Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Sex, Science and Profits

This book is so full of mistakes that it lost all credibility by the end of the second chapter. For a start Khufu has become Khutu

The biggest mistake is confusing Science with Technology, when they are in fact two very different subjects. These are the differences between a biologist and a medical doctor, a chemist and a chemical engineer, a physicist and an engineer. As a “scientists” the author should know better but he is a clinical biochemist which means he is a medic who thinks he is a scientist and not a technologist. Scientists are not applied scientists; they do not make break-throughs that make money. Einstein did not make a fortune from relativity; the early experts on electricity did not make the same fortunes as Edison. There is a huge difference between laying the foundations and doing the work.

His arguments are even inconsistent he complains about the Bronze Age Empires and about how they prevented commerce and stagnated criticizing the Hellenistic Egyptians while praising the Greeks. Where does he think Hellenistic comes from? The most successful trading nation at the time was the Minoans who were successful because they were traders and traders who held monopolies have always been successful.

What weakens an Empire is arrogance and xenophobia. Racism and a belief in your own superiority creates enemies amongst the other nations and in the end they will destroy you. Even if you are strong sometime you will fall foul of environmental disaster and then if you have enemies they will fall upon you. However if you had allies that you had treated well they might come to your aid.

The sex is only there to try and get you to read the book, it serves no purpose. So take the example of the near naked women rowing the Bronze Age Pharaoh down the Nile. What is the point of that account? He is trying to say that imperial debauchery is the reason that Egypt stagnated. That is partly true but only in a very round-about way. Sex sells and incest destroys lineages but it does not cause civilisations to fail.

He talks about the Greeks mastering science, observation, induction, deduction and experimentation. He describes the work of Plato and Aristotle and then Archimedes for the experimentation. Now there is only one problem here that the Classical Greeks such as Plato and Aristotle disliked experiment and had a philosophy of science that did not include experiment, whereas Archimedes is from the Hellenistic period. Anyway these are all Iron Age Greeks and not Bronze Age Greeks who were the Minoans and Mycenaeans.

The Philistines did not invent iron – that came from Anatolia and the imperially debauched and innovation lacking Chinese had actually discovered pig iron making by 500 BC compared to Europeans only inventing it in the Middle Ages. The Hittites were the first people to exploit iron for the benefit of a single culture and it made Hattusa a powerful city.

Part of the problems with the Bronze Age Mediterranean civilizations was the Thera explosion which destroyed the Minoans and the Old Hittite kingdoms. This set-back to agricultural civilizations resulted in them being attacked by the remaining hunter gatherers who used violence to take over the weakened civilizations and to take what they would get. These "sea peoples" driven to raiding by lack of resources were a major threat to Bronze Age civilizations and the same effect would be seen in the Iron Age as the Viking Raiders attacked the Celtic Settlers (in fact history was repeated in the Western United States in the wars between the Native Americans, the Homesteaders and the Cowboys). When there is a lack of resources and some people have them then others will be driven to violence to obtain them. In the case of the Vikings they were finally civilized and integrated into the societies they had been raiding so that they became settlers. They adopted many of the traditions and ideas of the native populations and this integration finally stopped the cycles of invasion and resettlement that marked the period up to the Middle Ages in Europe. After this time agriculture was the norm and raiding, the last remnant of the hunter-gatherer, had finally disappeared.

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