Poverty Reading List

Guns, Germs and Steel book review

Guns, for sale Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

By Jared Diamond

This is not per se a book on poverty. The reason I list it here though is that if you want to get a non-Western, cialis Judeo/Christian perspective of how human history might have developed and why certain people groups prospered and dominated more than others, healing then Diamond provides a good read. He looks back at anthropologic discoveries to attempt to piece together how different people groups ended up where they did and what enabled certain civilizations to develop more quickly than others. Here are a few of his findings:

  • Food production. Cultivation of crops and domesticated animals enables people to transition from hunter gatherer to more permanent living quarters. It turns out that the majority of the most beneficial domesticated grains originated in the Mesopotamia area. It also turns out that more large domesticable mammals were also found in EurAsia than in other continents.
  • Latitude reach. Spread of discoveries (including food production) are much more easily accomplished to similar climate zones. This means latitude-based spread is more common than longitudinal spread. EurAsia has a much larger similar latitude area than any other continent.
  • Germs bigger killers. He argues that most human germs/diseases develop first in non-human mammals which are kept in high density living situations and then mutate and pass on to humans. Very few killer germs were found in the Americas because there was limited animal husbandry and much lower density population situations which cause germs to gain their potentcy. When the more densely populated Europeans visited the Americas, they brought along diseases for which they had built up some immunities. Very few (if any) diseases were picked up from the Americans by Europeans. There were many more native Americans killed by European-originated disease than anything else.
  • Continental environments mattered the most. Diamond argues that our perception that societies developed differently because of different human biology (e.g. Europeans were more intelligent or more industrious or something else) is wrong. Instead, he argues (with considerable research) than it was the different continental environmental situations which played the largest role in determining where we are today.

One thought on “Guns, Germs and Steel book review

  1. Diamond, surprisingly given he's an evolutionary biologist, overlooks the genetic changes over the past 50,000 years (see the recent paper by Robert Moyzis). Agriculture & population growth lead to increased genetic change. A more recent book, 'The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution' addresses this point omitted by Diamond."From that platform the authors undertake discussions of everything from the origins of the Arthurian romances in Britain to the Spanish conquest of the New World. Much of this was attempted before, in Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, a book whose influence is clear in The 10,000 Year Explosion. But Cochran and Harpending do one better than Diamond. Where he was content with environmental determinism and sought to write around and even against human biology, Cochran and Harpending embrace it. That discussion of gene flow becomes the lynchpin in the argument for biology as central to history, and the backdrop for the book’s two biggest set pieces.Even with its flaws, Cochran and Harpending’s book has provided the best example to date of what E.O. Wilson would recognize as consilient history: not history done just with science in mind or even done scientifically, but history done with human biology treated as an essential cause and effect of the stories that history tells, and as a key without which history cannot make sense."http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/be_fruitful_and_multiply/


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