Friday, August 26, 2011

Diamond: Guilty as Charged

Throughout Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond emphasizes the idea that advancements made by different human civilizations arose not because of biological or genetic advantages, but as a result of geography and surrounding resources. The author uses this argument in his comparisons between different culture groups' advancements and change over time, whether it be in tools, farming techniques, or disease. Evidence of his deterministic view is shown when he contrasts the growth of peoples in Europe and in Africa, stating "In short, Europe’s colonization of Africa had nothing to do with differences between European and African peoples themselves, as white racists assume. Rather, it was due to accidents of geography and biogeography—in particular, to the continents’ different areas, axes, and suites of wild plant and animal species. That is, the different historical trajectories of Africa and Europe stem ultimately from differences in real estate." (401).


Diamond not only exemplifies the ways a population's geography has encouraged these advancements, he also illustrates the way various groups show continuities in intelligence and problem solving capability, arguing that these abilities were simply used in different ways depending on the group's location. This viewpoint is clearly seen when Diamond states, "Eurasia's considerable initial advantage thereby was translated into a huge lead as of A.D. 1492-for reasons of Eurasia's distinctive geography rather than of distinctive human intellect." (264). It’s clear that Diamond is a geographical determinist and he is guilty as charged.


4 comments:

  1. I agree with you because if the hadn't believed that geography was the main reason why Eurasia was more dominate than any other part of the world he wouldn't have written Guns, Germs, and Steel. That's his main focus of the book and the movie if you haven't seen it. He talks about how it was possible for the Eurasian people to advance so quickly because they had many resources and the reason they had many resources was because they were in a very rich and productive part of the world. It would have been impossible for Yali's people to have been the ones to dominate because in New Guinea there were that many animals to domesticate, and the land wasn't right for growing crops like wheat and barely. It all has to do with the geography of a place. Like for example the countries close to the coast are more likely to be more advanced because they are able to trade with other parts of the world unlike countries like Switzerland that are in the middle.

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  2. You used a great example to show how Diamond is geographical determinist. Throughout the entire book, Diamond makes sure he emphasizes the point that no one culture or race is more gifted than the other. No one group of humans is more genetically advanced than the other. In fact, this is why he thinks so highly of the New Guineans. Although they continue to live a sort of hunter-gatherer lifestyle, they are quick to adapt. The New Guineans do not lack the brain power to accomplish such things as the Europeans did. The New Guineans were just unlucky in the fact that they were not located the "right" spot geographically.

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  3. I also agree with you Alan. I also believe that Diamond is a geographic determinist. Throughout the whole book, it is easily seen how he shows that the location of a person determines how that person is going to live his/her life. I also enjoyed the examples you used in this blog. These examples are very convincing and help strengthen your argument.

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  4. I strongly agree with you because Diamond does make these points very clear throughout the book. Depending on geography depends on if you have the access to advancement. Diamond actually has me convinced due to the support of his arguments.

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