Food and Behaviour Research

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The worst mistake in the history of the human race

Date: 1987

This article by Professor Jared Diamond was first published in 'Discovery' in 1987.

In it, he challenges the received wisdom that the adoption of agriculture was a progessive step for human beings, arguing instead that it was actually 'the worst mistake in the history of the human race'.

No abstract is available, but the first paragraph is reproduced here (emphasis added)

"To science we owe dramatic changes in our smug self-image. Astronomy taught us that our Earth isn't the center of the universe but merely one of billions of heavenly bodies. From biology we learned that we weren't specially created by God but evolved along with millions of other species. Now archaeology is demolishing another sacred belief: that human history over the past million years has been a long tale of progress.

"In particular, recent discoveries suggest that the adoption of agriculture, supposedly our most decisive step toward a better life, was in many ways a catastrophe from which wehave never recovered. With agriculture came the gross social and sexual inequality, the disease and despotism, that curse our existence."