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Diamond369

"Guns, Germs, and Steel" by Jared Diamond

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Diamond369

Would you recommend this book? If not, or if so, why? I have always wanted to know how Europe, which suffered from the Black Plague, which resulted in nearly a quarter of the continent's population, end up having a Renaissance, then ending up with some of these nations becoming world powers. It is quite the long sentence for sure. About a tenth of the world's population live in Europe and maybe even less, so I am curious as to how the leaderships and monarchies of Europe became such world powers. Meanwhile much of the world ended up poor and victims of genocide, like Australian Aborigines and many of the indigenous to Africa. As a descendant of mostly West and Central Africans, I found this interesting. By the way, how did Nigeria, to a lesser extent Kenya and Ethiopia, Japan, and parts of the Middle East end up being wealthier than many of their neighbors? Despite colonialism, how did some parts of Africa became rich and how other countries became poor? If this book should not be recommended, what other book should I look into?

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vectorsrule

Would you recommend this book? If not, or if so, why? I have always wanted to know how Europe, which suffered from the Black Plague, which resulted in nearly a quarter of the continent's population, end up having a Renaissance, then ending up with some of these nations becoming world powers. It is quite the long sentence for sure. About a tenth of the world's population live in Europe and maybe even less, so I am curious as to how the leaderships and monarchies of Europe became such world powers. Meanwhile much of the world ended up poor and victims of genocide, like Australian Aborigines and many of the indigenous to Africa. As a descendant of mostly West and Central Africans, I found this interesting. By the way, how did Nigeria, to a lesser extent Kenya and Ethiopia, Japan, and parts of the Middle East end up being wealthier than many of their neighbors? Despite colonialism, how did some parts of Africa became rich and how other countries became poor? If this book should not be recommended, what other book should I look into?

 

Weird you write this, I just asked my wife for this book for a birthday. As I understand you are correct. It is basically like a predictive model on how civilizations make it or don't. Guns, Germs, GRAIN, and steel is how they were forged. I plan to get it because it explains a lot of the "big picture" of why places made it and others didn't. If you get it let me know how it reads. At the heart of every major civilization grain was at the center.

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Dean Adam Smithee

I haven't read the book, but I did see the documentary of it some years ago. Might've been on Netflix or maybe still is. I wasn't impressed. In giving the "Big Picture" it was IMHO TOO big of a picture. Too may oversimplifications masquerading as "deep thought".

 

OR, maybe that wasn't so much the fault of the book but from trying to stuff too much into 90 minutes or so.

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Coach

Check out books written by Dr. Thomas Sowell. He has analyzed and written about political, social and economic issues affecting populations all over the world. I recall some very insightful reading as to why minority populations surpass their host neighbors and become targets as a result. One book "Black Rednecks" in particular deals with how cultural actually crosses racial lines.

 

Good luck.

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vectorsrule

I haven't read the book, but I did see the documentary of it some years ago. Might've been on Netflix or maybe still is. I wasn't impressed. In giving the "Big Picture" it was IMHO TOO big of a picture. Too may oversimplifications masquerading as "deep thought".

 

OR, maybe that wasn't so much the fault of the book but from trying to stuff too much into 90 minutes or so.

 

Thanks, you just saved me $20. https://dvd.netflix.com/Movie/National-Geographic-Guns-Germs-and-Steel/70213243?strackid=55c5137ef75d06d7_1_acomplete

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vectorsrule

It wasn't just guns, germs and Steel.

 

I would add:

 

1. High IQ of the people dominating. Both Guns and Steel are directly related to technology advancement.

2. Grain. All civilizations are built on it.

3. Expansion policy. There is never peace. One side or the other is going to take your stuff. Call it what you want, but violent ambitions, works for me.

4. Engineering and Math. (Tied to IQ)

5. One major faith or culture that everyone buys into.

 

Every nation in Europe became successful, especially compared to Asia, Africa and Latin America.

 

Dimond, why do you personally think this is?

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Severian

It's been a long long time since I read it, but I found it well thought out and researched. It is a bit of a slog at times but it is fascinating nonetheless. Same for the book The Bell Curve. Both are very thought provoking, and delve into why some cultures/societies manage to excel and others don't, despite living in areas with abundant natural resources, farmland, minerals, etc.

 

The bottom line is not all cultures or people are created equal, which is why the Left has tried to demonize both books.

