Free Reading Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies – Andy-palmer.co.uk
Diamond Has Written A Book Of Remarkable Scope One Of The Most Important And Readable Works On The Human Past Published In Recent Years Winner Of The Pulitzer Prize And A National Bestseller The Global Account Of The Rise Of Civilization That Is Also A Stunning Refutation Of Ideas Of Human Development Based On Race.In This Artful, Informative, And Delightful William H McNeill, New York Review Of Books Book, Jared Diamond Convincingly Argues That Geographical And Environmental Factors Shaped The Modern World Societies That Had A Head Start In Food Production Advanced Beyond The Hunter Gatherer Stage, And Then Developed Writing, Technology, Government, And Organized Religion As Well As Nasty Germs And Potent Weapons Of War And Adventured On Sea And Land To Conquer And Decimate Preliterate Cultures A Major Advance In Our Understanding Of Human Societies, Guns, Germs, And Steel Chronicles The Way That The Modern World Came To Be And Stunningly Dismantles Racially Based Theories Of Human History.Winner Of The Pulitzer Prize, The Phi Beta Kappa Award In Science, The Rhone Poulenc Prize, And The Commonwealth Club Of California S Gold Medal Stopped on page 88 for the time being, because, man, do people ever suck We historically sucked But since humans used to invade other humans territory and do a lot of killing, at least things have changed now.Oh, wait. This is what happens when you take an intelligent person, and casually make a few mentions of a field of study they have no knowledge of.Mr Diamond, NOT an anthropologist, takes Marvin Harris theory of cultural materialism and uses it to explain everything in life, history, and the current state of the world.Materialism is a way of looking at human culture which, for lack of a better way to explain it easily here, says that people s material needs and goods determine behavior and culture For instance Jews stopped eating pigs because it became so costly to feed pigs they themselves were starving.On the surface, materialism seems very logical Like any theory it has to be at least somewhat probable sounding, and since people are used to thinking of life, these days, in terms of materialistic values already, Harris theory sounds logical and likely very often.But like every other time you attempt to explain everything that ever happened in the history of man with one theory, this falls desperately short of reality Materialism is likely ONLY when coupled, sensibly, with other theories and, need I say it, actual PROOF, of which Diamond has little.As an exercise in materialist theory this book is magnificent I would recommend this book ONLY to people in Anthropology with a great understanding of theory, less educated or unwarned people might think this book is fact rather than an exercise in speculation As an explanation of why the world is the way it is, it is an utter and complete failure. Why you white men have so much cargo i.e., steel tools and other products of civilization and we New Guineans have so little Jared Diamond is a biologist, who had a passion for studying birds, particularly the birds of New Guinea But as he came to know and appreciate the many native people he met in his work, the question asked by a New Guinean named Yani remained with him Why was it that westerners had so much relative to New Guinean natives, who had been living on that land for forty thousand years Many found an explanation in racial exceptionalism Diamond decided to find out Was one group of people smarter than another Why was there such dimorphism in the amount of cargo produced and toted by different groups The arguments he seeks to counter are those stating that since civilization came to full flower in the Eurasian countries and not in places where other races dominated, that this success indicated innate superiority He offers a stunning analysis of why civilization emerged in the places in which it did Jared Diamond image from The GuardianGuns figure large in why some societies were able dominate others, but the development of guns was not a universal The materials necessary are not equally distributed over the planet, and there are technological prerequisites It turns out that not every locale is ideal for the emergence of farming He offers some detail on why farming flourished in some areas than in others The importance of domesticated animals is considered Diamond shows how it was possible for them to have been domesticated in some, but not all of the theoretically possible locations He discusses the impact of germs, the immunity defense developed by urban dwellers, and the harm those germs can cause when those urban dwellers come into contact with peoples who lack such immunities Although Steel figures prominently in the title, and is significant in its use in weaponry, this aspect is given the lightest treatment in the book Diamond closes with a plea for history to be redefined as History Science, claiming that, as with many other historical sciences, it holds the elements necessary to merit the science designation.While I might have been happier if the title had been Guns, Germs, and Seeds, it remains a seminal look at the whys and wherefores of how some societies came to flourish, often at the expense of others It has nothing to do with genes Guns, Germs and Steel was awarded the Pulitzer Prize EXTRA STUFFLinks to the author s personal, Twitter and FB pagesAn excellent National Geogrtaphic documentary was made of this book Here is a link to the first of its three episodes.Diamond s book Collapse, is also amazing. I liked this book, and it taught me a bunch of things I hadn t known before I read it Jared Diamond has clearly had a interesting life than most of us, and spent significant amounts of time in a wide variety of different kinds of society, all over the world He says he got the basic idea from a conversation he had back in the 70s with a friend in New Guinea His friend, who later became a leader in the independence movement, wanted to talk about cargo manufactured goods, technology Why is it, he asked, that you Europeans have so much cargo than we do Diamond thought he had come up with a good question, and wrote the book in an attempt to answer it.The core of Diamond s explanation is that Europeans were essentially lucky in two respects First, we have unusually many easily domesticable plant and animal species Second, since Europe is oriented East West rather than North South, a species which is domesticated in one part of Europe has a good chance of thriving in another, so there are many opportunities to swap farming technology between different areas It helps that there is an easily navigable river system, and also that there are no impassible deserts or mountain ranges These conditions are not reproduced in most other parts of the world Diamond has a range of interesting tables, showing how few useful domesticable species there are elsewhere Because we got efficient farming earlier than most other people, we also got cities and advanced technology earlier, and everything else followed from that initial lead we established.One objection you could make is that it wasn t luck, but rather that Europeans were enterprising than people in other areas about finding good species to domesticate Diamond s answer to this is fairly convincing Having lived extensively with pre industrial people, he says that we city dwellers just don t understand how well they know their flora and fauna, and how active their interest in them is I guess a New Guinea tribesman would, conversely, be surprised at how quickly word gets around on the Internet when a cool new website appears Basically, what he s saying is that pre industrial people tried everything that could be tried, and when they didn t find anything good, it s because it wasn t there Systematic studies by modern scientists do seem to support this conclusion.Another criticism some readers have leveled at Diamond is that he makes history completely deterministic once the geography was fixed, everything that happened after that was inevitable I don t actually think that s fair Diamond is open about the fact that his theories make one embarrassingly incorrect prediction if it was all about being first to domesticate plant and animal species and set up efficient farming, then China should be the world s preeminent civilization Even though he makes some attempt to explain why this isn t so, there does right now seem to be a fair case for saying that it s not only geography.Luckily, George W Bush has been working hard to try and smooth things out If the Western world can just arrange two or three leaders like him, all of Diamond s data will hopefully come out the way it s supposed to, and the last few hundred years of Western history can be written off as a statistical blip Way to go, Dubya I was surprised this morning to discover that Darwin, in On the Origin of Species, expressed an opinion diametrically opposite to the one Diamond argues for If it has taken centuries or thousands of years to improve or modify most of our plants up to their present standard of usefulness to man, we can understand how it is that neither Australia, the Cape of Good Hope, nor any other region inhabited by quite uncivilised man, has afforded us a single plant worth culture It is not that these countries, so rich in species, do not by a strange chance possess the aboriginal stocks of any useful plants, but that the native plants have not been improved by continued selection up to a standard of perfection comparable with that given to the plants in countries anciently civilised.Does Diamond mention this Unfortunately, I don t have a copy to hand.