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Humanity has not changed much socially over the past millenium

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/21/2011 Category: Society
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 4,977 times Debate No: 18416
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (1)
Votes (2)




Over the past few months, I have had plenty of time to watch documentaries and read books on human society over the past few hundred years.

From all of this, I think I can draw one conclusion, especially when it comes to certain issues. We have have not changed as much as we might think that we have. A thousand years ago, Europe and the Middle East were being torn apart by religious conflict both between religions and between the sects of those religions. Christians fighting Muslims and Jews caught in the middle. In the Eleventh Century, militant Western Christians were battling Muslims for the control of the Holy Land and it is the same today.

According to what I have read about Christian Millenialism and its list of signs that will come before the coming of Christs thousand year kingdom on earth, the creation of a Jewish state is one of these signs hence the support by Christian fundamentalists for the State of Israel in the Holy land. They see it as a stepping stone to Christs kingdom. This means the loss of land by the local Muslim and Arab population who consequently strike back with violent and political campaigns.

Isn't this very similar to what happened during the crusades?


I accept this challenge. I won't post any opening arguments in this round, but I'd like to make sure my opponent and I agree to certain definitions/rules of engagement.

"Humanity" refers to the human species as a whole. [1]
"Social change" refers to alterations in the social order of a society, which may be driven by cultural, religious, economic, scientific or technological forces. [2]
"Millennium" refers to the period between 1000-2011. Generally, events being used as evidence to advance either position should conform to this time period.

Burden of Proof
Con must provide relevant examples to show that as a whole, human society has significantly changed when compared to the early 1000s. Pro must either refute these examples and show that they do not demonstrate societal change, or provide compelling evidence to show that humankind and society have mostly stayed the same over the past millennium.

Rounds 2-4 can be utilized in whatever way is deemed necessary, but Round 5 is reserved for closing arguments/rebuttals, and no new evidence or sources may be introduced.

I hope that my opponent will agree to these terms. Good luck to both of us, and I await my opponent's opening argument.

Debate Round No. 1


I agree to these terms and definitions. As I have already posted an argument to start with, I now invite my opponent to post his response.


Thanks for accepting the terms typhoon. As per my opponent's wish, I will proceed with my opening argument.

Firstly, I don't see how my opponent can arrive at his sweeping resolution by only providing ONE example of something that has existed throughout time: religious conflict. He claims that the Crusades of the medieval times are very similar to the current conflict over the Holy Land. This doesn't prove his resolution at all. To prove that humans have not changed much socially would require an overwhelming amount of evidence that the human condition of 1011 is practically the same as it is in 2011. Common sense would dictate that this is a flawed belief, and I intend to provide support for humanity's transformation in all the aspects of social change, mentioned in the definition from R1.

Economic - The Industrial Revolution
There is a consensus among economic historians that this was the most important event in human history since the development of agriculture. Their judgements are sound, since the Industrial Revolution not only advanced technology and production mechanisms, but also fundamentally affected human life. Before this movement, manual labor was the means of production for nearly everything. The Industrial Revolution may have started in Britain, but it certainly had wide-ranging impact across the globe. It started out by mechanizing the textile-making process, and from there it developed an overall movement of industrialization which led to developments like the internal combustion engine and steam power generation. [1] The physical impact of such developments on society is obvious. With no more painstakingly long manual-labor processes, goods became much more widely avaiable. The Industrial Revolution also sparked the building of roads, canals, and railroads, making trading goods much easier than before as well as paving the way for efficient transportation. Before then, you were stuck with either walking or horseback if you wanted to travel across land. Better transportation=faster travel to destinations, better product availability through trade, etc. Plus, the increased industrialization sustained an overall increase in the world population and average standard of living. [2] There was also a mass exodus from farms to cities and towns, since people were seeking work in these new factories. Thus, the dominance of cities over the previous system of rural communities was created. To go off on a slightly less economic track, the overcrowding of cities which developed from the urbanization spawned a movement for the reform of public health, due to Chadwick's revelation that poverty and disease were connected. [2] Overall, the Industrial Revolution clearly has lasting effects even today, despite the fact that much of its technology has been superseded by newer forms. It is the highest and most far-reaching demonstration of how human society has changed over the past 200-250 years, let alone the past millennium.

