Great locust comparison! I think it would be interesting if we compiled a list of species in a similar situation as the rat, concerning a paradoxical relationship with humanity, or even just from the position of being ‘vermin’. I suspect the rat isn’t necessarily unique in the position it occupies, and discussing other species might give us a better view of the whole system and a more succinct and clear way to describe this relationship.
I wouldn’t necessarily agree that rats are domesticated…they’re at least in a grey area to me. Our domestication definitions doc gives three requirements for domestication: lost fear of humans; reproduces in captivity; and humans control breeding, organization of territory and food supply. I think the third requirement might be a little sketchy when considering the rat. Certainly (and as our readings say) we HAVE domesticated certain rats, leading to a reuse of a single ‘individual’ in testing. However, we might have to consider how deliberate the control of breading, food, and territory is for it to be domestication. I think if this DOES qualify as domestication, we should qualify this case, noting that it might not be a deliberate domesticate. I’m not sure how important such a discussion/categorization actually is, but it seems like a decent talk to have next class.
I love the theory. Really good stuff. I’m not sure domestication ‘led’ to civilization. Certainly it’s a factor, considering the work Diamond has done, but I’m not sure domestication is required for civilization. I’d amend your theory by saying domestication, as a piece of the agricultural revolution, allowed societies to overcome the challenges of nature and build ‘better’ (by Western standards) civilization. If we extrapolate this theory, we might arrive at a number of predictions for the future, including manipulation of our own DNA (explicitly ‘domesticating’ ourselves), downloading our consciousness into computers (this is actually a thing, check out any book by Ray Kurzweil), etc.
I’m probably going to say something idiotic (I cede authority on this subject to you), but haven’t the animal riding parallels also appeared in other domesticates? A quick check through Wikipedia shows this situation could also have played out with the Camel. And the donkey seems to have a similar story as well. Beyond that, I’m not sure there are any other ‘ride-able’ domesticates. Smaller camels, like the Llama, seem too small; cows are too…..cow-ish.
I’m not sure where to stand on the horses discussion. Now this may be silly and wishful thinking, but couldn’t we dig our way out of the ‘poor genome’ hole through more domestication? I would hope that our many years of selecting ‘positive’ traits after domesticating the weaker horses wouldn’t really do much to hurt the species genome. Although a weak genome may not really be an issue when an animal becomes domesticated.
Your jokes almost make me want to abandon my search for ancient humanity-engineering aliens and go live on a goat farm just to be punny. Did it seem to you that Kessler didn’t really make this lifestyle change for the goats? It read to me as if he was just looking for a place to (for lack of a better word) chill, and after realizing he needed money, decided to write about the only thing around: goats. I agree with you on the cheese making. I mean, cheese is good and all, but to paraphrase Hugh Laurie on House – anything that you excrete as waste a day after you eat it isn’t sacred.
I agree with your suspicion that goat farming is actually much harder than Kessler makes it out to be. Maybe some of our classmates who’ve lived around animals can present a clearer picture. However, as you said, Kessler is a successful writer, and knows how to make a story more interesting than the truth. Besides, I’d much rather read about the quiet little life he wrote about than the real one he experienced.
I like your support that humans could easily take pity on a scavenging wolf. I’m reminded of a theory (and I forget the name – I’m still looking for it) that people are more attracted to animals with friendly, human-like faces, and a pitiful looking wolf would certainly fulfill those qualities. Imagine the effects of just one human-wolf relationship within a tribe/group of humans? It would certainly seem (as another blog alluded to) almost mythical, and I suspect that desire to interact more with such wolves would skyrocket.
Bill, I appreciate your rejection of cancer being some kind of ‘population control.’ The claim reminds me of a preacher condemning human sin as the cause of some terrible natural disaster. From what I’ve read, the primary cause in the rise in cancer is simply increasing lifespan. We’re always bombarded on how some previously benign activity has been discovered to cause cancer. It’s as if EVERYTHING causes cancer, and to a point, I think it does. If cancer is a natural phenomena, the rampant spread of mutated cells, then a longer life for an organism simply increases the chance of cell mutation.
My attempt at answering Question 1):
I would bet the reindeer became some sort of religious symbol far before they were domesticated. I’m reminded of two things: the Native Americans that hunted and relied on the bison of the great plains, and Bulliet’s attempt at explaining an order to how domestication began in deep history. My theory: Native people in deep history initially began using, and relying on a few select resources. In some environments, this meant relying on a single species as a source of sustenance for virtually every aspect of life. Such an extreme dependency combined with a lack of scientific knowledge about the world creates a religious importance surrounding said animal. And who can blame these people? The abundance and availability of the species literally determines a people’s survival. The closer this relationship became, the more ‘domesticated’ humanity and their animal were to each other. Such a close relationship sometimes resulted in total domestication, depending on the genetic potential in the species for such a thing. In our example, the Bison were not domesticated by the Native Americans (although certain members of surviving tribes have gotten around to doing that, probably with Western influence). While reading, I didn’t understand whether the Eveny domesticated reindeer before or after the demand of the Soviets. Regardless, I conclude that both the plains Indians’ and Eveny’s ability to domesticate their respective animals was the main determinate in their survival. If the Eveny did not domesticate their reindeer until forced to by the Soviets, then we may simply amend our conclusion to say that the Eveny adapted to the foreign idea of domestication, while the North American Indian did not.