Divide: Forager v Farmer

In August I listed questions “I rarely see adequately answered” about great divides. Here are my first cut answers on the great divide I’ve been discussing: forager vs. farmer styles:

  1. How is this division a key division, underlying many others? Foraging to farming was the most disruptive transition humans so far. Ten thousand years has been enough time for big cultural adaptations to farming, but not enough for full genetic adaptation. Two centuries has been far too little time to adapt to industry.
  2. How do people acquire their sides in this conflict? We have varying degrees of cultural and genetic adaptation to farming styles. And since farming cultural pressures, e.g., fear, are weaker for rich folk, our recently differing wealth also contributes to this divide.
  3. How has this conflict lasted so long, without one side winning? Farming and foraging lifestyles are different enough that it can take millennia for cultural adaptation, and much longer for full genetic adaptation.
  4. How could one side finally win such an old conflict? In the long run, our descendants may become well adapted to their environment. But for now, we act on old instincts.
  5. Why is one side better than the other in an absolute sense? Each side feels right to those raised that way, and remaining in a similar environment. But forager ways feel more naturally right when one is rich and safe.  The farmer side is somewhat better adapted to the modern world, but both are substantially off, and for the rich adaptation pressures feel weaker.
  6. Why can’t those folks be persuaded that their side is bad? Our preferences are in part created by how we are raised. Most of us are unaware of assumptions implicit in such preferences.
  7. Why can’t peaceful compromise replace conflict? Peaceful compromise should replace conflict, but that requires folks to reflect on the source of their intuitions. As we get safer and richer it does make sense to move to more natural-feeling forager ways. But since real risks remain, and a competitive future may demand more adaptation, farmer ways should be preserved; we may need them later.

I encourage others to answer such questions regarding their favorite great divide.

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