Instigator / Pro

Without the contact between the New and Old Worlds, the New World may still be living in the past


All stages have been completed. The voting points distribution and the result are presented below.

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With 1 vote and 3 points ahead, the winner is ...

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Two days
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One week
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Contender / Con
~ 297 / 5,000


New World (West) - North and South America
Old World (East) - Europe, Asia, and Africa


Hypothetically speaking, if the West had never contacted the East in any way, shape, or form, then their civilization would likely never change. Remember, this is only hypothetical!

Round 1
Hello Oromagi and thank you for accepting this debate. I'm probably going to lose, but hopefully this should be fun! Let's jump right into it...

I. Outline

Round 1 - Talking about my first argument
Round 2 - Talking about my second and third argument, and some clash
Round 3 - Talking about my fourth argument, summarization, and some clash

I might change the format later on depending on how much space I have left.


  1. Geography - How did the geography of the West impact the civilizations?
    • Biomes/Climate
    • Available resources
  2. World View - How did Western views limit the lifestyle of its civilizations?
    • Religion/Culture
    • Knowledge
  3. Contacts - How did the civilizations interact with one another?
    • Relationship with neighboring tribes/colonies
  4. Society - How does the overall population contribute to the advancement of the society as a whole?
    • Social structure
    • People's expectation

II. Arguments

Geography - How did the geography of the West impact the civilizations?

Before we start, I will be used North America (excluding Brazil) as the example here just to keep everything relatable, but most of my statements can apply to South America as well.

Canada and America. Both are one of the largest countries in the world by area. But such an opportunity comes at a downfall. Up North are unpleasantly cold climates, and down South are warm and terraneous climates. You can further organize these different climates into a total of 10 separate cultural areas: the Arctic, the Subarctic, the Northeast, the Southeast, the Plains, the Southwest, the Great Basin, California, the Northwest Coast, and the Plateau.

Let's briefly delve into these different areas.

The Arctic and Subarctic. These two areas are both cold and flat terrain, with hard ground and frequent snow. This makes it especially difficult to traverse the land, with the main means of travel being toboggans and canoes. The tribes centered in this area are often small in numbers, and hunted caribou as their main source of food.

The Northeast. The main tribes that inhabited this area mainly lived in small farming and fishing villages. They also grew crops like corn, beans, and various types of vegetables.

The Southeast, Southwest, and Plains. This area is rich in farming. Many of the tribes here are expert farmers, and grow crops such as corn, beans, and squash. Further West, you can find nomadic tribes that focused primarily on hunting.

The Great Basin and California. Two words, desert, and mountains. The very West of the West, this place supports fast paced nomadic tribes that scavenged for roots, and seeds, while also hunting for reptiles and small mammals.

The Northwest Coast and Plateau. The Northwest Coast is mild in climate, but abundant in resources. Permanent fishing villages are common, catching daily fish such as salmon and occasionally small whales. The people of the Plateau are similar with seafood diets, and occasionally berries and fruits.

As you can clearly see now, there were many different regions in the West, each comprising of different tribes, diets, and life styles. Now what impact does this have? Well right off the bat, we can see that different geographic regions can force various tribes to adopt different lifestyles. This makes it significantly harder for two tribes in different regions to combine or interact. They can't grow the same crops, don't have the same skills, and some of the tribes are warlike or defensive! My point is further supported by Jared Diamond, a prestigious historian and geographer, who states:

Knowledge and new technology spread East and West much easier than North and South
Let's analyse this quote. The spread of knowledge and technology is one of the driving factors of a civilization's growth and advancement. Spices are an example of this. Around the time of the Silk Road, Europe and China were heavily engaged in trade, most dominantly China providing spices and fabrics to Europe. At one point in time, China even brought gunpowder to Europe, allowing the making of guns and cannons. China and Europe are relatively close in terms of latitude. Compare that with different tribes of the West. They are close to each other, but in terms of longitude, making it significantly harder to travel and interact with others. This is already a proven fact.

III. Conclusion


Geography is a major player in a civilization's advancement, since it allows for more sharing of ideas and technologies. This is not present in the West, since they have a longitude alignment, and they have vastly varying regions.

