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Guns, Germs and Steel
by Jared Diamond

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Explaining what William McNeill called The Rise of the West has become the central problem in the study of global history. In Guns, Germs, and Steel Jared Diamond presents the biologist's answer: geography, demography, and ecological happenstance. Diamond evenhandedly reviews human history on every continent since the Ice Age at a rate that emphasizes only the broadest movements of peoples and ideas. Yet his survey is binocular: one eye has the rather distant vision of the evolutionary biologist, while the other eye--and his heart--belongs to the people of New Guinea, where he has done field work for more than 30 years.

Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (1 of 3), Read 21 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Theresa Simpson (theresa.a.simpson@gte.net) Date: Tuesday, November 14, 2000 12:48 AM I started reading this early (for a change). I won't give anything away (after all, it's not as if there's a plot); but I'm on page 175 and have some quibbles and felt the need to share. The premise is interesting and there is lots of interesting (though vastly simplified) information, but damn! This guy starts every chapter, sometimes every paragraph, with a series of inane questions. Like he thinks his readers are somehow deficient and have to be gently led into the material. It's not as if the book is all that difficult - in fact, rather the opposite. So why this annoying tactic? Also, he is a bit off on some of his information. He simplifies way too much, I think (my thoughts, of course, teetering on the flimsy support of my anthro degree and prior reading.) For one thing, he talks about some domesticated animals becoming less intelligent BECAUSE they no longer needed to keep their wits about them (basically) once domesticated. Evolution doesn't work this way. An ADAPTIVE trait will likely grow in frequency; a MALADAPTIVE trait will lessen; but an UNNEEDED but not MALADAPTIVE trait won't just wither away! Why would it? Of course, it may be that less intelligent animals found captivity less stultifying, or were less likely to rebel, therefore transforming stupidity into an adaptive trait. But that ain't what he said. This type of inexcusable oversimplification happens a lot in GGS. I find this surprising, since the author is a scientist, not a sociologist (I have such an aversion to sociologists I tend to dog 'em when I can.) Steve, is GGS a "boy" book or a "girl" book? And why? Theresa
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (2 of 3), Read 6 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, November 14, 2000 09:36 AM Hi Theresa, I've read this one too. I found some of his style corny too, the questions he asks seems kind of over-whimsical. But I found I just kept going. I am trying to find the page where he talks about intelligence. Can you post if for me. thanks. I laughed so hard at your post, I don't know what is funnier 'boy or girl books' or your comment about sociologists. I know what you mean about sociologists, I just feel like rolling my eyes when I say it. I dated one once, and my friends were so sick of him coming to parties. I find the section about domestic animals in GGand S to be accurate. It's true he has generalized a lot of information, and he includes areas of history in patterns that are not the general way we have looked at things. It's a bit unusual to get used to. This book has two other books in common that I can think of Cultural Materialism by Marvin Harris (1979, I think sorry if I'm off on this) and Consilience by E.O. Wilson(1999). They are suggesting that history or arts or anthropology have always been looked at and approached as non-scientific areas. That the same tools for sciences can be applied to "the arts" and "social sciences" like history, literary criticism and anthropology and culture. Also, Bo, this book, Guns Germs and Steel is very pertinent to your topic and interest in 'place'. Hey Theresa, interesting about intelligence. I know what you mean about adaptive and maladaptive traits. Does this include intelligence. One thing that is so cool about intelligence at least in humans is that it is affected by outside forces. Things like nutrition. also, I find the mind/intelligence is like a muscle. I know I am being flaky especially about something scientific, so sorry, but we can affect our intelligence to a small degree at least. maybe this happens with other animals? I'm just throwing this out there, I'm not sure if it has much to do with what you were saying in your post...
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (3 of 3), Read 7 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Tuesday, November 14, 2000 09:53 AM Theresa: Diamond is striving for utter clarity with this one. He is aware of the dangers of people oversimplifying his main points, especially when he carefully delineates where one cannot answer his queries with racist stereotypes. I rather enjoy his Socratic use of questions and answers--it is like a well-run classroom lecture in which the teacher presents some fascinating questions and then carefully answers them fully. His question as to why the Aztecs did not appear in a Spanish harbor demanding tribute and the Spanish King appears silly on the surface--but it raises the very issues he is trying to address in this work. If it isn't the people--then WHY are there historical haves and have nots. His initial forays seem tedious at first until he begins to construct more of his arguments bit by tiny factual bit--in the end, it is a fascinating answer that has almost caused me to lose my breath in awe at times. I find the book actually maintains a careful balance between the lay reader and the specialist (as when he skirts or oversimplifies matters of chemistry or evolution). While Diamond is no Stephen Jay Gould, Rachel Carson, or Lewis Thomas with his prose, it is his outlined form of thinking that fascinates me. Dan
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (4 of 21), Read 44 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Tuesday, November 14, 2000 12:48 PM Dan, I fully agree with you on this one. It's been awhile since I read it, but I remember being fascinated. Few authors are willing to look at broad patterns in history and human development. It is so much easier to write a detailed account about some obscure event that no one even cares about any more. (One of my favorite papers in grad school was the one I wrote about the Bulgarian succession question of 1886 :). I think Diamond should be applauded for daring to paint the big picture. He might not have got it all right but, in my case at least, he really makes the reader think about the author's ideas, as well as evaluate his own preconceptions. That's a lot more than I ever get out of most non-fiction books. Ann
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (5 of 21), Read 34 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, November 14, 2000 02:11 PM Well, described Dan. I was trying not to 'give too much' of the plot away along with Theresa. Also, because of the semi-coincidence with the reading I have done in the past, not much of this books research was new to me. Perhaps that made it easy to swallow his perspective. He is standing back way back. He has married several disciplines and research. Theresa, I am not a good or fair judge of taste, because as I have said here on another thread, I judge a book mainly on it's content, not on it's style. Although he starts out corny, Dans right he pulls it together. This is a favourite in my family and we have been talking about it for months. It is one of the best books I have read in the past ten years. It is on the shelf beside Wonderful Life by Gould, Ishmael by Quinn, Consilience by Wilson and The Biology of Violence by Niehoff. They all are interconnected too: partly by their brilliance at interdisciplinary insight and research, and partly by the profound sense of hope they all reveal.
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (6 of 21), Read 29 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: S. Bohinka (bohinka@riconnect.com) Date: Tuesday, November 14, 2000 05:20 PM Candy, >>This is a favourite in my family and we have been talking about it for months. It is one of the best books I have read in the past ten years. It is on the shelf beside Wonderful Life by Gould, Ishmael by Quinn, Consilience by Wilson and The Biology of Violence by Niehoff. They all are interconnected too: partly by their brilliance at interdisciplinary insight and research, and partly by the profound sense of hope they all reveal.<<< I was wondering if I should start a new thread for this but since we're already a month early I decided it was OK to go off topic. That's an incredible list of diverse books. I did read Ishmael. It was the Turner Award Winner for book most likely to 'change the world' that year. I have to admit that it was unique but I didn't see its value in any lasting sense. I've heard of but not read any of the others. Want to say more about any of them? (I liked the 'other' Ishmael book better--the Star Trek one where Spock meets the people from the TV show "Here Come the Brides." ;) Bo
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (7 of 21), Read 32 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Theresa Simpson (theresa.a.simpson@gte.net) Date: Tuesday, November 14, 2000 11:33 PM Okay, okay. I'll reserve judgment until I finish the darn thing. I just had quibbles, anyway, wasn't about to chuck it aside. I've read Marvin Harris, Candy. He has written some interesting things, but doesn't have the best rep among other anthros, probably partly for very good reason, and partly from jealousy (his books were best sellers I think in the early 1980s?). Anyway, he was very well known, but never assigned reading, when I was getting my degree. Theresa
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (8 of 21), Read 39 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Wednesday, November 15, 2000 12:06 AM Well, yeah, I can see why he wasn't popular among anthros. He trashes half of their assumptions about 'other' cultures and their shoddy research.
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (9 of 21), Read 30 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Wednesday, November 15, 2000 12:54 PM Candy: Slow down, slow down! I'm writing those names and authors you just "mention in passing." Very interesting reading, indeed. Dan
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (10 of 21), Read 29 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Wednesday, November 15, 2000 02:57 PM Well, as usual, I'm going to have to read this and decide for myself. Sounds like a good discussion is in store.
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (11 of 21), Read 30 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Wednesday, November 15, 2000 03:19 PM Dan, they are interesting books to the max. even if one doesn't agree with some of the ideas. But if you enjoy broad views like G,G&S I don't see how you could lose. I think Jared Diamond might have written a blurb on the back of Wilson's book. This year a long time opponent of Wilson wrote a book called Life Is A Miracle. Wendell Berry is someone who ideas and novels I think among the worlds greatest. It is so interesting that Wilson and Berry both long time champions of Nature and conservation have been at odds all these years. Both books reveal to an outsider yet admirer like me their strengths and their flaws. Berrys novels The Memory Of Old Jack and short stories Fidelity should not be missed in ones life. As for Ishmael by Quinn. It is a strange novel as are all of four of 3 of his novels. Very strange. They are not literary or fancy or writerly. They won't last on the shelves of literary history. They may not 'even change the world' as they were given awards for the possibility of. But dam, here is someone doing something kind of cool with his passion for all the cultures and animals. Ishmael was made into a movie or rather a version of it was and it died in theatres. It is not the greatest movie either, it's no Gorillas In The Mist. But dam, it still hits home, if one is interested in what makes a human a human etc. His other book, The Story of B might be more interesting for a high end audience. The premise is that a priest has been sent to Europe because there are reports that the Anti-Christ is travelling and lecturing. This priest has been trained to recognize and deal with this possible event. He finds the speaker, and the speeches are asterisked and contained at the back of the novel so you can read them as the story goes on. The speaker, the Anti-Christ is of all things, an ANTROPOLOGIST! It's kind of a riot of a concept! Quinns books are wildly popular with certain young people it seems. He has a funny little web site too, and a kind of 'counter-culture' following. On the web site, there is an image of a pyramid and the question"tired of moving stones?" you click on it, and then it says..."walk away" .
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (12 of 21), Read 30 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Wednesday, November 15, 2000 03:21 PM Oops, a version of story Ishmael that was made into a movie last year is called Instinct starring Anthony Hopkins and Cuba Gooding Jr. And I made some typing mistakes up there I missed, oops. Hope you can make sense of my post.
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (13 of 21), Read 29 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Theresa Simpson (theresa.a.simpson@gte.net) Date: Wednesday, November 15, 2000 03:28 PM Moved this to make the line straight. I think it was Harris' espousal of cannibalism as a major source of protein for certain cultures that got the most disparagement. Harris doesn't have a whole lot of basis for making this assertion. There is ample evidence that almost all cultures engage in at least ritual cannibalism (yep, even us, think about communionion), not much to support Harris' theories. But it was certainly a good way to sell some books! Candy, I like Wendell Barry books a lot. Is he the opponent of Harris you reference? Or is there someone else - who? Theresa
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (14 of 21), Read 30 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Wednesday, November 15, 2000 03:42 PM Wendell is an opponent of E.O.Wilson. I think it would take too long for me to try to explain all the crazy nuances in their opposite ways to approach life and the world and conservation. It's frustrating to me, because I value both their work. And neither are completely 'right' or accurate'. For some reason, people have to WIN these kinds of issues, when as I say, if you read both of their essays and theories, there are major weaknesses and strengths that actually could be amalgamated or picked from...then contributing to a further understanding of conservation and caution and medical benefits.
