Forensic History: Chapter Three
Lucy and Her People
Let’s see if we can get a mental picture of how our ancestors lived in the times of Lucy, some 3.2 million years ago: Lucy and her people lived in a food-rich part of the world, now the nation of Ethiopia. The most important food of Ethiopia as of the 21st century is a grain called ‘teff.’ Teff can be cultivated for higher yields, but it does not have to be: it grows wild all over the savannahs on the lowlands of Ethiopia. People who want to use this grain merely have to pick it up, prepare it, and eat it.
Most people in Ethiopia consume teff today in the form of bread. To make teff bread, grind the grain into flour (you can use two rocks for this), mix the flour with water to make dough, spread the dough into a pan (or onto a flat rock over a fire, if you don’t have a pan) and heat it for a few minutes. Teff bread is kind of like a pancake. If you want to try some teff bread, go to any Ethiopian restaurant and order just about anything on the menu; almost all Ethiopian meals are served with teff bread.
Teff is very rich in nutrients. The Ethiopian government is currently advertising heavily to stimulate export demand, calling it a ‘.’ The messages have been taken up by health food advocates, who seem to agree: Teff bread provides far more nutrients in a much better mix than the breads made with grains that are more common in the rest of the world, including wheat, rye, and corn.
Teff grows prolifically all over the lowlands of Ethiopia. Today, the savannahs where Lucy and her people lived produce much more teff than is needed to feed Ethiopia’s 91 million people: The government monitors the needs of the people and only issues export permits if production exceeds these needs. In 2015, Ethiopia produced of surplus teff (over and above the amount needed for the people of Ethiopia) which was exported.
The savannahs of Ethiopia also produce in vast quantities. Again, this land is so bountiful that it produces far more than its 91 million people need. The Ethiopian government monitors supply and demand, and issues export permits when the nation produces more than its people need. The country exports roughly one hundred other plant-based foods, in addition to teff, some in quantities of millions of pounds per year.
Thousands of species of animals live on the savannahs where Lucy and her people lived. These animals eat anything that humans don’t eat, turning the caloric energy in the food into protein in the form of meat. Humans can trap or hunt most of these animals, so we can benefit from all of the food the land produces, even the food that we don’t directly eat. Today, Ethiopia produces pounds of various different kinds of meat. Again, this is far more than the people of Ethiopia consume; the nation exports the surpluses to parts of the world that are not so bountiful.
The lowland areas of Ethiopia have large networks of shallow lakes where wild rice grows now and has grown for a very long time, probably for millions of years. These lakes produce many things other than rice: they also produce thousands of tons of fish each year, and they provide nesting grounds for millions of egg-laying birds. Even very primitive people could easily collect all of these foods; they could shake rice from the stalks into baskets, they could net the fish, and they could make nests to attract birds, and lay out some food to attract them, so the birds lay eggs in the nests.
The highlands of Ethiopia have lush tropical forests that produce bananas, oranges, avocados, mandarins, papayas, pineapples, guavas, grapes, grapefruit, limes, lemons, plums, and apples. These lands produce far more fruits than the people of Ethiopia consume; highland farmers export the surpluses to areas that have less bountiful and productive land.
The first humans who arrived in Ethiopia would have found plentiful food. When we first arrived, we were the most intelligent beings on the land, with capabilities far greater than those of any other animal. Humans were the dominant species. We could take what we wanted. The other animals would have to make do with what we didn’t want or move somewhere else.
Realistic Population Estimates
If people have plentiful food and hospitable living conditions, they will eventually start socializing with members of the opposite sex. (Hospitable living conditions: tropical highlands, like the highlands of Ethiopia, are the most hospitable for humans of any on Earth. Check this .) Nature will take its course and the women will get pregnant. If the pregnant women have plentiful food and hospitable living conditions, they will give birth to healthy babies. If the babies have nutritious diets and hospitable living conditions, they will grow up healthy. Eventually the children will reach sexual maturity and start socializing with members of the opposite sex. If they don’t have effective birth control methods, sex will lead to babies being born on a regular basis, with historical averages being about 8 births per mated woman ( to source).
If they have plentiful food and favorable conditions, most of the babies born will survive to sexual maturity. This can lead to extremely high population growth rates. The nation with the highest population growth rate as of writing this is Lebanon, with a growth rate of 9.37% per year ( to source). Conditions are not quite this favorable in Ethiopia today: millions of Ethiopian people don’t have jobs (the unemployment rate is 17.5%) and struggle to feed themselves and their children; the children of these people generally don’t grow up healthy. Over the last 30 years, as poverty has spread, the population growth rate has slowed from a high that originally matched that of Lebanon to only 2.6% per year. ( to source.)
Let’s start with the current rate of growth in the same area for the sake of example: The table to the right shows population levels at this growth rate. It starts with a population of 100, which is about the minimum necessary for enough genetic diversity to avoid diseases relating to inbreeding. At this particular growth rate, the population will double roughly every 27 years. In 270 years, the population will have grown to more than 100,000 people.
At a certain point, the local land would not provide enough food to support higher populations. At this point, the people would expand into other areas.
Luckily for them, Ethiopia has some very bountiful land. The current food production of the nation now supports the indigenous population of , with massive surpluses that are exported to other areas where the land is not so bountiful.
How many people might the same land (the land currently called the nation of ‘Ethiopia’) have supported when humans first arrived there?
Many historians have tried to paint a picture that humans who lived before the first societies that accepted the idea of nations were extremely stupid. The books I have read on this issue claim that these people were so stupid they were ‘.’ In other words, they weren’t even smart enough to realize that if they spread seeds over an area at a certain time, they would be able to harvest more later. If they were this simple, they could only gather what grew naturally and hunt and fish for easy prey. I couldn’t find any evidence to support the claim of extreme stupidity on the part of early humans, but I want this example to start with very conservative estimates, so let’s say that they really were too stupid to plant and only harvested what nature gave them, including plants and animals that were extremely easy to trap or hunt.
