Certainty is the cage that keeps us safe from curiosity. I've been released from the cage. I am the songbird and I am flying for the window. I know it's closed but I plan on breaking through. – Charlie Coté, Jr. (1987-2005)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Guns, Germs, and Steel: A Summary

Here's an informative summary of Jared Diamond's Pullitzer Prize winning Guns, Germs, and Steel, written by Michael McGoodwin:

Michael McGoodwin has a number of book summaries on his website on Ancient and Medieval Writings, William Shakespeare, Post-Medieval English-Language Fiction and Literature, History and Biography, Medicine, Science, Mathematics, and Other Nonfiction Works.

Prologue: Yali's Question

Jared Diamond (JD) has done extensive field work in New Guinea. His indigenous New Guinean politician friend Yali asked why whites had been so successful and arrived with so much "cargo" compared to the locals. JD rephrases this question: why did white Eurasians dominate over other cultures by means of superior guns, population-destroying germs, steel, and food-producing capability ? JD's main thesis is that this occurred not because of racial differences in intelligence, etc. but rather because of environmental differences. He wishes to play down Eurocentric thinking and racist explanations because they are loathsome and wrong. Modern stone age peoples "are on the average probably more intelligent, not less intelligent, than industrialized peoples." New Guineans are "more intelligent, more alert, more expressive, and more interested in things and people around them than the average European or American is", traits which he attributes to survival of the fittest. Proper analysis of the current standing of various human societies must trace developments beginning before the onset of historical record.

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