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (15 of 21), Read 25 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Theresa Simpson (theresa.a.simpson@gte.net) Date: Thursday, November 16, 2000 12:27 AM Candy, per your request, I'd been meaning to post the reference to domestication and intelligence in animals. It is on page 159 if you have the paperback Norton edition, and I find the actual quote to be even more apropos of my quibble, in that it addresses actual physical brain size rather than that hard to quantify and oh so changeable intelligence: "Several species of domestic animals have smaller brains and less developed sense organs than their wild ancestors, because they no longer need the bigger brains and more developed sense organs on which their ancestors depended to escape from wild predators." Well, this statement is just nonsense. I don't doubt many domesticated animals have smaller brains than their wild counterparts - my guess is the small brained animals adapted to domestication more easily or something of the sort. But it is NOT a direct result of no longer needing their former faculties. Theresa
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (16 of 21), Read 26 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Thursday, November 16, 2000 01:26 AM Natural selection would not be the only force operating on the development of domesticated animals. I would suppose the smaller brains were a result of breeding by man. A nice, docile, stupid animal would be a heck of a lot easier to handle. Suppose they were smart enough to read George Orwell, where would we be then? Ruth
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (17 of 21), Read 24 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: S. Bohinka (bohinka@riconnect.com) Date: Thursday, November 16, 2000 02:10 AM I wanted to add a description of ISHMAEL by Quinn since it's the one book that you've mentioned that I've read. And, I have to hand it to my book journal. My memory of the book and what I thought of it at the time are two different things. Like Candy, I don't think it'll stand the test of time but according to my book journal, it made me think. It's VERY different. Written in a Socratic style. A guy learning about how to save the world from a gorilla. (Learning the lessons, the gorilla isn't the agressor but the teacher. My English needs some help.) It poses some good questions but is anti-tech, anti-agriculture and I wondered what kind of religious background the author had. He claims that Cain and Abel is an anti-ag story and for the hunger-gatherers. It's a tough book to describe. But it made me think and that made it worthwhile. Bo
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (18 of 21), Read 21 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Thursday, November 16, 2000 07:45 AM I think I'm beginning to see your point, Theresa. What Diamond is discussing is a sort of "unnatural selection" with man and not so much the environment as the guiding force. Domestic animals are the results of centuries and centuries of breeding. Ranchers do not want wily cows or saavy sheep--so such genetic aberations probably are rarely bred widely. Those "dumber" animals are allowed to feed and reproduce--watering down the strain, sort of speak. Then again, humanity is a natural force of nature, in its own inimitable way. So technically we're still talking "natural selection." Dan
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (19 of 21), Read 21 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Thursday, November 16, 2000 07:52 AM The 'talking gorilla' is one of the reasons I don't recommend this book to many people. It just seems a lot of people wouldn't get into it, it is such a weird concept. As for it standing the test of time,I mean that as far as high end literary tastes go. So far Bo, I think it's very curious the steady sales it is having. This is a 'cult book'. I mean that in the way of a cult movie...it has a strong word of mouth following. Especially with people under thirty. I think this makes it worthwhile to check out. Actually Story Of B does too. Just because I say they are not high end literary reading does not mean I don't love what these books are. I think people who are over thirty might find them interesting to read to see what these thoughtful, community and conservationist minded young people are reading that ROCKS THEIR WORLD. I noticed there is a new self help book(okay okay I know that is a huge market and there is always a new one) that quotes Daniel Quinn a few times. It is called "The Cultural Creatives". I took a look at it, sort of new age and environmental savvy business people? I found it kind of interesting too. Dan and Bo, I mentioned some other books here to do with similar themes as Daniel Quinns Ishmael and Story of B. They are Consilience and Berrys response to Consilience Life Is A Miracle. Consilience and Life Is A Miracle, have a similar goal and a similar weakness. They are both selling a program. Consilience is selling science as the way to 'salvation' and Life Is A Miracle selling Christianity as a way 'salvation'. Quinns books do not offer programs. And they say people don't need salvation. Berry and Wilson are so hard selling that I feel both of them sound arrogant by the end of their books. I find the end of Wendell Berrys essay Life Is Miracle, shocking in its attitude towards 'place' and how people SHOULD think and SHOULD live. I was very disappointed after his novels seem so unjudgemental and tender. His whole book says that Wilsons book is reductionary, but there here is too saying how people should live. Quinn tends to point out HOW some people live but he doesn't try to force feed a solution. When one thinks about his anecdotes and metaphors and his BROAD VIEW of history(this is what he has in common with Diamond) a reader feels things and wants to do things or at least think about the way we live. And Quinn has repeatedly written about rejecting programs. I am not sure what religion he is Bo, I have the feeling from his books he is not religious. In his novels he points out interesting breakdowns of parables and religious stories, how they are often structures and programs on growing food. Guns, Germs and Steel presents an aspect of history that explains the haves and have nots and suggests a base for the rest of the way one thinks about LIFE and the world. So does Daniel Quinn to thousands of his fans who feel there is something off kilter about world history and the way we live and do not want this 'idea of how to live' force fed on them. They want to think about a way to live that is more conducive to having fun and yet not damaging the earth. They see history and religion as programs to keep us on a path to suicide, drug abuse and environmental damage. I would recommend that parents and people over thirty might want to read Story of B and Ishmael to find out what these young people are into and rejecting.
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (20 of 21), Read 22 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Mary Anne Papale (mapreads@aol.com) Date: Thursday, November 16, 2000 08:44 AM The points that Diamond makes on domesticated animals are critical for many reasons. For example, man has never been able to domesticate the zebra. Just that one example would have made a big difference in so many things: zebras pulling plows and being pivotal in wars, never happened. Also, when you combine the list of animals that were domesticated with the point about the geographical axes, it becomes clear, for example, that domesticated animals could never make it to sub-Saharan Africa until they were taken there by ship. This even though they had been present thousands of years before in northern Africa. There is a reading guide to this book at www.wwnorton.com. Metaphors be with you... MAP
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (21 of 21), Read 24 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Thursday, November 16, 2000 08:49 AM Thanks for the guide! Mary Anne.
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (22 of 26), Read 39 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: S. Bohinka (bohinka@riconnect.com) Date: Thursday, November 16, 2000 05:56 PM Dan, >>I'm beginning to see your point, Theresa. What Diamond is discussing is a sort of "unnatural selection" with man and not so much the environment as the guiding force. Domestic animals are the results of centuries and centuries of breeding. Ranchers do not want wily cows or saavy sheep--so such genetic aberations probably are rarely bred widely. Those "dumber" animals are allowed to feed and reproduce--watering down the strain, sort of speak.<<< Since I haven't gotten to the book yet, does he deal with 'working animals'--the ones whose brains might be bigger because they've learned to do a specialized job? I'm thinking of two different types of horses--the ones that are military fighting ones and the other high kicking show ones---I never did learn their names. Then there are the various types of working dogs like the Border Collie for herding sheep, the sight hounds we were talking about in the Out of Africa discussion and countless others. Gads, I can't remember the magazine--might have been Discover that had a very intriguing pictorial (or is it pictoral?) article about dog breeding a few years back. It showed the incredible differences in size, shape, features that have been bred over the years. It's actually both fascinating and a little sickening to me to see all that within one species. In the Helen Keller bio I just finished there's a picture of Helen in Japan with an 'exotic bird' (it doesn't give the species) which has a tail 18' long, the result of 200 years of cross-breeding. The bird isn't able to walk or do anything by itself because of the tail. Bo
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (23 of 26), Read 40 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Theresa Simpson (theresa.a.simpson@gte.net) Date: Thursday, November 16, 2000 11:49 PM Folks, I wasn't disputing the author's point, re domestication of animals, why zebras weren't domesticated, etc. This book has a lot of fascinating information, and the broad theses are very well thought out and well-argued. He does occasionally beg his own incessant questions, but not to excess. What I WAS complaining about is the careless manner in which he presents some of his information. He keeps making these little slips - even if domestic animals were bred for a certain docile stupidity, it IS NOT TRUE that they lost their brain mass because they didn't need it. This was just an example that easily came to mind when I was posting; there are plenty of others. Maybe he just needed a better editor. Theresa
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (24 of 26), Read 36 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Susan Strahan (tales@1001knights.com) Date: Friday, November 17, 2000 08:41 AM I think I may have read that article, Bo. There was one several years back (I've got it filed away somewhere...) called "The Descent Of The Dog" which took a good look at dog domestication and breeding over the centuries and how some genetic traits we selected for when we domesticated dogs are tied to other genetic traits. BTW, anyone interested in animal intelligence should check out The Intelligence Of Dogs by Coren. He divides intelligence into different types "instinctive, adaptive", etc and explains why a dog which might be "smart" in one area might be difficult to train in other areas. He talks about the varying adaptive and instinctive intelligence for various breeds, gives guidelines for testing adaptive intelligence in dogs, goes some into dog breeding. All in all I found it a good read. (I have two dogs.) :-) ~~Susan~~ "Then would you read a Sustaining Book, such as would help and comfort a Wedged Bear in Great Tightness?" ---Winnie The Pooh
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (25 of 26), Read 36 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Friday, November 17, 2000 09:24 AM Theresa, I didn't find your insight into the brain size of animals distracting. Ahh, now that I see about what you're saying. I agree that what little bit I know about brain size has nothing to do with intelligence. I love your experience with this stuff. He does 'talk fast' and assume that if some one doesn't know about a topic they will do their own research I think. Fair enough, he'd have alot of pages that he would be repeating from other books. My main complaint was the times I went to the index...
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (26 of 26), Read 24 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Saturday, November 18, 2000 12:23 PM Has anyone read Darkness In El Dorado? One of the early chapters is calle dGuns Germs and Anthropologists. Its a good book and frustrating events
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (27 of 56), Read 42 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Monday, December 11, 2000 10:56 PM "Several species of domestic animals have smaller brains and less developed sense organs than their wild ancestors, because they no longer need the bigger brains and more developed sense organs on which their ancestors depended to escape from wild predators." If in fact he is saying that animals with smaller brains and less developed sense organs survive in domestication when they otherwise would not and therefore contribute to the gene pool of that domesticated animal and thus produce more domesticated animals of that species with smaller brains and less developed sense organs, which in turn survive in domestication when they otherwise would not, wherein lies the fallacy in that? Steve
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (28 of 56), Read 53 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Theresa Simpson (theresa.a.simpson@gte.net) Date: Tuesday, December 12, 2000 12:04 AM Steve, you're close, but I don't buy this as an explanation of Diamond's text (aren't you the guy that wants to stick to the text?) There is a big difference between causation (BECAUSE they no longer needed . . .) and a by-product (the dummies didn't die, but bred instead). If he meant to say the second, given the tedious explanation to which this dude subjected each and every one of his topics, he darn well woulda said it. Good try, though. Theresa
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (29 of 56), Read 52 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Tuesday, December 12, 2000 12:30 AM On 12/12/00 12:04:31 AM, Theresa Simpson wrote: tedious explanation >to which this dude subjected >each and every one of his >topics, Amen. I'm flagging on this one, folks. Ruth
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (30 of 56), Read 50 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Tuesday, December 12, 2000 06:37 AM I was just asking, Theresa. If you say he didn't say that, that's good enough for me. I don't pretend to know squat about the subject. The only thing I have voluntarily read before that is at all related is The Naked Ape by Desmond Morris, which I read years and years ago (and which is still in print, I see). I took one anthropology course. The only thing I recall is that the pendular penis is of great significance in evolutionary anthropology. (Right up there with the absence of a prehensile tail.) My professor was suspiciously enthusiastic about pendular penises. He had a large slide collection on the subject that he shared with us. In any event, perhaps because I am so ill read on this subject, I am finding Guns, Germs, and Steel pretty fascinating. I'm only about a hundred pages into it after discovering I didn't have the nerve to jump into Wings of the Dove quite yet. Steve
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (31 of 56), Read 52 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, December 12, 2000 10:10 AM Steve, I am revoltingly well read on this subject and I too found it fascinating. I guess Dan described it best here when he said it approached history in a broad way. I am very sad Ruth is not going to read this one. Theresa, I read a lot of geek stuff, like The Elegant Universe I started out thinking, oh he's just rehashing stuff here...but it turned out to be good. I was sad you who are into anthropology did not like GG&S. I find his achievement in this book is to offer something tangible to almost erase prejudice or racism or class. To me his fast round way of reaching topics was very good. It's not NEW information, but the way he has compiled studies is pretty cool and dare I say it hopeful. If some one in CR was a fan of Silent Spring like I was, then do not miss this read. It in the same stature. I have given this book to quite a few people since reading it, and Theresa about two of them said "too much information, too talky, too geeky". So as usual it comes down to taste. Rats! Peace on earth comes down to taste!! ha ha.
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (32 of 56), Read 54 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, December 12, 2000 10:13 AM Oh you know what though? Steve or Dan or Theresa, some one good with words. This book is easy to put into a nutshell, NO? I mean the reason he goes on and on is because he has to present his argument and then back it up? Right? So in a nutshell, this book shows how resources in certain areas provided invention and power. Not civilization, not religion, not intelligence. Of course my version of the nutshell could be wrong...
