The Achievements and the Days Book II. from Tribes to Empires
The second book follows the evolution of hominids to homo sapiens, their socialization and humanization and the development of the early pre-Christian empires. There are extensive discussions that start at pre-history and proceed through written history ending at the present. Interesting facts and observations are interspersed throughout; these points certainly add spice to the presentation. More
This is a fascinating book with a plethora of facts, ideas and concepts. The text of the second book starts with the development of chordates and follows through to the evolution of hominids and finally on to homo sapiens. The history of man is then charted through the Neolithic period in various parts of the world. This book finishes with the histories of several pre-Christian empires and a number of empires that started prior to 1500 A.D. These histories are documented with information about rulers, wars, specific battles and the religious consequences of nation-to-nation interactions. In covering many centuries and countries, the flood of details is daunting and cannot easily be summarized.
There are a number of interesting concepts raised. In the section on biological intelligence and survival, the author states that “The world is a creation of our nervous system.” On this subject, he notes the markedly different capacities that various other species have and the fact that they would perceive the world quite differently from humans; for example, birds, fish and crustaceans perceive magnetic fields and can navigate using these fields. Other examples are given.
In a section on human cognitive development, there is an extremely interesting discussion of the progression of the learning processes from birth through the adolescent period. This includes the sequence of acquisition of physical and mental capacities, as well as outlining morphological changes that occur concurrently.
In the section on evolution of hominids, the role that anatomy played in the progression or failure to progress toward homo sapiens was noted. For example, the form of the vocal canal of Australopithecines could not pronounce “a, i, u, g or k”, thus limiting communication, which was probably supplemented with gestures. Therefore, fully satisfactory communication was difficult in the absence of visual contact. Another example is that the quadriped’s breathing apparatus makes it impossible to talk and run at the same time. In contrast, breathing in bipeds is redirected, which aids in speech. The author adds “The brain structures that regulate bipedal locomotion in humans also regulate speech, indicating that bipedal locomotion was the initial selective pressure for the elaboration of brain structures that are essential for speech and syntax.”
In a section on population control, the author argues that regulation is not achieved by negative controls, such as starvation, predation, accidents and disease, but rather by the restraint of the population. He claims that it is the threat of starvation to come and not hunger today that dictates population density decisions. The example given is that an animal group will stake out an area sufficient to meet its needs. There are interesting findings that are added, even when some may only indirectly relate to the topic under discussion; Book 2 has the most of these interjections – a few examples: the queen bee controls her colony by a pheromone released by her mandibular gland; in choosing correct objects in a set, chickens do better than marmosets; captive trout have smaller brains than wild trout.
The author’s creed is put forward in an optimistic paean to humans: “There is a discontinuity of human nature from everything that came before. The most powerful motive for human beings is the desire to be good. This desire makes Man unique among animals. There is no animal model for human pride, shame and guilt. Human conscience, morality and mental life are not those of a bonobo. Humans have a spiritual nature. “Spiritual” stands for a being who is free enough to do things for reasons, self-conscious enough to entertain ideas about the significance of his deeds, planful enough to be aware of the long-term consequences of his actions and sufficiently “divinely” inspired to feel a justification in what he does. Plato and Descartes are right: human beings are a “special creation.”