Technology - Digital Revolution
This is essentially the modern day Industrial Revolution, providing even more societal alteration. Back in the 1000s, there were no cell phones, computers, or television. While it might be argued that these don't affect humanity itself, that would be an extremely erroneous conclusion. With the advent of digital media, easier communciation has been facilitated and society as a whole is more connected. Back in the 1000s, if I was a diplomat for the king of England and wanted to do business with France, I would have to either write a letter or travel there physically to communicate. Both methods made efficient communication nearly impossible. Nowadays, I could instantly call that person, e-mail them, or Skype them in under 5 seconds. Not only does this make personal communication easier, but companies now have the ability to market their products to a geographically-large audience. The transfer of news has also been made immensely easier by the Digital Revolution. One millennium ago, if you lived in England you wouldn't know what was going on in Africa. With rapidly distributed news media, the average person can know of happenings around the globe right from their own home, fostering a sense of greater "intimacy" with the world. Clearly not the case many centuries ago.

Cultural - Renaissance
This was a slightly more restricted movement, as it mainly concerned Europe. However, it did have effects which sprawled out across humanity as a whole. The art of the era became markedly more secular, depicting concrete objects and individuals rather than deities and religious figures. Wealthy patrons could have portraits of themselves commissioned by a painter, something which would have been considered a sin by the standards of medieval art, which focused on religious-based artwork. [3] Today, this secularization of art prevails. If it weren't for the Renaissance defying the conventions of artwork being solely religious, the greatest paintings and sculptures, such as Mona Lisa or The Thinker, would never have come about. Art might not be seen as something which directly impacts humanity, but since the Renaissance changed what was considered "acceptable" in art, it can be inferred that society would have lost many of its greatest works had the Renaissance or a similar movement not come about. Oh, and we also got the printing press as a result of the Renaissance's focus on classical literature, an invention which paved the way for better education and spread of ideas for years to come.

Religious - Protestant Reformation
Simply put, this trumps my opponent's analogy to the Crusades and represents an everlasting change on the face of religion. Consider this: the Protestant Reformation created Protestantism and its various denominations, which have a membership of around 800 million today [4]. By contrast, the combined population of the quarreling Arab states and Israel is 15-20 million, not to mention that it is a very small minority of that population which actually actively fights. Now, which seems like the more impactful event? The Protestant Refomation did not only create Protestantism, the form of Christianity followed by 800 million people today, or the Protestant work ethic as noted by Max Weber, a precursor to modern capitalism and a basis for the financial mindset of the United States [5] It also prompted a Counter Reformation by the Catholic Church. There's no more sale of indulgences to cleanse oneself of sins, along with various other corrupt practices. Why? The Council of Trent wanted to curb the spread of Protestantism, and in doing so it changed the Catholic Church from within. Of course, nowadays the violent conflicts that ensued between Catholics and Protestants at the time (Thirty Years' War) no longer exist, furthering the evidence of societal change. We don't see Catholics killing Protestants on the basis of religious conflict and vice versa like they did in the 16th and 17th centuries. Despite having ideological differences, the Catholic and Protestant churches have maintained a peaceful coexistence in modern times. The same cannot be said for opposing religious factions of the Middle East, but this does not mean that humanity as a whole hasn't evolved; it means those people haven't learned to cease their conflicts like the Catholics and Protestants learned to do.

My opponent's contention has been soundly defeated by just a few examples of sweeping changes across society. While I intend to provide more, he will need to show ample evidence of societal status quo beyond his earlier example, as this does not prove that humanity as a whole has not changed much.

Debate Round No. 2


Thank you for your response.

Before I start into my arguments proper,I would simply like to clear up one small matter. When I first stared this argument, I stated that humanity has not changed as much as we might think it has. What I meant was that I accept that there has been some change, but that overall there are many similarities between humanity in 1011 and humanity in 2011.

With that in mind, here is my answer to each of your arguments.


