Sep 17, 2013 · 6:30 PM
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This month's read is "Guns, Germs & Steel: The Fates of Human Societies" by Jared Diamond
Life isn't fair--here's why: Since 1500, Europeans have, for better & worse, called the tune that the world has danced to. In Guns, Germs & Steel, Jared Diamond explains the reasons why things worked out that way. It's an elemental question. Diamond is certainly not the 1st to ask it. However, he performs a singular service by relying on scientific fact rather than specious theories of European genetic superiority. Diamond, a UCLA physiologist, suggests that the geography of Eurasia was best suited to farming, the domestication of animals & the free flow of information. The more populous cultures that developed as a result had more complex forms of government & communication, & increased resistance to disease. Finally, fragmented Europe harnessed the power of competitive innovation in ways that China didn't. (For example, the Europeans used the Chinese invention of gunpowder to create guns & subjugate the New World.) Diamond's book is complex & a bit overwhelming. But the thesis he methodically puts forth--examining the "positive feedback loop" of farming, then domestication, then population density, then innovation etc.--makes sense. Written without bias, Guns, Germs & Steel is good global history.
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