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (33 of 56), Read 53 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Theresa Simpson (theresa.a.simpson@gte.net) Date: Tuesday, December 12, 2000 10:38 AM Steve, go back and read the text (MY text) in my first post. I did find value in this book; it made a good, comprehensive argument. All I objected to was the manner in which Diamond delivered the message, and his frequent carelessness with wording. Theresa
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (34 of 56), Read 52 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Karen Slongwhite (kmbookworm@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, December 12, 2000 10:39 AM Candy -- You and I seem to read the same kind of stuff. Wendall Barry, Rachel Carson. The Elegant Universe is currently sitting on my shelf, but I haven't gotten to it yet. Karen
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (35 of 56), Read 46 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Tuesday, December 12, 2000 11:49 AM On 12/12/00 10:13:40 AM, Candy Minx wrote: >I mean the reason he goes >on and on is because he has to >present his argument and then >back it up? Right?] I think you've hit the nail on the head, Candy. I've noticed this tendency in other books written by scientists. For instance, I read Chet Raymo's Skeptics and True Believers earlier this year. Wonderful insights, and possibly one of my top ten this year, but it still felt at times that he was unnecessarily hammering his points home over and over again. Compare those works of fiction where the author simply presents a story and allows the reader's imagination to fill in the detail. Or, even better, a poet who presents just a fragmentary insight by a few allusions, or even the position of the words on the page. David
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (36 of 56), Read 46 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, December 12, 2000 11:49 AM Thats funny Karen. What a couple of geeks. My geek uniform today is flannel p.j. bottoms, a BUD LIGHT kangaroo shirt(hood and ppouch) and really matted "puter hair", from too many hours of typing instead of in product like body shop hair conditioner. Later! A line in National Geographic this month has struck a note with me."We are in the theoretical chaos that follows the collapse of a long-held theory" talking about all these ideas scooting around of ice age kayakers, maybe first Americans were here a lot longer than we thought they were. Articles like this always get my imagination going. It so funny how there is still this idea that men were the hunters. I mean women can breast feed and then go off and do projects for a couple of hours between feeding right today right? Why do we assume they didn't have projects back then too!? I mean really they could have even shared breastfeeding for all we know. This is another way where you need example and imagination to think about how we live and ties into being idealistic. If people insist of 'spare time' now or 'hunting/making money' now why wouldn't they have 20,000 years ago. In this article they suggest that it's our assumptions that it was mostly men who hunted. I just laugh! And I love thinking about all these possible kayakers going from Europe to America along the the glaciers. It's so plausible. Karen, have you read Wonderful Life by Gould? The next apartment I get, I'm going to paint a few walls with those crazy animals that are in the diagrams in that book derived from fossils. They are so wild! And to think until the 30's or so we didn't even know that many species existed WAY before we got here.
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (37 of 56), Read 46 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, December 12, 2000 11:54 AM David, we x-posted oops. Uh yeah, in art school we always had this saying and my friends and I still say it regarding realism and science books "go further with fiction". I am sorry I can't remember who said it, I am pretty sure it was a visual artist. Darn. I wannna say Larry Pools or somebody. That is the wonderful thing about fiction(I include non-representational painting, movies,poetry, novels) is that the readers imagination is put to work to EXPERIENCE the ideas!!! That is it's magic. It is like taking a drug of "themes" or "ideas" or "truths".
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (38 of 56), Read 49 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Tuesday, December 12, 2000 12:16 PM Candy, I didn't say I'd bailed on this book. I said I was flagging. I've read a lot of science writing and I think the problem with some of it, and especially here, is that Diamond is either unclear who his audience is, or he's trying to kill two birds with one stone. In science writing for scientists, it goes without saying that every conclusion must be backed up with as much evidence as possible, every detail listed, every variation noted, all the reasoning explained, every gap filled. But the very thoroughness that validates a scientific premise with the scientific community, makes for some deadly boring reading. I've read my share of science journals and they are definitely not life interrupters, as gail says. It takes a certain genius to write stimulating science for the layman. Carl Sagan had it. Stephen Jay Gould has it. Jared Diamond does not, at least not in this book. I'm going down for the third time in itsy bitsy facts and conclusions. I can't see the ocean for the achipelagos. I think the problem is that GGS is neither fish nor fowl nor good red herring. Not enough tables, charts, and hard info for true science writing. Too detailed and fussy-wussy for good,readable popular science. Ruth
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (39 of 56), Read 45 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, December 12, 2000 12:37 PM Oh ok, I understand.
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (40 of 56), Read 45 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Tuesday, December 12, 2000 01:07 PM I agree with you, Ruth. Rachel Carson, Stephen Jay Gould, Lewis Thomas, and Carl Sagan could all take science and turn it into informative poetry. Diamond struggles to be informative, but he lacks what the aforementioned writers have in abundance: poetry. I struggled through Diamond's book by sheer force of will. I wanted to know how he would back up his assertions but I also wanted to glean little facts I was previously unaware of. But Diamond has no gift of language. In The Sea Around Us, Rachel Carson poetically tenders the argument for evolution and environmental awareness. Thomas does the same talking of germs and mitochondria. But though you get the information--it is the poetic development that makes the biggest difference. Frankly, I don't think Diamond could write as well as the best. I do not mean to disparage the man's work--this book is one fascinating argument. I think that what is missing is that poetic turn of phrase, that poetic image that combines information in a way that transcends rational delineation. Dan
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (41 of 56), Read 43 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Tuesday, December 12, 2000 01:15 PM I would like to offer a reaction to Diamond's argument by a social studies teacher at my school. I gave the rationale for the downfall of the Aztecs and Incas at the hands of the Europeans. She listened intently. Then she said, "They couldn't hold their land. That's what really happens." Of course, I answer, because of agriculture, bacteria, etc, etc. "So? That's just details--they couldn't hold their land." "But this author tries to find the reasons why they couldn't hold their land." "Oh boo-hoo, Baby. Who cares? You lost, you lost, you couldn't hold your land. Agricultural ignorance doesn't change anything. I'm one of those 'haves' and proud of it. I'm not going to bemoan the loss of the have-nots. I refuse to feel guilty about manifest destiny." You know, in a strange sense, she raises a very interesting question-should Americans of non-Native American extraction feel guilty? Does Diamond's work absolve the actions of our ancestors or does it only increase the guilt? Dan
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (42 of 56), Read 44 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Tuesday, December 12, 2000 01:20 PM I refuse to feel guilty for the actions of my ancestors. I can regret those actions, I can deplore them, I can praise them---but I refuse to take either credit or guilt. Ruth
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (43 of 56), Read 43 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Tuesday, December 12, 2000 01:33 PM Ruth: Besides the social studies teacher, I remember attending a lecture by a man who claimed America was the only nation on Earth ever who felt guilt over its own existence. He made an analogy about Romans in outlying posts--they didn't think, "Geeze, weren't we a bit hard on these folks?" No--they were proud of their accomplishment. Americans, he maintained, feel guilty because their past of Indian atrocities and the slave trade weigh on their national soul. Our bliss is because of nastiness in our past. Does God provide William Bradford with a City of God by sending the Indians smallpox-laden blankets? Isn't this a reason why American society may be termed slightly neurotic? We're religions, but we commit heinous acts and then justify it religiously. We start having people feeling guilty about feeling guilty about not really feeling all that guilty. Seriously: Does Diamond's work alleviate the guilt (Hey--EVERYONE takes advantage of the WEAKER so why should our ancestors have been any different?) or does it actually make the world a much more bleak place? Dan
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (44 of 56), Read 48 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Tuesday, December 12, 2000 01:39 PM That is one cold damned social studies teacher, Dan! I am unfamiliar with Lewis Thomas, but I would certainly agree that Rachel Carson, Stephen Jay Gould, and Carl Sagan are masters at making science accessible to a layman such as myself. As for Stephen Hawking, if you're going to delve into his stuff, you better screw your hat on because you're going to get jerked around some. Insofar as I have progressed into this thing, the most marvelous insight for me has not been in relation to human conquest of humans. Rather, I was very interested to find that the extinction of other species conjointly with growth in the human population is not exclusively a modern phenomenon. It has always been so. So much for the idea of the Noble Savage living in perfect harmony with the rest of Mother Nature, Monsieur Rousseau. Steve
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (45 of 56), Read 43 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Tuesday, December 12, 2000 02:22 PM It's good to see the name of Lewis Thomas added to those specialists who can write about their subjects for the public with great beauty and accessibility. I would also add the name of Richard Selzer, a New York physician who writes with great insight and style about the inner life of a doctor, and in particular a surgeon. A good book to start with is either CONFESSIONS OF A KNIFE or MORTAL LESSONS. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (46 of 56), Read 41 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, December 12, 2000 02:37 PM I totally understand that the style of writing is a downer. I sometimes look at writing and work that way, there was a substantial discussion on this under Lowell. Still, it is more important to me in this realm of the ideas in this book, to skip that. I made it through,no it's not as lovely a read as the others mentioned...but inside it MIGHT have other value...????? Uh, I only heard of the term and dogma of Manifest Destiny about 3 yeears ago. I apologize to Christians here if I make a stand that it is foreign concept to me and I am against that part of the Christian laws and ideas. Sorry. I understand it is a huge part of the bible and Genesis, but I part ways with Christians there for sure. So...having said that, when I first heard of this idea Manifest Destiny I was shocked. I was stunned for a bout a week. It was such a different concept than I was raised by. I was on the Cormac McCarthy forum, and soem one had to 'walk me through' this idea. I think the teacher you work with Dan is completely justified in her feelings since she must really BELIEVE in this. She has every right to, of course. Now that I know about such an idea, a lot of behaviour started to come into focus to me. It was a real eye opener. A very very depressing hopeless feeling one. For thousands of years there is evidence of war and hostile take overs and people losing their land. It's how things happen since farming. Is it a big deal? I really don't know. Do I feel guilt? No, I don't even know why that topic would come up...but anyway...I'll have to scratch my head over that one later... What does all this tell us, without guilt, without denying that people have taken land for 10,000 years...do we continue? Do we care? Do we god forbid, think about it? Do we 'share'? I don't know. But there are a fair amount of people, and limited amounts of land. Because some people like farming life do the other hundreds and (there used to be thousands) of other cultures have to live the SAME way? Is that organically positive? Is it narrowing down our strength as an animal? Nature takes out species all the time. Gould describes this in Wonderful Life. Humans are part of naure pure and simple-so if we take out species and other cultures is that okay? Maybe. I don't know. I guess I am a cautious one...I feel like probably a lot of us might not know. Well, the Dans teacher KNOWS. But do I HAVE to be forced to live under her thumb? Do I have a voice against what I think is a scary dictator personality? I sort of feel like why don't we think about these things? It's fun and may even help every body get comfy cozy. I have this need to feel like my neighbors are comfy cozy, like people don't have to mug me to get money or to put food on the table, or that people don't have to take more wilderness to feed more people. Call me crazy, I don't know.
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (47 of 56), Read 42 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Tuesday, December 12, 2000 05:00 PM Dan, I'm glad neither I nor my kids ever had that social studies teacher. She sounds like a very unimaginative type. I read this book awhile back and simply don't have the time to reread it now. BUT, as an old history major, I found it fascinating reading. From a literary standpoint, his prose is admittedly unexceptional, but I was extremely interested in his ideas and I had a hard time putting it down. I was particularly interested in those details about the Incas and the Aztecs. As they say,different strokes ... Candy pointed out that this book very definitely has a thesis. He's trying to prove that race is not an important factor in the development of civilization. Environment is far more significant than we have previously realized. Is it a valid argument? I like to think so, but I'm no expert. Ann
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (48 of 56), Read 42 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, December 12, 2000 05:40 PM Ann, that teacher has been scaring me all afternoon. I kind of can't get her out of my mind. eee... Well, first, race isn't a very scientific way of describing human characterisitcs. There is only one 'race' and it's called the human race. The rest changes so quickly, like skin colour. The term race is an emotional description of humans, it has no legs to stand on. But other things about this book, and you're right he is so hinting that race is not what gives one person one thing another not. I am neither a have or a have-not. I am more like a don't-want. I find very few things interesting or fun about how 'civilized'and 'haves' live. YAWN. So it's easy for me to sit here and say well, I don't care.Go ahead Miss HaveItAllatDansSchool. But something inside way inside does care about the world in general and THAT attitude in particular. I long ago rejected religion and I'm not a particularily or exceptionally'nice' person. But I am haunted by this idea...what if two children were playing and they are about four years old, or maybe three years old. And one grabbed a toy from the other. There are lots of toys. What would the parents do? Or sets of parents do if the kids were from different families? Are farming people or H/Gs or haves and have-nots both right or both wrong? Or what? Experience and science and nature tells us that two people can both be right about what they perceive, and have very different perceptions. Some how I can see two parents arguing over 'how' to deal with the three year olds grabbing toys from each other. But if we were to refer to a parenting guide book, of which I happen to have read a few there is a general consensus that conflict resolution is in order. That sharing is good and beneficial. Im don't know, I'm still trying to figure out why anyone would feel guilty about. It seems like a waste of time. More interesting to me is to see if there is any way for humans to share all the resources in the world as more people need them than ever. I felt like a claustrophobic feelings as GG&S moved around the world scrunching up space. Whatever happened to the 'fertile crescent' that is now what we call desert...kind of frightens me. Could it happen here? I may have said this before, sorry if I'm a broken record, but I always think of Irelands potato famine. And I always think of ways of speaking and thinking and living as organic material. If it is narrowed down to one style or one way does that make it vulnerable to collapse? To a cultural famine of some kind?
