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Jared Diamond. “the Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race” Review

Jared Diamond. “The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race” Jared Diamond writes about the consequences of agriculture on the human race. He suggests that the earliest farming societies did not have an easier more productive lifestyle than hunter-gatherer societies, contrary to popular belief. For example, the Kalahari Bushmen spend a mere average of 12 to 19 hours a week to getting food, and on average sleep a lot, work less hard, and have more free time than people in hunter-gatherer societies.

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Another consequence agriculture had on humans is their diets. Hunter-gatherers eat many various wild plants and animals; therefore, they have better nutrition than farmers who generally only eat the limited variety of crops they produce. For example, the Kalahari Bushmen’s daily intake was 2,140 calories and 93 grams of protein, whereas farmers gave up good nutritional crops for cheap calories found in their starchy crops. In my own opinion, I believe that Diamond’s paper is for the most part skewed for the reason that he has a great anti-progressivist bias.

Whenever Diamond makes a direct comparison between farming and hunter-gatherer societies, he shows all the positives for hunter-gatherer and the negatives for farmer societies. For example, when Diamond is comparing the nutrition of the two societies, he talks about the balance of nutrients and diet, he mentions that the Kalahari Bushmen eat a variety of over 75 different wild plants and receive more calories than needed. On the other hand, he mentions the fact that thousands of Irish farmers died during the potato famine during the 1840’s.

Another example of how Diamond’s bias towards the gatherer side affects the paper is when he tries to compare the Bushmen to the Ethiopian farmers. The comparison is trying to show that being a gatherer is a better choice by comparing Kalahari Bushmen to the Ethiopian farmers. This is not an equal comparison because he uses the Kalahari Bushmen who are apparently above average on nutrition and one of the most successful Hunter-gatherer societies to one of the lower, undernourished farming societies in Ethiopia.

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