Science And Morality
A Series of Essays
by Charles MacFarland
Three Ecotypes & the Morals Revolution.
The Joys of Scitech
Living with Scitech
Are We So Poor?
The Glory of Scitech
| The Three Ecotypes and the Morals
Science changes human morality. It
changes the way we think and the ideals we must believe. If
we fail to change our ideals to suit science, the result is
Most of the history of the last two centuries can be understood
in terms of people's failure to adapt to the moral demands
of science. Essay II in this series gives several detailed
This essay deals with the three ecotypes which have dominated
human history and determined human morality. Ecotype is a
new word which for some reason has never been coined before,
even though the three ecotypes themselves are quite familiar.
The first ecotype is hunting and gathering, the stage of
human development which lasted for most of our biological
history. The second ecotype began with the Agricultural Revolution
around six thousand years ago, a change which brought not
only farming and herding but also cities, writing, kings,
and many other social developments. The third ecotype began
with the Industrial Revolution about two hundred years ago,
which launched our modern age of science and technology.
For convenience, these three ecotypes will be labelled Tribal,
Agsoc (for agricultural society), and Scitech (for science
and technology). Each ecotype is not only a matter of how
goods and services are provided in a society (its economy),
but also a whole host of ideas and attitudes (which we might
call its social ecology).
The main purpose of this whole set of essays is to show that what
we call "traditional morality" is actually Agsoc morality. Because
the age of Agsoc is over, traditional morality is out of date. It
has to be replaced by a new Scitech morality.
For example, the Christian religion is an Agsoc religion. It is
tied to agricultural society in many ways: the Good Shepherd, the
Good Seed, the King of Kings, and God's only son, to name just a
few. It is patriarchal, monarchistic, and hierarchal, all of which
are Agsoc notions. These ideas are covered in detail in Essay VIII.
Other Agsoc notions that have to be changed in a Scitech society
are: organized warfare, slavery, attitudes to the natural world,
family, censorship, and systems of government, to name just a few.
We'll consider all of these, and many others, in this whole set
Of course, some ideas of morality are common to all three ecotypes.
Murder, for example, has always been considered an evil, with the
usual exceptions of war, self-defense, and so on. Stealing is wrong
too, for the most part, in all three ecotypes. There's no need to
assert that this "basic morality" has ever needed to be changed.
But many changes are forced on people as they change their ecotypes.
People who fail to adapt, or who cannot adapt, must face suffering
and disaster. We face suffering and disaster if we cannot adapt
from Agsoc to Scitech.
The best way to understand this is to consider the three ecotypes
in more detail, and, for a start. to consider the changes and calamities
that occurred when the Tribal ecotype had to yield to Agsoc.
The hunter / gatherer ecotype existed from time immemorial for
humans (and indeed, this is the way nearly all other animals have
always lived). People hunted for game or gathered plants in nature.
They lived, in the charming old phrase, "off the fat of the land."
The Tribe had to be a fairly small group, because hunting and
gathering is not very efficient. As a rule of thumb, a square mile
of land could only support about one person. So if a tribe occupied
an area of about thirty miles by thirty miles, it was limited to
about a thousand people. Such figures vary considerably depending
on the land, of course, but tribes were rarely much bigger than
This meant that everybody knew everybody in a tribe, which meant
that tribes were generally communistic. The food which was hunted
or gathered was shared. It just wasn't possible for some to eat
while others starved. That would have caused tensions which might
have destroyed the whole tribe.
For the same reason, decisions were also shared. Tribes are basically
democratic. There were chiefs, of course, but they rarely had the
power to command obedience. In American Indian tribes, for example,
chiefs could decide to go to war, but individual warriors could
stay home if they wished. It just isn't practical to try to push
people around if you have to live with them on a day-to-day basis.
For the same reason crime was not generally a problem. You can't
steal things when everyone around you sees exactly what you have
and knows who made it. Many other crimes, like rape and swindling,
were not practical either.
The nuclear family was not very important because children were
raised by the whole tribe. In particular, it was not all that important
who a child's father was. Often, important aspects of the child's
raising were assigned to other relatives, such as the mother's brother.
If a son didn't take after his father, for example if he were spiritual
rather than warlike, it wasn't a problem, as it often is in the
modern world. He could toddle after the shaman while his father
taught fighting to other boys.
All these things changed when Agsoc arrived. Farming and herding
were not just changes in the way food was produced. They caused
many changes in social organization.
Farming and herding are much more efficient than hunting and gathering,
in terms of the amount of food produced per unit of land. As a rule
of thumb, Agsoc can support about 100 people per square mile, so
the population soared.
Also, people no longer had to move around. The same area of land
could support crops or herds year after year -- especially in the
Nile valley and other river valleys, where the soil was replenished
by floods -- so people could begin to build permanent houses. They
also could create and enjoy permanent possessions, like furniture
and pottery and religious artifacts and works of art. Tribal peoples
were very limited in such things because they had to be able to
carry everything as they moved around.
