Diamond: The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race


People have often cited the benefits of agriculture, noting that it improved people’s lives in terms of providing enough food to eat. Diamond looks at the issue from a different perspective. He observes the difference in people’s lives when they abandoned hunting and gathering and took up agriculture. Diamond has chosen to dig deep on a topic, which most people find controversial. Diamond notes that hunters and gatherers led healthier lives than the farmers. He proves this using scientific evidence enabled by patheopathology and the Dickson Mounds.

1. The progressivist and the revisionist have different perceptions about the adoption of agriculture by humans. The progressivists believe that people adopted agriculture because it benefited them, since they could increase the food available using less energy. They believe that people adopted agriculture so that they could have time to do other things. The revisionists believe that people adopted agriculture because it benefited more people than hunting (Diamond 64). They believe that farmers increased and outnumbered the hunters and then chased them away from their areas.

2. Jared points out that the communities, which are today regarded as primitive, still practice hunting and gathering. They do not work as much as farmers and they have more free time to do as they wish. He does not believe that hunters are worse than farmers are. He explains that their diet is healthier since they eat proteins while the farmers eat foods rich in carbohydrates. There are few hunters today because many were chased away by the farmers.

3. The farmers did not have healthy lives since they did not have a variety of nutrients. Through patheopathology, people are able to know the kind of diseases that afflicted people in the past. People can be able to tell the conditions that afflicted people such as malnutrition, anemia, TB, and leprosy among other diseases by studying skeletons. The Dickson Mounds complements the results obtained from patheopathology. They show the changes of human skeletons once the people changed from hunting to cultivating maize. The changes include increase in anemia and blood lesions, and degenerative conditions (Diamond 65).

4. Agriculture introduced class divisions, which were previously absent when people were hunters. This was enabled by the fact that the rich people could afford to store their produce and they lived better lives than the others did. Agriculture encouraged gender inequality as women were made to work in the fields and carry the heavy burdens. Once people adopted agriculture, women were forced to have more children so that they could work on the land. This was detrimental to their health and they got sick more often.

5. Poorer nations strive to produce what is marketable to the developed nations. Countries that could be thriving when they are producing something else such as food are forced to produce commodities such as oil. This means that there is no food to sustain the country’s population and the people end up starving. The elite countries such as America insist on importing oil and mineral products instead of producing them in their own country since they know that producing these products is harmful to the environment.

6. One consequence of moving from a nomadic lifestyle to a farming one is that the population increased. Whereas women in nomadic communities planned to have children after four years, the women farmers had children after two years. Agriculture does not provide more time for leisure activities. People are more occupied in their lands since they have to ensure that the crops grow well. As the population increases, there is less space for people to live in and for them to farm. The decrease in farming means that people will not have enough to eat and hence their diet is poor (Diamond 66). Congestion led to the spread of diseases such as diarrhea and this caused death hence decreasing the population.

7. Agriculture led to class stratifications as it defined those who were wealthy. The rich and affluent in the society led better lives than the commoners and peasants. They were taller, were more healthy and they had better teeth than the rest of the people. Success in agriculture was determined by the land that one had. The rich had extensive tracts of land and they cultivated more food than the commoners did. They did not suffer during hard times since they had enough supplies.

8. Women who had taken up farming were giving birth more frequently and this increased the population. Although hunting and gathering provided better quality of food, it could not cater for the growing population. People had to take up agriculture so that they could find more food for their children. This meant that they had to abandon hunting in favor of agriculture. The hunters were chased out from the lands where they could find their livelihood, since the same area was suitable for farming, and the farmers outnumbered the hunters.

9. The hunter-gatherers worked for less time than the farmers did. They therefore had more leisure time on their hands. They did not need to spend hours tilling the land, sowing, taking care of the plants and animals, harvesting and storing food. Their tasks were relatively simple since all they had to do was to gather the wild foods that were readily available and hunt the animals, which were there in plenty. They did not need to use sophisticated equipment and the work they did required little effort.

10. Although the hunters and gatherers lived a more affluent life and had more healthy diets, it would not be possible to go back to that kind of lifestyle. This is because people have destroyed the natural habitat. In addition, science and technology have changed people’s lifestyles. Buildings and artificial sites have sprung up everywhere and the population has increased immensely. In addition, there are laws that prohibit people from harming animals and this means that people would not get enough meat in their diets. People have changed their perceptions about their health. This is because they are often discouraged from eating meat, since scientists and other health providers claim that it is not good for health.  The increased pollution rates in the world is also a factor to consider (Sleeman 177)












Works Cited

Diamond, Jared. “The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race.” Discover Magazine May 1987:64-66. Print.

Sleeman, Jesse. Cry for Health: Health: the Casualty of Modern Times. Australia: Dragon Lair Publishing, 2010. Print.


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