War Before Civilization

WarBeforeCivilizationSuggested by Brad Nelson • The myth of the peace-loving “noble savage” is persistent and pernicious. Lawrence Keeley’s groundbreaking book offers a devastating rebuttal to such comfortable myths and debunks the notion that warfare was introduced to primitive societies through contact with civilization.
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8 Responses to War Before Civilization

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I haven’t actually read this yet. But one of the Amazon.com reviews caught my eye. The review makes this book sound highly relevant in regards to today’s revisionist history:

    Keeley utterly demolishes the “golden age” idiotological mythos with hard anthropological, ethnographic and archaeological fact. He also, very cleverly to my mind, considering the biases of modern academics, gives “primitives” a great deal of credit for their fighting prowess. There were some flaws to his thesis, of course. But this is a sort of polemic; a bludgeon with which to beat home the unarguable fact that primitive man was a violent creature; not the Rousseauean “noble savage” of popular mythology . . .

    Humanity is ugly. The simple fact that we are unpleasant, violent apes seems to be lost on certain social classes of people. In my opinion, you can’t begin to understand people without understanding that human beings are deeply flawed creatures. We are not made horrible by our social conditions, psychological trauma or any other such nonsense: humanity is just horrible. Any meaningful discussion of sociology, history or politics must start from these assumptions, or they are destructive folly.

    One of the comments to this review is worth reading:

    As for humanity being intrinsically ugly- speak for yourself, brother. Any meaningful discussions of sociology, history or politics must start WITHOUT ANY ASSUMPTIONS, or they are destructive folly.


    • Timothy Lane says:

      I’ve read a number of books that point to the violence of precivilized societies. They have a very high murder rate that looks small because they have such small numbers. In a community of 100 people, a murder every 10 years is equivalent to 1000 per year in a community of a million, but the latter will be much more easily noticed by visitors.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I know that Steven Pinker has specialized on this subject somewhat, including his The Better Angels of Our Nature. Frankly, I’ll leave it for others to review this book because I don’t trust his ideological outlook to be particularly objective.

        But he has noted, in line with what you’re saying, is that if you go by the proportion of the populations who have been killed via wars, things were much worse in the past. As for why this is so, well, I doubt that Pinker has the answer. Given that his book consists of 832 pages, you can be sure of it.

        Maybe Christianity and the West’s conception of natural rights has had something to do with this? With political freedom? If so, you’re not likely to find that acknowledged by Pinker who, as an intellectual, can likely find a way to make the simple complex. But I could be wrong. But I’m not likely to take up a 832 page book. If you can’t answer this question in a long article, then one likely hasn’t a clue, and bludgeoning the subject with words is not the same as having a clue.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          I’ve seen it in other places also. Jared Diamond in The World Until Yesterday cites an example of a war between 2 New Guinea tribes that had loss rates (as a percent of their populations) far exceeding even the worst we saw in the world wars.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I definitely have that cruel impulse

        Timothy, I’ve been around a few online circles where there is sometimes talk of “enlightenment.” And people tend to do so, in my opinion, because it’s an ego thing, a thing to attain to may you “special.”

        But I think half of what makes a human being humane instead of barbarous (let alone “enlightened”) is awareness of one’s faults. (The other half is not acting on the impulses of such faults…certainly history is full of people who were quite aware that what they were doing was wrong.) And that is a central aspect of St. Therese’s life. She was actually thankful for having her faults pointed out to her, but not at first, of course. Me, I’ll live with it. But I’m not usually too happy about it. I’m a long long way from sainthood.

        And if it’s sounding as if I’m being a little hard on Mr. Pinker, well, I read his book “How the Mind Works” and you don’t actually learn now the mind works. But thankfully it was *only* 673 pages he used to not do so, although the book did have other interesting info.

        But if one is on the left (and/or has a materialist/naturalist metaphysics), these books are written like religious apologetics. It’s as if by writing this, and the dozens of books on the multiverse, they will somehow make it so.

  2. GHG says:

    One of, if not the most pernicious of the left’s inconsistencies – that of believing in a materialistic origin based on survival of the fittest while at the same time believing in the inate goodness of man. Just what do they think survival of the fittest entails?

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      that of believing in a materialistic origin based on survival of the fittest while at the same time believing in the inate goodness of man.

      Great point, Mr. Lesser. At least Christians and Jews admit that “the problem of evil and suffering” is indeed an almost incomprehensible problem. But that uncertainty is part of a coherent vision of the universe and how it works, what it’s for, etc. It may be right or wrong, but it does makes sense.

      But the Left’s views are incoherent, contradictory, often just downright inane, and don’t usually make much sense. I was just reading a the free Kindle sample of a book and the author noted how Dawkins was lamenting some act of cheating by some college team. But the author pointed out that someone somewhere reminded Richard that “he was just being his DNA,” or whatever the catch-phrase of Dawkins is.

      As this author pointed out, those who believe in the materialist/atheist view have no grounding whatsoever for their morals. (And I think it was Lennox or Berlinski who totally demolished the weak argument for atheistic morals as written in a popular book by a popular atheist, Sam Harris. And I do think it was Lennox in one of his books who totally destroys this bit of bad reasoning.)

      How does an atheist condemn anyone for anything? On what basis? It’s a real problem for them.

  3. Timothy Lane says:

    I have a list of books to be located, and this is on it. Several of these books were given to my sister as possibilities for Christmas giving. Lately I’ve noticed Amazon ads, mostly on the Town Hall website, that include this and 3 other books from the list, of which Seeds and Empires of Light are also listed here. (The other is Mark Steyn’s Climate Change: The Facts which is edited by Alan Moran.) Kind of makes me wonder if Amazon has somehow been reading my hand-written list.

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