A great many attempts have been made to analyse the performance capabilities of humans. It is relatively simply to demonstrated that some capabilitiesto have a genetic cause. One example is the long-distance running capacities exhibited in some individuals within some groups.
However much confusion has arisen from the assumption that the performance capabilities of single individuals can be extrapolated to demonstrate the performance capabilities of the group as a whole.
Such attempts are riddled with traps of misconception, misinterpretation and misrepresentation. In doing this assumptions are made about the genetic homogeneity of groups and the consistency of the genetic and epigenetic expressions. Numerous examples occur of exceptional individuals within genetic groups, and this is taken to prove that all individuals of that group have this potential (“if it were not for various handicapping factors” as a necessary rider). However individuals alone cannot create social constructs. There must be spread of talent. Moreover those talents must inter-digitate and complement each other. An accurate analogy is a sporting team. Here competition is the measure of success. It is irrelevant if there is a sprinkling of star players. That team will only succeed if there is a spread of capability throughout the team, with elimination of weaknesses. So it is with societies.
Indeed if only one contributor is inferior the entire group capability is reduced to that low common factor. This was specifically demonstrated to me by a pathologist in relation to a single inferior individual jeopardising health care quality of the unit in which he worked.
The group must be considered to be an organism in its entirety. There are many examples of this in the world of biology ranging from the relatively static demonstration of corals, to the far more abstract inter-relationship between forest trees. Examples exist in many social animals. This is highly relevant in humans, who are strongly social animals and human success is the success of the society rather than the individual. This applies both in terms of evolutionary survival and in terms of the creation of civilisations.
Perhaps the best example is the honeybee. Although the honeybee is taken as synonymous with “bees” in many perceptions, the reality is that the communal honeybee is only one expression of a very large array of different types of “bees, of which the majority are not strongly communal animals.
The factors which going to make for the type of complex human society which is necessary to construct a “civilisation” are multiple, profound, subtle, and for the greater part immeasurable at present. Examples which can be supposed are those of common endeavour, unitary goals, altruism, compassion, common assumptions and probably common thought processes. The assembly of these features into specific groups is not necessarily common to all humans and those groups which have succeeded in constructing “civilisations” are unusual and an extreme minority.
Real life and 21st-century examples can be provided by the “civilizing colonists”. Here one group, juxtaposed against another, demonstrates extraordinary capabilities by comparison with the benchmark group.
In measuring this “success” of civilisation, one needs to look at the overall product, looking beyond individual contribution as it can be assembled into the amalgam of the group as a whole. (The distinction between the politician and the statesman)
An example, which fulfils the requirements of a scientific, objective, experiment is the colonisation of central Africa. (Insert here the Vindication of David Bullard). This might be best expressed in Carl Sagan’s axiom “if you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create universe.