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (49 of 56), Read 44 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Tuesday, December 12, 2000 07:16 PM Candy: I can't offer suggestions about population pressure, resource exhaustion or global climatic change, but as for those two fighting children, give them each a gentle swat on the butt and tell them to behave or you'll kill them. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Dick, The Literary Genre
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (50 of 56), Read 44 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, December 12, 2000 07:32 PM So far I can't imagine any parent figure coming around and giving us a swat...but I like your idea...until that time maybe we can swat ourselves? Forget this guilt idea, how about some action or/and contemplation?
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (51 of 56), Read 44 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, December 12, 2000 09:04 PM I made it through G,G,&S as well. I decided that the repetition must be there for people who read the book slowly or for those who are reading it for a college course. By the end of the book, I knew what Diamond was going to say. I learned a lot by reading this book even if it wasn't easy to read. I found the charts and information about the domesticable plants and animals in various parts of the world to be fascinating. I also enjoyed the part about the development of writing. I, too, found it interesting that it was the norm for more powerful people to move into a society and take over either by slaughtering the other tribes or by enslaving them. Is it human instinct to be at constant war, like the Isrealis and Arabs or the people of Ireland and Northern Ireland? Are we as Americans just complacent and lazy since we are no longer out there colonizing and killing? I feel more "educated" after finishing this book. Jane
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (52 of 56), Read 41 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, December 12, 2000 09:25 PM I don't know if there is any 'proof' or 'evidence' that it is human nature to be at war. I haven't seen or read any such proof. There are always speculations about that...but it does seem to be that farmers tend to be very aggressive and controlling in their struggle to maintain making produce.
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (53 of 56), Read 39 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Tuesday, December 12, 2000 10:08 PM Candy, I think farmers are just the poor suckers who support the military and political elite. You are right about race being a very flimsy concept. But I think the author is trying to show that Europeans are not superior to other peoples, such as black Africans, just because they developed a higher form of civilization. He attributes their advances to environmental circumstances, not superior intellect. Ann
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (54 of 56), Read 40 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: S. Bohinka (bohinka@riconnect.com) Date: Tuesday, December 12, 2000 10:41 PM Anybody see Diamond when he was on BookTV last year? I tried to watch it because this book, GG&S, had been a favorite of a friend of mine. I watched about 2 minutes and he totally exhausted me. Machine-gun type speaking style which was SO intense that I just couldn't handle it. Sent the tape to my friend. Now, of course, I wish I had it to compare to the book. :) Bo
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (55 of 56), Read 39 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Tuesday, December 12, 2000 11:59 PM I remember reading somewhere (not in GGS) that the development of agriculture parallels the development of war because agriculture brought forth the idea of private property. Hey you, your pet elephant just trampled my crops. Bang. Or his land is nearer the water than my land, so I want his land. Boom. Does Diamond address this? Ruth, still struggling away in Polynesia
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (56 of 56), Read 41 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Wednesday, December 13, 2000 10:50 AM Ruth: Lol. True. Isn't it that people are nice individually but don't let them get in a group? It's groups of people everybody needs to worry about. I think as a collective, humanity is really rather vicious and treacherous. War and such is probably very much our social nature. Who says America is getting "lazy" and such? We were in Kuwaiti in a heartbeat, remember? Somebody's pet elephant was in our oil patch, by God. Dan
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (1 of 71), Read 61 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: S. Bohinka (bohinka@riconnect.com) Date: Friday, December 15, 2000 04:42 PM I promised Sherry I'd put up a note today to start the discussion of this month's book. I know there was a previous thread (so if this is inappropriate, just ignore me :) I'm at a loss to try to come up with any organized way to try to discuss this. Do you think there would be any value to a 'chapter a day'? or something like that? (In addition to our normal ramblings, of course). Bo
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (2 of 71), Read 54 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Mary Anne Papale (mapreads@aol.com) Date: Friday, December 15, 2000 08:14 PM Bo, I don't know what's appropriate or not, but I'll give your suggestion a try by starting with my favorite chapter. One of the most compelling parts of GGS is chapter 10, “Spacious Skies and Tilted Axes”. I find it to be a disarmingly simple thesis, and highly persuasive. In a map on p. 177, Diamond compares the shapes and orientations of the continents. It is these axes that affect the rate of the spread food production, and probably other innovations as well. Some regions of the globe are much more suitable to food production than others. But why then didn’t some of those highly suitable regions take up food production earlier? The answer lies in the axis orientation, which promoted or prevented the diffusion of crops to other regions. Take, for example, the Fertile Crescent. Eurasia’s east-west axis allowed for a speedy diffusion of crops along a rather temperate latitude. But the Fertile Crescent crops also penetrated into close-by Africa, as far south at Ethiopia. But that continent’s north-south axis presented difficulties for spreading the crops any further. The Americas also have a north-south axis, and also experienced slower crop diffusion. Accompanying the spread of food production is the associated diffusion of peoples and cultures. And with those cultures, the fate of regions and continents. Eventually the Fertile Crescent lost its head start advantage. The region once had forests, which were transformed for agriculture. With low rainfall, the ecological balance shifted (p.411). Metaphors be with you... MAP
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (3 of 71), Read 50 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Friday, December 15, 2000 09:57 PM Mary Anne, thanks for your great post. This was an incredible chapter. He carefully amalgamated information here from a few disciplines and it is very humbling information. Jonathan if you are out there, I think with your love of Dune you would enjoy this chapter. Mary Anne has pin pointed the part where I felt a chill down my spine. The idea of the forests in the Fertile Crescent, now dry and sand. Possibly over taxed and over used...
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (4 of 71), Read 50 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Friday, December 15, 2000 10:53 PM Now that I'm a little further into this book, I'm finding it not so dry as the first couple chapters. But man, does this guy suffer from lack of organization. He pops here, he pops there, he says he's going to tell you something and then you don't get to it for 20 pages... Sheesh. Ruth
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (5 of 71), Read 51 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Mary Anne Papale (mapreads@aol.com) Date: Saturday, December 16, 2000 11:50 AM Ruth, you make a good point, and if you take a peek at the reading group guide at http://www.wwnorton.com it seems that this skipping around is intentional on Diamond's part. Specifically, #5 says: "What is the importance of the order of the chapters? Why, for example, is 'Collision at Cajamarca' - which describes events that occur thousands of years after those described in the subsequent chapters - placed where it is?" That's a really good question. My take on this particular chapter's placement is that it sets up the fundamental Diamond analysis of proximate causes v. ultimate causes. I can't think of another reason, but I'm certainly no expert. Metaphors be with you... MAP
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (6 of 71), Read 47 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: S. Bohinka (bohinka@riconnect.com) Date: Saturday, December 16, 2000 06:34 PM MAP, Maybe I'm an idiot but I can't find the reading guide on the Norton site. Can you tell me how to get it. I found the promo. The link to Bill Gates's review is already down. I tried searching for reading guides and didn't find it. Thanks, Bo
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (7 of 71), Read 48 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Sunday, December 17, 2000 08:43 AM Mary et al: Regarding the axes of continents, I was also pleasantly surprised by the wonder of Diamond working out his theory. Great insights are often so simple you wonder why no one ever sat down and figured it out earlier. Seems a child with map and crayons would have noticed the difference in shapes. The shape of the continents, the differences in latitude either helping or hindering the transference of agriculture--it is one of the high points of this book. Dan
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (8 of 71), Read 43 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Mary Anne Papale (mapreads@aol.com) Date: Monday, December 18, 2000 08:46 AM Here's the reading guide site: http://www.wwnorton.com/rgguides/gunsgerms.htm Sorry I didn't post the link before. I had forgotten how hard it is to get through Norton's web site. We don't seem to be having much of a discussion here. Is it the December crush? Or were CRs put off by the premature negative discussion? I hope it's not the latter. I don't think a disagreement with any one part of this book mitigates the weight of the entire thesis. Dan, I've been thinking about your previous post about your fellow teacher with the hard-edge attitude. And my thoughts are leading me to comment that Diamond says much the same thing. He says that the hunter gatherers lost the land to the farmers, those who planted crops and stayed to eat and trade the crops. I didn't, at any time while reading this book, feel guilt. To a certain extent, I think this book absolves guilt, since Diamond says that the reason why western Europeans prevailed was all an environmental accident, based on a plethora of proximate causes. I loved Diamond's Anna Karenina principle: "Domesticable animals are all alike; every undomesticable animal is undomesticable in its own way." Metaphors be with you... MAP
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (9 of 71), Read 47 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Monday, December 18, 2000 09:47 AM At first, I thought Diamond was extremely dispassionate, simply presenting a scientific hypothesis. As I get further along (just a couple of chapters to go), it's seeming more like he definitely has an agenda: "Racism is wrong, and we must come up with evidence to discredit it". As much as I might agree with that attitude, I think it weakens the book by making it seem like he's tweaking the facts rather than letting them speak for themselves. He's also getting a bit into the "Yabuts" frame of mind. If something doesn't fit in, he says "YABUT" and goes into an explanation of why things are really in accordance with his hypothesis when they don't look like it. Even with these caveats I'm finding the book interesting and thought-provoking. Definitely close to my top ten for the year. David
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (10 of 71), Read 48 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Monday, December 18, 2000 10:13 AM Dan and Mary Anne and David, really thoughtful ideas. Mary Anne I think you are so clear and right on with the idea of guilt, and part of why I didn't understand why there would be a guilt or blame situation either way, and why the doors to peace and resolution seem wide open after a presentation like GG&S.