Humans are intelligent relative to other animals.
Even stupid humans are far more intelligent than other animals. We also have incredible capabilities that other animals don’t have, including the ability to make, carry, and use tools, communication skills that no other animals can match, allowing us to work together and cooperate in ways no other animals can match. Even if our ancestors were incredibly stupid and incompetent relative to modern humans, they would not have been stupid relative to other animals on the savannahs. They would have been the dominant species. They would have had first claim on the food supply. They could take what they wanted, and the other animals would have to make do with what the dominant species left for them.
To be extremely conservative, let’s say that these people were only able to gather a tiny portion of the food that people in the same area gather today. If they only could collect 1/10th (10%) of the amount of food people today gather, the food of Ethiopia would have still supported about 10 million people.
If their population grew at the same rate as the current Ethiopian population growth rate, it would have reached 10 million in about 440 years (see table 1, above).
The Human Race Spreads
These people might live in houses made of grasses and other native materials, probably similar to the homes of Ethiopian people today, as shown to the left. In time, they would have villages in many places. As long as they had plenty of food and other necessities of life, people would continue to feed children, children would continue to grow up and have families of their own, and the human population of the Earth would continue to grow.
People are curious.
People will often take trips just to see what is around them, going as far as they can go and still get back at night. Often, they will take a few days of food and travel for several days, just to see what is out there. People would have known what was around them for at least a few days travel, either by foot or raft, in any direction. They would have found additional land that was bountiful. They would have spread onto it. Perhaps they would only spread out a few miles each generation. But, with millions of years to spread, they would have eventually gotten to India, China, the Ukraine, other areas that are capable of producing even more food than the savannahs of Ethiopia.
As long as they had plentiful food and hospitable conditions, their population would continue grow. At some point, the population would grow to the limit of the food supply. Once it reached this level, it would have to stop growing.
How long could the human race expand before it reached this point?
It helps to understand this if we have some figures to work with. There are 4 billion ‘arable’ acres of land on the set of connected continents on which Lucy’s remains were found. An acre of arable land is about the amount of land needed to produce enough to feed one person. (An acre of wild rice will produce 1,600 pounds of wild rice a year, for example; this is easily enough to feed a person.)
Today, the 4 billion acres of arable land in the eastern hemisphere supercontinent, supplemented by production from raising animals on the ‘non-arable’ land, supports 6 billion people. If the early humans didn’t know how to plant or even spread seeds, but merely gathered the good things nature produced on its own, and hunted for easy prey, the land wouldn’t have supported as many people as it supports now.
So we have a very conservative number to work with, let’s say that they could only collect 1% of the amount people now gather from the lands they lived on. Even with this extremely low figure, the connected supercontinent (including Europe, Asia, and Africa) would support 60 million people.
How long would it have taken them for the population to reach this level?
If their population grew at the same rate that the Ethiopian population is currently growing, they would have reached 600 million in about 600 years, assuming a starting population of only 100.
If their population didn’t grow as rapidly as the current population of Ethiopia, they would still have eventually gotten to 600 million. They would have just needed more time. If their population grew at halfthe current growth rate that we see in Ethiopia, it would have taken twice as long for them to reach the limit of the food supply, or 1,200 years. If their population only grew at 1/10th of the rate of the current growth rate, they would have required 10 times longer, or 6,000 years to reach the carrying capacity of the land.
No mater how slow any critic of the higher numbers may want to claim human populations can grow, their population would have grown until it reached a the natural limit of population imposed by the food supply long before 100,000 years had passed.
They had 3.2 million years.
People who wish to claim we live as we do now because this is our ‘nature’ started out claiming that this nature was imparted to us by our creator, shortly after we created. (How we live now: we divide the world into ‘sovereign nations’ with imaginary lines called ‘borders’ and use war to reallocate the land among the world’s sovereign nations.) The holy books of the largest religions on Earth today all include text that state this explicitly. (The book most commonly called ‘Genesis’ is a part of the holy books of three major religions: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. You can read this book in its entirety from this It states very explicitly that God created the first nations, determined the original borders, and instigated the idea of using war to reallocate land among nations.)
In recent years, people have not been as willing to accept religious texts as references for claimed scientific principles as they have in the past. People who wanted to continue to accept it is our ‘nature’ to live this way realized that we had only lived as we live now for a very short period of time, a tiny fraction of the period of human history. In order to continue to claim we live this way because of our nature, they claimed things that could not be true if humans are subject to the same biological laws as other animals: they claimed that only tiny, tiny numbers of people lived. Their ‘nature’ was the same as ours, but since their population was so low, they didn’t have enough people to form nations. If they could have, they would have (if it is their ‘nature’ to do so, they had no choice). But without organized agriculture (something claimed to have originated 6,000 years ago), the population levels couldn’t get high enough for humans to manifest their nature. As soon as we had the ability to do so, we formed nations spontaneously.
This cannot be true. It violates the basic laws of biology:
All animal populations—including those of humans—have to increase when conditions for increase are favorable. This must happen for a very simple biological reason: there will be times when conditions are not favorable and, during these times, the population will decline. If the population doesn’t increase when conditions are favorable, but does decrease when they are unfavorable, the population will only decline and eventually fall to zero. Therefore, populations must grow when food is abundant and conditions are favorable. This basic law of nature—which holds for all animals—must hold for us.
In fact, humans should be a sort of ‘superexample’ of the principle that populations must expand when conditions are favorable.
Humans have capabilities that far exceed those of any other Earth beings. No other animal comes close to the manual dexterity of humans: we can use our hands to carry out extremely complicated tasks, and do them with incredible precision. We can collect rocks, sharpen them, and then anneal the edges in fire, making super-hard and super-sharp tools. Such tools have been found that have been dated back to 3.3 million years ago. ( to source.) Humans can make to drive large schools of fish into an area so small that we can simply scoop them up; we can make tools to grind grain, allowing us to get far more calories out of the grain than animals get by eating the grains whole. We can breed plants to make them produce more. We can preserve meat, we can make clothes for protection allowing us to hunt when most other animals can’t. We can communicate and cooperate in ways that are far above the capabilities of any other animals. We can make arrows with annealed super-hard and super-sharp rock tips, and then launch these arrows with incredible precision at speeds far faster than any other animal can run, swim, or fly, allowing us to hunt for animals that were at the top of the food chain before the first humans.
