Thursday, April 21, 2011

Why Couldn't Sub-Saharan Africans Invent the Wheel?

IQ Map of World

Before relatively recent contact with outside cultures, Subsaharan Africans did not invent the wheel, did not invent writing, developed minimal art, or agriculture, lacked musical instruments beyond simple percussion, and came up virtually empty in terms of math, science, and technology. Why the absence of invention and development?

The map of world IQ at top provides a tentative answer to the question, but the map raises a more central question: Why do SubSaharan African populations test so low, on average, on tests of IQ, executive function, and impulse control? Is it possible that a significant part of the development of the human "superbrain" -- which makes modern advanced civilisation possible -- developed after humans left the African birthplace?
The dispersal of modern humans from Africa to Europe some 50,000 to 60,000 years ago provides a “minimum date” for the development of language, Hoffecker speculated. “Since all languages have basically the same structure, it is inconceivable to me that they could have evolved independently at different times and places.”

A 2007 study led by Hoffecker and colleagues at the Russian Academy of Sciences pinpointed the earliest evidence of modern humans in Europe dating back 45,000 years ago. Located on the Don River 250 miles south of Moscow, the multiple sites, collectively known as Kostenki, also yielded ancient bone and ivory needles complete with eyelets, showing the inhabitants tailored furs to survive the harsh winters.

The team also discovered a carved piece of mammoth ivory that appears to be the head of a small figurine dating to more than 40,000 years ago. “If that turns out to be the case, it would be the oldest piece of figurative art ever discovered,” said Hoffecker, whose research at Kostenki is funded in part by the National Science Foundation.

The finds from Kostenki illustrate the impact of the creative mind of modern humans as they spread out of Africa into places that were sometimes cold and lean in resources, Hoffecker said. “Fresh from the tropics, they adapted to ice age environments in the central plain of Russia through creative innovations in technology.”

Ancient musical instruments and figurative art discovered in caves in France and Germany date to before 30,000 years ago, he said. “Humans have the ability to imagine something in the brain that doesn’t exist and then create it,” he said. “Whether it’s a hand axe, a flute or a Chevrolet, humans are continually recombining bits of information into novel forms, and the variations are potentially infinite.” _SB

The absence of sophisticated invention or innovation prior to the human diaspora out of Africa, or in SubSaharan Africa since that diaspora, suggests a potentially deep distinction in the way that humans inside SS Africa think in comparison to how Eurasian humans learned to think.

It would be good to be able to research this puzzle, but unfortunately, the straitjacket of Political Correctness prevents the raising of such questions -- even for purposes of objective scientific research. Which means that those of us who are curious will have to conduct our investigations under the table, so to speak.

Is that not always how it is, when intelligent and curious humans are faced with oppressive and authoritarian culture-reichs, such as the modern quasi-left postmodern PC culture?

Ancient Inventions

Inventions of Ancient China

Top 10 Ancient Inventions


Mike said...

I'm not quite sure if I'm pleased that I only wasted twenty seconds by merely skimming this article or pissed off that I'm out twenty seconds plus comment-time...

Dr.Zoidberg said...


Pertz said...

Suggesting that current geographic distributions of IQ has any relevance on the development of ancient technology is a marked failure of critical thinking.

I'm no historian, but there are astronomical discoveries that the Mayans (a culture without the wheel) that surpassed European knowledge.

The fact is that world IQ rates (which are of course skewed to the culture that made them) correlate more with rates of infectious disease (and therefore brain development) than with "race". You can whine about "PCness" all you want, but the fact is that it's more likely that racist global policy causes unequal IQ distribution.

al fin said...

Black people are not stupid, Dr. Z. "Stupid" is a slang term and a pejorative. Shame on you!

Mike, when you have nothing important to do in the first place, being pissed off about "wasting 20 seconds" is a bit pointless.

Pertz: The map is merely food for thought and conjecture. No need to get excited about it.

You may be interested to know that modern brain imaging is developing into a magnificent objective IQ test which is culture-free.

Knowing that, I am certain that you are eager to scientifically refute all possible claims of potentially innate differences in IQ, executive function, impulse control, etc. between population groups....right? Right???? Or is a little insignificant thing like PC perhaps holding you back?

Low level comments such as these are unfortunately where the popular discussion is mired -- thanks to the much whined about and not-so-mythical PC.

Peter said...

May I suggest that a primary reason for every jump in technology, understanding, innovation, etc. in the human species has been emigration?

Those who can see the problems in staying where they are, are the first to be willing to move somewhere new, if necessary abandoning their current 'security blanket', risking everything to build a new and (hopefully) better life elsewhere.

That attitude seems to carry with it an innovative, exploratory approach to life. "If we face this challenge, how can we solve it?" instead of "It's always been done this way!"

I'd suggest those who led the migration of humanity from Africa were those who were self-selecting innovators, willing to step out into the unknown and brave whatever dangers were 'out there' in an attempt to build a better life. I'm not surprised that innovation should also be greater among such adventurous spirits. Isn't that what we've seen throughout recorded history?

al fin said...

Quite true, Peter. Certainly one important component of this story.

But one cannot ignore the ongoing role of evolution in human affairs. Harpending and Cochran's "10,000 Year Explosion" is a fascinating look at how relevant ongoing evolution is to the human world.

Something happened, genetically, to the humans who left Africa, which did not happen to the Africans left behind. Likewise, the Africans remaining in SS Africa underwent evolutionary change which did not happen to those who had left.

Looking at human evolution honestly without value judgments is a pre-requisite to a clear view of global societies and where we should go from here to make the world a better and more just place.

Anonymous said...

This seems very interesting. I have spent a year working in that part of Africa, Liberia actually. I am European, by the way.

I did notice that the life is just different there, people are trying to live u=one day at the time, while us, meaning people from a bit richer countries, have plans for 20 years ahead.

I would not call this racist or anything, I am not a racist to start with, but I think the reason for these results is the fact that for generations those people don't have the possibility to go to good schools and have normal lives.

As you can see the highest IQ countries are the richest ones, so I think this is mostly due to financial reasons.