."
#10
Old 04-04-2006, 10:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pool
It seems odd to me that if Africa is the "cradle of life" that it would be discovered during its colonization that most African countries were so far behind much of the rest of the world as far as technology is concerned. Not saying that they had no technology, but they were way behind, as far as other civilizations, especially in much of Europe and Asia, even though life likely began in Africa, followed by large, yet slow migrations of people. One of the reasons I would think, would be that there was no reason or pressure to create new technologies, because they could maintain their way of life without doing so. I could be completely wrong. Thoughts?
Without making you buy "Guns, Germs and Steel," the basic fact is that almost all the stuff that drove the early impetus of civilization came from the same place; the Fertile Crescent. Places like England or Japan that we think of as technologically advanced borrowed the stuff that really built civilization (like, say, the wheel) from those societies.

Some places then lagged behind for the simple reason that they simply did not have the geographical or natural features available to them that others did, which prevented them from either developing technology in the first place or from having it spread to their lands. Places like North America, Australia, and sub-Saharan Africa were crippled by a lack of suitable animals to domesticate (Example: Zebras cannot be domesticated, because of their vicious temperament. Horses can. Sub-saharan Africa has zebras but no horses. There's a huge disadvantage right there.) and a shortage of useful crops, the things that drove civilization forward; the Fertile Crescent was comparatively loaded with stuff like that. There's no realistic way any group of humans was going to develop advanced technology in Australia, because there are no large domesticable animals there and a lack of useful grains. Crops that grow well in Greece don't grow well at all in tropical Africa, so they couldn't even benefit from carrying the stuff south and using it.

Pretty much all technological variances from place to place can be explained that way; places who had access to the important animals or grains were the early cradles of civilization. Places that didn't, weren't.

lskinner's link is nonsense.
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Old 04-04-2006, 11:27 AM
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Originally Posted by slaphead
Oh get a frigging grip. "Dem dar Niggers is Dumb!" as a driving force in world history? Linking to a wiki article which has 'Dispute' warnings all over it plus several paragraphs pointing out fundamental flaws in the data and interpretation of the original 'study'? Please don't bother paying the membership fee.
A reasoned discourse showing the problems (and outright errors) of the Wikipedia article and its (rather murky) sources is a legitimate response, here.

An attack on the poster who provided the link is not a reasonable response, not a polite response, and treads very close to not being a response within the rules of GQ (or of GD is this thread happens to gert sent there).

Calm down, a bit. We're here to fight ignorance, not to stomp all over people whom we may believe have expressed an ignorant position.
#12
Old 04-04-2006, 01:12 PM
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The centre of progress keeps moving anyway. In the middle ages the Arabs were far ahead of Europe. Then Europe began to plunge forward. Thos was before the industrial revolution. The latter could not have occured just at any time, the social and economic circumstances had to be at a certain point to actually sustain the demand for this new technology.
Steam power was invented in antiquity in Alexandria, but used only for trivial tasks. No proper use could be found for which there weren't already enough slaves.
#13
Old 04-04-2006, 01:33 PM
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Well, another major problem with early Steam Power was the metallurgy. The idea was nice, but it wasn't until high-grade iron and steel became available in great quantities that practical Steam Power was possible.
#14
Old 04-04-2006, 02:00 PM
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Guns, Germs, and Steel does discuss this issue at length, as RickJay and others have pointed out.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lskinner
It's not PC, but have a look at a chart that breaks down IQ by nation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_IQ
I think he's probably got the causation backwards- some effects of living in a poor country, like malnutrition, can lower IQ. There might also be cultural factors- more well-off people in First World countries are more used to taking timed written tests, for example, than poorer people in Third World countries. Literacy is also a factor- illiterate people are not going to do well on an IQ test, no matter how smart they are.

All that said, I have to be happy as a part-Swede that we're smarter on average according to that list than the Norwegians
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Old 04-04-2006, 02:06 PM
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I have heard it said that a, if not the major factor at play here is the lack of horses in America and Africa, for agriculture work, travel, and mounted cavalry.

Does this theory come from Diamond? I have not read the book yet, but know he talks about domesticating animals.

