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Multicultural Origins of Civilization

tipis Parthenon Another response to Multicultural Origins of Civilization. These messages were posted on Craigslist in this order. "RicoP" started the debate with others and I responded to him.

Western Civilization works best. Proof: < RicoP > 12/22 06:44:32

Of the 320 "greatest inventions" of all time, only 27 were not invented by Western Civilization. They are: wheelbarrow, windmill, wheel, videocassette recorder, vending machine, toothbrush, personal stereo, soap, saddle, periodic table, paper, necktie, construction nail, paper money, lock and key, ink, gunpowder, glass, encylopedia, magnetic compass, coins, chocolate, button, camcorder, beer, boomerang, alphabet.

Encyclopedia Britannica's Great Inventions

Notable is the vending machine, which they say was invented Egypt about 150 B.C.

Sorry, your "proof" fails < robschmidt > 12/27 14:55:55

1) The list was composed by a bastion of Western Civilization, of course. That makes it biased in favor of Western Civ.

2) Many of the inventions on the list came after Western Civilization conquered other civilizations through immoral and un-Christian means. That proves only that might makes right.

3) Inventions are far from the only measure of a civilization's measure. Why don't you give us a list of the greatest philosophical or religious ideas in history, for instance?

Non-Western civilizations are best < robschmidt > 12/27 15:03:56

From my posting on the Multicultural Origins of Civilization, here are a few things invented by non-Western civilizations—i.e., before Western civilization existed:

Government...Mesopotamia and Egypt.
Art...Mesopotamia and Egypt.
Architecture...Mesopotamia and Egypt.
Monotheism...Egypt (Akhnaton) and the Israelites.
The rule of law...Hammurabi.
Literature...Gilgamesh and Sumerian myths.
Judeo-Christian ethics...from the land formerly known as Judea and Samaria.

Other non-Western civilizations developed these things independently, of course. See the above posting for more on the story.

How stupid is RicoP's list? < robschmidt > 12/27 15:23:48

Let's have a contest to identify the stupidest and most worthless "invention" on the Encyclopedia Britannica's list. My nominations:

cat litter
coupon, grocery
crossword puzzles
door, revolving
greeting card, Christmas
JELL-O (gelatin dessert)
Kool-Aid (fruit drink mix)
miniature golf
Monopoly (board game)
parking meter
straw, drinking
teddy bear

Any votes for which item is the stupidest and most worthless invention? I can't decide myself. I mean, how do you choose between bikinis, grocery coupons, Muzak, Play-Doh, and teddy bears?

Oddly, agriculture, metal, and writing didn't make the list. Which clearly demonstrates the list's bias. It's focused on finite objects, not large-scale concepts or systems. That's unfortunate because non-Western civilizations developed most of the latter.

More non-Western inventions < robschmidt > 12/27 15:35:45

If we look only at the Indians of the Americas, we can come up with numerous inventions. For instance:

Various foodstuffs (corn, potatoes)
Various medicines (quinine, ipecac)

(Note: Turning a raw plant into a useful product is arguably an invention.)

I'm not saying these necessarily deserve to be in the top 250. But they do compared to Jell-O, greeting cards, and miniature golf.

I almost think the Encyclopedia Britannica was taking a lighthearted look at inventions. It couldn't have expected anyone (except RicoP) to take its list seriously.

Rob's comment
I just noticed that the EB list is of "great" inventions, not "the greatest" inventions. Slight difference. That alone invalidates RicoP's argument.

Related links
Greek lies, historic truth
The myth of Western superiority

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