Science, religion and how things came to be

By Legal Eagle

I think I’ve said before that I was raised by scientists. When possible, I try to explain things scientifically to my children. Obviously there’s a limit to their understanding at this point, but when they were scared of thunder and lightning recently, I told my daughter it wasn’t monsters (as she feared) but electricity in the sky, caused by hot air hitting cold air.

When my daughter was asking why ice turned into water, I explained the concept of change of state to her. I explained that ice, water and steam were all made up of the same little tiny invisible pieces, but the difference was in how fast they were moving. The explanation ran thusly:

When the water was made cold, the little pieces got much more still and close together (making the water solid – ice). When the water was made hot, the little pieces whizzed around very fast and were very far apart (making the water gas – steam). When the water was normal temperature, the little pieces were able to move around quite a lot, slipping and sliding, making them liquid. Then I drew a diagram to show the difference. My daughter then copied my diagram herself and showed her father, and explained it to him. Daddy, who is also a scientist, was most impressed.

My mother was over and observed the diagram. “I think they should teach change of state as soon as possible,” she said approvingly. “It’s a fundamental concept. Instead, they don’t introduce it until Year 10.” I was totally shocked.

How far should we try to teach things scientifically to our children? What kind of credence should we give to other explanations (myth or religious explanation)? When I was telling my daughter about the lightning, I said that some people in the olden days thought there was a big man called Thor sitting in the clouds throwing lightning bolts down like spears, but this wasn’t true. Still, his name is where we get the name of thunder from (the proto-Germanic word *thunaraz gave rise to Old Norse Þorr, German donner, Dutch donder as well as Old English Þunor which turned into thunder).

The Australian reports today:

School students will learn about Aboriginal Dreamtime stories, Chinese medicine and natural therapies but not meet the periodic table of elements until Year 10 under the new national science curriculum.

The curriculum, obtained by The Weekend Australian, directs that students from primary school through to Year 10 be taught the scientific knowledge of different cultures, primarily indigenous culture, including sustainable land use and traditional technologies.

I find it very interesting that indigenous myth and legend incorporates important information about the land and the people’s observations about the environment about them. It’s a valid form of knowledge. But…it isn’t really science, except in the most broad terms (in that it is an observation about how the world works).  I don’t think indigenous myth and legend should be taught as science.

Science means “knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method.” Scientific method means carrying out experiments to ascertain how the world works. It is a particular product of the Western Enlightenment.

The idea is that you put up a hypothesis as to how a particular thing works, and you test that hypothesis. If you are seeking to establish the impact of sunlight on plant growth, for example, you may do a “control” experiment where you put a plant in normal conditions to show what happens if you change nothing. Other plants may be in the dark or in half light. Then you take the data and you draw a conclusion from it. It’s important to keep in mind Karl Popper’s “falsibility”. You can never actually confirm a scientific hypothesis, but if you disprove your thesis, it is decisive: it shows the thesis to be false. What can a scientist conclude then? A scientist can only conclude that for the time being the facts seem to be consistent with her thesis and thus her thesis has not been disproven.

Aboriginal myth and legend is not a series of scientific experiments. It is a religious, legal and spiritual explanation of the world which depends upon faith and cultural practice. Some of the elements of that explanation may match up with conclusions of the Western scientific method, which is very interesting, and shows that some parts of myth and legend may have a basis in empirical observation.

My parents recounted that when they visited Uluru, they were told by the non-indigenous guide in reverent terms that a particular cave was “Mala putu” (Mala’s pouch or the pouch of the female hare-wallaby). That’s not a scientific explanation of the cave, and it is not the pouch of the female hare-wallaby. However, some people believe that explanation, and their faith is fine by me. Just don’t try to pass it off as science or reality.

My worry is that if you start putting such observations up as science, you may end up having to give fair play to other non-scientific explanations of the world. Specifically, you are leaving it open to people to start claiming that their particular religious explanation of how the world was created is “scientific”. Do you end up having to give fair play to Ken Ham’s “Creation Museum” as “science”? Because that ain’t science. It’s faith.