Did he single out the horse as the biggie? If so, what use of the horse did he (or you) consider the biggest factor?
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Old 04-04-2006, 02:29 PM
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If I remember correctly, I think that a related idea that Diamond points out is that ideas tend to move more easily east and west rather than north and south, for the simple fact that when people migrate, they tend to stay at the same latitudes, to maintain similar climates, growing conditions, etc. And in Africa, a more or less north/south lying continent, migrations tended to not be be north and south and ideas tended to not spread from north to south. In Eurasia, a more or less east/west lying landmass, ideas would tend to spread east/west across the area more rapidly and pollinate a wider area. In the long run this would lead to more new ideas - a more and rapidly developing technology. This was another aspect of geography having an impact on the development of civilizations.
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Old 04-04-2006, 02:38 PM
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Actually, I can think of a specific example of that not being true. In the northern tier of Africa, ideas -- mostly Islamic ones -- moved pretty much south, through the desert, with the camel caravans. Ideas in general I wouldn't think would rely so much on migrants as they would on trade. Think of Marco Polo, for example.
#18
Old 04-04-2006, 02:38 PM
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Another problem in Africa is the range of the tsetsefly, which spreads sleeping sickness not only to people, but to cattle as well. The tsetse fly range therefore restricts the usable range of cattle, and poses another boundary to domesticated animals. As far as I can recall, this isn't in Diamond

By the way, just because they didn't have domesticated horses naturally (and couldn't use zebras) doesn't mean they couldn't import them. as I noted above, Oubangi-Shari had famous cavalry.
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Old 04-04-2006, 02:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CC
If I remember correctly, I think that a related idea that Diamond points out is that ideas tend to move more easily east and west rather than north and south, for the simple fact that when people migrate, they tend to stay at the same latitudes, to maintain similar climates, growing conditions, etc.
Specifically, it's when FARMERS migrate. Farmers have the population (and eventually, other resources) and germ-resistance (almost entirely a function of population density) to drive out/defeat/absorb/kill all non-farmers.

The difficulty of moving north-south in Africa, taking into account the deserts and the Tsetse fly and malarial belts, tends to suport Diamond's theory, not refute it.

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#20
Old 04-04-2006, 02:57 PM
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Originally Posted by CalMeacham
Another problem in Africa is the range of the tsetsefly, which spreads sleeping sickness not only to people, but to cattle as well. The tsetse fly range therefore restricts the usable range of cattle, and poses another boundary to domesticated animals. As far as I can recall, this isn't in Diamond

By the way, just because they didn't have domesticated horses naturally (and couldn't use zebras) doesn't mean they couldn't import them. as I noted above, Oubangi-Shari had famous cavalry.
Actually Diamond does talk about the disease belts specifically, and he notes that Africans and other indigenous peoples have no trouble understanding the value of domesticable animals and adopt them when they can get their hands on them. Look at the Masai cattle culture, for example...and the fact that after at least two thousand years, not even Europeans or Fertile Crescent dwellers have domesticated the zebra. The problem is that the zebra is unsuitable, not that Africans can't even figure out horses.

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Old 04-04-2006, 03:00 PM
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Originally Posted by CalMeacham
Another problem in Africa is the range of the tsetsefly...

By the way, just because they didn't have domesticated horses naturally (and couldn't use zebras) doesn't mean they couldn't import them. as I noted above, Oubangi-Shari had famous cavalry.
Tsetse flies transmit disease to horses, too.
#22
Old 04-04-2006, 03:04 PM
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Look at the Masai cattle culture, for example...and the fact that after at least two thousand years, not even Europeans or Fertile Crescent dwellers have domesticated the zebra. The problem is that the zebra is unsuitable, not that Africans can't even figure out horses.
Look, I'm not disagreeing with you or Diamond. Just trying to point out further details.

