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Death from a Distance and the Birth of a Humane Universe: Human Evolution, Behavior, History, and Your Future Paperback – November 17, 2009
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About the Author
Paul M. Bingham earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, where he also continued to develop his fascination with fundamental unanswered questions about how humans evolved. During his 27-year career on the faculty of Stony Brook University, he has continued to explore human origins while also contributing to fundamental cell and molecular biology, including the discovery of the P element transposon and new approaches to cancer therapy. Joanne Souza is currently a research psychologist and a faculty member at Stony Brook University. She also was a successful business consultant in communications in the health and education markets. In the last seven years she has continued to pursue her life-long research interest in human behavior, evolution, and history.
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Bingham and Souza have a complete theory of human social interaction that is based almost purely upon the human ability to create, as the title suggests, "death from a distance." At the risk of inaccuracy, I will attempt to summarize: Basically, it's all about weapons. The spear, the atlatl, the bow and arrow, swords and armor, the flintlock rifle, etc. The invention of each created a new human paradigm; a new form of society that allowed for certain advancements to take place. Where many would suggest, for example, that the Agricultural Revolution was just that, this theory suggests that it was a Bow and Arrow Revolution which created larger-scale social interaction, that then allowed for larger-scale agriculture, or whatever else was advantageous for the particular society (Native-American cultures in the Pacific Northwest, for example, created large-scale fisheries instead). It is the weapon, then, that is the Sine Qua Non; the essential ingredient, and not the agriculture.
...and that's basically the human story. When we had spears, we organized one way. When we had guns, we organized in another. It can't be that simple, can it? This is the question Bingham suggests he asked himself when he first conceived of this theory. You may ask yourself the same question, only to find that this stunningly simple theory makes a stunning amount of sense. This may force you to challenge certain assumptions you have made with regard to society. For example: If you're not a big fan of guns or gun rights, prepare to have your beliefs in that area hit pretty hard. Bingham and Souza are also not kind to those who may have a creationist slant. They suggest that evolution not only exists, but that it is a blind, heartless, and purposeless process based solely on a few bio-chemical principles, and nothing more.
One of the very first things remarked on in the book's introduction is the essential need for challenging, questioning, and doubt in order to test the veracity of any scientific theory. In accordance, this book welcomes our doubts, as did the aforementioned college class on which it is based. Prof. Bingham not only invited, but required his students to hammer at his theory with all of our might, attempting to find any crack whatsoever in its facade. We were unable to do so. The throngs of 'converted' former students, such as myself, who continue to spread the word about this work, and who maintain contact and give input to Bingham and Souza long after graduation, are a testament to both the power of the theory, and the presentation given to it. Read this book...it might change the way you think about everything.
In this book, the two authors present a very compelling and unique solution to the human conflicts-of-interest problem in our world. A solution which seems to apply to a great number of situations in the present world. Although the terminology may be different, the basic fundamental issues seen in problems is that of free-riders (cheaters of a system) and enforcement. Only through proper enforcement of a particular group of people, through the use of remote threat, will cooperation result. The authors show a step by step account of how greater cooperation has exceedingly resulted from the advent of new weapons in human history. Yet, they are careful to point out that the advent of new weapons is not enough to ensure mutual cooperation. The weapons must be in the hands of the majority to be used effectively, not just leaders and militias which can be corrupted. Situations in Burma and Africa illustrate this point as millions of people are killed or tortured because it is the few who have the guns (remote threat).
The depth of their research is clearly obvious in the evidence the authors provide, with experts in a variety of fields collaborating and supporting their arguments. Among other subject matter, the implications of their theory provide a detailed analysis of the changes in the human reproductive process as well as how humans dramatically increased brain size. This period is readily confirmed by the fossil record and provides great insight to how early humans interacted with each other on a social stage. In addition, the authors allow the reader to not lose hope for humanity by not depicting humans as just another self-interested animal in the world. Instead, our increased cooperation allows us to transcend what we could never do individually and work towards a future that is mutually beneficial for us and the environment.
This book does not look to avoid other theories and proposals on human evolution or behavior. In fact, the authors consistently use facts to answer questions and overlapping evidence laid out by contrasting and differing theories. In the same way, they invite the same sort of scrutiny on what they have accumulated and present in the book. A theory is only as good as the number of tests it passes. I look forward to how this one fares the test of time.