I think the reason behind the desire to put indigenous culture into science teaching is a desire to make up for the oppression and ill-treatment of indigenous people in the past. There’s no doubt that indigenous forms of knowledge were disrespected, and indigenous people were written off as “savages” who were not worthy of being treated as equal human beings. (Although I note that whitefellas learned pretty quickly to be respectful of blackfella knowledge if they got stuck in the bush or needed a tracker to follow someone). But you don’t need to say that indigenous beliefs are scientific in order to give them respect.

Just because woo-woo is believed by people who have historically been victims doesn’t make it any less woo than the Abrahamic religions. It’s still woo, not science.

37 Comments

  1. Bob
    Posted March 1, 2010 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

     
    I’m sceptical and an agnostic. Nevertheless I’d like to avoid “science good, non-science bad”, even by implication.
     
    There may be a way out of this. It may be to introduce children (and perhaps even adults) to this idea: There are different ways of understanding the world. Science is one of them.
     
    I think science has been spectacularly effective for those fields in which it works. There are lots of fields that it doesn’t yet address, though. It can fall down badly when extended beyond its boundary of application.
     
    Even in the fields it does address it doesn’t define “truth”. (This is akin to Popper’s argument). It defines a tentative “best theory”, or sometimes competing “potentially best theories”. Any theory most probably will be improved eventually, or discarded for a better alternative.
     
    So science isn’t the provisional knowledge it produces. It’s the methods for producing that provisional knowledge. And those methods, too, are a sort of provisional theory. They, too, will eventually be improved or discarded for better methods.
     
    In other words, it is no doubt useful for children to learn the “state change” concept. I think it is even more useful for them to learn the value of the methods of science — methods for exploring and understanding the phenomena which “state change” describes.
     
    And to be healthily sceptical about them.
      

  2. John H.
    Posted March 1, 2010 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Last night I was having a discussion about this issue and the idea was raised that we need to understand other cultures because we live in a multicultural society.

    My question is this: I challenge the idea that we need to understand other cultures. All I have to do is tolerate other peoples’ point of view without necessarily agreeing with it. I do not need to understand their culture or point of view, I simply need to not give them grief. Am I missing something?

    While I’m here. I find it odd that they should teach chinese and alternative medicine. What about modern medicine? Lesson one, first statement:

    If not for the creation of vaccines anywhere between 10-20% of the people in this classroom would be dead. If not for other modern medical interventions a further 10% would be dead or in some way left with permanent injury.

  3. Amanda
    Posted March 1, 2010 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, I don’t even know if Lawyers’ Weekly is online. I just happened to pick up the copy in our tea room and saw it. If you get completely desperate I could scan the article and email it to you.

  4. Geoff Mc
    Posted March 2, 2010 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Can someone show me where traditional Chinese medicine and natural therapies are listed in the new curriculum? I can’t find it.

    Geoff Mc

  5. John H.
    Posted March 2, 2010 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Can someone show me where traditional Chinese medicine and natural therapies are listed in the new curriculum? I can’t find it.

    Nor could I. May have been in earlier drafts or just a media beat up.

  6. Peter Patton
    Posted March 2, 2010 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Adrien

    The Year 7 History syllabus covers all that pre-historic stuff, Neolithic Revolution, etc.

    Though I wonder about the strict linear treatment. I didn’t study any of that pre-Egypt/Greece/Rome history until university, where at least I had an appreciation of states, laws, religion, warfare, technology, etc. I imagine it will take a skilled History teacher to get her Year 7 students into that stuff, before her next class teaching Greek tragedy, the next Constantine and the Council of Nicea, the next George III’s Instructions to Captain Cook, then the Arab-Israeli conflict, and last for the day, the last time South Sydney won a Grand Final! 🙂

  7. Posted March 2, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Far too little analysis of total war in the 20th century for my liking. Too much risk of history repeating itself, too little effort expended to trying to learn lessons from these apocalyptic failures that occurred just a lifetime or less ago.

  8. Posted March 2, 2010 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    John H – I challenge the idea that we need to understand other cultures. All I have to do is tolerate other peoples’ point of view without necessarily agreeing with it. I do not need to understand their culture or point of view, I simply need to not give them grief. Am I missing something?
    .
    Three things.
    .
    1. Australia is composed of people from all over the globe. So other peoples’ cultures are also ours
    .
    2. We live in a progressively more integrated globe. So we will be moving toward a global understanding of history.
    .
    3. History teaches us to avoid past follies. I’m sure the Chinese have fucked up royally in the past; we can learn from that as well.

