Sapiens 9.0分
读书笔记 History's Biggest Fraud
Even today, with all our advanced technologies, more than 90 percent of the calories that feed humanity come from the handful of plants that our ancestors domesticated between 9500 and 3500 BC -wheat, rice, maize (called 'corn' in the US), potatoes, millet and barley. No noteworthy plant or animal has been domesticated in the last 2,000 years. If our minds are those of hunter-gatherers, our cuisine is that of ancient farmers.
Scholars once proclaimed that the agricultural revolution was a great leap forward for humanity. They told a tale of progress fuelled by human brian power. Evovlution graudally produced ever more intelligent people. Eventually, people were so smart that they were able to decipher nature's secrets, enabling them to tame sheep and cultivate wheat. As soon as this happened, they cheerfully abandoned the gruelling, dangerous, and often spartan life of hunter-gatherers, settling down to enjoy the pleasant, satiated life of farmers.
That tale is a fantasy. There is no evidence that people became more intelligent with time. Foragers knew the secrets of nature long befoer the Agricultural Revolution, since their survival depended on an intimate knowledge of the animals they hunted and the plants they gathered. Rather than heralding a new era of easy living, the ficult and less satisfying than those of foragers. Hunter-gatherers spent their time in more stimulating and varied ways, and less in dnager of starvation and disease. The Agricultural Revolution certainly enlarged the sum totoal of food at the disposal of humankind, but the exgtra food did not translate into a better diet or more leisure. Rather, it translated into population exploions and pampered elites. The average farmer worked harder than the average forager, and got a worse diet in return. The Agricultural Revolution was history's biggest fraud.
How did this grass turn from insignificant to ubiquitous?
Wheat did it by manipulating Homa sapiens to its advantage. This ape had been living a fairly comfortable life hunting and gathering until about 10,000 years ago, but then began to invest more and more effort in cultivating wheat. Within a couple of milleninnia, humansin many parts of the world were doing little from dawn to dusk other than taking care of wheat plants. It wasn't easy. Wheat didn't like sharing its space, water and nutrients with other plants, so men and women laboured long days weeding under the scorching sun. Wheat got sick, so Sapiens had to keep a watch out for worms and blight. Wheat was attacked by rabbits and locust swarms, so the farmers built fences and stood guard over the fields. Wheat was thirsty, so humans dug irrigation canals or logged heavy buvkets from the well to water it. Sapiens even collected animal faeces to nourish the ground in which wheat grew.
We did not domesticate wheat. It domesticated us. The word 'domesticate' comes from the Latin domus, which means 'house.' Who's the one living in a house? Not the wheat. It's the Sapiens.
How did wheat convince Homo sapiens to exchange a rather good life for a more miserable existence? What did it offer in return? It did not offer a better diet.
Wheat did not give people economic security. The life of a peasant is less secure than that of a hunter-gatherer. Foragers relied on dozens of species to survive, and could therefore weather difficult years even without stocks of preserved food. ... Farming societies have, until very recently, relied for the great bulk of their calorie intake on a small variety of domesticated plants. In many areas, they relied on just a single staple, such as wheat, potatoes or rice. If the rains failed or clouds of locusts arrived or if a fungus infected that staple species, peasants died by the thousands and millions.
Nor could wheat offer security against human violence. The early farmers were at least as violent as their forager ancestors, if not more so. Farmers had more possesions and needed land for planting. The loss of pasture land to raiding neighbours could mean the difference betweeen subsistence and starvation, so there was much less room for compromise. When a foraging band was hard-pressed by a stronger rival, it could usually move on. It was difficult and dangerous, but it was feasible. When a strong enemy threatened an agricultural village, retreat meant giving up fields, houses and granaries. In many cases, this doomed the refugees to starvation. Farmers, therefore, tended to stay put and fight to the bitter end.
What then did wheat offer agriculturists? It offered nothing for people as individuals. Yet it did bestow something on Homo sapiens as a species. Cultivating wheat provided much more food per unit of territory, and thereby enabled Homo sapiens to multiply exponentially.
The currency of evolution is neither hunger nor pain, but rather copies of DNA helixes. ... the evolutionary success of a species is measured by the number of copies of its DNA.
Humanity's searh for an easier life released immense forces of change that transformed the world in ways nobody envisioned or wated. Nobody plotted the Agricultural Revolytion or sought human dependence on cereal cultivation. A series of trivial decisions aimed mostly at filling a few stomachs and gaining a little security had the cumulative effect of forcing ancient foragers to spend their days carrying water buckets under a scorching sun.
This discrepancy between evolutionary success and individual suffering is perhaps the most important lesson we can draw from the Agricultural Revolution. When we study the narrative of plants such as wheat and maize, maybe the purely evolhytionary perspective makes sense. Yet in the case of animals usch as cattle, sheep and Sapiens, each with a complex world of sensations and emotions, we have to consider how evolutionary success translates into individual experience.

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