The Instigator
Mikeee
Pro (for)
Losing
1 Points
The Contender
seraine
Con (against)
Winning
19 Points

Agriculture was mankind's biggest mistake (4th time)

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 4 votes the winner is...
seraine
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/28/2011 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,098 times Debate No: 18519
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (9)
Votes (4)

 

Mikeee

Pro

Pro will have to prove that the invention and use of agriculture was dis-beneficial and made life worse than before the agricultural revolution (before 10,000 BCE). Pro will also have to show how humanity would still be-able to survive without the invention and use of agriculture.

Con will have to prove that the invention and use of agriculture was beneficial and made life (the quality of life) better after the agricultural revolution (10,000 BCE to today) and acceptance and use of agriculture either as whole regions or individual areas. Con will also have to prove that humanity would not have been able to survive entirely or as the dominate species without the invention and use of agriculture.

Terms:
Agriculture: The domestication of plant or species for use and convenes of humans (farming, herding, genetic altering, etc.)
Humanity: all human beings collectively; the human race; humankind.

Not a religious debate in anyway

I have already debated this twice and it is a extremely varied subject and for the last two debates I have been mainly addressing three major points, so for this debate I will let Con make the choice of either continuing the broad subject or focusing on one pacific aspect.

First round is for acceptance and to tell what choice only; argument and rebuttals on following rounds

Previous Debates:
http://www.debate.org...
http://www.debate.org...
http://www.debate.org...
seraine

Con

As the first round is only for acceptance, I accept. I would like to clarify a few things before I hand it over to my opponent. First, I will not get into semantical debauchery over his use of the word biggest; rather, I am going to argue that agriculture has been beneficial to humanity.

To support my claims, I will show that agriculture has a) improved the quality of life, b) made many things possible which were impossible with hunting and gathering, c) though there was some immediate negative effects of agriculture, these were caused by the fact that man had not yet gotten used to the ramifications of agriculture, but the long term effects were most definitely good and d) life before agriculture sucked.

I will now hand it over to my opponent.
Debate Round No. 1
Mikeee

Pro

I have decided for this debate to have a different approach, so all the points and things I said in my prior debates will be irrelevant.

To be able to understand why a change between hunting and gathering to an agricultural lifestyle occurred, we must look at all of the problems hunter and gathers had. What I believe to be the biggest issue for hunter and gathers back in the pre-historic time was the issue of food preservation and obtainment of food. Even with modern technology, fresh meat cannot be stored for long periods of time. In part, domestication of livestock and herding developed because it was a ready supply of fresh meat. This being said, why didn't hunters resort to herding (some did), but the biggest question about this is, why was it that difficult for the hunters to kill the prey? There are two reasons why it was/became hard for hunters to kill their prey. The first of the two reasons is that being around in prehistoric times, the technology of superior weapons was non-existing. Hunters would use tools made of bone and rocks (obsidian in some places) that they found. Not until much later did the technological advancements in metallurgy, such as use of bronze then iron, occur. When farmers where still the minority, and hunter and gathers made up that majority of the population, they used the same type of tools to farm, as the hunters used to kill their prey. It is outlandish to say that hunter and gathers switch to agriculture due to the lack of ability to innovate new tools and strategies for hunting. Hunters and farmers possessed the same type of technologies and advancements in metallurgy did not occur completely because of the development of agriculture. If humans did not turn to agriculture, or even discover it, and we continued to be hunters and gathers, I believe that they would, over time, develop and improve technologies, with enough time, the issues of food preservation and hunting abilities would have improved, most likely, even better technologies than today would have existed. The seconds reason that obtaining food for hunters was that once agriculture took off, there was competition, both between hunters and farmers over land, and between farmers and wild game over habitat. Agriculture and hunting could not co-exist; farming took up to much space, and destroyed the wild habitat of the game that hunters needed in order to survive. By the time agriculture was accepted, hunters were forced to switch, because the amount of game was far less than be for the agricultural transition. Hunters did not switch because they wanted to, they were forced to by farmers in order to survive.

