Archaeologist LeBlanc counters the notion that, before the development of complex societies, human warfare and ecological destruction, was a relatively rare phenomenon. Citing archaeological and anthropological studies (including his own) he documents warfare throughout human existence, suggesting that humans have constantly lived with a typical male casualty rate of 25%. They have also constantly failed to carefully husband their ecological resources he says, postulating this as the prime reason for the persistence of warfare. He therefore concludes that a human species that could learn to live within the confines of earth's resources and feed all humanity could effectively eliminate war. Annotation ©2003 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR
In this detailed if strident book, Harvard archaeologist LeBlanc and his co-author dismantle the notion of the noble savage, a myth that "implies that if we can just...remember our ancient abilities to be one with the natural environment, warfare will stop and ecological balance will be regained." LeBlanc begins by describes his own field experiences, in which he and his colleagues routinely ignored "clear evidence for warfare"; later, following the lead of some "fanatical sociobiologists" at Harvard, he began formulating an academic stance focused on what he saw as humanity's ecologically disastrous and inherently violent true nature. It took him more than 25 years to fully change his mind, he says, and still more evidence is needed to prove his hypothesis. And the myth, he says, is entrenched in popular culture as well as science--most people envision prehistoric people as peace-seeking nature lovers. LeBlanc insists repeatedly that it is not only foolish, but also dangerous, to believe in an Edenic past when the evidence reveals overpopulation and violence wherever we look. Like many scientists before him, LeBlanc looks to technology as the answer to ancient problems. "For the first time in history," he writes, "we have a real ability to provide adequate resources for everyone living on the planet." But by not fully addressing the fact that technology has yet to solve may of our contemporary social ills, LeBlanc almost falls into the thrall of another myth-that of a gleaming future that seems drafted from science fiction. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.