Geography is just one reason that the West is limited moving forward. In the next round I will be talking about how the West's world view and contacts negatively impacts their civilizations. And I will be using South America as the main example there.

Well folks, that is all from me now, and I wish you the best Oromagi, good luck!


Thx, DS-
(sorry for many abbrs w/ 5000 cpa)


NW=New World=Americas
OW=Old World=Eu, Asia, Africa
FP=First Peoples, Native Americans

Wikipedia advises:

"When two parties are in a discussion and one makes a claim that the other disputes, the one who makes the claim typically has a burden of proof to justify or substantiate that claim especially when it challenges a perceived status quo."

As claimant of  extraordinary hypothesis, Burden of Proof is entirely PRO's.

CON interprets PRO's hypothesis to mean FP civs would not have changed of their own volition over the past 500 years.  CON challenges PRO's hypothesis as a problematic and un-testable overstatement.  When has any large human population remained entirely unchanged over the course of five centuries?


  • PRO's condition for OW-NW contact is "never is any way, shape, form;" but all FP populations in the NW migrated from Asia.
"The ancestors of living Native Americans arrived in what is now the United States at least 15,000 years ago, possibly much earlier, from Asia via Beringia."

  • If PRO's hypothesis had been true there would not have been any pC civ and the question of changeability moot.

  • PRO defines OW as Eu, Asia, & Africa which allows for cultural transmission via intermediary pop. 
    • Credible evidence exists for pC NW-Polynesian contacts:
      • "The origin and domestication of sweet potato occurred in either Central or South America."
        • "Sweet potato has been radiocarbon-dated in the Cook Islands to 1400 CE.  A common hypothesis is that a vine cutting was brought to central Polynesia by Polynesians who had traveled to South America and back, and spread from there across Polynesia to Easter Island, Hawaii and New Zealand."
      • A Peruvian mummy was embalmed using monkey puzzle tree resin found only in Oceania and New Guinea and RC dated to 1200 CE.
    • In a hypothetical scenario where OW-NW contact was not possible, we should assume OW-NW cultural transmission via the development and exploitation of popular and profitable Austronesian and Australian trade networks.

  • PRO fails to demark an end time at which we might measure the extent of change, but never is a very long time in which to maintain complete stasis.

  • PRO fails to qualify the absence of change. 
    • We can reasonably assume that PRO is not asserting that no FP would be born or die over the past 5 centuries.
    • What about climate change?  Migrations?  War?
    • Many FP civs rose and fell in the space of 500 years (Chaco Canyon, Mississippian Mound builders).  Is PRO suggesting the cessation of pC cycles of cultural rise & fall?

  • Even in the absence of any contact, the impacts and influences of OW culture would become increasingly evident to FP as modernity encroaches.
    • Ships, aircraft, and satellites would be increasingly visible to FP.
    • OW pollution and waste would become increasingly evident in NW environments.
  • Reversedly, OW technological progress would increase awareness and demand for NW contact, resources to an unsustainable degree.
    • Imagine, for example, OW reviewing satellite data on NW natural resources while suffering famine, overcrowding, etc.  At some technological point (probably long before the modern age) the improbability of sustained OW-NW separation surpasses the degree necessary to make hypothesis worth the effort.

  • PRO argues (a la Diamond) that the differences between human societies on different continents has more to do with continents than humans.  Because of NW's more significant climate regionalism and particularly because of longitudinal cultural interconnection as (as opposed to OW's latitudinal interconnection), NW progress is "limited."

  • Let's concur that Diamond's insights regarding continental influences on culture are compelling.  CON counters that PRO's mistake is the application of Diamond's dynamic as absolute principle rather than important influence.
Diamond argues that the gaps in power and technology between human societies originate primarily in environmental differences, which are amplified by various positive feedback loops.
  • That is, geography explains differentials in rates of progress, not the capacity to progress itself- which is a fundamentally human trait independent of geography.
  • Unmolested by OW, NW civs would have certainly progressed and changed, albeit at a slower rate of development.
    • The multitude and variety of regional adaptations laid out by PRO ably demonstrate NW capacity for change.
    • Longitudinal trade & cultural transmissions were plenty influential, just to a smaller degree than OW transmission.
CON looks forward to PRO's R2- World view + Contacts

Round 2
Hello Oromagi and thanks for following through. Let's jump right into it!