  9. John H.
    Posted March 2, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    So we will be moving toward a global understanding of history.

    So you think we’ll develop the historical equivalent of a “theory of everything”? Nah.

    History teaches us to avoid past follies.

    It is completely impractical to expect most people to sufficiently examine other cultures so as to become adequately informed about the same.

    Understanding a person’s culture is no guarantee you will gain any insight into that particular person. All the moreso in a modern society where people are increasingly diverse in their views and lifestyles.

    If history teaches us to avoid past follies then our politicians and economists must be completely ignorant of history.

  10. Posted March 2, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    So you think we’ll develop the historical equivalent of a “theory of everything”?
    .
    That’s not what I said. Onceupon a time history consisted of a list of English Kings. As the scale gets bigger so does the history.

    It is completely impractical to expect most people to sufficiently examine other cultures so as to become adequately informed about the same.

    Nonsense.

    Understanding a person’s culture is no guarantee you will gain any insight into that particular person.

    Did I offer any such guarantees?

    If history teaches us to avoid past follies then our politicians and economists must be completely ignorant of history.

    Um yeah.

  11. Peter Patton
    Posted March 2, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Adrien

    I agree with John H. You are placing a burden of social engineer that is far too great for school lessons to bear, and very unfair on teachers to boot.

    It is highly debatable that school history lessons can provide any guide whatsoever to safe-guarding the future.

    The best way for indigenous (ie. locally-born) school children and immigrants to integrate and co-exist productively is to get in amongst each other. Firstly, at school age, an immigrant child’s place of birth very often is soon forgotten, or at least increasingly seen as a burden by the kid, who like every other kid who ever lived, just wants to fit in where s/he is actually living now!

    Secondly, I pity the poor Korean or Sudanese kid, who is periodically identified in class, by the teacher saying ‘and today class, we are going to learn to respect and appreciate the deep, ancient, and very interesting culture that little Wan and Chiluba come from…’

    At the moment, we have decided to send the kids to the local public schools, and with the money saved, give them a REAL education about human diversity by actually traveling overseas. If the government were truly serious about ‘global harmony through the class room’ it would be far more effective to transfer funds away from the classroom to paying for every single Australian school student to go on school excursions overseas every couple of years or so. Maybe even get them to write an excursion report, complete with video, and post it to their Facebook page! 😉

  12. John H.
    Posted March 2, 2010 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    The best way for indigenous (ie. locally-born) school children and immigrants to integrate and co-exist productively is to get in amongst each other

    Good point. I have a vague recollection of studies pointing to exactly this effect. Can’t find that but did find this:

    http://library.adoption.com/articles/young-children-and-racism.html

    Many educators and psychologists have developed programs to address racism. Beverly Tatum and Phyllis Brown, researchers at the University of Massachusetts, have developed a program that brings a group of racially mixed children in elementary school together after school hours for a period of seven weeks. In the early weeks of the program, children are grouped by race to discuss their own identity issues. Part way through the program, children are reassigned to a racially mixed group, and discussions about racial issues continue. Parent groups meet once a month to discuss racism and learn how they can discuss racism with their children. This approach, bringing children together in small groups to work together on a specific task, is commonly known as cooperative learning. Howard Fishbein believes that this approach may be one of the best ways to help children offset their prejudices toward classmates of other races. Children come to see themselves as teammates, as “insiders” rather than “outsiders.” They learn to encourage each other’s participation, to listen to each other’s ideas, and to disagree with respect instead of derision. Fishbein suggests the widespread use of this strategy may produce a generation of children who grow to adulthood actively seeking commonalities across culture and race, rather than differences (Sleek, 1997). Observations of kindergarten classrooms in which the children were from diverse racial and socioeconomic backgrounds found no episodes of interracial or intraracial tension (Holmes, 1995).

  13. Posted March 2, 2010 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    Understanding a person’s culture is no guarantee you will gain any insight into that particular person. All the moreso in a modern society where people are increasingly diverse in their views and lifestyles.

