The Instigator
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4 Points
The Contender
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0 Points

Life was far better before agriculture, and still better than it is now, on the whole, for humanity

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/5/2014 Category: Society
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 610 times Debate No: 66443
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (5)
Votes (1)




Agriculture allowed for most of the evils we know today. Although life for a small minority of people has some good technology, on the whole, more people are suffering now than before agriculture.


Interesting debate Tommy.leadbetter! I'm interested in hearing your reasoning.
Debate Round No. 1


So I will measure suffering by: physical harm, access to resources, work needed to be done and psychological suffering.

So first lets understand the life of a pre-agricultural human. They live in small groups that are small enough for everybody to know each other. They have no hierarchies except often a recognised leader, he is only the leader because people accept him a such based on his merit. He is never a tyrant or a hereditary leader. At least most of the time-still never a tyrant. The leader would be accessible unlike post agricultural leaders. And the leader would be the same as everyone else in all other aspects-like he wouldn't have more food or be considered or god or whatever.

We know how connected we feel towards even strangers when we suffer trauma together, or are just forced to co-habit in order to achieve a goal, these people would feel at one with their society and more engaged and significant than people in the larger communities agriculture facilitates.

I think pre-agricultural life was better because:

The population of pre-agricultural societies has better psychological health than post agricultural societies. This is because for the entirety of human history, in almost every society, 99% of the population have been surfs or subjects, or just downright dismal. If you weren't a soldier or a member of the ruling class, your life was bad. One thinker from the Middle Ages (I forget who, forgive me) said 'its the job of the knights to terrorise the peasants'. Serfs where the same as slaves, exactly. So almost everyone, at least in Europe, was a slave.

Even by the time we get to the 1800, in the most advanced democratic country in the world (UK), the vast majority of people were living in conditions similar to that of serfs! Yes they where not quite slaves by law (though they where beaten and treat like them in practice) but as a Victorian child working in the textile factories in London in the 1800, there isn't a lot of difference.

So this subjugation leads me to my next point: pre-agricultural societies have better psychological health than post agricultural populations. Being subjugated is quite literally the definition of bad you can do to a person. It causes despotism, despair, feelings of powerlessness and worthlessness and ultimately just means you have a lowly existence to the benefit of your superiors. Compared to a pre-agricultural society, where you felt significant, and you feel like you know everybody's and your being treat equally, its a depressing world view and cultural mentality. Also the human mind has evolved in this way so its designed for it. It's not meant to live in post-agricultural societies.

My other point is that physical harm is more prevalent in post ag. War was not fought like it was in pre agricultural days. Pre-agricultural Wars where just raids to steal goods, not often where all out battles fought, and not like in post-agricultural societies where whole communities where slaughtered, raped and tortured. Or sold into slavery. War and subjugation meant that people where at constant risk of physical harm after agriculture. Before agriculture there was risk of violence, but it was far less common and it would not be by your own leaders and not as brutally absolute as many post agricultural genocides and slaughters.

Another point is that pre-agricultural populations where more healthy, less likely to get diseases and had more food than agricultural societies. Firstly, agricultural societies very often had famine and pre-agricultural societies almost never starved. Pre-agricultural societies had access to the ideal diet provided by nature, agricultural societies however lived on a diet of mainly grain which led to tooth decay and health problems. Archeology shows that humans shank slightly. Also they where less likely to get diseases, because the main causes of disease are: bad diets, humans living close together and amid filth, and humans domesticating animals. All of which don't happen in pre-agricultural societies.

Another point is that post agricultural people worked more. This is not a theory it's a fact, look it up. Working more is obviously worse.

Another point is that women (half of mankind I may remind) has been subjugated since agriculture. So that alone should win the debate. Not to mention racism.

The only argument that i concede is that at this particular time, the last 50 years, and in the few advanced countries in the world, people like me and you who use the Internet, are possibly better off than pre-agricultural people. Possibly we are though, its not certain. But I argue that the rest of the world is suffering enough for, as a whole, humanity to be suffering more now than we where before agriculture.

