Evolution, domestication and civilization

The relationship between civilization or progress and evolution is a topic that we have discussed before but it is intriguing enough to address again.  Early on in the reading, Brantz defines these concepts and the relationship between these concepts in a way that I understood more than before.  Evolution and progress on their own are topics with no concise boundaries or definitions.  Thus the undertaking of understanding the relationship between these two is understandably difficult.  I was pleased with the way Brantz described evolution as a broader concept that includes variability caused by nature while progress is mostly a human controlled element with some influence from nature.  By now the importance of domestication is apparent even if it definition is not, so it is easy to believe that domestication can be the link between these two concepts.  Even if the effect of these concepts is different on human-animal relationships, the fact that they both influence the same bond shows some correlation that deserves further discussion.  The statement that evolution brings human and animals closer while civilization drives them further apart really struck me because it seems to finally tie three complex ideas in one true statement: evolution, domestication and civilization.


Early on in the reading I developed a theory that I hoped would remain intact by the end of the reading.  I came up with my own, simple way of tying civilization, domestication and evolution together.  It seemed to me that evolution, being influenced extensively by nature, could be thought of as the first of these three ideas to exist.  In early history Humans had little effect on the complex concept of evolution.  As evolution continued, however, it provided us the means and the reasoning to use it as a tool.  Domestication was the product of this stage of evolution.  As early human’s evolved they began the transition from being a product of their environment to manipulating and changing the environment, or civilization.  This transition is marked by domestication, the moment when humans used evolution as a tool against nature.  Once humans began manipulating nature and were no longer subject to its will, progress and civilization ensued.  I don’t know if I am making much sense but I am basically wondering if evolution led to domestication which then led to civilization.  I know that is a simple way to put things and there must be more overlap but I hope my understanding isn’t too far off the mark.  It is more obvious how domestication was able to lead to progress and civilization that how evolution led to domestication.  Was mastery of one species over another destined to come from evolution?


The integration of pets and the social changes brought about by animals in the home seem to contradict Brantz’s earlier statement that civilization drives humans and animals further apart.  The way in which pets where treated as members of a family and the social groups advocating morality towards pets clearly prove that civilization does not drive a gap in human-animal relations.  As we become more civilized I believe our awareness of animal rights is increasing and thus human-animal relations are actually getting closer.  This only pertains to domesticated pets, however.  The relationship between humans and wild animals does seem to drive further apart at first in our history.  This is evidenced by examples in the text of countries across the world killing strays in various ways.  In modern society I don’t believe the relationship between humans and wild animals is still driven apart.  Wild animal conservation is becoming a larger discussion in our moral duties and is finally gaining appreciation.  The only human animal relationship that seems to drive apart as civilization progresses is the one between humans and livestock animals.



One Response to “Evolution, domestication and civilization”
  1. cmurri 2 April 2013 at 4:34 pm #

    I love the theory. Really good stuff. I’m not sure domestication ‘led’ to civilization. Certainly it’s a factor, considering the work Diamond has done, but I’m not sure domestication is required for civilization. I’d amend your theory by saying domestication, as a piece of the agricultural revolution, allowed societies to overcome the challenges of nature and build ‘better’ (by Western standards) civilization. If we extrapolate this theory, we might arrive at a number of predictions for the future, including manipulation of our own DNA (explicitly ‘domesticating’ ourselves), downloading our consciousness into computers (this is actually a thing, check out any book by Ray Kurzweil), etc.

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