Living in one place also meant that food could be stored. Huge
graneries meant that people had a strong defense against famine.
Herds of animals were a source of food any time they were needed.
For awhile, humanity must have gone through a golden age. Agsoc
was a huge leap forward. People had plenty of food, and they could
enjoy better houses and wonderful possessions of all kinds. Writing
was invented, probably to keep track, initially, of fields and herds
and all the other things people could now own. But soon writing
was used to record many things, like poetry and knowledge. History
Ownership was a major new concept. In the tribe, there wasn't
much to own, and people shared things anyway. Hunting and gathering
were group activities, and the whole group shared.
But when a man goes to the trouble of clearing a field and raising
a crop on it, he tends to want to keep the crop to himself. Land
itself became private property, not like the tribal "hunting grounds"
which were seen as owned by the whole tribe. Houses and their contents
became private property too. Ownership became important because
there were so many wonderful things to own.
Soaring population plus the ability to stay in one place soon
led to the appearance of cities. Cities led to crime, like stealing
and rape and swindling. It's the same today. There isn't much crime
in tiny towns, where everybody knows everybody and strangers stand
out, but big cities are anonymous and make crime possible. Tribal
democracy also disappeared. Cities had too many people for group
democracy, and representative democracy, with elections, was really
not possible. The mass of people were simply too ignorant. Instead,
strong rulers developed into kings. Strong rulers were necessary
to keep order and prevent crime in the cities, and also because
of another Agsoc development, war.
Of course, Tribal peoples had war of a sort, raids on other tribes
to steal horses or women. But the increased wealth of Agsoc created
organized war. Kings could gain huge wealth if they organized their
enormous populations into armies to invade other Kings' cities and
steal their graneries and houses and wealth. Kings gained power
and prestige this way, and found themselves rulers of huge empires.
The common man found himself drafted.
Agsoc rulers were nearly always men because of organized war.
Agsoc rewarded aggression and competitiveness, which seemed to be
male qualities. Thus began the patriarchal society.
Inheritance was vital in Agsoc, partly because ownership was so
important, and partly because of the lack of democracy. Both ownership
and political power were handed on through inheritance, so it became
vital for a man to know who his sons were. Strict laws of marriage
and the suppression of women followed from this. Thus began the
whole dreary panoply of virginity and the double standard for women.
Also, the family became important. The cohesive community of the
tribe was lost, especially in the cities, and something was needed
to replace it. The importance of inheritance meant the family took
over. Now kids were raised by their parents only, or their extended
family. The most important things in life were who your father was,
and making sure your sons knew who their father was.
The Collision of Tribal and AGSOC
This series of essays is primarily about the changes that humanity
is facing in adjusting from Agsoc to Scitech. To understand these,
it's useful to look first at the changes when Tribal society had
to give way to Agsoc.
The most dramatic example of this collision, and the one we are
most familiar with, is the expansion of Europeans at the expense
of Tribal peoples around the world. The advance of pioneers in America
at the expense of the Indians is especially familiar.
Indians had no real sense of ownership in the Agsoc sense. When
they admitted the White Man as brothers, they naturally agreed to
let him share their hunting grounds. They had no idea of cutting
down the trees and exploiting the land as farmers did, nor did they
realize that this meant they would be excluded from the crop and
indeed from the land altogether.
Indians believed in sharing, so they helped themselves to white
man's things. This got them a reputation as thieves. They were unused
to the idea that a man would want to keep his things even if he
wasn't using them.
The Indians had no idea how numerous the farmers were, being used
to the low population densities of hunter / gatherer ways. They
had no idea how quickly all the land would be fenced off and cleared.
These differences soon led to war, but Tribal war, which is mainly
raids and skirmishes, always had an element of gamesmanship about
it. Western Indians, for example, "counted coup," which meant bravely
rushing up to an enemy and touching him with a stick. Agsoc war
was organized and bent on exterminating the enemy. When the braves
counted coup, the European soldiers shot them down.
Like Tribal peoples everywhere, the Indians were revolted by the
new ecotype. They considered farming dirty and undignified. Warriors
could not imagine adopting the Agsoc ways, and so, as the farmers
overwhelmed their land. they had no lifestyle left to them. Disaster
was the only possible result.
Yet they were right to despise the farmers' lifestyle, for we
need to consider now the bad aspects of Agsoc, which were many.
The Miseries of AGSOC
Ownership led to inequality. The man who owned a few fields or
herds had a much greater income than the man who did not, so the
owners rapidly owned more and more. Soon Agsoc began to have a division
into rich (the king and his nobles) and poor.