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (11 of 71), Read 55 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Monday, December 18, 2000 10:52 AM The concept of guilt in connection with the trends that Diamond discusses is to me a fascinating study in human nature. Perhaps nobody else is interested in this. However, it has come up more than once here. We don’t like guilt, and we have this natural inclination to seek out ways of ridding ourselves of it. This past weekend I was reading an article about Indian (First Person?) burial grounds in Iowa from a children’s newspaper published in 1860. The author allowed as how the Indians were naturally eradicated by whites because the Indians had sinned. He likened this to the eradication of some heathen bunch by the Israelites. Whites were God’s chosen people in other words. Remember the story about the conquest of the Moriari on the Chatham Islands by the Maori that Diamond tells at the beginning of his book? The Maori explanation for this enslavement was pretty straightforward, akin to the Viking’s. Concerning this raping, pillaging, and burning, the Maori simply said something like, “Hey! This is what we do!” Personally, that seems to me a little more forthright, a little less hypocritical than the religious rationalization: “This was God’s will.” Perhaps some people are just naturally and genetically less susceptible to guilt. (Tangentially related to this is George Carlin’s rant about wishing to burn down the House of Blues. His point is that white people have no business whatsoever singing Blues. White people’s job is to give other people the blues.) Not too long after 1860 science started to replace religion as our favored method of dealing with guilt. Along came the Social Darwinists. Some people and even some societies are fitter to survive than others. Hence, there ought to be no guilt when some are enslaved to serve the dominants or even when some are simply eradicated. Now then, what is my point? Let me think here. . . . . . . .ah, yes! I don’t really see much difference between Diamond’s theories and Social Darwinism in this regard. Yes, he sugar coats his message by insisting that if we understand the natural causes of racism, genocide, enslavement, etc., we are in a better position to interrupt the recurrent cycles of these phenomena. In other words, this knowledge will better equip us to disrupt the natural order of things. Really? I don’t know. I think this sugar coating is simply necessary to help us with our guilt as we read about how in his view things really are. It is a ploy, perhaps an unconscious one, but nonetheless a necessary ploy to assist us with our guilt and allow us to accept the truth as he sees it. Steve
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (12 of 71), Read 60 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Monday, December 18, 2000 12:04 PM So carrying on and as with the others who have rendered an opinion on the subject here, I find Diamond's theses compelling. I mean, I am willing to admit the possibility that 50 or 100 years hence, his ideas may appear to be the quaint ramblings of a late Twentieth Century social alchemist. However, right now and based on the evidence available to me, he seems to be pretty much on the mark. What I am very skeptical about, however, is the feel-good idea that armed with this knowledge we will somehow be able over the course of a few years to fashion profound changes in the nature of mankind as it has evolved over millennia. That is not the true utility of this book. Rather, the true utility of this book is to help us realize our very limited ability to do that and to face up to these limitations for our own good. Does Diamond discuss the Balkans at all? I have not finished the book, but I continue to drive on. The Balkans are a beautiful example. There they are, situated in that strategic position on the biggest continent with an East-West axis. There is a variable food supply over the region. The place has been conquered innumerable times through history by different groups, and each group has left a vestige of its ethnic population there. Quite obviously, they have demonstrated in spades their inability to coexist in proximity. The measure of Tito's genius was that he was able to keep this conglomeration wired together as long as he did. What is the best lesson about the Balkans that we can derive from Diamond? On the face of it and taking Diamond at his word, one might conclude that because we now better understand these anthropological trends, we can more effectively manipulate the situation in the Balkans to bring stability to the area. I doubt it. It is guilt and not reason that induces us to try. Any stability we impose will be illusionary and quite temporary. I think the lesson we derive from Diamond is that we mislead ourselves if we think that any stability will come to that area before the trends Diamond describes have cycled out and one group has displaced or eradicated the others and established dominance. It's a cold and ugly lesson, but sometimes the truth is just that--cold and ugly. Steve
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (13 of 71), Read 55 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Monday, December 18, 2000 12:43 PM Steve: Kudos to those last two posts--dynamic reading. Is Diamond advocating an updated, annotated version of Social Darwinism? I want to say no, but everything in this book hinges on the point that the fittest society will always prevail over the not-as-fittest society. And that's Social Darwinism in the nutshell. It may not be race but a matter of agricultural roulette--"I'm sorry, White Cloud, your people chose a barren patch of desert while Ponce's people chose the fertile crescent a couple of million years ago--you're OUT OF HERE, Buddy! Thanks for playing WHEEL OF LIFE." Essentially, Diamond's argument comes down to the HAVES are from areas where there is stuff to be HAD and the HAVE NOTS settle in areas where they HAD NOT the stuff. It sort of drives me crazy--especially when we consider what Steve noted: How is this research useful? How does it help us now? Quite plainly, it doesn't. Tell the paralytic father who was knifed in the spine, who watched his family beaten, raped and tortured, that really and truly it's due to the fact that the raiders' ancestors settled in a place with an abundant supply of wheat and such while his ancestors chose to settle an area without decent grasses or pulses. No wonder "God's Will" sounds better and better all the time. Nor is this information good for diplomacy, good for foreign policies, good for anything. Except to help explain why an alien race who arrives on our planet to enslave us probably had better agricultural circumstances than us. Dan
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (14 of 71), Read 56 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Monday, December 18, 2000 12:47 PM Excellent, excellent posts Steve. I'm hoping that the discussion here is such that I will feel no guilt over failing to finish this book. I'm still plowing along, but am increasingly heeding the siren call of other books. Dan, I agree that this book is probably not going to change the future. Nor does it change history (would that we could), but it's an interesting take on things and I'm of the opinion that an increase in knowledge and understanding is never a bad thing. Ruth
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (15 of 71), Read 53 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Monday, December 18, 2000 01:26 PM Sometimes not reading the book creates interesting questions, like my consideration of this quote posted earlier by Mary Ann: "Domesticable animals are all alike; every undomesticable animal is undomesticable in its own way." I'm trying to think of the ways my bichons are like, say, chickens or perhaps, goats. And largely failing. Dick, The Literary Genre
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (16 of 71), Read 54 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Monday, December 18, 2000 02:22 PM I've gotten that far in the book, Dick. What he's saying there (he calls it the Anna Karenina Principle) is that in order to be domesticated any animal needs to possess a certain list of traits. So in that aspect all domesticated animals are alike, or at least their ancestors were alike. But if any one of these traits are missing or screwed up in some way, then the animals are not good candidates for domestication. Therefore all non-domesticated animals are not alike. Unfortunately, the book is so poorly organized that I'm unable to do a fast skim and locate a list of those traits. But rest assurd by Diamond that the ancestors of those warm fuzzies sleeping by your fireplace had them. Ruth
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (17 of 71), Read 55 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Monday, December 18, 2000 02:51 PM David, I'm with you. Much as I enjoyed this book, I was uncomfortable with the fact that Diamond obviously has an agenda. Steve, I think the Balkans are an excellent example of the importance of factors other than environmental circumstances which strongly affect historical outcomes. Geographical conditions obviously help explain why these countries have suffered so many invasions over the centuries. But what has determined their cultural fragmentation and the virulent nationalism that has torn the area apart for so long? Individuals and the manipulation of ideas are also very strongly at work here. My grandparents emigrated from the area around Dubrovnik, which was at the time part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, later part of the country of Yugoslavia, and most recently part of the country of Croatia. The Croatians and the Serbs hate each other, but ethnically they are the same people. Their language is the same, except that the Serbs use the Cyrillic alphabet. A significant different is that the Serbs are Serbian Orthodox and the Croatians are Roman Catholic, although one would think that those differences would have lost some of their edge after 50 years of Communist rule. My point, and I do have one, is that Diamond is only looking at one set of factors that influence the development of civilization. There are others, which may be equally important. Ann
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (18 of 71), Read 53 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: S. Bohinka (bohinka@riconnect.com) Date: Monday, December 18, 2000 03:45 PM MAP, I tried to read this book a year ago. Then I kept taking it out of the library (and taking it back unread) so I could get a head start on the discussion. I bought the book and have read about 10 pages. Would I have read more if you guys hadn't been as negative to start? Maybe. Right now I don't have a great deal of motivation. It seems to me (tell me if I'm wrong) that you can't really read a part of this and discuss only a part of it---that you pretty much need to read the whole thing to get the effect of his point of view. That, in itself, is a turn off for me. Even many novels you can discuss as you go along. (This is actually why I asked the "can we discuss a chapter?" question. If we could do that, it'd be easier to manage for me and maybe a few more people could contribute. If everyone has to read the whole book, it makes it harder.) And, I guess I may be in a bad mood today but I'm also a bit discouraged that when I finally do finish a book (if I don't conjure up exactly when everyone else is talking about it--which may be days or weeks before the actual discussion date or for a flurry of 3 or 4 days sometimes during the discussion 'time') there doesn't seem to be much happening. I have more to say about Dale's book but got tired of talking to myself. Same with Agee. I know a lot of this is spontaneous and can't be planned. I'm just discouraged. Steve's and many other posts are thought provoking and I will be back to talk about the ideas. Right now I have to clean up the mess here and figure out what to cook for guests who'll be here for dinner in an hour. Bo
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (19 of 71), Read 56 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Monday, December 18, 2000 03:59 PM Ann, actually there are only a couple of factors that make society. It's not a big mystery or one that you have to read a lot of books for. How a person gets food is how they live. It's plain and simple. I love all the phrases like c'changing history' or agendas,Steve you are touching upon so many things about manifest destiny that freak me out. And things like species domination and cultural domination. I agree that it is PART of what makes us human is to dominate and to annihilate. But also what is part of what makes us human is our imagination and our natural sensuous pleasure of sharing and having fun.
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (20 of 71), Read 53 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Monday, December 18, 2000 04:17 PM Certainly, Ann, and if I implied that, thanks to Diamond, I now have it all figured out, I did not intend that. I remain as bewildered as ever by this cruel world. I believe you are saying that Diamond's theses provide only part of the explanation for events such as those that have occurred in the Balkans. The question becomes just how much of any of these types of events does he explain? The genocide occurring in Rwanda and Burundi continues to this very day. I think that serves to illustrate your point even better. There is a book out now entitled We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will be Killed with Our Families by Philip Gourevitch. It concerns that African tragedy wherein 800,000 to 1 million people have been killed, something that completely dwarfs what has happened recently in the Balkans. I have read several reviews but have yet to read the book itself. However, I have tried to follow that situation as closely as I can. The point here is that nothing Diamond offers serves in any way to explain that African mess. While the Croats and Serbs may of the same ethnicity, there are certainly other ethnic groups in the Balkans. In Burundi and Rwanda, there is no ethnic difference whatsoever between the Hutus and the Tutsis. Moreover, there is no food effect in place, no farmers versus hunter gatherers--nothing like that. It seems to be entirely political. Diamond certainly down plays the importance of individuals and their conduct in human history. On the other hand you believe that his theories are helpful for an understanding but that the conduct of individuals is still very important. I have different ideas, but I am over posting here right now. Steve
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (21 of 71), Read 49 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Monday, December 18, 2000 04:29 PM Wait a minute, Candy. Don't misunderstand me. I'm with Sheryl Crow all the way. All I wanna do is have some fun. That's all I want for anyone else, too. One thing Diamond's book clearly does for me is heighten my thankfulness that I have lived my entire life in a dominant and temporarily stable society. I haven't had the experience of being a poor hunter-gatherer constantly fearful that some farmers are going to charge in and grab my women and murder my children. Nobody in attendance here has had that experience either. Which in turns makes me wonder how anybody in their right mind can become suicidal in the midst of this great party. Geez! But they do apparently. The Gap runs out of khakis, and people get suicidal. Steve
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (22 of 71), Read 46 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Monday, December 18, 2000 04:34 PM Steve, No, of course, I did not think that you accepted Diamond's theories lock, stock and barrel. I was more or less thinking out loud there. Your Rawanda example is an excellent one. Once their biological needs are satisfied, people seem to be really driven by the need for economic and political power, don't they? I continue to think that Diamond's book has some very interesting ideas and that it does help to explain why advanced civilizations did not develop in subsaharan Africa or the Americas. I also think individuals and accidents play an important part in any society. Ann
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (23 of 71), Read 47 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Monday, December 18, 2000 04:39 PM Oh, hell. In for a dime, in for a dollar. Guns, Germs, and Steel also reminds me of the late, great stand-up comedian, Sam Kinniston. During the famine in Ethiopia, he used to scream, "Listen to me, people! You're living on a pile of sand! You can't grow anything there, and you're all going to starve! MOVE! Pack up your shit and MOVE!" Steve
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (24 of 71), Read 46 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Monday, December 18, 2000 04:44 PM Ann, man has displayed an immense propensity for slaughtering others of his own species. There is something at work here far beyond the scope of what Diamond talks about. In Darwinian terms, I have to think that there must be something adaptive about that. Steve
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (25 of 71), Read 44 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Monday, December 18, 2000 05:38 PM The willingness, indeed the need, to be part of an identifiable group, and if need be kill and die as part of that group is somehow part of our human psyche. In Hutu-Tutse terms it has acted out as inter-tribal conflict on a grand scale with enough western overlay to allow killing on a grand scale and not merely village to village. In more 'civilized' societies we call this urge 'patriotism' and in all fairness, have made some progress toward limiting its more terrible side-effects, largely through the invention of television and movies which have shown us just how terrible the effects of unrestrained group enthusiasm can be. Personally, I believe World War I is very close to being a modern, western, version of the Hutu-Tustse slaughter. We just like to think it was "better" in some sense, since we wore uniforms and killed each other by the million with a set of rules in place. Thinking about all this, I'm always reminded of the old comedian's routine (Carl Reiner perhaps?) about the guy in the stone-age who invented patriotism, with the chant: "Go, fight, beat Cave 103!" Dick, The Literary Genre
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (26 of 71), Read 43 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Monday, December 18, 2000 07:26 PM I see what you mean Steve about someone coming in to the huntergatherers and beating them, but there are different ways for dominant oppresive behaviours to manifest. I can't see why if we don't accept it our children, we would accept it in our selves.