Musta been too long, because I don't recall Diamond bringing this up. It certainly is in Gonick's books.
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Old 04-04-2006, 03:05 PM
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Is there some theory that there is something about Christianity that aided in European dominance, such as rugged individualism or something?
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Old 04-04-2006, 03:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Bearflag70
Is there some theory that there is something about Christianity that aided in European dominance, such as rugged individualism or something?
When I think of European Christian dominance, I think of Catholic monks forcibly converting Central and South America to the faith. Not exactly a prime example of rugged individualism IMHO.
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Old 04-04-2006, 03:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Bearflag70
Is there some theory that there is something about Christianity that aided in European dominance, such as rugged individualism or something?
Not sure, but having a large religion with lots of subjects supporting the priests & monks, would give the clergy more leisure time to sit around and study things, contemplate the universe, make copies of texts, etc.
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Old 04-04-2006, 03:30 PM
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Of course, another factor is simple luck. Even if all parts of the world were on an equal footing (which, of course, they're not), someone would end up on the top of the tech race. It just so happens that, the way history actually played out, it happened to be the European societies.

And the fact that humans originated in Africa doesn't give the Africans any particular advantages. The African peoples haven't been around any longer than those who eventually settled elsewhere; they just stayed in the same place for longer. And I'm not aware of any particular reason why a settled people should advance any more quickly than a mobile people.
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#27
Old 04-04-2006, 03:34 PM
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Oh get a frigging grip. "Dem dar Niggers is Dumb!" as a driving force in world history? Linking to a wiki article which has 'Dispute' warnings all over it plus several paragraphs pointing out fundamental flaws in the data and interpretation of the original 'study'? Please don't bother paying the membership fee.
What the fuck is this?

There are some major problems with this theory, such as that low IQs are to a high degree caused by bad nutrition. And the data is not that good.

But why does that allow an attack on the poster? I don't think its terribly stupid to consider that IQ might be a factor. And if IQ is a factor it is certainly not stupid to point to some data about it, which may or may not be correct.


Quote:
Is there some theory that there is something about Christianity that aided in European dominance, such as rugged individualism or something?
Considering how christianity's rule halted scientific research, I think it is rather a huge factor against european dominance. But that is not a discussion for this forum I suspect.
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Old 04-04-2006, 03:41 PM
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Originally posted by levdrakon:
Not sure, but having a large religion with lots of subjects supporting the priests & monks, would give the clergy more leisure time to sit around and study things, contemplate the universe, make copies of texts, etc.
Yeah, they made a lot of copies of religious texts, and studied a lot of religious texts. They probably also did some research of small value. But if we consider that these were intelligent and educated people, it is certain that they could have achieved much more researching proper stuff.
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Old 04-04-2006, 04:03 PM
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Originally Posted by OneCentStamp
When I think of European Christian dominance, I think of Catholic monks forcibly converting Central and South America to the faith. Not exactly a prime example of rugged individualism IMHO.
True. I just seem to recall reading somewhere that there was some aspect of Christianity that was more condusive to technological growth or expansion than other religions. I could be mistaken.

Also, in addition to the Guns Germs theory, I have read elsewhere on the Boards that the European powers that dominated South America and Africa were less British and more exploitative of what they found there, whereas the British tended to bring an ethic that invested more in infrastructure, and these reverberations can be felt today.

I also vaguely recall reading stuff in college about how Africa and South America tend to be stuck in an economic cycle that depends on cash crops, and as the value assembled goods increases relative to the value of cash crops worldwide, these continents find it harder and harder to compete or break the cycle, growing ever more shackled by Western loans.

I also seem to recall reading about the fact that the birth rate remains high but the infant death rate has dropped, causing over-population problems, further depleteing resources.

The AIDS epidemic may play a part. Does the World Bank contribute to problems?