Only twenty-nine present of the Earth is land. You can't farm of water, but there are still fish that can be caught. The species (other than humans) all have adapted to a certain habitat. Almost everywhere there is land, there is a habitat for living creatures. It may sound like farming produces more food, but if you look at it, it doesn't. There is edible food that grows in the wild, and populations of mammals live in these habitats. There was a significant amount of food ready for the taking already in existence before the development of agriculture, and for the most part, all you have to do if find it and pick it. One square mile of wildlife could feed more people a healthy, varied diet, than one square mile of farmland could feed people and unvaried, unhealthy diet. If this is true, then agriculture makes no sense.
Some people believe that agriculture was preferred to hunting and gathering because it was less work and more reliable, which seems to be the biggest misconception. Farming required hard work preparing the field, planting, harvesting, and everything else you had to do. Sometimes farms did not produce enough, did not grow, or where destroyed. If this happened, there was not enough food, and the farmer starved and died. Hunting and gathering obtained food in two ways; obviously hunting, and gathering, (hence the name). If the male hunters left for the day to go on the hunt, the women when out in search for will berries, fruits, nuts, etc. Often, the hunters did not bring back a large kill, or even any, this does not mean they died, the women had gathered enough food and they did not starve. Sometimes, they would come across an area where there was no wild food, but if the men were successful in hunting, they would not starve either. If one thing goes wrong in farming, farmers would often starve, so why did people begin to turn to agriculture if it was LESS reliable and required more work?

I will save the rest of my argument for the next rounds, along with my rebuttal.
seraine

Con

My Case:

1. Agriculture has made it possible for an extremely high population.

Hunting and gathering could only provide for a very small percentage of today's population. It could only sustain about 1 person per square mile[1], while Europe currently has about 132 people per square mile[2]. The country with the lowest square density in the world is Mongolia. It has 4.2 people per square mile[2]. Bangladesh has a population density of 2,200 people per square mile, and Monaco has a population density of 43,000 people per square mile[2].

Agriculture has allowed mankind to flourish and exist at concentrations far higher than anything allowed by a hunter gatherer lifestyle. In fact, most of you reading this probably wouldn't be alive, as only agriculture could allow for such a high population. In fact, none of you would be reading this because agriculture has allowed for technological growth, which brings me to my second point.

2. Agriculture has lead to extremely high technological growth.

If you look around, you will see many things which make life a lot easier. Agriculture has made this possible. Everybody was needed with a hunter gatherer lifestyle. Hunter gatherers couldn't even maintain a surplus, let alone feed non-food producers such as craftsmen[3]. With agriculture came surpluses, and with surpluses came specialization.

In a hunter gatherer society, no one could specialize in making pottery or houses, let alone things like computers and cars. In the 2,000,000 years after stone tools and before agriculture, technology was fairly stagnant. They had axes, bows, atlatls, fire, and other basic tools made out of wood and stone[4]. After the development of agriculture, technology exploded. The potter's wheel, the wheel, copper and bronze tools, permanent housing, the plow, and many more were invented after the development of agriculture[5][6].

Notice also how regions like America and the Mediterranean, which did not develop agriculture like that of Europe, remained in the Neolithic, while countries like Europe where in the Iron Age[5].

Without agriculture, it is doubtful we would have even invented simple things like iron, let alone inventions such as the lightbulb, car, and indoor heating and plumbing which have vastly improved the quality of life. Even if hunter gatherers somehow, against all odds, did develop iron tools, they would not have enough spare people to manufacture.

Before agriculture, everyone had to work at producing food, and there wasn't any specialization so that people could focus solely on inventing on manufacturing. Today, about 99% of the population can focus on inventing and manufacturing goods to improve our quality of life[7].

This technological growth has vastly improved our quality of life.

For example, during modern times, only about 50% of children make it to 15 in groups of hunter gatherers without access to technology made possible by agriculture[8]. This is because these groups do not have medicine and other technology to help them survive.

Not only that, it has made life much more comfortable- when we think of winter, we don't think of a cold struggle for survival. Comforts like indoor heating and permanent housing has made it so we can live at 70 degrees throughout a winter in Minnesota.

Refutations

I will only address claims that have not been addressed by my case.