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (27 of 71), Read 41 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Monday, December 18, 2000 08:24 PM Because, alas, the clean air of logic does not penetrate into the deep corners of the human psyche. Ruth
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (28 of 71), Read 40 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Mary Anne Papale (mapreads@aol.com) Date: Monday, December 18, 2000 08:41 PM Now this is more like it. I post a whiny where-is-everybody message in the morning and by night there are 18 new posts. Please don't get discouraged, Bo. Sometimes you just have to shake things up a bit around here. I first started reading this book on an airplane (big mistake), but didn't get into it until the axis chapter. Then I was stunned enough to go back to figure out what I had missed. Has anyone read the Epilogue, where Diamond calls for the study of the science of human history? I am heartily resisting the notion of pigeon-holing this book as social Darwinism, because I think that misses the mark. We seem to have lost sight of the fact that Diamond never set out to address every single human interaction since time began. Just some of the major ones. He proposes that all the rest can be taken up in due course in this science of human history. Metaphors be with you... MAP
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (29 of 71), Read 40 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Monday, December 18, 2000 09:03 PM I could be confused but in there room for horses shoes up the heiny in Social Darwinism? I think this is suggesting it is by pure luck that some people are haves and some not. I don't think there is any kind of survival of the intellectually fittest here...or of progress how are you all defining Social Darwinism I am trying to find a reference, but I thought this philosophy was thrown out years ago...
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (30 of 71), Read 51 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Theresa Simpson (theresa.a.simpson@gte.net) Date: Tuesday, December 19, 2000 12:08 AM Diamond organized some facts in a new, and in some ways revealing, fashion. He didn't explain the world; what he did do, rather ineptly, was approach some questions in a novel manner. I found the axis argument interesting. I agree with whoever said Diamond resorted to the Yabut argument far too often. In the end, this book ain't all that and a bag of chips, but it was something (pretzels, maybe?) and I'm glad I read if, if only for the opportunity to sneer at Diamond a bit for his failings. Theresa, who tried a drink called a Chocolate Cake tonight, and still isn't sure if she liked it
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (31 of 71), Read 50 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Tuesday, December 19, 2000 06:01 AM Dick, I liked your thought provoking remarks comparing the slaughter of World War I to that of Rwanda. Is one case more civilized than the other because it was restricted primarily to military personnel and the participants used guns rather than machetes? Hard to say. Was World War II an advancement over World War I because so many civilians got an equal opportunity chance of being wiped out? Or was World War II one of those rare examples of a just war? There is something very scary about human beings in large, anonymous groups. Oh well, back to Diamond. Ann
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (32 of 71), Read 54 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Tuesday, December 19, 2000 07:53 AM Got through it last night. I have to say that Diamond kept surprising me a bit; just when I figured out what he was going to say next, he would generally come up with a little twist. In the epilogue, he makes it appear that his main purpose is to put history on a scientific basis, to use elements of the "scientific method" to produce insights about the forces affecting historical events. The focus is on broad, general trends, not individuals. This allows him to be nonjudgmental. He doesn't condemn the Spaniards for conquering the Incas, but simply tells why they were able to do so. And the reason isn't the will of God, Manifest Destiny, or the supremacy of one race over another--it's the accidents of geography and ecology that led to guns, germs and steel. This isn't a book about individual ethics, but Ann's "large, anonymous groups." Hence, I don't think it should make people feel guilty about the actions of their forbears, but to understand there is are influences and experiences common to all human kind. One statement did make me laugh--when he stated that a history covering 13,000 years and five continents in 400 pages had to be, of necessity, brief. Har. This book could have been about one-third as long without losing much. I'm reminded of the preacher who explained his technique: "First I tell them what I'm going to tell them, then I tell them, then I tell them what I told them." Diamond does this, only he adds about 47 repetitions in the middle. David
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (33 of 71), Read 55 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Mary Anne Papale (mapreads@aol.com) Date: Tuesday, December 19, 2000 10:02 AM Theresa, It is my fervent hope that the sneering at authors doesn't sap the energy of this or any other discussion. In my experience here, and with in person book discussions, sneering dampens willingness to discuss. Metaphors be with you... MAP
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (34 of 71), Read 54 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Tuesday, December 19, 2000 11:31 AM Candy: Thank you so much--you're absolutely correct. Diamond's thesis is a cogent argument against Social Darwinism and does not even come close to supporting the notion. It isn't the cathedrals, the scientists, the politics of a nation in the grand scheme of things--it's the raw material out of which these notions gradually develop. David: Like you, I was impressed with Diamond's plea to implement the notion of scientific research techniques into the social sciences. It's an old argument--even literature went through a similar 'let's get scientific' in the 70s with quantum studies of Madame Bovary and such. In a sense, I wonder when all studies will progress from the paradigm of the scientific method and what those studies will be like in the future. Dan
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (35 of 71), Read 55 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Tuesday, December 19, 2000 12:15 PM I agree that it's an argument against Social Darwinism. All I meant was that this is a form of determinism like Social Darwinism in the sense that one simply substitutes ample environmental resources for genetic superiority. Steve
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (36 of 71), Read 59 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Tuesday, December 19, 2000 12:31 PM Steve, I don't think Diamond would call it "determinism"; in fact, he addresses this at one point. Having all these advantages doesn't necessarily mean that a given nation will conquer the world--just that having them gives a greater opportunity to the possessor. For instance, he points out that China had a long history of agriculture and technology before Europe, yet did not wind up "engulfing" nations to the extent that Europe did. In this case, their political unity came too early, and a few individual conservative despots were able to slow the march of "progress" in a way impossible in fragmented Europe. It all made me think about reading Asimov's Foundation trilogy again. David
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (37 of 71), Read 57 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, December 19, 2000 04:47 PM I am at a public computer in a book store and when I first came here it said Cr was an adult site and not deemed for public access. Now that is a humbling idea when we aren't free to talk about books! Or even the idea of how we judge a book. Or the idea of how we can censor and kill off a book.I feel very lucky that I am not very well educated or well read and I'm even low class and not highly intelligent because a book like Guns Germs and Steel was probably written for me. Thanks Mr. Diamond. Any kind of barrier that prevents us from loving each other and helping each other and learning is a form of censorship. And thought control. Fortunately, the smart people don't need to read this book, because they are already out there making the world a better place, gee I think they are on the front pages of the paper they are so smart and loving. but for the rest of us, I have to say that I am not interested in how stylish a book or work is all the time, sometimes there are exceptions and times to just think deeper. this book is addressing those WAYS of thinking and feeling and looking at our world. He may not be a poet, but he has heart and he is giving us a clue in this book. Maybe even a very helpful clue about the future of how we look at history. Now I have to go help a little old lady cross the street.
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (38 of 71), Read 52 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Mary Anne Papale (mapreads@aol.com) Date: Tuesday, December 19, 2000 08:52 PM Amen, sister, LOL. And speaking of China, as David just did, I really liked that chapter too. Isn't it just a wee bit mind bending that of their 1.2 billion people, 800 million speak the same language? Here is a country that is as geographically diverse as any, and yet they can generally communicate with one another. Diamond does a good job explaining all the forces at play in China, including the pivotal role of the two rivers. Metaphors be with you... MAP
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (39 of 71), Read 55 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, December 19, 2000 09:17 PM I don't understand why some of you are getting defensive about others here who are criticizing this book. Isn't that what discussion is all about? I found JD's ideas to be interesting, but I did get tired of the repetition. David is right that JD could have cut a good bit of this book. When we lived in Gabon, Africa, there were many different tribes of Gabonese living there. Except for the pygmies, the people looked very much alike to me. But the tribe a person's tribe was very important to each Gabonese. Even today, people from a different tribe mistrust each other. They remember when it wasn't too long ago that a person from another tribe might poison you. My father lived in the jungle among the various tribes, and he tells me that the pygmies were enslaved by the other tribes. He has some great pygmy stories to tell. The whole point of this paragraph is to say that I think that Diamond is right. It is human nature to try to dominate others. I think that is still at work everywhere in the world. Maybe, we just hide it better now. Jane
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (40 of 71), Read 54 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, December 19, 2000 10:18 PM Jane I totally appreciate what you're saying, and I'm not sure if I'm feeling defensive rather than burnt out from what I feel is a kind of mood of been there seen that and I don't know, sure this book may not be SJGould. But he is a once and a blue moon writer. If Diamond came in and listed off his associations without backing them, he'd be the laughing stock of the science community. it's a no win situation. Gould is coming in after a lot of certain studies and giving us anecdotes and wonderfully. But does every person and scientist have to be homogenous? Whatever, I'm over it.
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (41 of 71), Read 68 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Theresa Simpson (theresa.a.simpson@gte.net) Date: Wednesday, December 20, 2000 12:58 AM Criticism doesn't necessarily dissuade me from reading a book; and a discussion that was all approbation would not be all that interesting. Diamond has some interesting ideas, not necessarily all that novel. But his delivery is lacking. Yep, style is important to me. Words are important, in and of themselves, and how they are used, both to convey and interact with ideas and concepts. I don't think good science writers are all that rare - I can think of several excellent books of this type I've read in the last few years, and I don't read much in this genre. The best was Sex and the Origins of Death, in which a UCLA (?) medical professor spends the first 3/4 of the book giving the best lay explanation I've ever read of how a human body functions at a cellular-level, and the last 1/4 discussing the moral implications of how we determine when death occurs, given the discussions of the actual, biological functions of our living bodies. The author managed to beautifully combine science with philosophy/morality - it is this artistry that I found missing from Diamond's book. Theresa
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (42 of 71), Read 67 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Wednesday, December 20, 2000 02:00 AM I am inspired, I'm throwing my copy in the garbage right now.