From the first time we evolved, we had capabilities that exceeded those of other animals. Perhaps our ancient ancestors may have been stupid and incapable relative to modern humans (we don’t know this, but it could be true) but they were not stupid and incapable relative to the other animals they encountered in the places where they lived.
The dominant species in any area always has first claim on its food supply. If other animals are eating something that humans want to eat ourselves, we can find ways to drive the competitors off so we get the food. Other animals must fight for whatever nature provides for them, generally in a very specialized niche. Humans can collect food and store it to have in times of shortage when nature forces other animals to either migrate or hibernate. We can consume foods that are indigestible to other animals by grinding, mixing, and cooking.
The population of the human race had to have been high. The number given here, 600 million within the first 100,000 years, is designed as a conservative estimate. It is the lowest number that I think could reasonably be reached by even the most stupid and primitive of beings that would have had the capabilities we know that they had.
We would have thought about ways to organize the realities of our existence and found options that worked for us.
Different Methods Of Arranging The Realities Of Existence
Humans have the ability to think on a conscious level.
That is a defining characteristic of humans.
We can decide what to think about and channel our thoughts consciously using our intellectual capability. We can think about whatever we want to think about. Early humans may not have been very smart. (Again, we have no way of knowing for sure, but it is possible.) But if they were humans, they had this capability. The evidence of their accomplishments indicates that they had this ability. It is hard to conceive of how any being could make complex tools—tools consisting of many components—without the ability to visualize the finished tools in their minds, and then channel their thoughts to help them find and build the necessary components. We have found evidence of such tools going back all the way to the time of Lucy (the oldest such tools dated so far are about 100,000 years older than Lucy, dating back to 3.3 million years).
If people can decide what to think about, we would expect them to devote a lot of time to thinking about the way they lived. We do this today: We think about this because we want to make the realities of our existence better. We think about ways to do this and, when we find them, we do our best to turn our ideas into reality. They would have thought about the same things for the same reason.
The people would then communicate with others in some way to find ways of organizing their social interactions to help them better meet their needs. (They may have done this by talking, as we do now, if they had this ability. We don’t yet have enough evidence of the capabilities of soft tissues like vocal cords to determine if they had the necessary physical tools.) If they didn’t have this ability, they could have communicated by signs and gestures. Certain groups would always have the ability to communicate in some way: parents could always communicate with their children and make it clear how the children must behave in order to get food and other necessities of life that parents provide, for example. They could figure out ways of organizing their daily living behavior, they could devise organizational structures that their analysis told them would work, and they could make it reality. They could intentionally form societies.
Many different animals organize their existence in various different ways. Wolves hunt in packs, ants and bees build complex villages and cities, beaver alter entire ecosystems to build ponds and feeding grounds. Animals other than humans appear to do this instinctively: nature hardwires them to organize their existence in various different ways, and they follow nature’s commands. Humans are the only animals that have the ability to think on a conscious level. We can decide how we want to organize our existence. We can decide what kind of ‘societies’ will meet our needs, and intentionally alter the realities of our existence to conform to these standards. All humans had this ability. Even Lucy and her people had it. They could decide how they wanted to organize their existence, and then intentionally alter the way they interacted with nature and the other people around them to make their lives better.
We actually have a great deal of evidence to tell us exactly how these people organized the important realties of their existence. Before I go over this evidence, I want to explain the basic idea behind a type of society that appears to have been the dominant society that existed on Earth. Almost certainly, more than 99% of the people who ever lived on Earth lived in accordance with the very simple principles that I call ‘the principles of natural law.’
The Principles of Natural Law
It is possible for people to accept certain belief systems and then build the structures of their societies around these beliefs.
If enough people in a certain area share the same belief system, and they aren’t being dominated by a group that prevents them from living as they want, they can build structures around these beliefs. They can integrate these structures, teach children about them, create rules and social conventions around these beliefs, and essentially create societies around these beliefs. They can teach their children about the structures and beliefs and, if they can get the children to accept these things, the society built around these beliefs will endure, even after the people who have created it are no longer around.
Here is one possible belief system that can support human societies:
It is possible to believe that humans are residents of this world, but not the owners of the world:
It is possible to believe that the planet we live on was here before humans came to exist, so we did not make it and are no more the ‘owners’ of this world than any other animal. It is possible to believe that all Earth beings, including humans, depend on nature and the world we live on for our survival, so, if anything, the world owns us, not the other way around. It is possible for people to believe that no one can own the sky, the sunshine, the warmth of the land, the freshness of the air, or the sparkle of the water. It is possible to believe that the mountains, forests, rivers, islands, and continents are above us all, not simple possessions of certain nations, corporations, or individuals.
It is possible for humans to believe that if we contaminate the land around us, we contaminate ourselves and if we spit on nature, we spit on ourselves. To put this all together, it is possible for people to believe that there are basic laws of nature that all living things—including humans—mustrespect or they will perish.
If enough people in a certain area share this belief system, and they don’t have a more powerful group preventing them from living as they want, they can organize the structures of their lives around this belief.
Under this belief system, nature is the ultimate authority, not any human entity. People who believe this will believe that the group will benefit if it treats nature and the physical world around them with respect, and they will be harmed if they harm the world. (To quote Seattle again: ‘to harm the Earth is to heap contempt on its creator.’) To prevent people from harming the world (and therefore harming the group) the group may come up with rules that require people to treat the land as they believe it should be treated. They may come up with enforcement systems to encourage people to follow these rules, including perhaps rewards (which might be in the form of food and other necessities) for those who comply, and punishments (which might involve withholding food and other necessities) for people who violate the rules.