So that's enough to be getting on with I would like to see what anglia Emmy opponent responds with.


The headline of the debate is:
"Life was far better before agriculture, and still better than it is now, on the whole, for humanity"

You even backed the headline up with the opening statement:
"on the whole, more people are suffering now than before agriculture."

However, within your first argument:
"i concede is that at this particular time, the last 50 years, and in the few advanced countries in the world, people like me and you who use the Internet, are possibly better off than pre-agricultural people."
This is essentially what I came to debate, and you conceeded your side on it.

Personally, I didn't come to debate any other era, but I think I can still do it. So, let me begin.

C1: Pre-agriculture was inefficient
Without agriculture, the way you would eat was through hunting, and picking what was found. Living off the land was the only way to sustain a tribe. The notible effect of this was that it was neccesary to move commonly. An area that was inhabited by a tribe would become uninhabitable for a notable amount of time.

The main point of this is that before agricuture, the ecological niech for humans was abnormally poor, for any type of animal. Even a small tribe would over populate an area. A hunter gatherer tribe had a population of approximately 30-50 people. The chances of a tribe being knocked out due to lack of food would have been notibly high.

The other point worth taking from this is that you're constantly on the move. You cannot build any permanent housings. Imagine winters where you have to move from the longhouse because there's no food. Yeah. I'm sure many tribes died this way.

As I said, no permanent housings. People slept very close to one another. They ate the same things everyone else ate. Preagricultural tribes were exteremely succeptible to disease. Small-pox literally killed off the stone-age.

You say that the psychological health of a tribe was better than that of a civilized society. Though I can see where you're coming from, I can also think of many points that go against this. Namely, the short term lifestyle, the difficulty in sustaining food, and those awful winters.

C2: Agricutural life has advantages
The main push for agriculture was, undoubtably, alchohol. A large difference between the Europeans and Iroquois is that the Europeans could drink. The trades between the civilized peoples and tribal peoples often consisted of guns, woven materials, and alchohols.
As silly as it may seem, the ability to drink alchohol is one of the founders of civilization. The ability to take a night off to get tipsy is the main improvement.

A wider availibility of things to eat should be the obvious one. We now have a large amount of crops, and notibly, spices. Everything that people eat doesn't have to be so bland. People can finally eat things for enjoyment of taste.

Because of the ability to build permanent settlements, we start to see people who live together but don't work together. The size of a settlement can grow beyond Dunbar's Number. This allows people to build selective relationships. This alone would make me much happier than being stuck with the same people all the time.

In Summary:
The agricultural revolution gave birth to living for enjoyment. Drinking alchohol and eating tasty, various food. Finally, you have friends and not people you MUST be near. This type of thing was not possible for tribes.
Debate Round No. 2


No I stand by the title thank you. It says that life was better 'on the whole': in 2008, 43% of people lived on less than one dollar a day, and today about 805 million people in the world are chronically hungry. So on the whole, humanity is worse of. For agricultural societies did not face famine like we do today, contrary to belief, and this is fact it can be looked up easily-here is one source: (YouTube-crash course world history, agriculture). So on the whole, far more people are suffering today so it could be argued that 'on the whole' humanity is worse off.

You say I conceded to people like us being better off, not quite. I will state my arguments for this. Yes we have Medicare, technology, saftey, warmth and abundance. All great. All our most primitive needs are met. However, we also have other, 'tribal' needs. These needs we perceive as our desire to have people like us, to belong into our social community, and too be respected for our role and autonomy. All these needs have been shaped by our evolution, which I remind you has been in tribal society for millions of years, and so doesn't quite fit the modern world. How does it show itself to not fit, you might ask. Well racism, tyrants, greed, materialistic wealth acquisition, drug addiction, addiction in general, sugar and fat addictions-all these things are within all creatures but nature provides a climate whereby each of these needs are in check. For instance people still would be addicted to sugar, but they couldn't abuse that because they couldn't eat enough fruits. But in the modern world, we have the means to totally abuse these natural urge and kill ourselves with them. Another example could be the prison study done by Zimbardo. This demonstrates how 'faulty wiring' can result in severe abuse, as modern humans became abusive when the situation led it to happen.

