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March 24, 1962

THE FALLACY OF THE "PRIMITIVE"

JAMA. 1962;179(12):962-963. doi:10.1001/jama.1962.03050120040012

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Abstract

FROM the rather self-conscious heights of our own state of equivocal civilization and of that of the community to which we belong, we men of the latest period of human development have traditionally taken the view that whatever has preceded us was by so much the less advanced. Since we are the latest bearers of human development we reason, therefore, that we are the most fully developed. This rather ortholinear view of development is widely held, and it is, of course, widely believed to be in harmony with the evolutionary facts.

The truth is that evolutionary processes do not proceed in straight lines but are more accurately observed to assume a reticulate form. And so it has been in the evolution of man, both physically and culturally. So entrenched, however, have our beliefs become concerning the ortholinear evolution of man that our conceptions of "progress," "development," and "evolution" have rendered

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