Children don’t know the rules of society when they are first born. They must be taught. To help children understand, the group may set up some system where elders and people who have special skills give talks to children, explain the importance of keeping the land productive and healthy, and teach them the practices that make this happen. To help children understand these things, the teachers may come up with simple stories, songs, and ceremonies. They may tell the stories, sing the songs, and practice the ceremonies over and over again, to the point where all children know them and can teach their own children how to do these things, when they have them. (In the same way that all children in our world today are told stories, taught songs, and practice ceremonies that reinforce the idea that ‘nations’ are real things and have real rights. Most people who have learned these things know the key stories and songs by heart; they have practiced the ceremonies—say the ‘pledge of allegiance’—so many times that they could do them in their sleep.)
Once people organize their existence around the belief that the laws of nature are above all other laws, they will have essentially formed a type of society. As you will see shortly, any society built on this belief system must divide the food and other good things the land produces in ways that lead to certain incentive structures. (An ‘incentive structure’ is a structure that ties the rights to get rewards—including the rewards of food and other necessities of life, to certain specific behaviors.) As people try to get the rewards, they will act in certain very predictable and understandable ways. This means that if we understand the nature of the incentive structures, and the way they work, we can understand the way the societies themselves will work.
I will need a name to refer to societies that start with the belief that natural laws are above the laws of humans and human entities so I can refer to it in discussions. This book will call such societies ‘natural law societies.’
Realities Of Natural Law Societies
Natural law societies have existed. In fact, some existed fairly recently.
Until October 12, 1492, the people who lived in the continents that are now called ‘the Americas’ lived in accordance with the principles of natural law. We have an enormous amount of evidence about the way these people lived. This includes literature written or dictated by people who lived in these societies, literature written by people from the types of societies you and I were born into who traveled to America, lived with the people there, and wrote about their experience, and endless quantities of official corporate records and documents from the corporations that established colonies of European societies in America. Endless quantities of official records and documents from the governments of European nations that administered colonies in America also provide evidence of how people lived before the European conquest.
We know how these people lived. They clearly had societies built on the principle of natural law, as described above. This means that we have a great deal of information about the way natural law societies operated.
After the new lands were ‘discovered’ by people with societies built on the idea of nations and national rights, explorers found that all of the rest of the world—other than those who lived on the Afro-Eurasian continent and islands close enough to be influenced by its culture—lived in accordance with the principles of natural law. This included islands that were so remote from other inhabited places that they couldn’t possibly be under the domination of these places: these island chains, Tahiti and Hawaii to name two examples, clearly were not forced by outside cultures to build and maintain natural law societies: they built and maintained natural law societies on their own accord.
I will be going over first-person eye-witness accounts that come from recent history (within the last 525 years) later in the book. Before I do, I want to go over a few of the basic operating principles of these societies so you can see that all societies built on this belief system must have certain important similarities. If we know this, we can apply the characteristics that we know all natural law societies must have (and that all known natural law societies did have) to societies that existed in the period that historians now call ‘prehistory.’
Inherent Realities Of Natural Law Societies
Natural law societies are built on the belief that nature, the world we live on, and all parts of our world, are above us and do not belong to us.
Nature, planets, and parts of planets cannot belong to any human or human entity.
By their very nature, these things are not ownable.
If some group owns a part of the world, we know exactly who gets the good things the land produces: the owners. The owners get everything and non-owners get nothing.
If a ‘nation’ is claimed to be the owner, and no specific corporation or group of individuals has been granted rights to that part of the world, the owner is deemed to be the government of that nation. (You can’t simply move on to government-owned land and start farming it, or start cutting lumber there, or start removing things that you want from the land. The land is said to belong to the nation, but in reality it has been transferred to some government agency which is the legal owner of the land. If you move onto or start taking things from any land, including government land, without the permission of the owners, the owners can bring the full power and force of the criminal justice system down upon you.)
If the land has been sold or given away to corporations, churches, or private individuals, the corporate, religious, or individual owners get everything the land produces: it belongs to them. Otherwise, the land belongs to a government agency, which gets everything the land produces. Since all productive land on Earth now belongs to one or the other of these entities, there is no doubt at all about who everything the land produces belongs to: it belongs to the owners. Non-owners get nothing that the land produces at all, unless they can trade their labor for it, steal it, or trade something they already own for it.
But what happens in systems where no person or human entity owns the land, because the system is built on the belief that nature is not ownable? Who gets the good things the land produces then? Since all humans depend on things the land produces, including food, this is a critical question.
You can easily figure out what must happen by reading about the way more recent sovereign law societies actually operated: the people would have meetings. People would present plans for the division of the things the land produced and the group would discuss these plans. Eventually they would have votes and agree to something. The good things that the land produced would be divided in whatever way the majority of the people agreed upon.
In a practical situation where no one owns the land, the majority of the people who live on and around the land would make the decisions about what happens to the good things the land produces, including food.
We will see that this is a general characteristic of all natural law societies: the majority of the people have certain powers that a similar majority would not have in the types of societies we were born into. The majority controls the food supply, so the majority can make rules; minorities and individuals have to follow them. (If they don’t, they don’t get food, fuel, a place to sleep in common buildings or a place to set up their own shelters, or other necessities of life. Without these things, they will either die or live very poorly. To have good lives, they have to follow the rules that the majority makes.)
The majority can decide to divide the good things the land produces any way its members desire. If they want, they can decide to give people who do things to benefit the majority an extra share, as a reward for whatever they have done. If they want, they can decide to give people who do things that harm the majority a little less than they give responsible people, to encourage them to stop causing problems so they can get the same as responsible people.
If people do things that cause serious harm—say they do things that cause damage to the environment, act violently, make death threats, or steal things that belong to others—the majority may decide to not let them have anything the land produces at all. These people can be told they are not welcome at feasts and celebrations with common meals, and they can be excluded when the group makes individual distributions of the things the land produces. Since they can’t live without food and other things the land produces, they will have powerful incentives to reform their behavior. Hunger is a very powerful motivator. People almost always respond to this kind of incentive structure. If they don’t, they die, so one way or the other, the undesired behaviors will disappear.