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (43 of 71), Read 67 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Wednesday, December 20, 2000 07:10 AM Gosh, Candy, don't do that. Part of Diamond's thesis is that garbage dumps are one of the foundations of civilization. You see, garbage dumps mean fertilizer, which produces plants, which mutate into different varieties of plants, thus increasing candidates for plant domestication ... and the rest is history. You throw this book away, and you may be the person responsible for producing the civilization that engulfs the U.S. and Canada! More seriously, I want to make clear that I was fascinated by the ideas in this book--my biggest gripe, as is Theresa's, is the writing style. I note that many of the chapters were originally published separately as magazine articles; perhaps this accounts for some of the repetition. David
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (44 of 71), Read 69 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Wednesday, December 20, 2000 10:15 AM giggle
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (45 of 71), Read 72 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Wednesday, December 20, 2000 10:36 AM I'm still slogging along, and it's the writing that's doing me in, not the ideas. I'm finding them fascinating. I think style does count in a book. It doesn't count if you're only going to critique the ideas. If he's got good ideas and the facts to back them up--that's what's important there. But if he's presenting them in a book that people (i.e. the general public as opposed to scientific journal readers) are going to read, then to consider only the ideas and not the style is to consider only part of the book. A book is not only about its subject, it's about words and writing, too. Ruth
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (46 of 71), Read 74 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Wednesday, December 20, 2000 11:26 AM I agree with Ruth to a certain degree--style makes a large difference with any work, especially a work of non-fiction. However, it is Diamond's thesis as well as his endless parade of informative facts and insights on culture, history, and domestication that holds the reader's interest For the facts and insights alone, this book is worth its weight in gold. And that's what makes this book such an enigma: It's repetitious and without poetic expressions, yet it engages the reader. Frustrates at times--Oh God, yes--but engages the reader. Perhaps what Diamond needed was a better editor to tell him, "By the way, you're repeating yourself ad infinitum, how about letting this passage go?" Dan
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (47 of 71), Read 77 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Wednesday, December 20, 2000 11:34 AM Well, it's not engaging thisreader. And it isn't just the repetitions, it's that he's all over the map all the time. Not much of an orderly progression of ideas. Can you imagine trying to make an outline of this book? It's the ideas and only the ideas that are keeping me knee deep in the ol' muddy, but what with Christmas and the siren call of other books, I may poop out. Ruth
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (48 of 71), Read 59 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Wednesday, December 20, 2000 08:29 PM I think that Diamond pretty well backs up his writing in the bibliography in the back. It is entitled, "Further Readings". If we had time to read everything he lists in the back, I am sure we would be convinced of his theories. Ruth, I am not sure that I agree that JD is all over the map here. Each chapter discusses a particular topic. For example, in Part Three, Chapter 11, he writes about "The evolution of germs", and in Chapter 12, he writes about "The evolution of writing". Chapter 12 was one of my favorite sections. Jane
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (49 of 71), Read 62 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Wednesday, December 20, 2000 09:54 PM I figured somebody would call me on that one, Jane. It's within the chapters I'm complaining about. I've been having a time, skimming back through chapters I've already read, trying to pick out the main points again. I just wish his writing was as orderly as his thinking. Ruth
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (50 of 71), Read 43 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Friday, December 22, 2000 06:45 PM I was just looking at Bea's Christmas Light Show over in the Salon. Scanning right to left, I was struck by the fact that the Fertile Crescent is just about the same latitude as the middle of the 48 contiguous states. Not to mention the USA's east-west axis. Now, if someone can just explain why an east-west state like Montana isn't as wealthy as a north-south state like California... David
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (51 of 71), Read 48 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Saturday, December 23, 2000 10:19 AM David & All: I haven’t read Diamond’s book, but have followed the discussion of it with interest. This week, I came across (small world) this reference to it in a review of a different book, and was curious as to what you guys would make of it... Title is THE MEASURE OF REALITY: Quantification and Western Society, 1250-1600, by Alfred W. Crosby. (One of his earlier books was ECOLOGICAL IMPERIALISM: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900.) The reviewer writes, “In ECOLOGICAL IMPERIALISM, Crosby focused on the ‘biological advantages’ the Europeans enjoyed, a theme also taken up by Jared Diamond in GUNS, GERMS, AND STEEL. However, that line of explanation, Crosby writes, seemed insufficient to account for the scale of European dominance. The ‘textbook answer’--superior European science and technology--failed to satisfy became it merely reframed the question. “The real answer, Crosby came to believe, ‘lay at first not in Europeans’ science and technology but in their utilization of habits of thought that would in time enable them to advance swiftly in science and technology and, in the meantime, gave them decisively important administrative, commercial, navigational, industrial, and military skills. The initial European advantage lay in what French historians have called mentalité.’” “Why, then were European imperialists ‘unique in the degree of their success’? It is because they were, according to Crosby, ‘thinking of reality in quantitative terms with greater consistency than other members of their species.’ Strangely, having stated his thesis so straightforwardly, Crosby never attempts to argue it in any systematic way. He characterizes, at some length, what he calls ‘the Venerable Model’--the old mentalité--that the new quantitative model replaced. He considers some of the conditions, such as ‘the rise of commerce and the state’ and ‘the revival of learning,’ that nurtured the shift to ‘quantificational perception’ but were not the direct agents of change. Then he offers such evidences of change as the development of clocks and the increasing sophistication of marine charts and astronomical observations. “Finally, in a sequence of chapters (‘Music,’ ‘Painting,’ and ‘Bookkeeping’) Crosby discerns a common pattern in seemingly disconnected enterprises: ‘visualization,’ the ‘striking of the match’ in the revolutionary process he has proposed to survey. The ‘habit of visualization,’ which is second nature to us today, was then a novelty, ‘a new way not so much of thinking about the infinite and ineffable as seeing and manipulating matters of finite and daily actuality.’ “Visualization, then, in the special sense intended by Crosby, is a powerful tool of abstraction: “‘Record events in chronological order on parchment or paper and you have a time machine. You can step back and observe beginnings and endings simultaneously. You can alter time’s direction, and you can halt time so as to imagine individual events. If you are an accountant, you can proceed backward to find a mistake; you can construct a balance sheet like a still photograph of the whirling storm of transactions.’” *** I’m not sure I entirely buy the visualization thing, but it’s intriguing. (Too, weren’t accountants constructing balance sheets in ancient times, albeit on stone?) Is all of this at odds with Diamond’s theories, do you think, or could the two concepts co-exist? >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (52 of 71), Read 49 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Saturday, December 23, 2000 11:12 AM Dale: I think the 'visualization' thing has merit as an argument, although the way Crosby framed it seems too narrow. I think it would be almost impossible for us to imagine the world view of tribes people of the 15th or 16th century -- as to their notions of time, geography, or of social organization or cohesion. If you had to summarize the differences between the tribal and the European view at that point, I would say it this way: in the tribal view virtually everything in the world and in life simply 'was' in terms of human intervention or ability to change and the concept of changing these things was not part of the tribal world view. In the European view of the time, significant (but not nearly all, of course) parts of life were mutable and subject to conscious manipulation; if you didn't like how things 'were', then you acted to change them. If you add to those fundamental differences in world view such things as disease vectors and technology differences, I think you can account for much of the differential 'success' rates of the two broad cultural groups. One thing I've noticed as a practicing lawyer is how education/social strata effects world view (and whether this is relevant to the discussion here, I'm unsure). One thing we do in this business is question witnesses intensely about timelines -- when did something happen, relative to something else? Was it before or after 'x'? 'What years did you work for Smith Brothers?'. Those sorts of questions. One of the almost invariable markers of educational background and/or social class in these Q&A sessions, in my experience, is the witness' ability to deal with these time-linked questions. People without much education and/or social sophistication (I mean this in a general way; people who don't travel much, who go to work, socialize with an insular group of family and friends, are very 'rooted' but without much contact with any wider world experience; in many respects 'ordinary' people) typically, although not invariably, find it difficult or impossible to describe events with accuracy in terms of time or any events external to their immediate lives (i.e., what year did it happen versus 'it happened after I got married but before my first child was born'). And this ability or inability to describe life in terms of some larger, chronologically sensible scheme or external events, seems directly linked to how well the witness has functioned in life in terms of employment, financial matters, even social relationships. The lesson I've drawn from these experiences that our ability to plan, organize and implement activities in our lives has to do with the sophistication of our personal world view: when we, through education or whatever, gain a sense of the world around us, happening and for want of a better word, 'progressing', we have a measuring stick against which our own lives can be organized, and that this 'self-awareness' vis-a-vis the rest of the world is, in and of itself, helpful to us in being functioning individuals. Conversely, where we have no wide 'world view' and no sense of ourselves in relation to a larger social whole, our functioning is at a much lower level. I think that the former, higher level of functioning, is analogous to that which the Europeans of the 16th century possessed, and the latter, lower level of functioning, is analogous to the tribal world view. And note, I'm not suggesting that these different levels of function are biological or intelligence based. Individuals vary; what I'm trying to describe is a broader condition created by education and/or social class differences modernly, and from entirely different cultural viewpoints, historically. Not sure whether any of this makes any sense, but I'll post it anyway. Making sense is over-rated, in my world view. Dick, The Literary Genre
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (53 of 71), Read 48 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: S. Bohinka (bohinka@riconnect.com) Date: Saturday, December 23, 2000 12:35 PM Dick, Interesting to put it in the trial/witness framework. Who's that lawyer that wrote a book using her trial experience to do a self-help type book that came out last year? Your post made me think of two other things. One was a book I read last year about how different cultures see time. It's excellent and I just can't find it in my book journal. While I was reading your post, I thought about how even in today's "modern world" that the variations in cultural views of time make us miles apart. The other thing that crossed my mind was some guy's theory of moral development. When I first heard about this 20 years ago it really made an impression on me. There were 3 main stages. His view was that most people never made it past stage 2 which was a 'right & wrong', law & order level whereas stage 3 was justice. (I don't remember if education/background had anything to do with a person's ability to get to the 'higher' level.) >>Conversely, where we have no wide 'world view' and no sense of ourselves in relation to a larger social whole, our functioning is at a much lower level. I'll agree with this in the context of our society. I think that developing intuition and oneness with nature are a couple of things that we've lost and that I wouldn't necessarily consider them to be 'a lower level', just a different one. >>I'm trying to describe is a broader condition created by education and/or social class differences modernly And since this is where we all are, it's tough to get outside out own world view to see some of the complexities of others. >>Not sure whether any of this makes any sense, but I'll post it anyway. Making sense is over-rated, in my world view. LOL! That's the reason I keep posting! Bo
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (54 of 71), Read 52 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Pres Lancaster (plancast@neteze.com) Date: Saturday, December 23, 2000 01:19 PM DALE/DICK/BO VERY provocative subject. I have copied off DICK'S post in order to wrestle with it, though I am in general agreement with all that he says based on my own experience of dealing professionally with groups of people (and lawyers). As of now, I am chewing on how to "account for the differential success rate of the two broad cultural groups". Since no simple, ready answer springs to mind {G}, I chew. The discussion reminds me the four books by Lewis Mumford on the subject of civilization and the effects of The Machine, of Urbanization, of Development of Personality, Etc. Also his following book: The Pentagon of Power, The Myth of the Machine. FRUMIOUS BANDERSNATCH
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (55 of 71), Read 59 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Theresa Simpson (theresa.a.simpson@gte.net) Date: Saturday, December 23, 2000 01:55 PM Dick, I think the two methods just use different language to do the same thing - organize events chronologically. Those who have experience in business or whatever have learned to use the language of the calendar, those who have no need for it don't (what is, really, more important to you - the calendar date your kid was born, or the fact that event took place, at a certain time in relation to other events . . .) Dale, that book sounds a bit like one of the Bell Curve genre - but I haven't read it, so I'll withhold judgment. This need for simple explanation (as opposed to accepting the world in all its inherent complexity - not that I'm espousing either as the ideal approach) is one of the ways a "scientific" approach can fail us. Look at how excited people get when some discovery about the cancer-causing/cancer-preventing qualities of some food or other is reported. Think about the many types of food each person eats and the multitude of other factors in everyone's life - broccoli may be good for you, but it's not going to save your life all on its own! Broccoli is not the "explanation." Or, look at the history of phrenology (the "science" of measuring bumps on the skull, "discovered" by an Austrian scientist in the late 18th century - at the time of the French Revolution). This "explanation" that each individual's moral and intellectual faculties are innate was revolutionary at the time - that birth did not equal destiny, but rather the inherent qualities of each individual. Fit right in the with the ideals of the French revolution. Phrenology was very popular among Victorians, and anthros even into the early 1900s used it to ("scientifically", of course) "explain" differences between different cultural groups. The Nazi's then rediscovered the value of phrenology as a "scientific" tool; and used it to "explain" the natural superiority of the Aryan race (including subjecting non-Aryan school children to skull measurement in front of their classmates - you know, as science education). We laugh now, but this "scientific" means of "quantitavely" explaining the world was considered "all that and a bag of chips" in its time. I guess what I'm saying here is that "science"; a "quantitative" approach to life; and simple "explanations" are not necessarily as objective as we would like to think. EVERYTHING takes place in the context of the propounder's world view, agenda, etc. (the guy measuring when things happened by events in his own personal life is just more up-front about this, Dick.) The world is a very complex place. A quantitative (really, isn't this just a "reductionist") approach may have value in the context it was designed to handle, but it terribly oversimplifies the world we actually live in. I just don't buy any attempt to "explain" the world in one fell-"scientific"-swoop. Maybe poetry (i.e. style) is a way of recognizing the wonderful complexity of the world. Science is great as a means of formulating an approach to problem-solving, but it necessarily reduces the world to something it really is not. Wow, I do go on, don't I? Theresa