1. Farming does not produce more food than hunting and gathering?

"It may sound like farming produces more food, but if you look at it, it doesn't. There is edible food that grows in the wild, and populations of mammals live in these habitats. There was a significant amount of food ready for the taking already in existence before the development of agriculture, and for the most part, all you have to do if find it and pick it."

Completely and utterly false. As I have shown, hunting and gathering can support about 1 person per square mile, while agriculture can support 73,000 people per square mile[9]. This is because with agriculture you can make a place filled with food. In a cornfield, there is a piece of corn every few inches. A forest never has been and never will be as filled with food as a cornfield.

2. Work

"Farming required hard work preparing the field, planting, harvesting, and everything else you had to do."

We must not only look at the years immediately following the development of agriculture. One modern farm can feed 100 people with relatively little effort compared to hunting and gathering. 1 person driving a tractor can feed 100 people, while 100 people hunting and gathering could feed 100 people.

3. Starving

"If one thing goes wrong in farming, farmers would often starve, so why did people begin to turn to agriculture if it was LESS reliable and required more work?"

As I said, we must look at not only the past. No one starves now. Eating too much is more of a problem than eating too little. Farmers are producing so much that the government pays them to not produce. If crops fail, we worry about a slight bump in price, not starvation.

Conclusion

The only argument against agriculture my opponent has offered is that 1,000's of years ago, agriculture required more work and was less secure than hunting and gathering. None of these are relevant, as the modern benefits vastly outweigh the few negatives of the past.

My opponent stated in round 1 that he is supposed to "prove that the invention and use of agriculture was dis-beneficial and made life worse than before the agricultural revolution (before 10,000 BCE)."

He has shown that for a short while, agriculture was bad. However, he has not shown at all that ancient hunting and gathering is preferable to our modern life. Unless he can do that, I urge you all to vote Con.

Sources

[1] http://books.google.com... pg 12
[2] http://geography.about.com...
[3] http://www.angelfire.com...
[4] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[5] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[6] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[7] http://www.epa.gov...]
[8] http://www.marksdailyapple.com...
[9] http://www.demographia.com...
Debate Round No. 2
Mikeee

Pro

Both Con and I are guilty of only talking about directly after the agriculture transition and today, we both seem to lack evidence from a in-between time.

"Agriculture has made it possible for an extremely high population."

This is absolutely correct, but because of a higher population more problems occurred. Higher population doesn't mean that people are benefiting more; it just means that more people are alive. In biological terms, by developing domestication of crops and animals, we have "removed" ourselves from the food chain/cycle. A population of predators is DEPENDANT on the population of the prey. By being able to control the prey's population, the population of "predators" was self-limited. We (humanity) controlled our own population, which turned out to be mad, we OVERPOPULATED, and eventually reached the population BUBBLE, and once it popped, mass starvation and death was abundant. Just because we controlled to food, doesn't mean that everyone was getting their share. The lower class citizen who could not support themselves and families did not get as much produce and higher class citizens who owned extensive amounts of property and wealth. In a sense, yes, agriculture could support a larger population, but most of the newly existing population was less fortunate than the ones who could afford to eat.
A good example of this is what happened after WWI. American soldiers came home and had children, because there was no war to be fought, the soldiers had no work and could not pay for food, thus causing part of the great depression.

Explosion of population also lead to more confined living spaces. Again, this was not necessarily a good thing. Would you rather live in a big house or small house? Most people would prefer the larger house. With an expanding population there was less room for everyone to "breath". As you know, because there are more people able to work then work available, which even today, causes issues of unemployment and sometimes poverty. Poverty lead to people resorting to theft in order to feed themselves, which lead to social issues and more and more problems.
You can either have a large population of worse off people, or a smaller population of well off people, but not both.
"Agriculture has led to extremely high technological growth."

This is also true, but it is the same thing as saying, the more people working to get something done, the faster it's finished. If you have a group of ten people working to finish something opposed to a group of five, of course the large group will finish first. Like I said in the first round, technological advancement would have happen regardless, but with a smaller population, at a slower rate. Once hunter and gathers where able to have a sustained ability to obtain food, more advancements would happen. When you are trying to survive in the wild, you think of what is necessary, before what brings comfort. We face issues because of overpopulation today, if these issues didn't exist, it wouldn't be a problem.