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Martin

 

Would you recommend this book? If not, or if so, why? I have always wanted to know how Europe, which suffered from the Black Plague, which resulted in nearly a quarter of the continent's population, end up having a Renaissance, then ending up with some of these nations becoming world powers.

 

A profound question, Diamond. Note that the ancient civilizations of China and India ended up being colonized in modern times even though, during the Middle Ages, China was the world's technological leader. If I may offer one explanation why Europe became the home of the world powers, it was the development of navigation. Europe not only has many natural harbors along its many peninsulas, it also has many navigable rivers. Africa has neither. Its smooth coasts offer few natural harbors and its rivers are difficult and dangerous to navigate. This is why there was so little mixing of cultures in Africa. All the travel and transport had to be done overland, unlike in Europe and China.

 

Here is my question: Why did the American Indian tribes remain Stone Age people until modern times? It wasn't lack of intelligence. American Indians who have taken IQ tests score approximately the same as other ethnic groups. It wasn't lack of resources. They lived where there were ample mineral and agricultural resources. Lack of draft animals meant they hadn't invented the wheel. They hadn't learned to smelt bronze or iron. They had no written language other than picture symbols; no alphabet. They were capable of animal husbandry. As soon as they acquired horses, they became some of the finest horsemen in the world. Yet, while the Asian Indians had domesticated elephants, the Middle Easterners had domesticated camels, the East Asians had domesticated water buffalo, the American Indians hadn't domesticated any animals except dogs and in South America, llamas. The Europeans had domesticated sheep, goats, pigs and horses. Why couldn't the American Indians have built such things as water wheels, windmills, sailing ships? Why were they so backward for so long?

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Dean Adam Smithee

A profound question, Diamond. Note that the ancient civilizations of China and India ended up being colonized in modern times even though, during the Middle Ages, China was the world's technological leader. If I may offer one explanation why Europe became the home of the world powers, it was the development of navigation. Europe not only has many natural harbors along its many peninsulas, it also has many navigable rivers. Africa has neither. Its smooth coasts offer few natural harbors and its rivers are difficult and dangerous to navigate. This is why there was so little mixing of cultures in Africa. All the travel and transport had to be done overland, unlike in Europe and China.

 

Here is my question: Why did the American Indian tribes remain Stone Age people until modern times? It wasn't lack of intelligence. American Indians who have taken IQ tests score approximately the same as other ethnic groups. It wasn't lack of resources. They lived where there were ample mineral and agricultural resources. Lack of draft animals meant they hadn't invented the wheel. They hadn't learned to smelt bronze or iron. They had no written language other than picture symbols; no alphabet. They were capable of animal husbandry. As soon as they acquired horses, they became some of the finest horsemen in the world. Yet, while the Asian Indians had domesticated elephants, the Middle Easterners had domesticated camels, the East Asians had domesticated water buffalo, the American Indians hadn't domesticated any animals except dogs and in South America, llamas. The Europeans had domesticated sheep, goats, pigs and horses. Why couldn't the American Indians have built such things as water wheels, windmills, sailing ships? Why were they so backward for so long?

 

It IS a profound question.

 

And I'll give a flippant response: If the local Pocahantas is nekkid, I'm inclined to Sit And Stare and toss a few bills in, rather than do anything "productive" that day.

 

But (Maybe) I'm not so far off. As the owner of an engineering firm (AND as a former strip club manager) where DO you draw the line?

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Diamond369

It wasn't just guns, germs and Steel.

 

I would add:

 

1. High IQ of the people dominating. Both Guns and Steel are directly related to technology advancement.

2. Grain. All civilizations are built on it.

3. Expansion policy. There is never peace. One side or the other is going to take your stuff. Call it what you want, but violent ambitions, works for me.

4. Engineering and Math. (Tied to IQ)

5. One major faith or culture that everyone buys into.

 

Every nation in Europe became successful, especially compared to Asia, Africa and Latin America.

 

Dimond, why do you personally think this is?

 

I'd rather not into the area of race and racism, but I have noticed that countries that are Anglophone and East Asian tend to do better. Hong Kong is pretty much a self made city without much resources, so that has nothing to do with it. Despite all of the evils that have occurred in Anglophone nations, in which there are many, there have been many churches or other places of worship in which there is a freedom of religion. I think that the IQ thing smacks of racism and probably sexism. Japan became a wealthy nation possibly because of our influence and rebuilding but they understood that a modernized economy makes a strong economy. Also, look at Israel, which may be a whole 'nothing story altogether. The Spanish, Portuguese, and other nations have their own civil rights abuses. Britain and America, unlike Spain, became a more prosperous nation, which would have anything to do with it. As for much of Africa, and even Haiti, the people suffered from human rights abuses that much of the world knows about, but doesn't seem to care about. Africa has suffered from European rule in which the Africans were robbed of their resources, which is true of Haiti.