You made the point that within the period in question, there was a great revolution in terms of technology and transportation brought about by the Industrial Revolution. I do not think that anyone would argue that point. But for an argument on humanity, I think that you focused too much on the economics and not enough on the people, the "humanity". First off there is no consensus that the overall standard of living in countries that had the Industrial Revolution rose. It has been a matter of debate since at least the 1950's as to the social changes the Revolution brought about with many historians arguing that the standard of living actually got worse. A series of 1950s essays by Henry Phelps Brown and Sheila V. Hopkins (1) later set the academic consensus that the bulk of the population, that was at the bottom of the social ladder, suffered severe reductions in their living standards. There is also the division of society into different classes. At the beginning of our agreed upon time frame, 1011, in what is commonly called the High Middle Ages, society was divided into upper, middle and lower classes. Does anyone think that this system does not exist anymore? Don't those classes still exist? People are still far more divided by wealth or lack thereof than by anything else and the divide is only growing. Major areas of social science still rely on class based explanations of personal identity, for instance, the history from below school of Marxist history (2). Outside of Marxist influenced thought, there is still much evidence suggesting that class affects everyone. Some ideas from different sociologists follow:

* Jordan suggested that those in poverty had the same attitudes on work and family as those in other classes, this being backed up with surveys expressing that the poor/working class/lower class feel almost shame about their position in society.
* MacIntosh and Mooney noted that there was still an upper-class which seems to isolate itself from other classes. It is almost impossible to get into the upper-class. They (upper-class) kept their activities (marriage, education, peer groups) as a closed system.
* Marshall et al. noted that many manual class workers are still aware of many class issues. They believed in a possible conflict of interest, and saw themselves as working class. This counters the postmodern claims that it is consumption which defines an individual.
* Andrew Adonis and Stephen Pollard (1998) discovered a new super class, which consisted of elite professionals and managers, which held high salaries and share ownership.
* Chapman noted there was still an existence of a self-recruiting upper-class identity.
* Dennis Gilbert argues that class is bound to exist in any complex society as not all occupations are equal and that households do form pattern of interaction that give rise to social classes.


Has technology changed how people behave? I do not believe so. The forms of communication may have changed, but the problems are still the same. Does anyone believe that the creation of newer, more efficient forms of communications has helped with our social problems? The change in technology as not lessened our social conflict. If anything it has made it worse. There has always been social problems and technology has not fixed this. 1000 years ago people were agitating for their rights. The simple proof of this is the issuing of the Coronation Charter in 1100, the Magna Carta in 1215. Also, the advent of the Industrial Revolution did not prevent the outbreak of class based conflicts like the French or Russian Revolutions and all of the troubles that they spawned. Technology can sometimes only serve to exacerbate a situation. Lets not forget that the riots in in the United Kingdom were only made easier for the rioters by their use of social networking websites like facebook and twitter (3). Also, I think that it is a bit of an exaggeration to say that "one millennium ago, if you lived in England, you wouldn't know what was going on in Africa". Clearly, if people in England were going on crusade to the Holy Land, then they obviously knew the Saracen conquests there. Technology may have changed, but social conflicts have not. After all, this debate is about society.


You have pointed out the art of the Renaissance as being an example of humanity changing. Obviously you are not aware of the ongoing debate on the subject of whether or not the Roman Empire really ended or if it simply changed form. Since the second half of the 19th century, historians such as Pirenne, Lucien Musset and historians of late antiquity have been arguing that Rome simply change form (4). Further, there has been an acceptance that, in their long struggle against the Roman Empire, many of the Empires enemies actually adopted Roman ideas and institutions for themselves thus prolonging them e.g. Charlemagnes use of the title Holy Roman Emperor. I believe that this lasting Roman influence is seen even in the 1200's in art. In Italy in the late 13th and early 14th centuries, the sculpture of Nicola Pisano and his son Giovanni Pisano, working at Pisa, Siena and Pistoia shows markedly classicising tendencies, probably influenced by the familiarity of these artists with ancient Roman sarcophagi (5). The humanism evident in art over the last 1000 years extends right back to the Roman Empire and beyond to ancient Greece and perhaps further.


There was never one Christian Church. Even 1000 years after the death of Jesus, there those who disputed the Catholic Church's teachings on Jesus. Arians, Nestorians, Cathars, Coptics and the Greek Orthodox Church. Even in the Middle Ages, there were Hussites, Lollards and Waldensians who challenged Church teaching. So I think it fair to say there were was always a strong seem of dissent within Christianity as a whole. Even today, there is a liberal-conservative split in the Catholic Church. Also, I do not accept your assertion that the Reformation increased Christianity. With about 1.41-1.57 billion Muslims, comprising about 21-23% (6) of the world's population, Islam is the second-largest religion and one of the fastest-growing religions in the world. Also, the work ethic is not confined to Protestant Christianity. At the height of their power in the Middle Ages, Muslim armies controlled vast swathes of territory from Spain and Morrocco deep into Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and the Far East. Islamic civilisation was once considered to be the best in the world. If it wasn't for Islam, many of the great literary works of Ancient Greece and Rome would have been lost. And while you may say that Arab countries deviated from this glorious path, its also fair to say that the Christian world become obsessed with glamour, materialism and tabloids.