    If history teaches us to avoid past follies then our politicians and economists must be completely ignorant of history.

    I seem to recall (and John H you may be able to dig up the relevant study) that in some cases extensive historical knowledge can actually be counter-productive when it comes to people living harmoniously, especially where there has been good and bad behaviour on all sides.

    IIRC this study was conducted with respect to people from the Balkans, so may not be reproduceable, but it strikes me as plausible, at least in an area of the world where everyone is busily nursing their historic grievances.

  14. John H.
    Posted March 2, 2010 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    I seem to recall (and John H you may be able to dig up the relevant study) that in some cases extensive historical knowledge can actually be counter-productive when it comes to people living harmoniously, especially where there has been good and bad behaviour on all sides.

    I know with certainty that I have not read such a text but it is a fascinating idea. One of those concepts that as soon as you’re introduced to it you wonder why you didn’t realise it before. You don’t have to be a Freud to work out the psychodynamics of that one. Take one one-eyed scholar with influences who keeps proclaiming, “them, over there, they did us over and we tried to be good but they kept doing it. ” And off we go … .

    I’ll have a dig around, see what comes up.

    BTW Adrien, I am most certainly not saying that we shouldn’t study history and culture. It is entertaining and instructive. I was merely pointing out that the reasons given are not necessarily good reasons. Damn it man, if we enjoy reading about stuff it doesn’t have to have some immediate utility. As an old friend once said to me: John, you’re a cognitive hedonist.

    BTW, I just finished my take on Foucault’s History of Madness. I am not kind. Who? Me? Vicious?

    http://healthycuriousity.blogspot.com/2010/03/history-of-madness-michel-foucault.html

  15. Posted March 3, 2010 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    Peter – You are placing a burden of social engineer that is far too great for school lessons to bear, and very unfair on teachers to boot.

    You misunderstand what I’m saying, or actually why I’m saying it. I am not advocating global historical perspective as some kind of mulitculti panacea. I am advocating it as contemporary history. As what it known.

    I don’t think that history should be taught to make someone whose just in from, say, Venezuala feel good about themselves. In the stream of history some political/cultural centres are significant, most are peripheral. Australian history, for example, is only of interest to us. Whereas American history is of interest to everyone.

    This is not an anti-Western diatribe it’s simply about what we know. Thing is, as John Stuart Mill said, Westerners have history whereas the Chinese have customs. What does that mean? Western history is more interesting because we’re egotiostical and disobey our parents. The Chinese don’t. So there nothing ever changes. 🙂

    Western chauvinists who fear the teaching of non-Western history as a threat should have more confidence in themselves. Western history will continue to take centre stage because it’s more interesting.

    In utilitarian terms also it’s not about harmony necessarily. It’s also about weaponry.

  16. Posted March 3, 2010 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    I seem to recall (and John H you may be able to dig up the relevant study) that in some cases extensive historical knowledge can actually be counter-productive when it comes to people living harmoniously, especially where there has been good and bad behaviour on all sides.

    The Babel Fish effect? 🙂

  17. Peter Patton
    Posted March 4, 2010 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Well Krillard really are consulting widely and listening to the people. The Dreamtime has been given the boot from the Science curriculum.

    ABORIGINAL Dreamtime stories will be removed from the national science course on the orders of curriculum head Barry McGaw, who said religious and spiritual beliefs had no place in the science classroom.

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/dreamtime-spiritual-so-off-science-courses/story-e6frg6nf-1225836724718

  18. Alicia
    Posted March 6, 2010 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    I see John Greenfield – *cough* – is back (aka Peter Patton)

  19. Posted March 7, 2010 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    Love the discussion. A few points.

    (1) The reason to have state schools is to control the belief sets offered to children. That is why (pdf) the main competing provider of schools to the state are religious bodies.
    (2) It is not to improve the quality of schooling (it would be much better to have a regulator who is not compromised by also being a provider) as the choices of very poor parents are nicely demonstrating. This is particularly an issue for primary schools, as they are particularly insulated from the consequences of whether they succeed or fail as teaching institutions.
    (3) It is certainly not to provide equality of schooling, since (given a single model), school catchment areas and quality of principal makes a huge difference.