Say you live in such a group. If you act responsibly, you can expect to be invited to parties, feasts, and celebrations. You can also expect to get an equal share of the individual distributions when they are made. If you have done something out of the ordinary to benefit the group you might get honored in some way: the people may provide a special feast for you, you may be asked to lead ceremonies, or you may be given a reward in the form of extra food or something valuable (perhaps the best cubicle in common sleeping quarters or the best site to set up your teepee, perhaps tools, clothing, or things people have made for you).
If certain people have been acting in ways that the majority doesn’t like, the group sanctions them in some way. A society like this really wouldn’t need formal rules to tell people how to act. People will know that, if they offend the majority of the people, they risk being cut out of important benefits.
What offends the majority?
They have to figure this out for themselves. (Of course, people may get help from parents and friends, but in the end, people must decide how to act themselves.) Although the exact customs will vary from group to group, we can expect all natural law societies to reward certain specific behaviors and punish others, so we can expect all natural law societies to share certain general characteristics:
1. We can expect extremely high levels of environmental responsibility.
The group believes that nature is above us and to quote Seattle ‘to spit on the land is to spit on ourselves.’ People who harm the environment are clearly harming everyone. (This is true in every society, but natural law societies give the majority tools to prevent this harm; the societies you and I were born into, discussed in the next chapter, do not give the majority such tools.) People who may be tempted to harm the environment will realize that if others see this, the word will get out and they will be seen as someone who harms the one thing that everyone depends on. People will not want to get this reputation. You can expect them to be almost fanatical in their regard for the environment, going to elaborate lengths to protect it even if they are almost certain that no one could be around to see them.
2. We can also expect high levels of personal responsibility:
There are certain personal activities that are likely to offend any group. Obviously, theft, child abuse, and rape fall into this category. These societies don’t have to have any specific rules against such activities to prevent them. People will be able to figure it out for themselves through introspection: they will think about how they would feel if the same thing happened to them, and expect the other people to feel the same way. They would also see the reactions of the majority to people who violate the unspoken rules. They would also learn from the offenses of others. Of course, their parents and elders who are called on to teach skills to children will have stories and parables to make the rules easier to understand.
The basic idea, one that anyone in such a situation should eventually realize, is that you need to treat others as you would want them to treat you, if you want to get the maximum in rewards (food, invitations to feasts and celebrations, and other distributions of wealth). In these systems, the rule we call ‘the golden rule’ is enforced by very powerful incentive systems.
3. We would also expect natural law societies to have high levels of social responsibility because these societies reward responsible social behaviors and punish irresponsible social behaviors.
In societies where people believe that we are residents of this world, not the owners of the world, the most irresponsible thing you could do would be to claim that a certain part of the world somehow belongs to you, and then take steps to use whatever steps are necessary (and violence will be necessary) to prevent anyone who wants to benefit from the existence of this part of the world from doing so.
Children born in natural law societies will learn from the very earliest ages that responsible social behavior gets rewards: people who are responsible get invited to parties, celebrations, and feasts; they get ‘gifts’ when the group gets valuable things to distribute among its members. Organizing to commit mass murder in order to deprive others of rights to share in something nature created is highly irresponsible.
If you didn’t understand the basic realities of natural law societies, you may not be willing to accept that people could have these societies for incredibly long periods of time—even millions of years—before any group was ever able to form a ‘nation’ and take control of a part of the world on behalf of their nation. But if you understand the basic incentives of these societies, you can see that they start to train children to think a certain way from birth. Children can see that people who follow certain standards get to share in the good things the land produces. They have powerful incentives to go along, accept the rules of this society, figure out how to act responsibly, and act that way.
If an incentive structure exists that consistently rewards certain behaviors, the people in this system become conditioned to act certain ways. In other words, they don’t have to think and plan out their behavior in each case, figuring out the costs and benefits of each behavior. They start to act as the incentives induce them to act by habit.
Natural law societies have one more very important characteristic that has to be understood to understand how these societies work. They do not have any inherent incentive system that encourages people to innovate, invent, and take the risks necessary to cause production to grow and new inventions to come to exist. This reality will make them stagnant, perhaps for extremely long periods of time. We know there were dramatic differences in certain areas between the first 3.194 million years humans existed and the most recent 0.006 million years (the 6,000 year ‘historic era.’)
During the most recent 0.006 million years, we have seen progress and technological growth that dwarfs that which took place in the first 3.194 million years. If we compare the basic incentive structures of the societies we were born into to the inherent incentives of natural law societies, we can see why this is likely to be the case:
The next chapter introduces the types of societies that you and I were born into, but I want to present a few simple points so you can see why these societies are so different from natural law societies when it comes to technological progress that lead to growth in production:
The societies that we were born into accept that groups of people can get together, draw up some paperwork and then call themselves ‘nations,’ then claim some part of the world. Once they ‘are nations,’ they have something called ‘sovereignty’ over a part of the world. The term ‘sovereignty’ comes from the powers that people historically called ‘sovereigns’ claimed/claim and enforced/enforce. Sovereigns were/are warlords, kings, dictators, khans, and others who claim and enforce unlimited rights to certainty parts of the world that they identify. Over the last few thousand years, governments have generally taken control away from individual sovereigns, and the powers that used to belong to sovereigns now belong to the governments of the nations.
As you will see in the next chapter, the organized orgies of mass murder and destruction we call ‘war’ are inherent in any societies built on the idea of entities with ‘sovereignty’ over (unlimited rights to) parts of planets. The people in the governments of the world today know that war can come at any time. They know they need to have weapons factories already in place and armies ready to use them, or they will lose the land they claim is their sovereign territory as it gets ‘taken away’ from them by armies of ‘enemy nations.’