However, I got side-tracked I apologise. Like I was saying, we have all our bodily needs met, our most primitive needs, but we have other needs. These 'tribal' needs are not met by our society sufficiently. We do not feel the community values that once held us together. The majority of people in the modern world are not sufficiently fulfilled. The capitalist climate, resulting in most people working 5 days a week in a low-fulfilment job until they are 65, is not exactly a utopia. Also, in that job, none of them needs are met. Another example of evidence suggesting we are not fulfilled, comes from the office of national statistics, stating that within one year, 1 in 4 adults suffer from a mental health problem. Have you ever herd of those tests suggesting that the trible people in Mexico where far happier than their western counterparts? Or soldiers saying that, once they have a taste of that comradary and tribal-like lifestyle, they want nothing else? Life isn't just about comfort, otherwise people wouldn't climb Everest. Humans get there joy from society, and being with people and doing things together as a team. It's not a surprise though, like I say, we have evolved to do that for millions of years. Like the change in behaviour of a dog when it sees a rabbit, we succumb to our trible instincts when are put in the situation. So trible life was not necessarily that much worse, possibly even better than modern life in many ways, because our tribal needs where met.

But either way more people are hungry now and suffering in the rest of the world, so even if you where arguing that then I would argue you where wrong-and that humanity was worse off now.

I will go through your arguments piece by piece.

Your first argument is that agriculture is more efficient.

I know it is, that's what agriculture is. I argue that it's effects have actually been detrimental on the whole, though it must be said, we on this site are eating the sweetest fruit. However I dont believe the well-being of humans can be measured in production. It should be measured in happiness.

You say agriculture brings a wider availability of things to eat. No it does the opposite again. All most people eat in agricultural societies is the remains of what crop they produce for the rich people. Thus people where far more unhealthy. I would argue that, a pre agricultural human had a more varied diet than even an modern human.

You say that over population may cause a problem. Well agriculture is the only thing that causes overpopulation. There is plenty of room on earth for about the 5 million hunter-gatherers that existed. Because of agriculture, that number is now 7 billion.

So in summary:

Psychological health better - because more natural, social environment
Far, far less starvation than today and the last 6000 years
No genocide, war or discrimination
Women's equality
No hierarchies
No inequality
Less disease
Better, healthier food
Healthier body
More time for music and art than almost everybody afterwards

On the flip side..

Tiny proportion of the world, in very recent times, has got basic needs met, however still live in an unnatural world that doesn't wholly fill our needs.

Thank you, sorry for I had to rush last half of argument.


Kaynex forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by Tommy.leadbetter 2 years ago
It could be argued
Posted by ShadowHawk555 2 years ago
You stated that that alone should make you win. While its a valid point I don't think its enough.
Posted by Tommy.leadbetter 2 years ago
Why not? It's half of humanity in a state of subjugation for 6000 years that was not happening before. And racism resulted in the African slave trade, how are they not big enough factors? Do you have anything more to say? Why don't you follow your statement up?
Posted by ShadowHawk555 2 years ago
Racism and women being subjugated isn't even close to making you win
Posted by viktor_schauberger 2 years ago
Yes, I think you"re right, and that"s why I have the pseudoname "Viktor Schauberger" a very intelligent man from the Bavarian Forrest unfortunately long dead but he made interesting inventions and he standed for agriculture with and not against the nature, he collected old knowledge of Bavarian farmers.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by FaustianJustice 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: Unrefuted points, I wish Kaynex was around to restructure the argument. As it stands, there were some questions left dangling which opened the door to the premise being true. Not saying I agree, as a whole, but the points stand unaddressed.