[As deep as] scientists peer into human history

grammar-in-use

Senior Member
Chinese
Hello everyone,

How would you interpret the use and sense of “as deep as” in the following sentence?

As deep as scientists peer into human history and prehistory, they have found evidence of violence. That was the bad news from 17 researchers in anthropology and other fields at “The Evolution of Human Aggression: Lessons for Today’s Conflicts” conference, held at the University of Utah at the end of February. (Source: Taming Humanity's Urge to War)

Is it the comparative use or sense of “as deep as” – as in “The valley is as deep as the Empire State Building is high”?
Or, is it the concessive use or sense of “as deep as” – as in “As deep as the river is, he dares swim in it.”?

Neither use seems to be able to explain the “as deep as” in the sentence in question. Can someone shed some light on this please?
 
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It looks like an error to me.

    Presumably what’s meant is that “even at the very depths” of their researches, scientists find violence. But if so, that’s a strange way to put it. The normal meaning of that construction would be:

    As deep as scientists peer into human history [etc.]
    = However deeply scientists peer into human history [etc.]
    = Even though they peer so deeply
     

    grammar-in-use

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Thank you very much.
    The normal meaning of that construction would be:

    As deep as scientists peer into human history [etc.]
    = However deeply scientists peer into human history [etc.]
    = Even though they peer so deeply
    Yes, that's the normal reading of it, but that concessive meaning doesn't apply here. As I understand it, the sentence seems to mean this - Scientists have looked into human history as through a microscope and found evidence of a violent past which suggests that man is basically a violent animal. Then how about this version:
    As scientists peer deep into human history and prehistory, they have found evidence of violence.
    ?
    Here, the "as" is used in its temporal sense.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    As I said, it reads like an error – unless they mean despite looking so deeply into it they find violence. But I don’t think that makes sense.

    If by the temporal sense of as you mean when it’s used to mean while, then that construction is definitely wrong. And your rewrite reads badly too. You shouldn’t mix the present perfect (denoting completed actions) with the simple present (denoting something being done right now) if you mean things that are happening at the same time.

    As scientists peer deep into human history and prehistory, they are finding evidence of violence. :thumbsup:
    But anyway, what it’s probably intended to mean is:
    However deeply scientists peer into human history and prehistory, they find evidence of violence.
     

    Cenzontle

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    I don't see the error.
    The sentence seems to imply that, in spite of a hope that there was a nonviolent time in human development,
    there was no such time.
     
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