The Nobel Savage as Those Before Adam

Interesting article from @jongarvey engaging with @Jeremy_Christian.

But the main theme I want to discuss here is Jeremy’s equation of sin (and his version of free will) with civilization, which he contrasts with the innocence, in displaying various virtues like patience, of primitive hunter-gather peoples.

Now, there is something to be said for this, firstly in the coincidence of apparent timing and culture between the Fall narratives and the rise of politicized city states in Mesopotamia, which were accompanied by vastly greater disparities of wealth and status, organised war and institutionized brutality – as well as false religion. I confess that one of the “hints” I see in tracing the origin of the Fall in archaeology is the extreme rarity of evidence of interpersonal violence before the Neolithic, compared to its increasing ubiquity thereafter.

Doesn’t that quote conflate two separate time periods, the beginning of the Neolithic and the rise of Mesopotamian city states? And why only Mesopotamia? Isn’t the rise of cities elsewhere in the world also accompanied by the same things? And aren’t non-citified neolithic (and post-neolithic) cultures worldwide also prone to war, slavery, and such?


As I understand it, the agricultural revolution begins in Mesopotamia and spreads across the world from there. There are trade routes connecting most of the early the early civilizations and the chronology radiates out from Mesopotamia. This is consistent with a tipping point sort of phase transition in human culture that is certainly developed and advanced elsewhere, and everyone has capacity to participate in it. However it does seem to begin at some point between 12 and 8 Kya.

What am I missing here? Show me how I am wrong?

The current consensus seems to be that agriculture originated independently at least 11 times; see for a review.

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I’m not talking about agriculture per se, but the agricultural revolution. Perhaps it is better described as the rise of civilization, which is symbiotic with agriculture?

I don’t know what you mean by that. Agriculture led independently to urban civilizations in multiple regions: Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, China, Mesoamerica, the Andes.

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Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel might be a relevant read here.

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What were the dates that each of these civilizations arose? What does “independent” exactly mean?

See figure 2 in the paper I linked to above.

It means (I think – not exactly my field) agriculture based on local domestication of indigenous plants and animals.

That is what I thought and it turns out to be a relative term. For example cows are very difficult to domesticate, and it happened only once or twice and spread from there.

Also even if they were independent in the sense for relying on independent domestication events, they are not likely independent from a cultural exchange point of view.

Most things were only domesticated once, especially plants. That’s why it’s notable that the different centers of agriculture have disjoint sets of domesticated plants – they were developed locally, rather than imported from other centers. When farming did spread from these centers, it typically took crops with it. Without crops, the concept of agriculture is not something that can be spread easily by cultural exchange, since it requires centuries of activity before domestication is achieved.

Agriculture goes back some 30000 years though. There is a jump in scale with the agricultural revolution and the rise of cities. The idea to turn everything upside down and build a city instead of hunting and gathering is the tipping point I’m talking about.

What makes you think an idea is involved? Seems like a gradual evolution of larger communities, greater food surpluses, more specialization, greater organization of people for, for example, irrigation systems. At some point, you call it a city. And it’s happened independently in multiple places. Even the neolithic farmers who spread wheat and other domesticated crops into Europe didn’t bring cities with them; they just developed there much later.

I’m assuming, incidentally, that you aren’t actually defending any connection between the rise of civilization and Genesis. Tell me if I’m wrong about that.

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Is there no connection?

One of Cain’s descendants (pre-flood) …
Genesis 4:20 - Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock.

One of the factions that made up early Sumerian society (pre-Sumerian flood) …
“tent-dwelling nomadic pastoralists dependent upon their herds” -

Genesis 11:10 - The first centers of his kingdom were Babylon, Uruk, Akkad and Kalneh, in Shinar.

“Shinar” is Sumer. Babylon is what Eridu became. “Uruk” is a Sumerian city built just after the flood according to Genesis here as well as the Sumerian King’s List.

This is a key behavioral change. Very significant in what we’re discussing here…

“the prevailing view is still that male dominance, along with private property and slavery, were all by-products of the agrarian revolution…despite the evidence that, on the contrary, equality between the sexes - and among all people - was the general norm in the Neolithic.” -Riane Eisler, American Scholar, Cultural Historian

“There is the same lack of evidence for violent conflict throughout the simple horticultural period of history as in the hunter-gather era. Graves don’t contain weapons; images of warfare or weapons are still absent from artwork; and villages and towns aren’t situated in inaccessible places or surrounded by defensive walls.” - Steve Taylor, The Fall: The Insanity of the Ego in Human History and the Dawning of a New Era

It’s assumed by most that the lifestyle change brought on by the advent of agriculture is the catalyst that brought about this behavior change, despite the fact that that view does not line up with the evidence.