The Curse of the Agrarian Revolution

Jared Diamond, author of such notable works as Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, and Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, penned an essay back in 1987 for Discover Magazine, entitled The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race. The basic thesis is that humanity, such as it is, would likely have been better off had we never gotten involved in the agrarian revolution of several millennia ago.

His first paragraph spells his argument out quite succinctly.

To science we owe dramatic changes in our smug self-image. Astronomy taught us that our earth isn’t the center of the universe but merely one of billions of heavenly bodies. From biology we learned that we weren’t specially created by God but evolved along with millions of other species. Now archaeology is demolishing another sacred belief: that human history over the past million years has been a long tale of progress. In particular, recent discoveries suggest that the adoption of agriculture, supposedly our most decisive step toward a better life, was in many ways a catastrophe from which we have never recovered. With agriculture came the gross social and sexual inequality, the disease and despotism, that curse our existence.

It’s an interesting thought that Pandora’s Box is nothing more than a seed catalog.