Farming does not produce more food than hunting and gathering?

Farming does not support wild game. If one square mile of jungle can support so many large animals, plus wild vegetation, it supports more people. One square mile of farmland can support so many people, but one square mile of wildlife can support so many people, plus a population of wild game, and the population of wild game can also support so many people. I may have not made that as obvious as I thought in the second round.
Starving

People today still stave, it just may not seem that way to you because we live in a first world country, instead of a third world. The only reason you don't stave is because you have an income that you can use to go to the store and buy food. Without that income, you would be as worse off as everyone else who couldn't afford food. Again, heath issues related to overeating and consumption is a very "western" idea, but we (US citizens) are not the only people living on Earth, keep that in mind.

Conclusion

Con's biggest argument is, more people = good. As I have stated in my rebuttal, population explosion caused more harm than good. Population increase had immediate benefits, but cause long term problems that we still face today.
seraine

Con

Refutations

1. Population

"We (humanity) controlled our own population, which turned out to be mad, we OVERPOPULATED, and eventually reached the population BUBBLE, and once it popped, mass starvation and death was abundant."

Where is the evidence? As far as science and I are concerned, overpopulation will not happen. The global rate of population growth has been steadily declining since 1963[1]. As you have said, we have removed ourselves from being dependent on the wild animals and plants. A population "bubble" is not going to burst, because we can control our food supply. We have so much food that we pay people not to produce[2].

This is a good thing. Not only can we support a much larger population, it is much more stable because we can control our food supply. If there is a drought, the biggest problem is that corn prices rise a few cents. Can you name one example of mass starvation right now or in the near past of mass starvation because of a drought? There is no "population bubble".

"As you know, because there are more people able to work then work available, which even today, causes issues of unemployment and sometimes poverty. "

Right now those who are unemployed are in a much better position than those 10,000 years ago. Though they are poor by our standards, they would be kings in the eyes of hunter gatherers.

2. Technology

"This is also true, but it is the same thing as saying, the more people working to get something done, the faster it's finished."

False. As I showed in round 2, hunter gatherers couldn't maintain a surplus and support non-food producers[3], while agricultural societies could. That is why hunter gatherers had a very low rate of technological growth, while technology exploded under agriculture.

My opponent did not address this contention at all.

3. Which produces more food: agriculture or hunting and gathering?

"One square mile of farmland can support so many people, but one square mile of wildlife can support so many people, plus a population of wild game, and the population of wild game can also support so many people."

Agriculture can support over 73,000 times the people of hunting and gathering[4][5]. Agriculture can produce a lot more food than hunting and gathering. My opponent says that hunting and gathering can support more wild animals. This is false, however. Because with agriculture, humans are drawing off of 1/73,000 the land, thus they can leave a lot more untouched habitat for animals without killing any of the animals in it, thus supporting more animals. This is shown by parks such as the Yellowstone National Park[6].

Also, you say that "one square mile of wildlife can support so many people, plus a population of wild game, and the population of wild game can also support so many people".

Though one square mile of wildlife can support a certain number of people, where did the second population of wild game come from? The wild game population is part of the wildlife.

4. Starving in 3rd world countries

"People today still stave, it just may not seem that way to you because we live in a first world country, instead of a third world. "

This can only be shown as detrimental to my case if it was caused by agriculture. However, it was not. One of the biggest reasons people are starving in Africa is because so many people are giving food away. Before charity stepped in, Africa was actually a net exporter of food[7]. However, once charity stepped in it no longer made sense to farm, and Africans relied on food imports and charity. Whenever food emergencies and famine stepped in, starvation was the result.

Conclusion

My opponent has given a few minor negative effects agriculture has had- increases in poverty, crime, etc. However, I am sure we can all agree that it is better to live in modern times than 10,000 years ago. Now we have extremely low infant mortality, unlike the hunter gatherer's 50%. We have many comforts and very good technology that have improved our quality of life. Our food is much more reliable.

And all of this is dependant on agriculture. Without agriculture to support non-food producers, inventions and manufacturing would be almost non-existent. There is no way a system that couldn't even support craftsmen could support the workers in the factories that manufacture today's goods and all of of technological growth.