I suppose what I'm getting at is that in addition to the Guns Germs stuff, which may be ultimately at the root of the issue, there are more contemporary factors that contribute to the current status and act as barriers to advancement. As you can tell, I'm hardly an expert and maybe someone with some actual knowledge can expand on these thoughts beyond my vague recollections of things I read 15 years ago in a superficial college class.
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Old 04-04-2006, 04:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bearflag70
Is there some theory that there is something about Christianity that aided in European dominance, such as rugged individualism or something?
There is this theory by Max Weber about the spirit of protestantism. But the countries who looted most were Portugal and Spain, and those were always the poorer of the countries within Western Europe.
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Old 04-04-2006, 04:12 PM
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Originally Posted by mr. jp
Yeah, they made a lot of copies of religious texts, and studied a lot of religious texts. They probably also did some research of small value. But if we consider that these were intelligent and educated people, it is certain that they could have achieved much more researching proper stuff.
But we're not really discussing why Europeans didn't advance technologically, even faster. It seems a given Europeans advanced faster, and further than Africans.
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Old 04-04-2006, 04:18 PM
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Originally Posted by mr. jp
Considering how christianity's rule halted scientific research, I think it is rather a huge factor against european dominance. But that is not a discussion for this forum I suspect.

Depends. Sure, certain ideas were banned, but because the church never really had much wordly power, it couldn't actually kill the ideas.

Perhaps it is the enormous diversion and competition within pre-modern / early modern Europe? There was a lot of competition, diversity, war, no unifying things whatsoever. Especially where warfare was concerned countries couldn't afford to get behind with the latest developments.
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Old 04-04-2006, 04:22 PM
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Levdrakon:
But we're not really discussing why Europeans didn't advance technologically, even faster. It seems a given Europeans advanced faster, and further than Africans.
Ehm, yeah. You were saying christianity was helpful in this aspect because of the monks, Im saying its not so.
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Old 04-04-2006, 04:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CC
If I remember correctly, I think that a related idea that Diamond points out is that ideas tend to move more easily east and west rather than north and south, for the simple fact that when people migrate, they tend to stay at the same latitudes, to maintain similar climates, growing conditions, etc. And in Africa, a more or less north/south lying continent, migrations tended to not be be north and south and ideas tended to not spread from north to south. In Eurasia, a more or less east/west lying landmass, ideas would tend to spread east/west across the area more rapidly and pollinate a wider area. In the long run this would lead to more new ideas - a more and rapidly developing technology. This was another aspect of geography having an impact on the development of civilizations.
Yes, and more specifically, Dimond notes that the Darian Gap (the thin little piece of land separating Meso-America from the Andes) prevented the union of the llama and the wheel. The llama was the only beast of burden left in the Americas after the previous ice age. All the others had died out (presumably because they were hunted to extinction).
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Old 04-04-2006, 04:38 PM
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Originally Posted by mr. jp
Ehm, yeah. You were saying christianity was helpful in this aspect because of the monks, Im saying its not so.
My main point is, it seems to me, to make technological advancements, you need a leisure class to make them. It was usually priests. Christians had them. Egyptians had them. Aztecs had them.

Are there any civilizations that appeared to be on the path towards technological advancement that didn't, at least initially, have lots of leisurely priests doing most of the advancing?
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Old 04-04-2006, 04:53 PM
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What scientific advancements did the christian priests make?
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Old 04-04-2006, 05:15 PM
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Depends. Sure, certain ideas were banned, but because the church never really had much wordly power, it couldn't actually kill the ideas.
Hmm, you might want to look into that middle ages thing again.
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Old 04-04-2006, 05:16 PM
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Sorry, I tend to forget about the "originally posted by" thing. Is there a clever way to make it?
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Old 04-04-2006, 05:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mr. jp
What scientific advancements did the christian priests make?
They invented liqueurs, for one thing, as can be guessed from names of drinks like "Benedictine". Isn't that enough? If it's not, there was Roger Bacon, who, when he wasn't pissing the church hierarcy off, did a bunch of stuff with gunpowder, optics, and physics. There was also Copernicus, who developed the heliocentric theory of the solar system.

There were also people like William of Ockham, who, while he didn't really make any scientific discoveries, did work in logic that helped contribute to later scientific method.
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Old 04-04-2006, 06:19 PM
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#41
Old 04-04-2006, 06:26 PM
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Originally Posted by mr. jp
What scientific advancements did the christian priests make?
Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton. Impossible to list them all.

