Book Review: Constant Battles

Paul R. Lawrence
Paul R. Lawrence Blog
January 2008

Paul R. Lawrence, author of Being Human discusses Constant Battles by Steven Leblanc and concludes that, "My lingering belief in the 'myth of the noble savage' has been wiped out by the facts."

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Cahokia, population 15,000 was founded on the banks of the Mississippi, not far from modern day St. Louis in 700 AD. The Cahokians enjoyed a large, agricultural society, that flourished until its complete abandonment some 300 years before the arrival of Europeans.  What led to its failure? Read more.

Paul R. Lawrence, author of Being Human discusses Constant Battles by Steven Leblanc and concludes that, "My lingering belief in the 'myth of the noble savage' has been wiped out by the facts."

"On the Chatham Islands, 500 miles east of New Zealand, centuries of independence came to a brutal end for the Moriori people in December 1835. On November 19 of that year, a ship carrying 500 Maori armed with guns, clubs, and axes arrived, followed on December 5 by a shipload of 400 more Maori. Groups of Maori began to walk through Moriori settlements, announcing that the Moriori were now...

The anthropologist Richard Sandall tells of his experience filming Aboriginal sacred ceremonies during the 1960's in Australia. The ceremonies, which included human gore and giant phallic symbols amongst other things, were in Sandall's estimation brutal and grotesque. Apparently, those that viewed the...

Gier gives a brief history of the ecological destruction that took place on Easter Island at the hands of the Polynesians who settled the island.

Analysis Report White Paper

Far from living in a perfect state of nature, this paper argues that pollution began with the appearance of humans, and has never ceased. Not only did prehistoric pollution affect the environment around early man, but it also had a considerable negative effect on their health. Living in caves or thatch...

This well-sourced paper provides a general introduction regarding mass extinctions at the end of the Pleistocene era. It briefly details the two opposing arguments that seek to explain these extinctions. First, that climate change resulted in the mass extinctions seen in North America and South America. Second, that...

Smith presents a very long and detailed history of animal abuses or extinctions perpetrated by prehistoric, ancient, and modern man - shattering the myth of the noble savage. Smith gives numerous examples of how private ownership of animals leads to the protection of animals while leaving animals to fend for themselves...

Contrary to popular conceptions of ancient civilization, several ancient peoples developed complex human waste disposal systems as early as 2,500 BC. The Indus and Aegean civilizations, each dating back at least 4,000 years, and the Aegean significantly farther, had developed sewer and drainage systems so advanced that they would not be surpassed, let alone rivaled until the middle part of the...

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The Crazy Horse Memorial, located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, is the world's largest mountain carving. From the official Crazy Horse Memorial website: "Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski and Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear officially started Crazy Horse Memorial June 3, 1948. The Memorial's mission is to honor the culture...

"Based on Jared Diamond's Pulitzer Prize-winning book of the same name, Guns, Germs and Steel traces humanity's journey over the last 13,000 years - from the dawn of farming at the end of the last Ice Age to the realities of life in the twenty-first century.

Inspired by a question put to him on the island of Papua New Guinea more than thirty years ago,...

"Based on Jared Diamond's Pulitzer Prize-winning book of the same name, Guns, Germs and Steel traces humanity's journey over the last 13,000 years - from the dawn of farming at the end of the last Ice Age to the realities of life in the twenty-first century.

Inspired by a question put to him on the island of Papua New Guinea more than thirty years ago,...

"Based on Jared Diamond's Pulitzer Prize-winning book of the same name, Guns, Germs and Steel traces humanity's journey over the last 13,000 years - from the dawn of farming at the end of the last Ice Age to the realities of life in the twenty-first century.

Inspired by a question put to him on the island of Papua New Guinea more than thirty years ago,...

Steven Pinker, author of The Blank Slate gives a lecture at MIT primarily regarding 'the blank slate' theory, which states that we are all born with an empty head, and that our environment and experiences alone are what develop our personalities - denying the role of human nature. The lecture also discusses the myth of the noble savage as it relates to this topic.

Primary Document

Rousseau is most commonly credited with having originated the myth of the noble savage. In his Discourse on the Origin of Inequality he posits that man, when he lived in a steady state of nature, knew no inequality, and essentially enjoyed a utopian existence.

Note: The title is linked to a site that provides the full text, but in block html form. Several other more readable,...

"Lahontan's account of his travels, New Voyages to North-America, was first published in 1703 as the desperate act of a bankrupt fugitive. Written...

Hobbes argued that a state of nature (an environment without a government imposing order) would be "the war of all against all" and life in such an environment would be "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

From the intro to the piece: "The discovery of so many new lands in the Renaissance had less impact on most Europeans than one might suppose. They were largely absorbed in recovering (and competing with) their own classical past and engaging in violent theological and political disputes among themselves. Yet some Europeans were profoundly shaken by the new discoveries into realizing that much...

"Almanz. No man has more contempt than I of breath,
But whence hast thou the right to give me death?
Obeyed as sovereign by thy subjects be,
But know, that I alone am king of me.
I am as free as nature first made man,
Ere the base laws of servitude began,
When wild in woods the noble savage ran."

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