Let me clear up a misconception. This topic could be viewed as a situation where the New World would be the only factor in play. Imagine that we isolated the New World completely, or even sent it to another planet. How would the New World develop then?

I would also like to clarify the time span of this event. The topic states that "without the contact between the New and Old Worlds, the New world may still be living in the past." This implies that if the New World is isolated to this very day, then they would not have changed, so let's start our clock in the year 1492 (arguably the first major impact to the New World), and end our clock 10 years from now, at 2030, giving reasonable time to develop.

Now hopefully this clears some things up for you guys. We will isolate the New World at the time of 1492, and stop the time in 2030. Then we will compare those two time periods, and if the overall status (in other words, the average way of life) of the New World is the same (no major technological advancements), then I have proven my point.

This hopefully should address your problems from 1-5, now let's get into some clash.

I. Clash

Con stated...

[geography] as absolute principle rather than important influence
Absolute principle? No where in my speech have I stated that geography is the sole reason of a civilization's progress. I said that the geography of the New World can make progress "significantly harder". Progress is still possible, but it may be harder to achieve. I also stated that "geography is just one reason that the West is limited moving forward". I never said that it was the only reason.

Con even agrees with me on this one, saying:

Unmolested by OW, NW civs would have certainly progressed and changed, albeit at a slower rate of development.
This undoubtedly solidifies my point even further, proving how geography is a contributor to a civilizations development.

II. Arguments

World View - How did Western views limit the lifestyle of its civilizations?

Let's use the Aztec empire as an example. According to History on the Net:

Aztecs were a devoutly religious people, to the extent that no Aztec made a decision about any aspect of his or her life without considering its religious significance.
This meant that almost all actions made upon the Aztec empire was explained using religion. They created marvelous statues, and even incorporated the gods in their calendars. They worshiped the gods so much so that they regularly practiced human sacrifices to please the gods. In 1487, literal thousands of people were sacrificed over a four day celebration period! And it was a celebration! All to please the gods.

Why does this matter?

If there was a crop failure, the Aztecs would think it was God's punishment. If there was a flood, the Aztecs would think it was God's punishment. This way of life made it easy for the Aztecs to blame someone else. Their society was based around excuses. They would just sacrifice more people if something wrong happened and shrug it off. 

Let's compare this civilization with Europe.

True, Europe's people also believe in God, and did blame disasters to Gods (like the Black Death). But what happened when the nicest person in Europe died? What happened when not just the commoners died, but the priests and nobles died of the plague as well? Instead of sacrificing more people, Europeans acted differently. They fought back. Some questioned the Church, some others were more faithful to the Church. Others like the Medici family moved to Florence after the plague, and many followed. For good or worse, the people of Europe acted out, and evolved their knowledge. That's what makes a civilization advance -- change.

1450. There was a major drought affecting the Aztec empire. What did they do? You guessed it. More killing, as usual. They even blamed it on a curse of the One Rabbit, like they always do. No real change here.

Contacts - How did the civilizations interact with one another?

Running out of space.

The Aztecs were in some ways warlike. The neighboring tribes hated them. An example would be Tepanec. After the Aztecs conquered it, they sacrificed some of the captured war prisoners. In fact, that's all they did. Went to war, and sacrificed or enslaved the population.

Take a look at Europe. Yes, they also went to war, but in addition, they engaged in trade. The Silk Road connected Europe with Africa and Asia, known as the Afroeurasian trade world. They exchanged goods, and most importantly, ideas.

III. Conclusion

Change, and the spread of ideas. Two major contributors determining a civilization's advancement. These two things can be explained through world views and contacts as I have stated.

In the next round I will be talking about how the West's society negatively impacts their civilizations. And I might expand on Contacts as I didn't have enough space here.

That's all from me now, good luck!