This vast increase in quality of life was most definitely not a mistake, and what's more, it was all due to agriculture. Unless my opponent would argue that life 10,000 years ago was preferable to now, agriculture had a vast positive effect.

Sources

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[2] http://www.econlib.org...
[3] http://www.angelfire.com...
[4] http://www.demographia.com...
[5] http://books.google.com... pg 12
[6] http://www.yellowstonenationalpark.com...
[7] http://www.alternet.org...
Debate Round No. 3
Mikeee

Pro

"However, I am sure we can all agree that it is better to live in modern times than 10,000 years ago. Now we have extremely low infant mortality, unlike the hunter gatherer's 50%. We have many comforts and very good technology that have improved our quality of life. Our food is much more reliable."

In pre-agricultural times there were few social issues. Today, all of our problems are because of social life. During the cold war the US and Russia almost blew each other up because of social differences. Even in our own communities there is social injustice. Even though laws provide "equal rights", there is still racism and segregation both between race and sex.

Con has not refuted the point about deadly dieses that developed because of agriculture. 10,000 years ago, there was little medicine knowledge and few ways to help injured or sick people. Because this was a problem, overtime eventually a solution would be discovered, they reason people seem to lack efficient technology was because it was 12,000 years ago, overtime new technology would have been developed.

Food today is "more reliable", only because we killed any chance for domesticated plants to grow in the wild. In Mesoamerica, maize used to be wild and could survive on its own, today, if you left a corn field untreated it would die before the end of the season and would have no chance to reproduce (scatter its seeds).

Today, if you know anything about food companies, you know that they are purely evil and only concerned with profit. "Modern farmers" don't exist. Today, American farmers are enslaved to food companies, they are forced to buy into their franchises, which have new equipment, (which progressively gets LESS efficient) and farmers are forced to rack up more and more debut. If you know how we really got our food, pacifically meet products, you would be discussed. Animals live in terrible conditions. This may not seem like it matters because they are going to be killed for food, but it does. Because of overproduction of corn, it is used for everything. Domestic animals (farm animals; cow, pigs, chicken etc.) are being forced to adapt to having a diet of only corn.

Cows are not supposed it eat corn, it is not natural and is unhealthy. The condition the animal is in reflects the quality of the food. Cows are forced to eat terrible food that is bad for them, and they get so unhealthy they can't even move. On top of all that, they are no designated place to digest, and they are forced to live in their own waste. Dieses are spread this way and cows pass its own to each other, because they live in each other waste, and it goes into the food WE eat, and are forced to buy (unless you raise your own cows and grow everything yourself).

The reason it is like this, is so that the food companies can make more money. People will knowingly harm each other just to be able to obtain little green pieces of paper, or in ancient times, shiny coins. In hunting and gathering

communities people would fight for the ability to mate and reproduce, or to claim their territory. Modern-day people to only fight with guns, they fight with nuclear weapons, physiological warfare, torture, and medical warfare. People do these evil things just for money or petty materialistic things, and sometimes not even that, some people fight and war just because someone is different.

Today we live in a world of corporate greed, political corruption, desire, health issues, and social and societal issues, all of which were no excitant in pre agricultural times. Sure, technology wasn't as great, but was having a little more comfort worth all of these problems?

Sources: http://www.hulu.com...=
seraine

Con

The crux of my opponent's argument is "Today we live in a world of corporate greed, political corruption, desire, health issues, and social and societal issues, all of which were no excitant in pre agricultural times. Sure, technology wasn't as great, but was having a little more comfort worth all of these problems?"

1. "we live in a world of corporate greed, political corruption, desire, health issues, and social and societal issues, all of which were no excitant in pre agricultural times"

My opponent has not proven in any way whatsoever that these did not exist in before agriculture. Life before agriculture was ridden with war and terror. Before agriculture, 15% of people died because of violence[1]. Right after agriculture, death by violence declined to about 3%[1]. Now agriculture has made it possible that if we include unrecorded deaths and those from famines that come from war, less then 1% of people die from violence[1].

