Guns, Germs, and Steel eBook by Jared Diamond
Click Here to Download the Book In this artful, informative, and delightful 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.
Reviews As a student of Geography, this book provided some much needed validation. Geography does matter! Hah! While I loved this book, it did have some flaws. One is that I learned that I am not interested in linguistics. Every single time Diamond brought out the linguistic evidence, my eyes glazed over and didn't return to normal until that section was over. I had always thought the idea of linguistics was interesting and that I would like to know more. Turns out no. My second problem is the epilogue which was nice for the first 10 pages, but then got really boring when he started waxing philosophical about the nature of history. It could have been cut. One might wonder what the point of this book is, which is a good thing to wonder about. I guess it provides tools to explain how things turned out. While that might not seem to practical, it does give you an appreciation of the many factors that influence our lives. As much as the internet is promising to break down barriers, it is good to keep in mind what the barriers have actually done in the past. I find it intriguing that in this time in which the role of the intellect (as opposed to the physical form) is expanding and being broadcast around the world, a book that is so firmly tied to the physical world has come out and shown us that for all our curiosity and cleverness, we are still products of our physical environment. It is humbling to think that if emmer wheat had appeared in North America instead of the fertile crescent, the world might be completely different. All the greatest philosophers in the western world might never have been. This book might never have been.
Jared Diamond set out to do two very difficult things in this book: first, by his own admission, to summarize in one book 13,000 years of homo sapiens' history, and second, to write a popular, entry level book about the complexities of geographical and environmental determinism. To his credit, he brings both off very well. Diamonds' thesis, as noted by other reviewers, is that the triumph of western culture traces in large measure to accidents of geography and environment. In particular, the east-west orientation of Eurasia and the abundance of usable crop species and animal species in Eurasia in general and the Fertile Crescent in particular. The ability to create domestic crops and domestic animals, by his reasoning, led through a series of steps to the
development of larger communities, the development of technology, and the triumph of the West. Diamond's critics accuse him of political correctness, of over-simplification and determinism. I don't believe any of those criticisms is accurate. Diamond frankly admits he is challenging the myth of Caucasian inherent superiority. The sense of outrage some reviewers express when Diamond states that the most intelligent man he knows is a New Guinean "primitive" more or less proves Diamond's point. By confusing intelligence with education, and a subsistence culture with technological culture, those critics demonstrate and illustrate the myth Diamond addresses. Half of his critics accuse Diamond of oversimplification; the other half complain that he repeats points and that the book is hard to read. I think this is mostly reaction to the common problem of a scholarly subject being treated in a popularization. It is a very difficult thing for a scientist to write a popularization of his or her subject that isn't either condescendingly simplistic or too complex for lay readers. Diamond strikes a nice balance. Finally, critics claim that Diamond is asserting a kind of determinism that denies free will and understates cultural variables. They point to cultural variables like religion (the aggressiveness of Christianity and Moslem beliefs, for example), social, intellectual and others that are overwhelmingly important today. Those critics are missing Diamond's key point: it was those geographical and environmental factors he identifies that made the development of those cultural variables possible. Overall, this book is a very significant contribution to lay understanding of why the West "has more cargo" than other cultures. It is not intended to be a work of pure scholarship; it doesn't pretend that this is the Complete and Final Answer. It is frank in identifying issues still be addressed. I strongly recommend it to any reader who wants to better understand the world we have inherited.
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