  • PRO updates NW condition to complete isolation, as if transported to another planet.
    • PRO does not advise how or when NW got populated.

  • Therefore, no other human pops.

  • PRO updates time frame from never to 1492-2030 CE.

  • PRO now defines change as "major tech advancements."
    • Let's concretize this benchmark since the debate likely turns on this point.
      • MAJOR is "important, serious, or significant"
      • TECHNOLOGY is "the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes"
      • ADVANCEMENT is "a development or improvement"
  • So, PRO's burden is to show that were the now extinct NW cultures allowed to persist independent of the OW for an additional 538 years, no significant improvement in the practical application of science could develop.

  • NW is now on another planet, isolated from evidence of OW tech.

  • In R1, CON countered that geography helps to explain differentials in rates of progress but not the capacity to progress itself. 

    • PRO complains:
 "No where in my speech have I stated that geography is the sole reason of a civilization's progress."
       No, but what PRO did say was that civilization's advancement was
"not present in the West,"
"would likely never change."
        We should note that at the end of R1, geography was the only cause yet provided.

  • In R1, CON countered that NW civs would have certainly progressed and changed, albeit at a slower rate of development.  

    • PRO claims:
 "solidifies my point even further, proving how geography is a contributor to a civilizations development."
    • Yes, geography influences development, but....
    • PRO's job is to prove that influence is sufficient to prevent any major advancement over 500+ years after 1500 CE,
      • in spite of the evidence for plenty of major advancements in the NW over the previous 500 years. 
    • Endorsement of Diamond's thesis (slower advancement) should not be misinterpreted as endorsement of PRO's radical interpretation (no advancement).

  • PRO posits that NW religion would prevent all scientific advancement.
    • PRO only uses Aztec religion to represent an incredible diversity of world views from Inuit to Incan. 
      • PRO suggests that NW religions were more bloodthirsty than Eu but this is patently false.  Consider the scale of religious warfare in Eu:
        • Consider also ceremonial religious blood lettings like witch-burning and Spanish Inquisition.
        • Charles Mann compared Aztec sacrifice vs. Eu public execution rates:
"if England had been the size of the [Aztecs], it would have executed, on average, about 7,500 people per year, roughly twice the number Cortés estimated for the empire. France and Spain were still more bloodthirsty than England"
  • PRO fails to show that religion inhibits advancement
    • Many great tech marvels done in religious pursuit:
      • Pyramids of Giza
      • Temple of Artemis
      • Roman Coliseum, etc.
    • The Abbasid Caliphate combined religious fervor and bloody territorial expansion with incredible advancements in math & sciences.

  • PRO argues that Eu traded (implying that NW did not).
    • We've agreed that geographic compartmentalization and longitudinal axis inhibit NW trade.
      • That does not suggest that there was not much trade.
        • Incan metalwork has been found in Mexico, while Mexican corn and hairless dogs have been found in the Andes.
        • Conquistador Cabeza de Vaca documented the exchange of So. American parrot feathers for No. American turquoise and Caribbean coral.
        • de Leon attested to the quality of Incan roads:
‘In the memory of people I doubt there is record of another highway comparable to this, running through deep valleys and over high mountains, through piles of snow, quagmires, living rock, along turbulent rivers; in some places it ran smooth and paved, carefully laid out; in others over mountains, cut through the snow; everywhere it was clean-swept and kept free of rubbish, with lodgings, storehouses, temples to the Sun"
"Widespread trade networks extending as far west as the Rocky Mountains, north to the Great Lakes, south to the Gulf of Mexico, and east to the Atlantic Ocean."


  • The scale and terms of PRO's argument needed some space to develop but is now fairly evident.  In a WHAT IF world without a Columbus or an OW, PRO posits that the NW would have developed NO major technological advances in the absence because of OW contact because of  NW inherent traits: geography, contacts, religion, and society.  CON looks at the proliferation of new tech invented in the NW in the 500 yrs before 1492 and concludes PRO can't prove such an extreme position.

Round 3
Hello Oromagi and thanks for your speech. Final round now, and I must say, this was a really enjoyable debate. Regardless of who wins, I'm sure that you had an insightful experience. Let's get right into it...