People in governments know that nations have better chances at competing in wars if they can do things that increase the amount of ‘economic activity’ that takes place in their nations. Over the years, governments have found they can do this by making laws that allow corporations and individuals to act as if and make decisions as if they are the ‘owners’ of certain parts of the planet.
For example, the government of a nation may pick a part of the world that the government considers to be exploitable (capable of generating free cash flows or resources that can be sold for less than the cost of harvesting). It can then pass a law saying it is ‘selling’ this land to a corporation, then pass other laws that allow the police and military to arrest and imprison people who interfere in the rights that the government has granted the corporation.
For practical purposes, once a government has put in place enough military personel and police forces to compel people to follow these rules, the corporation is effectively the ‘owner’ of that part of the world. Governments found, over time, that they could increase the amount of economic activity inside their nations (something that gives them great advantages in wars, as we will see), by giving away vast quantities of land to corporations. (We will look at the way this has worked in practice later in the book.)
Once corporations have been given ‘ownership’ of parts of the planet with this method, they have incentives that naturally reward increased production. If they can drive up production, they can increase their incomes from the land. Corporations can increase production by inventing new processes and putting them into place, so this also creates incentives that reward innovation, invention, and advances in technology.
Natural law societies work entirely differently. These societies are built on the belief that we are residents on this world, but not its owners. Even if everyone who lived on a certain continent could be consulted and every single person agreed that they would be better off if they gave a certain part of the continent to a corporation or individual, they would not be able to do this without totally rejecting and abandoning the underlying belief that we live on this world, but we don’t own it.
Progress and growth require people to do certain things: People must step forward and agree to take on risk with their time, skills, education, wealth, and other kinds of capital that they control. Natural law societies do not have any inherent flows of value that reward these behaviors. People need the hope of getting rewards in order to justify taking risks. We would expect societies that don’t have these reward systems to be stagnant, perhaps for very, very long periods of time.
We would expect natural law societies to be extremely stable for many reasons. They could go for a very long time without altering nature, because they don’t believe they have the right to alter it, and because they have inherent systems that prevent individuals from doing things that alter it.
They have powerful forces that encourage personal and social responsibility, and the idea of splitting off a part of the world and using force to prevent anyone from benefiting from its existence except a certain group seems like the most socially irresponsible thing anyone could do. People could go thousands or perhaps even millions of years without anyone being so bold as to try this.
These societies are inherently stagnant economically and technologically. They can go a very, very long time without changing in any important way. Later, we will see that this can lead to very serious problems: if the people of natural law societies ever come into contact with people from societies that believe land is ownable, and if these other people want their land, the people with natural law societies won’t have the basic tools they need to defend themselves.
An Example of a Natural Law Society
When I was young, the movie genre called ‘westerns’ was popular. I can remember many, many movies that depict the American natives as subhuman but none that depict them as on the same evolutionary level as people with Afro-Eurasian heritage. After seeing this over and over and over again, after sitting through classes where this is taught as fact, and after never having see any of the actual first person accounts (like those I will present later) that tell any story, a great many people actually start to believe these messages.
We are now learning that these depictions of western hemisphere indigenous people are grossly inaccurate. For example, agriculture in the Americas goes back far longer than agriculture in Afro-Eurasia; cross-breeds of corn have been dated back more than 10,000 years, much earlier than historians claim agriculture was a part of Afro-Eurasia. (Corn does not grow in nature and has to be cultivated; all of the 300+ varieties of corn are hybrids, developed intentionally). Many documents easily disprove the claim that these people didn’t have any social order, including the one quoted .
Why distort history?
For the first 400 years after first contact between the Americans and Europeans, expansionary states wanted land that the indigenous people inhabited. The indigenous people often did not want to leave their homes and would often resist the people trying to remove them. When this happened, the people who wanted the land ‘declared war’ and officially classified the people resisting the expansion as ‘enemies.’
The societies you and I were born into have long histories of war. The people who organize wars know that wars work much better if the public is behind the war. They know that they can wage wars with greater success if the people who are paying for the war (the taxpayers, who are generally not the same people who are gaining the benefits from the wars) either support, or at least don’t resist, the war effort. People are much more likely to support the war if they believe that the enemies are the epitome of pure evil: monsters who must be destroyed if decent people are to ever be able to live in safety. The people who run the political and other structures of these societies know how to manipulate public opinion.
Generally speaking, if they want to do this they have to restrict access to information that would show that the enemies are real human beings (rather than the vile monsters they want people to accept) and creating and spreading new information to create the impression that every single person born into the group classified as ‘enemies’ is a vile, sub-human monster. The people who controlled the information could ban books, censor journalists who wrote unfavorable stories, and they could organize school curriculums to feed stories to children that made their minds ready to accept whatever propaganda the conquerors wanted them to accept.
The internet was developed out of military necessity, due to one of the side effects of nuclear war. (The sidebar explains this briefly; Chapter 12 discusses this in detail.)
The internet can’t meet its military needs if it can be censored by any party, even the party that created it. We now have this medium and people are scanning millions of documents onto it every year, including many documents that governments intentionally withheld and books that were banned. It also gives news sources and journalists a platform to communicate who would otherwise be banned. The internet is as much important for having a clear understanding of the present as it is of the past.
As a result, of the internet, we have recently gained access to a great deal of information about the way people with natural law societies lived that we didn’t have before.
It turns out that a great many people who were born in and lived in natural law societies wrote books about their experiences, gave lectures and interviews, and provided information in other ways to help people understand the way people lived in these societies. A great many people with European-culture upbringing also spent considerable time with native people and wrote favorable accounts that weren’t available until recently. Governments were extremely aggressive in banning books that portrayed their enemies as human beings. For example, Spain immediately after they gained control of them and punished people found in possession of certain banned books with execution. You can find many of these books in the ‘Books About the Operation of Natural Law Societies’ section of the website.
The section below provides a sample quote.
