Re: MEDIA: NOVA on Gamma Ray Bursters

From: Mike Lorrey (
Date: Sun Jan 13 2002 - 09:29:00 MST

steve wrote:
> Mike Lorrey wrote
> >
> > Thank you. The reason why I used writing to compare the ages of various
> > civilizations is that writing is the primary tool of Lamarkian social
> > evolution. Societies which relied purely on oral traditions were not
> > very developed, never very organized into city/nation states (since
> > city/nation states depend upon the existence of writing to function),
> > and thus societies with only oral traditions cannot be considered true
> > 'civilizations'. They can be considered cultures, but not civilizations
> > due to this absence of writing technology.
> Interesting. What do you say about pre-Columbian South America (esp the
> Incas and Chimu)? As I understand these did have cities and complex large
> scale political organisation but no writing system.

The Incas did have a primitive writing system in development at the time
of the conquistadors. The "Complex large scale political organization"
was nothing more than a priestly caste, but I would not characterise
their culture as a 'civilization'. They had not invented the wheel for
transportation (something that the barbaric tribes of the eurasian
steppes had had for thousands of years prior). Their 'cities' were
nothing more than large religious complexes surrounded by several
villages, and they had no metals technology beyond working with gold,
copper, and in a few cases, bronze. Iron technology was just beginning
to be experimented with by a few Toltec tribes at the time of the

Any culture in which the vast majority of economic activity is spent on
religious worship has no need of a written language, has no need of
technological development, and is also not complex enough to be
considered a 'civilization'.

> >
> > For this reason, the Aryan culture from whence sanskrit developed cannot
> > be considered a 'civilization' prior to the development of written
> > sanskrit. Given this, my original point that western civilizations are
> > older than eastern ones continues to stand.
> >
> I think this is true if by "western" you mean "West Asian/Mid East". The
> Sumerians had writing about 3200BC but it's 1500BC for China. In India the
> Indus civilisation has writing from anout 2600BC but there doesn't seem to
> be any continuity between them and the Indian civilisation which develops
> after the Aryan "invasion".

Babylonian and Egyptian civilizations are to be considered western
civilizations, since the entire judeo-christian origins of our modern
law, the phoenecian origins of our written language, the Syrian origins
of our steel technology, and the Egyptian origins of our civil
engineering technologies all come from the area.

Keep in mind that modern definitions of east and west are based upon a
location's relationship to the English prime meridian, which passes thru
Greenwich, England. This arbitrary meridian has no relation to the
origins of western culture.

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