I. Clash

My opponent stated...

No, but what PRO did say was that civilization's advancement was "not present in the West"
Hmm... did I? I said: "Geography is a major player in a civilization's advancement [...] This is not present in the West." This sentence refers to how geography is not a major player in the West.

and "would likely never change." [...] geography was the only cause yet provided
Again, a misunderstanding of my text. Just because I only talked about geography for my first round, doesn't mean it's the only reason. In fact, I even stated that "Geography is just one reason [...] In the next round I will be talking about how the West's world view and contacts negatively impacts their civilizations." The reason I didn't talk about everything in one round is because I wouldn't have space, and that I would have nothing to say in the other rounds.

Endorsement of Diamond's thesis (slower advancement) should not be misinterpreted as endorsement of PRO's radical interpretation (no advancement).
Like I have stated numerous times earlier, I do not interpret his theory as a nation's only factor of advancement, but a factor of a nation's advancement.

incredible diversity of world views from Inuit to Incan. 
But how does it contribute to development? The Native tribes of North America commonly believed in helping Earth. They respected the land and the resources. Compare this with Europe. They did what they wanted with the land. They cleared out trees, devastated scenery for housing space, and more. They didn't care about the Earth and it's resources.

This actually improved their civilization (good for them, but bad for the Earth, but that's irrelevant) because they didn't have limitations. New structures, farming, and breeding more animals.

PRO suggests that NW religions were more bloodthirsty than Eu but this is patently false
Nowhere in any of my speeches have I said this. I've stated that the "Aztecs were in some ways warlike". But I agree that Europe was more warlike than the Aztecs.

But Europe did more than just war. They engaged in heavy trade with China, India, and Africa. They spread ideas and values, along with important goods. My opponent weakly counters listing trade examples from the New World, how Incan metalwork has been found in Mexico, and how Mexican animals and crops have been found in the Andes.

But what my opponent failed to realized is the significance of these trades. Yes, decorative metal and corn are good, but is it enough for a civilization in the West to develop significant technological advancements? Compare this with the Silk Road in Europe, which lead to the spread of goods like pepper, diseases such as the Black Death, and even religion such as Buddhism. Good or bad, the Silk Road was a major game changer for the Old World.

Con fails to further try to support his claims of the New World trades routes, describing how they were "running through deep valleys and over high mountains", but remember, it's not about the road itself, it's about the ideas and goods that spread using the road.

II. Arguments

Contacts - How did the civilizations interact with one another?

I feel like my previous round, and the parts of the clash have answered this question in support of Pro.

Society - How does the overall population contribute to the advancement of the society as a whole?

What's makes Europe so successful? Are the kings and queens of Europe inventing new marvels? Are the popes and priests discovering new scientific advancements? No. It's the common people. The ordinary people. The printing press allowed for wide spread discussion. The light bulb smartly used electricity to make the dark visible. None were made by priests. None were made by kings. All were made by ordinary people.

Take today for example. SpaceX, Amazon, Apple. All were started from ordinary people like us.

The tribes and civilizations of the New World were not organized this way. Their geography (no resources), worldview (heavily rely on religion -- flaw that affected their civilization's development), and contacts (no useful trade, no spread of ideas) limited the roles of commoners, and the resources that were available. All these factors I've talked about in my previous speeches, ultimately becomes the catalyst of the New World's limitations. The society in the New World was not, and is not adequately suitable for development.

With this, and plenty other factors combined, I rest my case in saying that without the contact between the New and Old World, the New World may still be living in the past.

I await the golden light of dawn.

Thank you.


  • PRO continues concern that geography not be mistaken for sole cause.  CON stays focused on PRO's claim that advancement is not present in NW (never change), which PRO does not acknowledge.
  • PRO now claims geography not a major player in NW.  Let's remember that R1 was about how compartmentalized geography limits advancement in NW
"This sentence refers to how geography is not a major player in the West"
  • This claim contradicts R1.