    So, if it is all about belief sets, what are the purposes of the people setting the required belief sets? (I.e. curricula). Are they people intimately involved in running businesses, making this work, putting up with the consequences of what they do?

    Not so much.

    Or are they more likely to be engaged in status games that reward themselves for their conspicuous virtue (including conspicuous inclusiveness)? How much does the content of what is set as curricula (and taught) make sense as displays of conspicuous virtue?

    Follow the incentives.

  20. Posted March 7, 2010 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    Babel Fish, yes; IIRC it had caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the known universe.

  21. Posted March 7, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    SL @11 My rule of thumb for first discovery/invention is

    If invented before 500BC it was invented in the Fertile Crescent

    If it was invented between 500BC and 1500AD it was invented in China

    If it was invented after 1500, it was invented in the West.

    Except for anything to do with horses, in which case it was invented in Central Asia.

    The Europeans do get the Archimedean screw, distilling and the camshaft/gearshaft before 1500. The Indians get (the discovery of) zero.

  22. Posted April 10, 2010 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    Lorenzo, that is a very handy metric, although I do wonder about the Mesoamerican civilisations; apparently they were first to zero. I suppose in that case they didn’t have anyone to share it with.

    [I mention this because I’ve just watched Apocalypto, which I found both disturbing and interesting in the way it presented what was clearly an advanced civilisation–ie, they knew what an eclipse was and how to predict one–that was also barbaric to the nth degree].

  23. Posted April 11, 2010 at 4:39 am | Permalink

    The Mesoamerican civilisations had to do it all on their own, so don’t count 🙂 It is strictly a Eurasian metric.

    And Apocalypto is disturbing in precisely the way you say. I was particularly struck by the way Gibson got us into the forest-dwellers’ point of view, so that the city civilisation seemed alien and strange even while we understood its basic structure.

  24. Posted April 17, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    What is interesting is that they clearly weren’t carrying out all those human sacrifices to make sure the sun came up or whatever; it was almost as though they were doing it because they could. Very strange. The audience reactions (I’m not sure how historical) were also very creepy.

  25. Peter Patton
    Posted April 17, 2010 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    SL. Actually the clue – and I argue key to the entire film – is that these sacrifices were taking place just as a solar eclipse was taking place.

    Now, it is only because I knew a bit about ancient cosmologies and science that I picked this up. Maybe you might remember, that during the scene when the captives are taken to the top of the pyramid, and their hearts yanked out, suddenly the sky starts to darken, and the masses go nuts with fear. Why?

    1. Mayan cosmology was based on a balance between the energy from the sun and the energy released from human hearts raised to the sun. Where does the latter come from? Human sacrifices.

    2. If you were watching closely, the sacrificing priest and the king exchange a brief smile in a “nudge, nudge” conspiratorial way. Why? Because the priest was part of the Mayan elite educated in astronomy. Their calendar could accurately predict most astronomical events, including solar eclipses. So both king and priest knew that because the earth and the moon would continue on their revolutions, the sun would re-appear in a few minutes. When it did, the masses go bonkers with joy. Then the priest declares something like ‘OK, we can spare the rest of the captives, as the sun god has had enough hearts to continue to supply us with energy for a while.’

    The big takeaway from this scene is that the king and the priest’s authority is affirmed as they are credited with bringing the sun back. That particular exchange of smirks signals the political corruption that was at the centre of a civilization on the verge of collapse.

    I think Gibson was trying to say to us “look out guys, coz despite having great military might and scientific knowledge, your civilization might be collapsing.”

    The significance of the final scene when we see the [Spanish] ships is also Gibson signalling, “hey, all you Injuns and fuzzie-wuzzies, don’t blame the white-man for your society’s travails. You did it yourself, before the white man even arrived.” 😉

    I think it’s one of the best films I have ever seen.

  26. Posted April 17, 2010 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    Oh I got that part, Peter (see comment # 73). They clearly knew what an eclipse was and how to predict one (or the educated people did, anyway). It was a classic case of putting scientific knowledge to work in the service of religion.