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JerryL

It wasn't just guns, germs and Steel.

 

I would add:

 

1. High IQ of the people dominating. Both Guns and Steel are directly related to technology advancement.

2. Grain. All civilizations are built on it.

3. Expansion policy. There is never peace. One side or the other is going to take your stuff. Call it what you want, but violent ambitions, works for me.

4. Engineering and Math. (Tied to IQ)

5. One major faith or culture that everyone buys into.

 

Every nation in Europe became successful, especially compared to Asia, Africa and Latin America.

 

Dimond, why do you personally think this is?

I don't place a whole lot of value on the IQ estimates by country. You can't say that something that is heavily influenced by resources and culture is an effective measure of intelligence.

 

Asians value education and their culture, both family and beyond, instill practices that help their children succeed at education. As it is valued and a vital part of the culture, resources are allocated to it and sacrifices are made for it. People in those cultures also become very good at taking tests and IQ is "tested."

 

Africans come from tribal and often nomadic cultures. Quite often, and one of the big roadblocks to their successful development (which you highlight in #5), is that their first loyalty is to the tribe or the ethnicity. This tends to maintain small groups of people living at, or just above, the level of subsistence. Someone concerned about feeding the family that day is not that concerned about sending a child, who has duties with the tribe of his/her own, to formal school. Even in countries where education is mandatory to a certain level, it is not enforced and if a family decides the child is needed to work for the family/tribe, no one questions that or enforces the education law.

 

If you take one person from a typical Asian background and one person from a typical sub-Saharan African background, even both have the exact same potential and capacity for intelligence, which one do you think is going to do better on the test?

 

I worked for 12 years in security cooperation in 24 countries in Africa and lived in one for 2 years. I met some of the most brilliant people that I have met in my life. Given the opportunity, they can excel just like anyone else.

 

For me the family and cultural influences are much more important. How can Mali develop when no one considers themselves "Malian" first? Where Bambara's are looking after Bambara's, where Peuhl's look after Peuhl's, and Touaregs don't even recognize the legitimacy of the country of Mali?

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scotsman

Also another person who hasn't read it in years, I DO remember thinking he had a rather starry-eyed notion of pre-European colonial civilisations.

 

But as I haven't read it for some time, I cannot, as I would usually do, pick it apart bit by bit.

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Doug1943

I read this book a few years ago (it was written in the late 90s) -- it made a splash at the time, and you can find a critical review at the Unz Review with links to other critical reviews. Also useful is the Wiki article on the book.

 

To over-simplify, Diamond is a geographic determinist. He wondered why it is that Europeans and East Asians have dominated the world, and finds the answer in geographically-modulated positive feedback loops. He points out that it's easy for ideas, objecs, seeds, to travel East-West from Europe to the Middle East to China and back, all along roughly the same latitude (so crops that grow in one place can grow in another), but not North South, across the equator, with very different climates and also geographic features like huge mountain ranges that impede travel. So you get useful cross-fertilization of ideas -- e.g. how to smelt metal -- in east-west zone, but not along the north-south axis.

 

I don't know whether he's right, or how much he's right. It's a tricky topic, the spread of civilization, and the uneven participation of all the tribes of mankind in it. Tricky politically, and also intrinsically.

 

What I did find interesting in the book, generally overlooked by all reviewers, is that - I think about page 21 -- he says the tribes of New Guinea, among whom he spent a lot of time, are more intelligent than Europeans, due to genetic reasons. (Because of natural selection in their environment.) This argument -- human racial groups differ in IQ because of genetic reasons -- is absolutely taboo in academia, but he got away with making it. Of course, he put a 'people of color' in the top position, but the underlying argument -- genetic superiority -- is anathema to liberal academics. How did they miss it?

 

Anyway, I would say it's worthy of a read, because you learn a lot, but take it with a grain of salt. Read it alongside Fukuyama's The Origins of Poltical Orderfor a more 'conservative' view. (Fukuyama is my go-to guy for big issues, such as 'identity politics', etc, along with Thomas Sowell.)

 

By the way, I found a couple of the replies here very interesting and knowledgeable, especially the ones with details about the problems of Africa, and prospects for overcoming them.

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