  • PRO asks "how does [incredible diversity] of world views contribute to development?"
"Decades of research by organizational scientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists and demographers show that socially diverse groups are more innovative than homogeneous groups."
  • Diverse world views share more information than monolithic views
    • Diversity challenges misconceptions and presumptions more often.
  • PRO characterizes NW world view as more respectful of natural resources than Eu, giving Eu advantage in advancement.
    • CON acknowledges popular mythology to that effect but requires some real evidence in support.  After all,
      • Mississippian Mound builder culture is thought to have collapsed in the 13th century due to deforestation resulting in increased flooding.
      • Chaco Culture likewise collapsed around 1140 CE due to extension deforestation and poor water mgmt.
      • Let's also recall that Diamond theorizes that the main reason No. American lost its abundance of domesticatable animals (horses, cows, goats, camels, etc) en masse around 11,000 BCE was due to over-hunting by the newly arrived Clovis peoples because these megafauna were not adapted to human hunters.
    • CON rejects PRO's theory that NW was held back by an excess of respect for nature.
  • In all other respects noted by PRO, NW & OW religious influences seem more alike than different- violence, statues, calendars, crediting/blaming supernatural, etc.

  • We've agreed that geographic compartmentalization and longitudinal axis inhibit NW trade.
  • CON implied no NW trade in R2 but acknowledges inter-regional, intercontinental trade in R3.
    • Con dismisses trade in metals and corn as merely decorative when compared to silk,
    • but what's important to establish is the exchange of goods, technology, ideas.

  • PRO argues that most innovation comes the working class, not the nobility.
    • This argument favors CON since most NW cultures were more egalitarian, less stratified than Eu.
"most indigenous American groups used consensus-based forms of organization....indigenous American polities were quite independent when compared with European communities of similar size"
    • The US Senate has acknowledged NW egalitarian influences found in the articles of the Iroquois Confederacy on US Constitution.
    • Indeed, Ben Franklin wrote:
"It would be a strange thing if Six Nations of ignorant savages should be capable of forming a scheme for such an union, and be able to execute it in such a manner as that it has subsisted ages and appears indissoluble; and yet that a like union should be impracticable for ten or a dozen English colonies."

  • PRO posits that in a WHAT IF world without OW influence, hundreds of NW cultures would have remained static- defined as NO major scientific advancement, over the past 538 years.
    • Ultimately, PRO's hypothesis is untestable and relies on inferences drawn from 4  NW influences:
      • GEOGRAPHY and its influence on intercultural CONTACTS.
        • PRO & CON agree that NW alignment and compartmentalization  impact the rate of cultural exchange but
          • where CON see significant trade and diplomacy and warfare and intercontinental influence,
          • PRO sees none worth acknowledging.
        • WORLD VIEW and its influence on SOCIETY.
          • PRO & CON strongly disagree regarding the influence of NW religion on development, strongly disagree regarding some kind of superior Eu society or inherent inadequacy of NW society.
          • As PRO's source, Diamond notes:
"the peoples of northern Europe contributed nothing of fundamental importance to Eurasian civilization until the last thousand years; they simply had the good luck to live at a geographic location where they were likely to receive advances (such as agriculture, wheels, writing, and metallurgy) developed in warmer parts of Eurasia."
    • Indeed, consider just a short sample of wonderful things invented by NW without any contact with OW.
      • pyramids
      • suspension bridges
      • dams
      • aqueducts
      • oil drills
      •  between 50% and 60% of all crops now in cultivation worldwide
        • corn
        • potatoes
        • beans
        • tomatoes
        • squash
        • peanuts
        • peppers
        • vanilla
        • chocolate
        • avocados
        • cranberry
        • tobacco
      • aspirin
      • Vulcanized rubber
      • llamas
      • the zero
    • NW was advancing, inventing, and sharing new tech regularly right up to 1492.  Why does PRO assume that this would have stopped inventing in the absence of destruction by Eu?
If VOTERS find as CON does, that PRO has failed to make a convincing case for the hypothetical cessation of tech development after 1492, then VOTERS should award arguments point to CON.

Thanks to VOTERS for their kind consideration.  Pls. vote CON!