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With the exception of the Freakanomics 1st edition...Guns, Germs & Steel - by Jared Diamond is the only book I had..(gave it back before reading it.)

Reading what power movers read, can assist citizens in understanding the political moves that are being developed globally.GUNS, GERMS, AND STEEL is a persuasive discourse of competitive plausibility regarding the challenging question why population groups on different continents experienced widely divergent paths of development.

Contrary to the voluminous objections cited in the many of the reviews below, Professor Jared Diamond, clearly an enthusiastic proponent of environmental determinism, presents a set of premises consistent with evidence provided from a wide range of disciplines, but he does not attempt to answer the question of genetic diversity, including differentiated intelligence, among racial groups as many reviewers have inferred.(And rightfully so -Biologists know that there are not discreet categories of race.)

If anything, implicitly, the author appears to support promulgations of differentiated intelligences; he sets out to demonstrate intelligence was not the root cause to Eurasian dominance.

On at least two occasions Diamond, without equivocation, stated he found on average the New Guinean to be more intelligent than the average European or American.

He was prompted to undertake this investigation as a result of a question posed by a New Guinean friend - Why white people developed so much cargo (material goods) and brought it to New Guinea while the indigenous had so little. Diamond summarized his findings as follows: "History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among peoples environments, not because of biological differences among people themselves."

Beginning 13,000 years ago, the author illuminated the conditions or circumstances that may have facilitated growth for some groups and inhibited the same for others. Diamond accepts the out of Africa theory for the dispersion of Homosapiens to the other continents (for purposes of his treatise Europe and Asia are indivisible), and like the old axiom of real estate, the importance of location, location, location becomes readily apparent.

For Diamond, food production is the ultimate cause of variable rates of development for different peoples. He illustrates how the abundance of wild plants subject to domestication and availability of large mammals served as immediate factors to transition from hunter/gatherer bands and tribes to sedentary agriculturally based chiefdoms and states.

Diamond lists what he proposes as proximate causes to European dominance:

1) Germs - based on close proximity to domesticated animals, immunities were developed infectious strains Europeans would carry to other areas, resulting in the decimation of non-immunized populations. In turn, those groups had few autochthonous diseases that would affect the invaders.

2) Invention of writing- relatively sedentary lifestyles facilitated devotion of more time and effort to the creation of methodologies to control and coordinate commerce. These systems eased transfer of information among society members, and had further implications to the establishment of hierarchical political organization.

3) Axial orientation of the different continents - east/ west orientation was conducive to transmigration of people, products, and technologies. Plants best suited to specific climatic conditions were readily transferable; geographic encumbrances were less severe and population isolation was not as significant.

4) Establishment of hierarchical organizations - food production instigated the growth of artisan classes focused on technological improvement, leisure classes devoted to functions unrelated to subsistence, organization of massive armies comprised of professional soldiers, and religion, which allowed individual groupings to live together under codification without killing one another.
5) Continental Isolation - Landmasses that were separated by geographic or ecological boundaries were under less pressure to develop or adopt new ideas, products or technologies from competing civilizations.

Some of the author's theories were not defended as successfully as others. His explanation why Sub-Saharan Africans were unable to identify species (the water buffalo and Zebra are two prime examples) that may have been used in farming and commerce seemed rather weak. Capture, taming and subsequent selective breeding for temperament seems as viable here as he indicates was the case on the Eurasian plains for other species. Similarly, he does not offer a convincing argument regarding the American Indian's failure to domesticate the Bison, although the inference seems to be the lack of cultivatible plant life was certainly a factor.

Overall, Diamond provides a compelling theory of the differences in development rates among different peoples, linking a wide set of factors that are not generally considered in parallel in the historical record. For anyone with even peripheral interest in the evolution of different societies, this is an enthralling book.
Posted By: Marta Fernandez
Wednesday, August 3rd 2011 at 2:24PM
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