As the population expanded, the poor had to work harder and harder,
on smaller and more marginal pieces of land. People became crowded,
and diseases spread more easily.
There were also many more diseases. Living close to animals meant
that people started to catch diseases from them, such as tuberculosis,
which was a disease of cows. (The great benefit of the Scitech technique
of pasteurizing milk was that it prevented the Agsoc spread of tuberculosis.)
Plague was another example, brought by the rats attracted by the
Even worse were the diseases brought by contaminated water. Tribal
peoples drank from fresh-flowing rivers and springs, but Agsoc rivers
and wells were soon polluted by animal wastes as well as human pollution.
Dyssentery, typhoid, and cholera became a scourge.
Another problem with Agsoc was environmental damage, especially
the destruction of forests. Agsoc people cleared the forests to
make fields, and also for fuel and building material. As time went
by, they cleared the trees further and further around.
Cutting down forests, as everyone knows today but they probably
didn't realize then, can affect the water supply and the local climate.
You can get floods and droughts. And of course, the animals who
depend on the forests disappear, such as birds who might once have
kept down the insects that destroyed the Agsoc crops.
Easter Island is an example of what could happen when Agsoc people
abused the environment. The island was a Paradise, covered with
trees, when it was settled by Polynesians from the west. Gradually
the people cut down the trees to clear fields for farming and make
rollers to move the gigantic stone heads for which the island is
famous. When all the trees were gone, the islanders could no longer
make the giant canoes they needed to fish in the open sea, and they
were marooned on their tiny island. Without fish, they farmed more
intensively, ruining the land. Crop yields got worse and worse,
yet the population continued to expand, leading to civil wars. When
the white man arrived, only a tiny number of miserably poor people
remained on their abused island.
Another possible example is the Anasazi, the Indians of the southwest
who developed agriculture and in true Agsoc fashion built cities,
called pueblos. The people eventually had to abandon their cities,
driven out by droughts that may have been caused by their cutting
down the trees all around. The same sort of desertification is occurring
in Africa even today.
With problems like these, it's not surprising that Tribal peoples
all over the world have resisted the spread of Agsoc. Farming, once
you depend on it, is a harsh life. It's no fun, plowing in a hot
field all day, following a horse's ass over the dusty ground --
and a lot of people didn't even have horses. With each expanding
generation, land became more and more expensive, and you had to
use less and less attractive land, and you had to dig irrigation,
and haul fertilizers, and fight weeds, and if crops failed, the
famines became more and more severe.
Agsoc was miserable for most people. In fact, the conviction gradually
grew in Agsoc that life for humans was inherently miserable, an
idea that Tribal people never entertained. This was the source of
Agsoc religions, which we will explore in detail in Essay VIII.
Science and technology were developed largely to combat the many
miseries of Agsoc, such as diseases and the struggle to raise food.
The Agsoc fondness for war also inspired advances of Scitech.
But just as Agsoc demanded new forms of behaviour, different from
Tribal ways, so the development of Scitech demands that we change
our old Agsoc ways. Many people don't realize this, and cling to
Agsoc "traditional morality," but the changes demand to be made.
The changes are the subject of this whole set of essays. We can
summarize a few of them here.
War and slavery, for example, two hallowed Agsoc traditions, are
obsolete, a fact explored in detail in Essay II.
Agsoc was very hostile to the environment, regarding man as the
master of the world, free to exploit it and populate it as he wished.
Scitech demands changes, especially in attitudes toward population,
discussed in Essay II.
Agsoc misery was catered to by religion, especially Christianity,
which tried to relieve Agsoc misery by claiming that misery was
virtuous, and then went on to spread that virtue through the Christian
Rule of Misery, as discussed in Essay VIII.
Scitech, in contrast, offers the Pleasure Principle, discussed
in Essays III and IV.
Agsoc and Scitech notions of the family are discussed in Essay
Agsoc was hostile to democracy and approved of censorship, which
are discussed in Essay IX.
Scitech offers us a wonderful life, but we are slow to embrace
that wonderful life. That, and some of the problems caused by Scitech,
are discussed in Essays V and VI.
People are slow to adapt to a new ecotype. The Tribal peoples
found it hard to take on Agsoc ways. Some people even today find
it hard to adapt to Scitech. The main reason is that people tend
to think of the morality of Agsoc as being unchanging and eternal,
because Agsoc existed for most of recorded history -- indeed recorded
history, like writing, was a creation of Agsoc. But this is false.
So-called "traditional morality" is merely an adaptation to the
People see their morality as the only morality that ever is or
was, brought down from the mountain, carved in tablets of stone.
The result is that many people would rather die than change their
And many people have done just that. Scitech offers us the chance
for a wonderful life, or it offers misery and destruction if we
fail to adapt to it.
The choice is ours. These essays hope to help people choose the
wonderful life that Scitech is trying to give to us.
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