    Mind you, the Europeans are portrayed as threatening, too — and, significantly, the protag and his wife take a very measured decision between them to run (not that it would have done them much good, with all the diseases about to be introduced).

    It’s a much better film than the Passion, that’s for sure. It’s almost as though he took the training wheels off for Apocalypto.

  27. Peter Patton
    Posted April 17, 2010 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    SL. Yes. Oh I certainly didn’t mean that Gibson was pro-Spanish. Again, there is a vital clue. As jaguar Paw and his tribespeoples are being dragged off by the Mayan/Aztecs (the film does – deliberately – conflate the two for dramatic effect and historical integrity) to be sacrificed/enslaved, they encounter a really weird girl who mumbles a curse/prophecy at them. I can’t remember it all, but basically she predicts everything that follows.

    But it goes something like ‘those of you vile imperialists who are being baddies now will be killed by one of these captives – the jaguar – who in turn will lead his people to other vile imperialists who will devastate them.’

    The final part of the girl’s prophecy is therefore when Jaguar Paw leads them to the coastline. When he sees the Spanish, all the girl’s prophecies come back to him. His look is ‘shit, I’m the jaguar, and I have lead to my own people to those who will destroy us.’

  28. Peter Patton
    Posted April 17, 2010 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    Er, that should be ‘lead the vile imperialists to those other vile imperialists who will destroy them,’ not Jaguar Paws own people who were fertilizer ages ago. 😉

  29. su
    Posted April 17, 2010 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    It really is a brilliant ending, escape with a bitter twist. Mel is a bit fixated with paradise lost and serpents in the garden but it was just brilliantly filmed and the story so compelling. That last scene is a bit of a litmus test for how fair reviewers are about Gibson, I saw quite a few that read that scene as a straight racist “here come the white saviours.” It takes a particularly rigid mind to come up with that interpretation.

  30. Posted April 17, 2010 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    If you get the DVD of Apocalypto, watch the special features. You get a real sense of how Gibson got those novice actors to give great performances.

    And also how come the guy who plays the villain is so astonishingly fit for a man in his 50s? Looks like Tarzan, talks like Jane.

    BTW It is clear in the film that the diseases are already ashore. The implication being that it was the expedition to the Mayans, not the Aztecs, we are seeing coming ashore at the end (which is a brilliant ending).

    The one bit that bothered me was the pile of post-sacrifice corpses. Effective shocking cinematography but bad history: the sacrifices were eaten. Elite access to all that extra protein was part of the value of the sacrifices in the first place. (As was normal also with animal sacrifices.)

  31. Peter Patton
    Posted April 17, 2010 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    Lorenzo, I wouldn’t get too hung up on mel’s historical attribution of particular human sacrifice rituals, ideology, and politics. He definitely conflates 9th century Mayans and 15th century Aztecs on that score. But would anybody with an IQ above 17 watch the film as a documentary made for the History Channel?

  32. Posted April 17, 2010 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    I suspect he just couldn’t stick cannibalism in there. That would have tipped the film over into some weird hybrid of splatter and camp and, yeah, well I don’t think it would have worked.

    Gah.

  33. Peter Patton
    Posted April 17, 2010 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

    SL. Oh but the Aztecs were absolutely over the top with their human sacrifice fetish. But hey, humans, even ones living in civilizations aren’t necessarily all that nice, or smart, which was the main takeaway from my viewing of the film.

  34. Posted April 18, 2010 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] Yes, Mel does some conflating, though Mayans did do human sacrifices. It was just my mind went “great horrific cinematography but they would not have wasted all that protein”.

    LE @84 Afraid so. It was a bit of a shock for me when I read Marvin Harris’ discussion of it in Our Kind. But he makes the excellent point that Aztecs (and Mayans) were protein-short societies. Particularly the Aztecs: they used to harvest beetle eggs as a protein source. As he points out, a society which harvests pond scum is not going to pass up all that good eating flesh.

    For an example of the nasty effects of protein shortage, look into how Maori society changed after they ate the last Moa. (Hint: they went from large, unfortified villages to small, heavily fortified ones.)

    SL @85 Agreed, as cinema, it was the right decision. Which, alas, is how ignorance entrenches ignorance.

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