guns germs & steel by jared diamond

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i'm into it.

Fritz Wollner (Fritz), Monday, 25 August 2003 13:40 (twenty years ago) link

yes, I like it too.

what are his other books like?

why is there no picture of that Yali fellow in the book?

DV (dirtyvicar), Monday, 25 August 2003 13:42 (twenty years ago) link

I'm totally into it, wonderful book. Not read anything else by him though!

teeny (teeny), Monday, 25 August 2003 13:43 (twenty years ago) link

i haven't read anything else by him, and i'm only about a quarter throught this one.

Fritz Wollner (Fritz), Monday, 25 August 2003 13:47 (twenty years ago) link

Keeps getting placed on reserve here, but the downside is that when it is and I'm prompted to remember it, everyone else needs it more. D'oh.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 25 August 2003 13:51 (twenty years ago) link

i think you'd like it ned

Fritz Wollner (Fritz), Monday, 25 August 2003 13:54 (twenty years ago) link

I'd think so too! Me being the history buff I am and all.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 25 August 2003 13:56 (twenty years ago) link

It is great, though I understand his other significant book ("The Third Chimpanzee") is a bit similar, in that he wrote it first and then realised that he could retell it in a bigger context.

Anyway, Go! Buy!

Andrew Farrell (afarrell), Monday, 25 August 2003 14:04 (twenty years ago) link

that thread subj line is totally bleeng bleeng, mang. heh

nathalie (nathalie), Monday, 25 August 2003 17:42 (twenty years ago) link


Fritz Wollner (Fritz), Monday, 25 August 2003 17:43 (twenty years ago) link

I remember that I was really interested by this book, but since I read it in an academic setting [anthropology 101 class], I pretty much forgot everything about it once the exam was over.

phil-two (phil-two), Monday, 25 August 2003 17:51 (twenty years ago) link

the new dave eggers namedrops it. fear.

thom west (thom w), Monday, 25 August 2003 18:36 (twenty years ago) link

oh that's not his fault! and you apparently read the new dave eggers so get over it

Fritz Wollner (Fritz), Monday, 25 August 2003 18:42 (twenty years ago) link

haha fritz is in love, he wants to have guns germs & steel's babies.

teeny (teeny), Monday, 25 August 2003 18:57 (twenty years ago) link

Awww, baby guns! Cute!

NA (Nick A.), Monday, 25 August 2003 19:00 (twenty years ago) link

baby germs too

Fritz Wollner (Fritz), Monday, 25 August 2003 19:03 (twenty years ago) link

He can raise them from pups.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 25 August 2003 19:40 (twenty years ago) link

Jared Diamond is famous as an ornithologist, and then as a biogeographer. Which makes me wonder if the book might be a bit slanted toward bio-geographical determinism, which I don't like the sound of (and not just because it's a clumsy word I made up)

isadora (isadora), Monday, 25 August 2003 20:14 (twenty years ago) link

environmental determinism, more... his central thesis is that eurasian civilizations came to dominate the rest of the world powerwise through a flukey confluence of external forces rather than because they were smarter or more moral or whatever... sorta kinda

Fritz Wollner (Fritz), Monday, 25 August 2003 20:55 (twenty years ago) link

well, yes. is that radical?

i tried to read this a while ago and stalled: flukey confluences of external forces perhaps don't make for the most interesting narratives, and most actual questions of mindset/motivation seemed a little glossed-over. it was better than sacrament, though.

thom west (thom w), Tuesday, 26 August 2003 19:06 (twenty years ago) link

two years pass...
I'm about 120 pages into this -- great so far. I'd already kind of learned/figured that the flukey-confluence explanation is probably the best one for why civilization flourished where it did and why some dominated others, but this book lays out an impressively comprehensive scheme of how that mighta actually worked. Plus it's already answering a bunch of random questions I've always had, like "Why the fuck did some caveman decided to domesticate a poisonous plant?"

Abbadavid Berman (Hurting), Wednesday, 14 June 2006 02:06 (eighteen years ago) link

six years pass...

Long presentation from a couple of archeologists who effectively demolish Diamond's hypothesis that Easter Island's inhabitants were a bunch of "self-destructive dopes."

