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  The Ishmael Community: Questions and Answers

The Question (ID Number 21)...

    Ishmael portrays Man as living at peace with the world during the millions of years that preceded our agricultural revolution, but hasn't recent evidence revealed that ancient foragers hunted many species to extinction?

    ...and the response:

    To say that Man lived at peace with the world doesn't mean he walked the earth like a Buddha. It means he lived as harmlessly as a hyena or a shark or a rattlesnake. Whenever a new species makes its appearance in the world, adjustments occur throughout the community of life­­­and some of these adjustments are fatal for some species. For example, when the swift, powerful hunters of the cat family appeared late in the Eocene, the repercussions of this event were experienced throughout the community ­­­ sometimes as extinction. Species of "easy prey" became extinct because they couldn't reproduce fast enough to replace the individuals the cats were taking. Some of the cats' competitors also became extinct, for the simple reason that they COULDN'T compete ­ they just weren't big enough or fast enough. This appearance and disappearance of species is precisely what evolution is all about, after all.

    Human hunters of the Mesolithic period may well have hunted the mammoth to extinction, but they certainly didn't do this as a matter of policy, the way farmers of our culture hunt coyotes and wolves, simply to get rid of them. Mesolithic hunters may well have hunted the giant elk to extinction, but they certainly didn't do this out of callous indifference, the way ivory hunters slaughter elephants. Ivory hunters know full well that every kill brings the species closer to extinction, but Mesolithic hunters couldn't possibly have guessed such a thing about the giant elk. The point to keep in mind is this: It is the POLICY of totalitarian agriculture to exterminate unwanted species. If ancient foragers hunted any species to extinction, it certainly wasn't because they wanted to exterminate their own food supply!


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