The person who wrote this account was with Hernando De Soto in the period between 1537 and 1541, when De Soto explored what is now called the American Southeast (see map). De Soto’s voyage took him 4,000 miles—twice as far as Lewis and Clark’s voyage—through lands with great diversity. In most cases (all except his first few days on the coast of Florida, where two other Spanish ships had landed), the people he encountered had never seen Europeans or any group of people from eastern hemisphere societies before.
This quote has several advantages to help understand the way the people in natural law societies really:
First, the people on this trip saw the natural law societies in their virgin state, before they had had any contact at all with people from European cultures. The people in De Soto’s group were the very first European people who the people with natural law societies in the Southwest part of America ever saw.
The second advantage is that this voyage took place before the great plagues that spread through this area in the mid 1500s:
Europeans had been living for centuries with diseases that the Americans had never encountered. (See sidebar for list.) Many of these diseases inflicted massive casualties on Afro-Eurasia when they first started to spread, in some cases killing as many has half of the people. But The Afro-Eurasians had an advantage because the diseases came separately. Even when they killed half of the people in a given area, they still left enough people to bury the dead and go on with their lives. The survivors were people with natural resistance to the diseases. The survivors lived to raise their children, passing their resistance down to later generations.
In America, these diseases arrived all at the same time in a population that had absolutely no resistance to any of them.
The combined effect of these diseases devastated the population, in many cases killing so many people at the same time that the survivors could not even effectively deal with the dead and dying; they had to flee and leave their cities, towns, and villages behind. The plagues dramatically altered the nature of these societies and they were not the same after the plagues as before. Imagine if a disease came down on your city and killed 90% of the inhabitants within a period of a week, leaving most of the survivors blinded, crippled, or otherwise incapable of caring for themselves. If you survived in a condition of relative health, you probably would not stay there.
If the same disease spread throughout the continent you lived on, people fleeing populated areas would probably head to unpopulated places to meet with other survivors and start fresh. You may live, but your society would never be the same again.
The account below shows the way these people lived before the European diseases arrived. This gives us a pretty good idea of the way the people lived before the Europeans arrived.
A third advantage of this particular quote comes from corroboration: There are five books that tell essentially the same story as the one quoted here, all written by authors with different perspectives and written in a total of three different languages. (See sidebar for more information.)
A fourth advantage of this particular quote is impartiality. Most of the early accounts we have of interactions between Euro-Americans and American natives were written by people of European background who were clearly intent on conquering, subjugating, or exterminating the people they encountered. These people had very strong biases. It is very hard to recruit soldiers to exterminate people if the soldiers believe that the people they must kill are real people. These people wrote accounts that depicted the people in America with great bias.
The account below was from a voyage of exploration, not of conquest. All of the accounts of De Soto’s voyage were written almost like a book about a wonderful vacation in a foreign land. The authors didn’t seem to have any desire to portray the people as anything other than what they were.
The excerpts below come from a specific part of the voyage. If you want to follow it on a map, you would start in Tallahassee, Florida and head north on highway 27. We begin in the town that the locals call Toalli, which is now called ‘Bainbridge Georgia.’
On Wednesday, the twenty-first of the month, he came to a town called Toalli; and from thence forward there was a difference in the houses. For those which were behind us were thatched with straw, and those of Toalli were covered with reeds, in manner of tiles. These houses are very cleanly.
In all the cold country the Indians have every one a house for the winter daubed with clay within and without, and the door is very little; they shut it by night, and make fire within; so that they are in it as warm as in a stove, and so it continued all night that they don’t need clothes. They have other homes for summer; and their kitchens are near them, where they make fire and bake their bread; and they have barbeques wherein they keep their corn; which is a house set up in the air upon four stakes, boarded about like a chamber, and the floor of it is of cane hurdles.
The difference which lords or principal men’s houses have from the rest, besides they be greater, is, that they have great galleries in their fronts, and under them seats made of canes in manner of benches; and round about them they have many lofts, wherein they lay up that which the Indians do give them for tribute, which is corn, deers’ skins, and mantles of the country, which are like blankets; they make them of the inner rind of the barks of trees, and some of a kind of grass like unto nettles, which being beaten, is like linen.
The women cover themselves with these blankets; they put one about them from the waist downward, and another over their shoulder, with their right arm out, like the Egyptians. The men wear but one blanket upon their shoulders after the same manner; and have their secrets hid with a deer’s skin, made like a linen breech, which used to be used in Spain.
The skins are well cured and they give them what color they list, so perfect, that if it be red, it seems a very fine cloth in grain, and the black is most fine, and of the same leather they make shoes; and they dye their mantles in the same colors.
The Governor [De Soto] departed from Toalli the 24th of March; he came on Thursday at evening to a small river, as soon as the Governor had passed the river, a little distance thence he found a town called Achese. The Governor sent by one of the Indians that were taken to call the cacique, which was on the other side of the river. He came, and made this speech following:
Right high, right mighty, and excellent lord, those things which seldom happen do cause admiration. What then may the sight of your lordship and your people do to me and mine, whom we never saw? especially being mounted on such fierce beasts as your horses are, entering with such violence and fury into my country, without my knowledge of your coming. It was a thing so strange, and caused such fear and terror in our minds, that it was not in our power to stay and receive your lordship with the solemnity due to so high and renowned a prince as your lordship is. And trusting in your greatness and singular virtues, I do not only hope to be freed from blame, but also to receive favors; and the first which I demand of your lordship is, that you will use me, my country, and subjects as your own; and the second, that you will tell me who you are, and whence you come, and whither you go, and what you seek, that I the better may serve you therein.
The Governor answered him, that he thanked him as much for his offer and good-will as if he had received it, and as if he had offered him a great treasure; and told him that he was the son of the Sun, and came from those parts where he dwelt, and traveled through that country, and sought the greatest lord and richest province that was in it.
The cacique told him that farther forward dwelt a great lord, and that his dominion was called Ocute. He gave him a guide and an interpreter for that province. The Governor commanded his Indians to be set free, and traveled through his country up a river very well inhabited.