Elvis Telecom, Monday, 4 March 2013 19:58 (eleven years ago) link

i was discussing this with a friend recently:

i find his material explanations for power discrepancies to be intellectually very satisfying, but my [continental philosopher] friend was arguing that random evolutions of ideas/cultural institutions can play just as big or larger role in the success of nations. diamond is almost too perfect to the natural intellectual inclinations of our times - the idea that geography + resources can explain civilization.

Mordy, Monday, 4 March 2013 20:06 (eleven years ago) link

this review of his new book seems off-the-mark in an interesting way

ogmor, Monday, 4 March 2013 20:09 (eleven years ago) link

a bunch of "self-destructive dopes.


Hunt3r, Monday, 4 March 2013 20:25 (eleven years ago) link

The other peoples of the world are not failed attempts at modernity, let alone failed attempts to be us. They are unique expressions of the human imagination and heart, unique answers to a fundamental question: what does it mean to be human and alive?

The teleological account of civilization is obv flawed (and has been since Hume suggested monotheism is the natural evolution of polytheism) but is that really what Diamond is asking? Couldn't he pose the same questions (with similar conclusions) w/out ascribing to teleology? aka why do some societies look like X and some look like Y no judgement about which is more modern? nb I haven't read the new book.

Mordy, Monday, 4 March 2013 20:32 (eleven years ago) link

More criticism... This one on how Chevron has used the World Wildlife Fund (Diamond is a board member) to greenwash their oil activities in PNG

Elvis Telecom, Monday, 4 March 2013 20:43 (eleven years ago) link

i would say that i think Diamond's project is limited in exactly the same way as those who claim (straw man coming here) that such power discrepancies are purely the expression of cultural ideas or institutions. this sort of mutual determination isn't a knot which is easily untied.

ryan, Monday, 4 March 2013 21:05 (eleven years ago) link

eleven years pass...

Easter Island study casts doubt on theory of ‘ecocide’ by early population

Easter Island has long been put forward as a prime example of humans undermining their own survival by destroying the environment they rely on. But now fresh data is turning the narrative on its head.

Also known as Rapa Nui, the remote island in Polynesia is well known for its huge stone statues called “moai” and for the idea that its growing population collapsed because of “ecocide”.

The theory – promoted by experts including the Pulitzer prize-winning author Jared Diamond – suggests islanders chopped down palm trees at an unsustainable rate to create gardens, harvest fuel and move statues, which brought on disaster. As a result, the population encountered by Europeans in the 18th century was a shadow of what it had once been.

However, a new study has added to a growing body of evidence offering a very different view.

“Our study confirms that the island couldn’t have supported more than a few thousand people,” said Dr Dylan Davis, a co-author of the work from Columbia University. “As such, contrary to the ecocide narrative, the population present at European arrival wasn’t the remnants of Rapa Nui society, but was likely the society at its peak, living at the levels that were sustainable on the island.”

Elvis Telecom, Saturday, 6 July 2024 19:58 (one week ago) link

never read guns germs and steel (or anything else by diamond) but i enjoyed reading this long post engaging with some common criticisms

flopson, Sunday, 7 July 2024 00:51 (one week ago) link

i read about half of GGS a longish while ago and reacted against it, not entirely fairly and partly because i was fascinated by it.

my fundamental criticism is if you like a humanist one and specifically with his stated intent here:

“Perhaps the biggest of these unsolved problems is to establish human history as a historical science, on a par with recognized historical sciences such as evolutionary biology, geology, and climatology.”

i think that aim is… quixotic… at best and misguided or pernicious at worst. history is the sum of many things, as much the expressions on the faces of the students in rembrandt’s the anatomy lesson or eloise and abelard’s correspondence as it is anything else. historians, explicitly data driven historians, such as the annales school, still use the data to drive wider historical insight, rather than making it a science.

all this said, if you compare diamond to say, a slightly odd victorian parson with a pet project, there’s plenty that’s enjoyable and interesting in GGS. and after all such approaches don’t exclude the humanist approach, even if he thinks they might be able to ultimately.

Fizzles, Monday, 8 July 2024 06:33 (one week ago) link

My Dad saw Guns Germs and Steel at the Bath Blues Festival in 1970

SPENGE (Bananaman Begins), Monday, 8 July 2024 08:35 (one week ago) link

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