Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies JARED DIAMOND

  • July 31, 2013 · 6:30 PM
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"Winner of the Pulitzer Prize. 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 had a head start in food production advanced beyond the hunter-gatherer stage, and then developed 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."

 

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  • jane

    Diamond showed me that people from all cultures and climates have been killing each other from the beginning of what we call 'time'. He's not writing about 'racism' at all in my opinion. The question is not "what's the matter with the different 'races'", the question is, "what's the matter with the Human Race?"

    August 1, 2013

  • Dagmar

    Sorry, I'm out of town Wednesday (and haven't this one and would not be able to until Wednesday).

    July 29, 2013

  • giovanni m.

    If it wasn't for the second world war, Churchill's image would be quite different. His many blunders in the Admiralty were tragic. His famous venn djagrams as to whom to include or exclude. His refusal to give india its' independence was abominable. It gave labor party a victory despite his grandissimo stature. The nazis got the eugenics from england and the us.

    July 25, 2013

    • Wayne S.

      According to, Robert Zubrin, Darwin, because of his Malthusianism, supported Eugenics (but not as a perspective policy). Perhaps his cousin teased out the implications of some of his faulty premises? The connection between Eugenics, Thomas Malthus, and the neo-Malthusians of the Environmental Movement is fascinating. Zubrin explores this link in "Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Psuedo-Scientists and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism". Sure to outrage some of you, I'm sure. :)

      I'd differ with Zubrin in that, I'd suggest that the Kantian (and Rousseauian) inspired, German Romantics of the 19th century counter-Enlightenment, are the ultimate source of the Environmental movement; and philosophically, their anti-humanism.

      1 · July 26, 2013

    • Wayne S.

      I mean prescriptive, not perspective. :)

      July 26, 2013

  • George H.

    I saw the video. I only read a small fraction of the book so I probably won't attend the meetup. I would like to make a comparison to the TV show Gilligan's Island. The Professor was very clever to cobble together inventions from salvage but if all he had was bamboo and coconuts he wouldn't be able to do much. Or as Mr. Spock said on Star Trek "you're asking me to work with the equivalent of stone knives and bearskins".

    July 22, 2013

  • RK

    "Why do so many people like theories where there is very little human agency."? Diamond's agenda is to undermine the basis of racism. He set out to answer Yali's question of why white people (?) have more cargo. A story about human agency is open to the rationale that one group of humans have a greater capacity for agency than another group, whereas a story about geographical determinants highlights the similarity of people in different places.

    July 19, 2013

    • giovanni m.

      It does not solve the issue of racism. Empires come and go. There are ethical and political issues that explain a lot. Diamond's approach does mot touch racism, colonialism etc...

      July 19, 2013

    • Andrei

      Diamond fails to invalidate racism. He merely says that white dominance was caused not by race but by the environment. What if the environment has made whites both dominant AND racially superior since 10,000 BC? Does Diamond disprove this? In many ways the book is an ode to eugenics. Selective breeding gave us domestic plants, livestock, and resistance to germs. But by the same logic, couldn't certain racial groups have developed a genetic predisposition to being "more civilized" -- after millennia of having complex social structure, writing, technology, religious thought, etc.? I find Diamond's arguments consistent with, not contrary to, such claims (despite his best intentions, I'm sure).

      BTW, "more civilized" may also mean socially manipulative and hypocritical. Recall Haidt's book about morality and self-promotion as an evolutionary response to prolonged communal living.

      July 21, 2013

  • giovanni m.

    This book advocates environmental determinism. It NOT is geography that determines the progress of peoples. Most of our progress is not geogrpahical nor biological. There were key battles won; key inventions; key political leaders. It is a complicated mess. Later on Diamond offers a simplistic answer to critics watering down his determinism to the fact that certain societies were unified too early like China which lead to stagnation. Why do so many people like theories where there is very little human agency.

    July 18, 2013

  • Mike B

    I think the expression of individualism, or the lack of such expression is based on the culture you are from. Culture is a collective understanding of how things should be done and some cultures are simply better at getting important things done than others. Between Hanson's idea of the dominance of cultural influences and Diamond's idea of the dominance of environmental factors in shaping history, I think Hanson has the more compelling argument.

    July 8, 2013

  • Wayne S.

    Here's an excellent (friendly) debate between professor, Victor Davis Hanson (in part 1, there's a discussion about individualism, a respect for the rationality of the individual human mind, in contradistinction to collectivism in the Military, that I think, Mike, and others that attended June's event, will find interesting), and Jared Diamond. It's a call in radio program, and there was some good questions, and discussion. Victor Davis Hanson's latest book is, "Carnage and Culture", and it is in part, a rebuttal to Diamond's book "Guns, Germs, and Steel". http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Diczh91EB0k

    June 27, 2013

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