He departed from his town the first of April; and left a very high cross of wood set up in the midst of the market-place; and because the time gave no more leisure, he declared to him only that that cross was a memory of the same whereon Christ, which was God and man, and created the heavens and the earth, suffered for our salvation; therefore he exhorted them that they should reverence it, and they made show as though they would do so.
The fourth of April the Governor passed by a town called Altamaca, and the tenth of the month he came to Ocute. The cacique sent him two thousand Indians with a present, to wit, many conies and partridges, bread of corn, two hens, and many dogs; which among the Christians were esteemed as if they had been fat wethers.
The Indians never lack meat; for they kill with their arrows many deer, hens, conies, and other wild fowl, for they are very cunning at it, which skill the Christians had not. And because they were thus scanted of flesh, when six hundred men that went with Soto came to any town, and found thirty or forty dogs, he that could get one and kill it thought himself no small man; and he that killed it and gave not his captain one quarter, if he knew it he frowned on him, and made him feel it in the watches, or in any other matter of labor that was offered, wherein he might do him a displeasure.
De Soto sent an Indian with a message to the cacique of Chiaha, to desire him to gather some corn, that we might rest a few days in Chiaha. De Soto departed from Guaxule, and in two days’ journey came to a town called Canasagua. There met him on the way twenty Indians, every one loaded with a basketful of mulberries; for there be many, and those very good, from Cutifachiqui thither, and so forward in other provinces, and also nuts and plums.
Two leagues before he came to Chiaha, there met him fifteen Indians loaded with corn, which the cacique had sent; and they told him on his behalf, that he waited his coming with twenty barns full of it; and further, that himself, his country, and subjects, and all things else were at his service. On the fifth day of June, De Soto entered into Chiaha.
There was in this town much butter in gourds melted like oil–they said it was the fat of bears. There was found, also, great store of oil of walnuts, which was clear as butter, and of a good taste, and a pot full of honey of bees.
The town was on an island between two arms of a river. There were along them very good meadows, and many fields sown with corn. And because the Indians staid in their town, De Soto only lodged in the houses of the cacique, and his people in the fields. De Soto rested there thirty days, in which time, because the country was very fruitful, the horses grew fat.
The excerpts above come from a recent time of course, only about 500 years ago. There is no way to know if these accounts reflect the way people with natural law societies lived hundreds of thousands, or even millions of years ago. But it does show that it is possible for societies to exist and function, leading to prosperity and an organized way of life, without the need for the division of the world into the entities we call ‘sovereign nations’ or many of the other structures that form the foundational elements of the societies we were born into.
It shows that the human race is capable of having other modes of existence or societies, other than the type we were raised in.
If we are capable of having other types of societies, it makes sense to consider how many other types of societies are possible, how they all work, and how they all fit together as a group. If we understand the different options, we may be able to use our intellects to take the various pieces that go together to make societies, and figure out all of the ways they can be assembled. We may then use our intellects to determine how we want our societies to work, and then find the societies that our scientific analysis has shown us work that way. We may then use our intellect to determine the exact structural differences between the societies we were born into and societies that can meet our needs, and create a plan to allow the societies we were born into to evolve into the societies we have determined can meet our needs.
As noted earlier, this book is part of a series. The second book in the series, , explains that the human race really is capable of a great deal more than we have yet achieved. It explains the concept of putting together the various parts that make up societies that work in different ways, and then use gradual change to cause societies to evolve in ways that make them better. goes over the basic realities of natural law societies in great detail from an entirely different perspective. If you want to get the entire picture, I would recommend reading alongside this book, switching back and forth. This will fill in the picture and make it easier for you to see that the human race has far greater capabilities than we can see with a superficial view.
The point of this chapter is quite simple: the history of the human race is much longer, richer, and more diverse than depicted by traditional historians. We have been on this world for a very long time, much, much longer than the 6,000 year period that is called the ‘historic’ period. Humans are intelligent beings with physical needs. We can and will use our intelligence to help us organize our existence. This has been true for the entire time humans have existed.
Before 6,000 years ago, humans lived somehow. We only know of two separate modes of existence that humans have had. One is the mode of existence that the people of the world had when you and I were born; the one that considers groups of people who call themselves ‘nations’ and meet certain requirements to be considered nations (discussed in the next chapter) to be the owners of parts of planets. The other societies that we know have existed are built on the principle of natural law.
The people who lived in America before Europeans arrived had natural law societies.
Natural law societies existed in thousands of different places, many of which were so remote from each other that they were effectively independent and able to make their own decisions. We know that, prior to 6,000 years ago, the people who lived in the Eastern hemisphere had some other kind of society than the kind they had for the last 6,000 years. We also know that there was one tiny part of the Afro-Eurasian supercontinent that was not conquered until the 1600s. Until conquest, this part also had natural law societies, indicating that these societies also existed in Afro-Eurasia.
We have no reason to believe that the people of America had societies other than natural law societies for the entire time humans lived there until 1492. We also know that natural law societies existed on Afro-Eurasia, and we have no reason to believe that any other societies existed in the parts of Afro-Eurasia that were not conquered until the 1600s for the entire time until their conquest, which may have been millions of years. All of the anthropological and archeological evidence we have for the prehistoric period is consistent with the principles of natural law. Societies built on the idea of ‘nations’ leave very clear artifacts; we have not found any artifacts of nations anywhere before 0.006 million years (6,000 years) ago, indicating that the people who lived on this planet before this time must have had other societies. We have enormous evidence to support the contention that early humans lived in natural law societies and no evidence to the contrary, so it seems reasonable to accept, at least as a working hypothesis, that this type of society dominated the world for the great majority of the history of the human race on Earth.
Why does this matter?
If humans have had any other modes of existence than the ones we have now, this shows that we are capable of organizing our existence other ways. Once we realize we have this capability, it makes sense to devote some time and mental effort to figuring out how many different ways we can organize our existence. If we do this, we may be able to find modes of existence that can meet our needs: we do not have to simply follow the path that our ancestors put us on; we can form a new path.