Opinion | Opinie 19/01/2010

The world would be a better place if…

…everyone would read Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond.

It is such a good book, I can’t find words to praise it.

In brief, the book sets out to explain why “western culture” is so dominant, to the extent that it allowed “the West” to colonise most of the rest of the world.

The book is a treasure trove of useful information as well as a great story, to the point of being a page-turner of popular science!

I want to give a quote or two but there’s just so much to choose from :s. Plus the good quotes are too long. Well, I’ll try to be brief – and if you’re interested you can always borrow the book off me! (or buy it, seven quid at the time of writing, they’ll be the best seven quid you’ve spent in a long time)

One chapter has the intriguing title Zebras, Unhappy Marriages and the Anna Karenina principle and starts off by stating “Domesticable animals are all alike; every undomesticable animal is undomesticable in its own way.”

“Germs thus acquired ultimately from domestic animals played decisive roles in the European conquests of Native Americans, Australians, South Africans, and Pacific islanders.”

“(The) faster spread of Eurasian agriculture, compared to that of Native American and sub-Saharan agriculture, played a role in the more rapid diffusion of Eurasian writing, metallurgy, technology, and empires.”

(these probably enigmatic statements are explained in detail, of course)

I could probably get a statement like that off of every single page of GG&S, it really is that packed with information. I’ll stop here however.

2 thoughts on “Opinion | Opinie 19/01/2010

  1. Diamond’s book is a little out of date on genetics. Recent studies have shown that there was an increase in genetic change with the development of agriculture and population expansion in eurasia. Some of these changes appear to relate to neurological function (see papers by Benjamin Voight, Bruce Lahn or Scott Williams).

    New York Times science writer Nicholas Wade’s book ‘Before the Dawn’ covers some of this, as does the more recent ‘The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution’.

  2. Little wonder it’s out of date on genetics – with the recent advances there everything more than a decade old is!

    So what are you saying is the implication for Diamond’s message?

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