Also, contrary to your assertions about the relationship between Catholics and Protestants, while it is true that most of them do get along, do not forget about the violence and distrust in places like Northern Ireland and the cities in Western Scotland like Glasgow.

1..Wage rates and living standards in pre-industrial England Past & Present 1981 91(1):28-46
3.. Trials and Sentencing section
4.. Transformation section


Thanks for the informative reply typhoon.

At the beginning of our agreed upon time frame, 1011, in what is commonly called the High Middle Ages, society was divided into upper, middle and lower classes.

This is simply an inaccurate statement. With the feudal system that was dominant during this period, the "class system" was limited to peasants (serfs) and the lords who owned the land. The middle class was a product of the free market economy which replaced manorialism, another significant change. We don't have the feudal system anymore, and since the feudal system didn't allow for a middle class (if you weren't nobility you were a serf), the middle class emerged during the mercantilist system's advent, in which this class of people evolved around functions such as the crafting guilds.

Major areas of social science still rely on class based explanations of personal identity, for instance, the history from below school of Marxist history.

It is interesting that my opponent mentions Marxism, as this seems to defend my stance. Marxism, socialism, whatever one wishes to call it originated from the changes associated with the industial revolution. I did mention that it was the AVERAGE standard of living that increased, which may not necessarily reflect the evidence brought up by my opponent that the lower-class suffered severe reductions. However, is this not a change if the lower class suffered these reductions? The resolution wasn't that society hasn't advanced much, rather that it hasn't changed much. Furthermore, it was in fact this perception of the working class's decline during the Industrial Revolution that prompted the origination of modern socialist thoughts. People like Robert Owen and Henri de Saint-Simon were critics of the effects of industrialization on the workers, with Owen going so far as to create his own utopian socialist society in Indiana. Socialism clearly has plenty of associated impacts today, with China, North Korea, and Vietnam adopting socialist policies in their current governments. A socialist society will naturally have a different impact on its citizens as opposed to if socialism had never emerged, and China was completely free market. Socialist-based parties, such as the Social Democrats in many European countries, are also prevalent and exercise their voice in vying for policies correspondent with socialist principles.

Also, my opponent doesn't contest the fact that massive urbanization has occurred. He also does not protest the health reforms that were initiated due to the spread of disease from crowded urban conditions. Eventually, we gained a multitude of health reforms which paved the way for cleaner cities with less disease along with much higher life-expectancies in many nations, something I will go much more into detail with next round.

Has technology changed how people behave? I do not believe so.
Once again, evidence proves the contrary. Numerous scientific studies have found that the emergence of mass media, including the associated trends of violence within said entity, has a profound effect on children today. [1] They are prone to emulate the violent actions of what they see on the screen, and overall media violence has been linked to increased aggressive behavior within children today. Such evidence directly disproves my opponent's contention.

Technology can sometimes only serve to exacerbate a situation. Lets not forget that the riots in in the United Kingdom were only made easier for the rioters by their use of social networking websites like facebook and twitter
Once again, is this not a change in society? Social networking has undoubtedly made communication with others easier, including people that may not know each other personally such as the aforementioned rioters. Numerous other groups on Facebook have rallied support behind various other causes, including this example of a more positive cause promoted by the interconnectedness of Facebook. [2] Social networking has also contributed to negative aspects like cyberbullying and online harassments, both legitimate outcomes that have only emerged with the growth of the Internet. Ultimately, the Internet and social networking ae double-edged swords, with both positive and negative effects. However, it cannot be disputed that they have caused widespread social change, which is what this debate concerns.