What scientific advancements in Europe did non-Christians make? Heck, who in Europe even knew how to read & write, other than Christians?
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Old 04-04-2006, 06:29 PM
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Originally Posted by levdrakon
who in Europe even knew how to read & write, other than Christians?
;j
#43
Old 04-04-2006, 06:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by levdrakon
Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton. Impossible to list them all.
Well, of the four of them, only Copernicus was a priest. Kepler did have a degree in theology, though, and probably could have become a Lutheran pastor had he so wanted, but he preferred mathematics to theology.
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Old 04-04-2006, 06:36 PM
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Captain amazing:
Good ones. I didn't know about ol' Nicolaus until now.

But still, I think we can agree, that it's not correct to say that "christian priests did most of the advancement."


Levdrakon:
Those guys you mention (except Copernicus) were not christian priests, they were just christians.
#45
Old 04-04-2006, 06:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Chronos
Of course, another factor is simple luck. Even if all parts of the world were on an equal footing (which, of course, they're not), someone would end up on the top of the tech race. It just so happens that, the way history actually played out, it happened to be the European societies.
And this, in fact, is in large measure dumb luck. For most of historical civilization the Far East has been significantly more technologically advanced than Europe; it was the result of internal political pressures that resulted in technological and literary stagnation during or soon thereafter European expansion.

As for Africa: I'll reinforce the claim that Jared covers this in exhausting detail, but it was a variety of factors--the lack of large work animals, no long-standing transcontinental trade routes (especially natural waterways), the lack of development and maintenance of literacy, poor agricultural resources, the lack of semi-defensible geography of Europe and Asia, et cetera--which prevented aub-Saharan Africa from developing industrial civilization. (The nations of North Africa, on the other hand--particularly Egypt and Carthage--were as developed technologically and politically as contemporary nations in the Mediterranean and more advanced in their time that the nations of Northern Europe.)

The Americas serve as kind of a convenient baseline for this; populated by a genetically constrained group of people (who presumably had about the same level of innate intellectual capabilities), those who settled in areas rich in resources developed more advanced civilizations with high population densities (witness the Aztecs), and others remained less developed; the almost complete lack of indigenous work animals left the American aboriginal people at a disadvantage when it came to competing with the Europeans in dense agriculture and military prowess, but when given the opportunity to obtain domestic species the Americans demonstrated a comperable aptitude for their use.

As for Africans being intellectually inferior as demonstrated by evaluation of IQ: it's not that this is non-PC that makes this misguided; it's the fact that IQ tests are by nature biased toward the group they've been developed to test, i.e. literate peoples of developed nations. Nutrition may play some impact in the development of intelligence (as measured by an IQ test), but more influential is early childhood development, cultural and intellectual literacy, and an educational basis similiar to that anticipated by the test-makers. If one were to develop an IQ test based upon the applied intellectual talents required by semi-nomadic tribal existance it would probably involve things like being able to identify local herbs and wildlife, reading weather patterns, navigation across featureless savanahs, ability to locate water, et cetera, and your average or even intellectually extraordinary resident of a developed nation would flunk it badly. The people of Polynesia used to navigate thousands of miles in dugout canoes using the stars and ocean currents, a feat so intellectually complex that authorities in the field are still trying to figure out how they did it, and yet there are no notworthy Polynesian cartographers or mathematicians.

There is no indication of significant innate intellectual differences between people of different ethnic backgrounds when seperated from sociological influences. That's not Politically Correct, it's just correct.

Stranger
#46
Old 04-04-2006, 06:56 PM
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I'd say the opinion is skewed by our viewpoint in time (and the fact we live in a western centric society)... If you asked this question a millenia or two in the past or in the future (you need special the SDMB previlleges to unlock this feature :-) ) then the basic assumptions you make about the relative "primitive-ness" of Africa compared to the rest of the world, would be incorrect....

The current western technological advances have only really happened in the last few hundred years, and are pretty unique amoungst world civilizations. Being at the "wrong end" of these advances (several hundred years of slavery and colonialism) can certainly do alot to explain the current state of Africa. Some other civilisations which we've crossed paths with fared even worse (the Meso-american civilisations being a case in point), some fared better (Indian, for example, which is on the verge of being a super power).

