Is This Stuff Really Scholarship? This Can’t Be Real

Please assess this, and tell me it’s some sort of joke

It would seem to me that the “economic-historical” thesis that the Industrial Revolution occurred because of a change in human evolution could be defeated merely by arguing that a change in ideas occurred earlier. “The Wealth of Nations” was published in 1776; a certain country that was to be a “commercial republic” declared itself independent in the same year; material comfort as a goal for knowledge is advanced at least as early as Descartes (1641) and before him Francis Bacon, but the key ideas are definitely in Machiavelli (c. 1500). Wouldn’t it be just a bit easier, instead of compiling a lot of speculative data on how people ate in the Middle Ages, or trying to deduce how many kids rich people had, to say that a change in ideas created the Industrial Revolution, as opposed to a change in the human genome?

I’ve gotta be missing something. This is just way too easy.


  1. To say that it was a change of ideas is to say that we are in control of our destiny, or future. The scientific community, particularly those that are at best pseudosciences, keep trying to add scientific credibility to the most asinine of contentions. Since not many people wish to study the hard sciences – physics, chemistry, mathematics – they try and create scientific claims. What they have is scientific language, that fools the average person, without any true scientific data.

    Although You and I, Ashok, consider this a joke, there are too many people – teachers included, that will jump on this. There needs to be a serious debate over what has power to shape human future; the mind, i.e. intellect, or the environment. This is not a discussion that is seriously taken any more because too many have conceded that the physical trumps the mental.

  2. Wait, is he trying to claim that the poor were violent, impulsive, and leisure-loving? So that it wasn’t until the rich, who were more “civilized” reproduced enough to overtake the poorer segments of the population that we were able to enter the Capitalist age?

    No, there’s no way he’s saying that… Not only is there absolutely no real world corroboration, it’s also extremely classist. I mean, it doesn’t exactly take a PhD to know that traditionally, it was the poorer classes that were the hardest working…

  3. well, i think the kind answer to your question, ashok, is that we ARE missing something here. let’s not forget that these articles are often written by people who have no idea how to summarize scientific writing.

    of course, if one were inclined to less kindness … then one could remember that clark isn’t the only one who went down a strange garden path following malthus’ footsteps. genetically transmitted middle-class values? hmmmm ….

  4. Just stumbled upon your excellent blog perchance via Westminster Wisdom.

    You may be interested to read John Wood’s response to this article over at his blog Obscene Desserts. He’s an American historian living in Germany who has written on similar subjects. His deconstruction is detailed. Very detailed.

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