February 4th, 2009

Jonathan’s comparison of Senator Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) with our distant ancestors in East Africa is grossly unfair. They made a living as hunter-gatherers, a lifestyle which leaves no room for ignorance, stupidity, grandstanding, or cowardice.

From 33 years of fieldwork with New Guinea lowland hunter-gatherers, Jared Diamond concluded (Guns, Germs, and Steel, pp. 20-21) :

From the very beginning of my work with New Guineans, they struck me as being on the average more intelligent, more alert, more expressive, and more interested in the things and people around them than the average European or American is.


Natural selection promoting genes for intelligence has probably been far more ruthless in New Guinea than more densely populated, physically complex societies, where natural selection for body chemistry [for disease resistance] was instead more potent.

In the average American household, the TV set is on for seven hours a day. In contrast, traditional New Guinea children have virtually no such opportunities for passive entertainment and indeed spend almost all their waking hours actively doing something, such as talking or playing with other children or adults. Almost all studies of child development emphasize the role of childhood stimulation and activity in promoting mental development, and stress the irreversible mental stunting associated with reduced childhood stimulation. This effect surely contributes a non-genetic component to the superior mental function displayed by New Guineans.


p.147 (Diamond tries to warn his companions on a foraging expedition against eating unknown mushrooms):

At this point my companions got angry and told me to shut up and listen while they explained some things to me… How could I insult them by assuming they didn’t have names for different mushrooms? Only Americans could be so stupid as to confuse poisonous mushrooms with safe ones. They went on to lecture me about 29 species of edible mushrooms, each species’ name in the Foré language, and where in the forest one should look for it.

Share this post:
  • Twitter
  • StumbleUpon
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook

Comments are closed.