This statistic alone shows that life is a lot better now than before agriculture. If everyone never fought and there was no political corruption or social issues before agriculture, why did 15 times more people die from violence?

"In pre-agricultural times there were few social issues."

There was a lot more. After all, there was so much that 15% of people were murdered before agriculture. The most likely reason my opponent believes this is that there is no concrete evidence that there was social issues, but there is examples in the news of violence and war everyday. My opponent has given no sources for his claims.

"People will knowingly harm each other just to be able to obtain little green pieces of paper, or in
ancient times, shiny coins."

Though some people will knowingly harm others for money,there is still a lot less violence. Not only that, money usually makes people less likely to commit crimes in order to obtain money. Customers are more likely to buy from processes that are humane, thus there is an incentive to be humane. And why does the incentive matter? Remember, without agriculture 15 times more people died from murder.

2. "Sure, technology wasn't as great, but was having a little more comfort worth all of these problems"

It is not "a little more comfort". The new technology were things like the polio vaccine[2] and MRI[3]. Vaccines alone are estimated to save about 3 million people per year[4]. These are not just little things that make life a little better. We are talking many millions of lives being saved every year.

Conclusion

So not only did agriculture make violence 15 times less prevalent, it has also made possible almost all of our technology. This technology is not just little things like iPod and backpacks that made life a little easier. They were things like vaccines that save millions every year and tractors that have made it possible for our current high population. I don't know how anything with an impact this positive could be considered a mistake.

Sources

[1] http://online.wsj.com...
[2] http://www.brown.edu...
[3] http://www.radiologyinfo.org...
[4] http://drtenpenny.com...
Debate Round No. 4
9 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 9 records.
Posted by Lordknukle 2 years ago
Lordknukle
Also, do you realize that when you are 2 in 12 it signifies that you should stop debating the same resolutions?
Posted by Lordknukle 2 years ago
Lordknukle
its a nearly impossible resolution to go PRO for.

Without agriculture we would have all been dead. The point that agriculture mainly causes war is BS. Everything causes war, with agriculture being the least of them.
Posted by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 2 years ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
How many times are you going to debate this resolution?
Posted by Mikeee 2 years ago
Mikeee
"which turned out to be mad", typo, turned out to be bad, not so much as angry
Posted by Mikeee 2 years ago
Mikeee
I'm having phone problems, and I have to "re-confirm" my identity, so it might be a while before I can post anything...
Posted by seraine 2 years ago
seraine
I just about forgot about this debate... now I have 1 hour and 15 minutes to make up a case...
Posted by seraine 2 years ago
seraine
Basically the general topic.
Posted by Mikeee 2 years ago
Mikeee
Do you want to debate the general topic or a pacific area(s)?
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by Man-is-good 2 years ago
Man-is-good
MikeeeseraineTied
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: Mikee once again failed, or refused to, source his claims...His arguments rested on several parts, all of which were refuted by Con: the overpopulation point was refuted due to lack of evidence, minor disadvantages were given, and Mikee's attempt to hint that hunting-farming was a sufficient medium of sustenance was dismantled by Seraine's statistics and sources...all only a few in the debate.
Vote Placed by kkjnay 2 years ago
kkjnay
MikeeeseraineTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Con clearly won the debate. Pro did make a couple valid points, though they didn't win the debate for him. Pro gets conduct for that. Spelling to Con. Pro used "present" as percent.
Vote Placed by Double_R 2 years ago
Double_R
MikeeeseraineTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro attempts to support the resolution by showing how hunting and gathering was more beneficial which Con refutes adequately. I found his 73,000 to 1 ratio most compelling. Afterward Pro tries to shift his argument to the side effects of agriculture without showing how those side effects outweigh the benefits and used very little support for any of his claims, many of which seemed very questionable. Con did a great job of exposing the holes in those arguments as well. Clear victory for Con.
Vote Placed by imabench 2 years ago
imabench
MikeeeseraineTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Without agriculture the population of mankind would be far far less. If a species wants to survive then they must have the ability to adapt to their environment. Mankind adapted through agriculture, ever since we have been the top species. Argument wise points go to Con, also extensive use of sources also goes to Con