In classical times african societies (Nubia and Ethiopia) would have been considered part of the "civilised world" whereas the hinterlands of western europe (which encompass most of the european world powers, such as France, Britain, and the Netherlands) would have been the realm of uncivilised barbarians.

If Christianity was a indicator, or cause, of "civilisation" then African empires, such as Axum, were sophisticated christian kingdoms, with plenty of preists and such, long before Christianity reached western Europe...

While clearly mis-matched compared to European (and some middle-eastern empires) the African civilizations such as Axum and the later Zulu kingdom (very brutal but actually quite sophisticated militarily), could have certainly held their own against many world empires (in some hypothecial global empire cage match :-) ). At Islawanda Zulus managed to defeat a large british army armed with weaponary not too different to early 20th century armies, imagine what they could have done against medival army or a aztec army ?
#47
Old 04-04-2006, 07:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mr. jp
Levdrakon:
Those guys you mention (except Copernicus) were not christian priests, they were just christians.
Ah, you're pinging on the word "priest." I don't mean the guy in robes who conducts Sunday mass. I'm mostly talking about the upper class, wealthy, royalty, nobility, ruling leisurely classes in any civilization who had the time to learn to read & write & contribute to technological & scientific advancement.

What do you call those guys who hung out with the pharaohs & told 'em about the stars? What do you call those guys who did the same thing for the Mayans? The Aztecs? The Chinese Emperors? Basically, they were priests. Call them "Her Majesty's Royal Mathematician-Astronomer Dude," instead of priest, if it helps.

A civilization has to get to that point before much technological advancement beyond pointy spears takes place. In Europe, Christianity certainly played some role in organizing society in a manner that allowed the leisurely pursuit of science? They borrowed much from Greece & Rome, but they had their own leisurely, literate, noble classes too, right?
#48
Old 04-04-2006, 07:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anne Neville
Quote:
Originally Posted by levdrakon
who in Europe even knew how to read & write, other than Christians?
;j
And the Muslims.

Stranger
#49
Old 04-04-2006, 07:03 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2001
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slaphead
My favoured explanation is that generally the climate in the tropics is a little too friendly to diseases and pests, a little too hostile to settled agriculture, and too difficult to traverse for trade.
Which makes no sense at all in light of the facts.

First, very few major diseases are tropical. Sleeping sickness is about the most serious of diseases restricted to the tropics. Other diseases that many people think of as ‘tropical’ such as malaria are in fact cosmopolitan but have been eliminated from many temperate areas precisely because those areas developed the technology to do so. IOW the lack of these diseases is the result of the technology level of temperate areas, not the cause of it.

Secondly it has been the very prevalence of major diseases in temperate areas that allowed those temperate regions to become so dominant. It’s a bit pointless arguing that disease prevents technological advance when the most advanced societies inevitably have far more diseases than the less advanced.

Thirdly temperate areas are far better regions for disease spread because of enforced indoor living in cramped conditions during the winter.

Fourthly and most importantly there have been major technologically advanced cultures in tropical America and Tropical Asia. If the tropics were inherently antipathetic o technology we would need to find some way to explain those away.

I have no idea where people get this idea that the climate of the tropics is more friendly to disease generally. I guess it’s a Eurocentric viewpoint brought about by early travelogues that never quit vanished. Because many tropical diseases were new to many Europeans they couldn’t; cope with them and wrote about them extensively, leaving people with the perception of the tropics as a disease ridden region. All the while of course people were ignoring temperate diseases like influenza, smallpox and measles that were killing millions of people each year, because they weren’t really diseases

Quote:
Originally Posted by mr. jp
What scientific advancements did the christian priests make?
Add Mendel to the list

I think you need to appreciate that for long periods the only people keeping most knowledge intact in Europe were Christian persists. Very few secular libraries or universities existed.
#50
Old 04-04-2006, 07:08 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2006
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Posts: 123
Quote:
Originally Posted by slaphead
Oh get a frigging grip. "Dem dar Niggers is Dumb!" as a driving force in world history?
Many people including myself find the word "nigger" to be an offensive term for black people. However, Africa contains many people who are not black people.

Quote:
My favoured explanation
i.e. the explanation that doesn't offend your values
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