I think the idea of natural vs. unnatural (or some other category opposite of natural such as artificial) is an interesting, but ultimately arbitrary debate. I don’t think there is a definitive distinction and any that humans create is just an arbitrary construction used to satisfy our need to be different from animals. I think human influence is a part of natural selection because humans and everything they create is a part of the environment. I just can’t see why it wouldn’t be other than because humans are somehow different or above nature. This is just my opinion though.
I also found the animal protection societies of the 19th Century interesting because they seem to defy Bulliet’s stages. As you pointed out, the societies are clearly postdomestic in Bulliet’s mind, but they existed in a time that I think he would consider domestic. I suppose there’s regional variability in the idea of domestic and postdomestic society, by that I mean a city can have elements of postdomesticity while the countryside of the same time can be solidly domestic. The animal protection societies in the 19th century just seemed a little more widespread than Bulliet implied in his book.
I was also interested in the origin of the Ages classifications. I thought it was pretty impressive that a government employee with no training came up with the Ages because its a simple but elegant system of classification that really wasn’t that far off the mark. The specifics of the system weren’t perfect, but the idea that people used different metals and alloys at different times seems pretty good to me. I’ll agree that it is probably a good thing that its become a little more scientific, but for a first try, I think that government employee did a pretty good job.
I agree with Bill, I think Western archaeologists looked at migration as something that was hard to conretely prove.
I found the idea that humans first domesticated the weakest male horses interesting as well. Obviously a weak male is easier to control than a strong male, but it seems to me that the stronger males would have seemed more desirable because they were stronger. I suppose the ease with which early humans could capture and domesticate the weaker horses was more important than breeding the best horses.
I’m also pretty convinced by the bit theory, but as I think more about it, the lack of many specimens seems to detract a lot from the idea. With so few specimens, I think it is hard to say anything definitive.
I think it is interesting that even though we know how horrible getting milk from animals is for the animals involved, we still do it. I mean, I buy milk even though I know dairy cows live in horrible conditions. Does the fact that I don’t actually see the cows and their calves make it somehow easier for me to condone that treatment of animals by buying milk? As a vegetarian it almost seems hypocritical to continue to consume any animal products, but I do anyway. It seems like an interesting contradiction of a post-domestic view of animals.
I am interested in your ideas about diseases. I think cancer as a check to overpopulation has less to do with changing genetics and more to do with changing environmental pressures. Through overpopulation humans are exposed to things that make cancer more likely, like pollution and such. I also think that as humans live longer we have a better chance to get cancer because you can get cancer if you died at 30 because you’re a hunter-gather in Eurasia. I am not a doctor or biologist, so I might be completely off base, but I am interested in talking about this more.
I think your idea that humans would have cared for garbage and waste eating wolves interesting because I am inclined to agree with you. I think that, for most of us, if we saw an animal eating garbage, we would probably at least feel bad for it, even if we didn’t actually do anything to help it. I do not think its such a leap to imagine that some humans may have felt bad for wolves they saw eating their garbage. Probably not every early human, but at least some. But, like you, I am also inclined to believe that this idea is probably the result of current cultural feelings towards present day dogs. Things may have been much different with early wolves, no matter how nurturing people are.
First of all, folktales are an incredibly rich and interesting subject to study, so you should definitely try to learn more about them.
I think we listen to folktales and deem things important based on what we find important. The domestication of reindeer seems important to us and to the Eveny. I’m sure they have an overabundance of folktales that seem irrelevant to us, but are extremely important to them. I think its less about them preserving important themes, and more about us determining what is important based on our own context.
On your 4th question, the Soviets cared so much about the reindeer herders because they wanted to “modernize” them and turn them into another part of the Soviet system. The benefits the workers received were meant to integrate them into the Soviet system and turn them into proper Soviet citizens. It was partly because they were “backward” that the Soviets invested so much into them. Reindeer meat also proved to be an important commodity as well.
I think the Eveny disliked wolves so much because wolves did compete with them for meat. Every reindeer a wolf killed was food that the Eveny did not have anymore. It seems easy to hate something that is stealing the food out of your mouth.
In the spirit of my last blog post, I have to take issue with the way you use the words “advance” and progress.” The Eveny didn’t develop in the same way the West did because they are not the West. I very much disagree with a lot of Diamond’s argument, this being one aspect of it. I don’t think his theory can or should be applied to every group of people. The reasons you list near the end of your post are plausible reasons why the Eveny did not change in the same way as groups of people in the West, but I think it is incorrect to say they are reasons why the Eveny did not “advance.” As I said in my last blog post, I think we need to be careful about how we use value laden terms like “progress.”