I intend to show stronger examples of how society has been affected by changes in culture in future rounds(especially modern advances). I still stand by the fact that the printing press provided the springboard for a dramatic transformation in how information and ideas spread through society. If we didn't have an efficient, rapid method of producing books, such as the case before its conception, then we would have a popultion with much less literacy and education. The aforementioned system of serfdom did not permit a great deal of the population to even have an education, thereby creating a largely illiterate enserfed population. With the creation of the printing press, along with the Renaissance's emphasis on education even to those beyond the extremely wealthy, the Renaissance paved the way for a complex society proliferated with a diversity of opinions and values. [3] I ask my opponent to consider what our society would be like today if texts still had to be hand-copied, and then decide whether or not the Renaissance's giving birth to the printing press is a significant societal change.

Even in the Middle Ages, there were Hussites, Lollards and Waldensians who challenged Church teaching. So I think it fair to say there were was always a strong seem of dissent within Christianity as a whole.
True, but you also have to remember that these dissenters were often burned at the stake for heresy, something that does not happen today. Dissent is, as a whole, much more tolerated within the Church than it was back then. To illustrate this, consider the fact that the pope recently praised Martin Luther in a visit to a monastery, a far cry from the Catholic Church of centuries past which excommunicated him and declared him a heretic. [4] And while the Catholic Church hasn't compromised its views on abortion or homosexuality too much, Pope John Paul II declared in 1996 that evolution was "more than just a theory" and was compatible with the Christian faith. This marks a drastic turn from the period since Darwin first proposed his theory. While there are still die-hard creationists, the theory of evolution has undoubtedly been able to either integrate with creation theories or overturn people's beliefs in them as a whole. A 2001 Gallup poll found that around 51% of Americans believe that evolution had something to do with the development of human life. [5] It's safe to say that the figure would have hovered around 0% before the theory of evolution was proposed, reflecting that people have assimilated it into their beliefs.

With about 1.41-1.57 billion Muslims, comprising about 21-23% (6) of the world's population, Islam is the second-largest religion and one of the fastest-growing religions in the world.
Again, isn't this backing the opposite of my opponent's resolution? The Muslim population was only 200 million in 1900, and in the century since it has increased nearly tenfold. It isn't the system of empires that existed way back in the Golden Age of Islam (there isn't even a caliph anymore that heads the religion); it is instead more of an assimilation into Western society. The prevalence of Muslims in America has definitely expanded over the past millennium, and has brought the religion into the political spotlight ever since 9/11.


Debate Round No. 3


typhoon2401 forfeited this round.


I will extend my arguments. However, same rules apply as stated before: Round 5 can only be used as rebuttals for the evidence already presented.
Debate Round No. 4


typhoon2401 forfeited this round.


*sigh* While my opponent did forfeit two rounds, his attempts to refute my arguments fell far short of proving his resolution, and in many cases actually contradicted it. He cited the rise of social media, along with the growth of the Muslim population across the world. Are these not social changes? He essentially agreed that Facebook and Twitter has allowed for a greater sense of interconnectivity between people with his examples of the London riots, and I showed that this can further have positive effects. He ultimately only provided one argument towards sociey not changing over time (the religious wars), which is fundamentally different from the Crusades since the Crusades were encouraged by the pope. I really wish that he would have provided some further counterarguments to my position in round 3, but because of the forfeit, his arguments have been renderd invalid while mine stand unrefuted. Therefore, I encourage a Con vote.
Debate Round No. 5
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by RoyLatham 6 years ago
This is an excellent topic, so it's too bad Pro forfeited the last rounds.

There is scholarly work by Stephen Pinker that shows that the trend is to much less violence in the world than there used to be. The world may seem more violent, but that's a product of the advance of mass media reporting. A hundred years ago, wars with tens of thousands of casualties barely made he newspapers. Now, an attack anywhere in the world that kills a dozen people makes the evening news, with video. In WW I there were 90,000 casualties on the first day of the Battle of the Sonne, which ultimately took over a million lives.

It's a minor point in the debate, but it's not true that violent media promotes violence in the general population. The studies that claim to show it test people immediately after they watch a violent program and find that they are more aggressive. However, long term effects are negligible. Japan has very violent media, but a very peaceful society.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:06 
Reasons for voting decision: An excellent topic. The debate started slowly. con should have cited women's rights, slavery, individual rights, democracy, etc. right away. Con ultimate got to pointing out the end of feudalism and other important societal changes, at which point Pro forfeited. Human nature doesn't change, but society definitely has changed.
Vote Placed by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Double forfeit.