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (56 of 71), Read 58 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Saturday, December 23, 2000 02:00 PM Wow --very interesting notes. I agree that the European and tribal mind sets were worlds apart at the beginning of the age of discovery. But what about other cultural groups that were at one time ahead of the Europeans, such as the Chinese, Japanese, and Arabs? Did their cultures just solidify and, after awhile, fail to accept innovation? If so, why? Will ours also? I suspect that the fact that Europe had more cultural diversity within a relatively compact area did much to foster competition and the interexchange of ideas. This in turn led to "progress" as we know it. Dick, those were very interesting comments about varying reactions to time. Like most people, I tend to assume everyone thinks like me. It's good to be reminded that they don't. Ann
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (57 of 71), Read 59 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Saturday, December 23, 2000 02:50 PM It's certainly true that people who orient themselves chronologically by personal history are doing essentially the same thing as those who do so with regard to calendars or external events. What I found interesting, though, is that while calendar-people can orient quite easily using personal experience, if they want to, those with personal history orientation often simply cannot accurately correlate dates with events. Even if you dig out calendars and draw time lines accounts of events by such people often remain jumbled and unclear -- leading me to a tentative conclusion that this chronological orientation business is more than something we learn in grade school, and that it has some deeper cultural significance in how the individual learns to think about him or herself, in relation to the external world, at a very early age, and moreover, is so deep-seated that it is not a world-view that is easily susceptible to change, even when the person knows and understands the technical tools of a differing approach. I guess I am most reminded of those anthropologist stories about the tribal people who could not, initially, recognize photographs as representations of reality. On the other hand, I may have too active an imagination and this could all be the product of having set through hundreds and thousands of mind-numbing depositions where the witness seems incapable of speech, much less sense. Dick, The Literary Genre
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (58 of 71), Read 63 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Saturday, December 23, 2000 03:39 PM Sheesh. When did I join CR? Hmmm, it had to be after I bought my first computer, but I'm sure it was before I bought my second. I know it was when I was still teaching... Ruth, mired in personal history
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (59 of 71), Read 64 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: S. Bohinka (bohinka@riconnect.com) Date: Saturday, December 23, 2000 04:54 PM Dick, That grade school age learning of orientation is an interesting concept. But like Ruth, I've found that as I've aged, I have a whole different concept of time. When I was 30 I could probably give you a timeline of my life pretty accurately. At 40 it didn't seem that important. Now that I'm pushing the next decade I don't remember years of historical events or personal history that I've lived through very accurately. Then you have the phenomenon of elderly people who remember their younger years very clearly but not what happened recently. Bo
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (60 of 71), Read 53 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, December 24, 2000 12:08 AM (Psst, Bo--was that book A Geography of Time by Robert Levine?) David
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (61 of 71), Read 55 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: S. Bohinka (bohinka@riconnect.com) Date: Sunday, December 24, 2000 12:32 AM David, >>>(Psst, Bo--was that book A Geography of Time by Robert Levine?) YES! Thank you!!! Did you read it? I think a lot of CRs would like this one or at least portions of it. The subtitle is: The temporal environment of a social psychologist. This is a book that's good to read in small doses. I think I took the book out of the library 6 times before I finally finished it. He's a good storyteller and his anecdotes about various culture clashes over the time issue as he travels around the world are the most insightful. It's a hard book to describe. There's some stuff about the history of time and also some charts of different paced cultures. I guess I saw the guy on Booknotes, though at this point I have to admit that I remember more about reading the book than about seeing that show. I'm interested in the way we view time and have read other stuff about it. This guy is definitely the most entertaining. Bo
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (62 of 71), Read 52 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Sunday, December 24, 2000 09:40 AM Very interesting notes, folks. Much food for thought. Bo: A GEOGRAPHY OF TIME sounds like a must-read for me. Your first description of the ideas about growth, though, reminded me of a chapter by (cover your ears, Theresa {G}) Scott Peck, author of THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED, in his book A DIFFERENT DRUM. I found the latter to be pretty wimpy, overall, except for a very potent chapter on levels of human spiritual growth that really made a light bulb go on in my head regarding patterns of behavior. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (63 of 71), Read 54 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: S. Bohinka (bohinka@riconnect.com) Date: Sunday, December 24, 2000 01:59 PM Dale, I take it you've had some rather, er, intense discussions about Peck here in the past. If I remember correctly Different Drum is about community stuff (based on Peck's Foundation for Community Encouragement). My ex went to some of those workshops back in the 80s. Did you ever read Peck's novel? Except for the psychobabble, I thought it was pretty good overall. Bo
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (64 of 71), Read 57 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Sunday, December 24, 2000 03:12 PM Bo: As much as I admire Peck, and his community-building projects, I thought DIFFERENT DRUM was one of his weakest books...lots of stating of obvious, with some jargon thrown in. The section on the stages of spiritual growth, though, blew me away. Alas, I read his novel THE BED BY THE WINDOW and found it absolutely excruciating. Maybe my expectations played a part in that. I felt the same way about Deepak Chopra's venture info fiction, THE WAY OF THE WIZARD. Which raises the question...I can think of a lot of fiction writers who turn to nonfiction with wonderful results, but I can't think of many times where the reverse is true. Although, I was very taken by columnist Bob Greene's novel ALL SUMMER LONG. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (65 of 71), Read 50 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: S. Bohinka (bohinka@riconnect.com) Date: Sunday, December 24, 2000 10:54 PM Dale, Is it the sports guy Hamill that wrote Snow in August? It was what came to mind when you talked about non-fiction guys trying to write fiction. I was going to try a new book discussion group at the library. I called, the librarian told me that Snow in August was the book for the discussion. I suffered through it, got there to find that it was NOT the book they were discussing. Bo
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (66 of 71), Read 55 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Edd Houghton (eddh@pacbell.net) Date: Monday, December 25, 2000 03:42 AM DALE ERNEST HEMINGWAY started as a newspaper reporter. Newspaper non-fiction writing seems to a path followed by quite a few to fiction. EDD
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (67 of 71), Read 57 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Monday, December 25, 2000 09:08 AM Bo: SNOW IN AUGUST slipped past my notice, somehow. I see on Amazon that it got very mixed reviews...a thumbs up from NYTBR, but AudioFile called it "embarrassingly juvenile," or something like that. Edd: You're right. I was overlooking the newspaper connection. It's definitely been fertile ground for a lot of fiction writers. Sherwood Anderson, if I remember correctly. and Pete Dexter, whose PARIS TROUT is one of my all-time favorites. I think Hemingway was quoted once as saying that journalism was great experience for a writer "if you know when to get out." I guess I'll get out when they stop paying. {G} Merry Christmas, >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (68 of 71), Read 62 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: S. Bohinka (bohinka@riconnect.com) Date: Monday, December 25, 2000 02:24 PM Edd, That's true, the newspaper people are a different breed. Clifford Simak, one of my favorite SF writers worked as a newspaper writer while doing his SF. Bo
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (69 of 71), Read 86 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Monday, December 25, 2000 02:55 PM My first husband was an investigative reporter/ journalist/newspaperman...An absolutely brilliant man with extraordinary writing ability, he did a lot of work for UPI, and AP as well as for a New York newspaper.(Actually, he would love CR, and if I were on speaking terms with him I would tell him about it, but I'm not, so I won't.. lol) And, I certainly can vouch that newspaper folks are a different breed. Beej
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (70 of 71), Read 88 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Monday, December 25, 2000 02:57 PM ( Dale..present company excluded...) :-) Beej
Topic: Dec 15 Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (71 of 71), Read 76 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Monday, December 25, 2000 07:42 PM Beej: Newspaper folks, a different breed? No offense taken, I assure you. Many moons ago, my grandfather, possibly the most perceptive person I've ever known, said to me very tactfully one day..."Dale, is it just my imagination, or are the people you work with at the newspaper...I mean, nice folks; VERY nice folks...but...just a little bit...?" The question hung in the air. "Weird?" I supplied, and he laughed. "Definitely," I assured him. "Absolutely." Truer words were never spoken. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (57 of 65), Read 30 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Saturday, January 13, 2001 04:05 PM For those who read this selection, here's an interesting tidbit from the New York Times. about one of the central issues Diamond examined: why are some societies rich and some poor? http://www.nytimes.com/2001/01/13/arts/13SUCC.html In addition to the factors Diamond examined, the article cites to research suggesting broad cultural factors can play as big a role -- or bigger -- than any others. I tend to think this is overlooked area. In Diamond's book, for example, he repeatedly referenced the Spanish conquest of the Incas and Central America as being due to the pronounced military superiority of the Europeans over the native populations. This was, I thought, a very simplistic (and esentially incorrect) view of the matter. The Spanish weapons of the day were only marginally better than spears and bows and arrows -- the firearms having rates of fire measured in minutes-per-round, and accuracy of perhaps 100 meters on a good day with a tail-wind. To say that a hundred or so people, so armed, could not be overrun by tens of thosands of Indians (and in close country, where fields of fire would often be limited) because of the technology differential is simply wrong in most regards. I thought when I read those sections, and continue to think, that what allowed the Spanish to prevail was a cultural difference -- the Incan culture could not, literaly, imagine or percieve what was happening to it in the critical battle-field encounters and their warriors stood gaping, while they and their leaders where slaughtered and captured. The material in the cited article tends to follow this line of thought. Dick In The 21st Century
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (58 of 65), Read 32 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Saturday, January 13, 2001 08:55 PM Dick, I thought that Diamond made that point as well. The local leaders were fatigued after a civil war and they were tricked into meeting the Spanish. The indigenous people did not bring along any weapons with them. They probably couldn't believe what was happening to them. Jane
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (59 of 65), Read 37 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Theresa Simpson (theresa.a.simpson@gte.net) Date: Sunday, January 14, 2001 12:33 AM Well, which came first, the chicken or the egg? Some of the cultural traits cited in the article could be the result of prosperity, not its cause. I don't think there is any simple explanation of relative wealth (or almost anything else, for that matter.) The world is an incredibly complex place. Many factors lead into any one result, and that result becomes yet another factor interplaying with all of the others. Theresa
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (60 of 65), Read 40 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, January 14, 2001 12:43 AM By Jove, she's got it. Ruth
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (61 of 65), Read 24 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Monday, January 15, 2001 12:50 PM Bacteria came first, heh heh. Um this has been a pretty funny discussion, both threads. Its such a good example of the idea in physics about the observer affecting the observed. I keep wondering about the significance of the authours friend who started him on his journey of looking at the 'haves' and the 'have nots'. His book and thoughts are inspired by an emotional and experience rather than an intellectual befginning, and yet then we communicate with our intellect to have any worth in our culture, to have legitimacy. It just may be impossible for the 'haves' to understand this book. And maybe there is some experience needed to follow the kinds of leaps this book makes. As corny as I thought this book started out with him making a work to explain to his friend who lives in a different culture than he came from it seems to be a clue as to how to approach NEW ways of looking at history. Maybe a reader needs a friend a guide into the world of other cultures, of the 'have nots'. ???? Possibly this book is not understandable as by the 'haves', by the dominant culture of the world, like the lack of understanding the co-worker Dan had a conversation with. she is a good example of the stubborness of dominant cultures to listen to new ways of doing and thinking and living. This may be the weakness of non-fiction and intellectualism... This is a good example of the power of fiction and poetry and movies to transport us to a way of thinking and feeling that has the potential for being transformative.
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (62 of 65), Read 28 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Theresa Simpson (theresa.a.simpson@gte.net) Date: Monday, January 15, 2001 02:25 PM No, no, first there was the word (grin)! Candy, I think Diamond's friend was that literary device familiar to anyone who has ever read Time magazine (I believe I have mentioned my detestation of Time here on more than one occasion, so don't take that reference as a compliment). Diamond had an ANALYTICAL point he wanted to make; he came up with a human HOOK to pull the reader in to his analytical point. The PNG guy was just a tool of the machine, in other words. Fanon would be a much better literary reference than Diamond for the point I think you are trying to make. For one thing, Diamond is one of the elite of the haves, while Fanon was the real thing and could speak from his own experience, albeit as an elite of the have-nots. Theresa
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (63 of 65), Read 26 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2001 12:59 AM good point(s).
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (64 of 65), Read 19 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2001 11:00 AM I'm presently reading Stephen Jay Gould and in his essay "The Diet of Worms and the Defenestration of Prague" he presents the argument that genocide/barbarity is embedded in one's genes--the classic genetic argument that man is man because of what is in his genes. Gould, of course, argues this is complete hogwash. He notes for every potential of man to commit acts of atrocity there is the potential to commit acts of sacrifice and benevolence. Our genetic makeup has little to do with what we do. I was reminded of Diamond, who also looks at the atrocities of the past but does not blame genetics. Dan
Topic: Jumping the Gun/(s), Germs and Steel (65 of 65), Read 14 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2001 12:45 PM Ah Dan, I love that guy Gould. Is it possible to love someones mind and never know them, but have them influence and inspire one from a far in their books. I swear there have been times when I have really felt life was good reading him. I have read every Natural History article he's written and every compilation of them, and every book. His books are regular re-reads for me. What amazes me is one of his re occurring themes is our resistance to renovation of history or ideas. In Wonderful life, he says how pop knowledge still thinks of humans as an 'acheivement' in evolution, when more likely we are a barely clinging branch on the tree of life. Hey Dan, have you ever been to the web site 'badscience'?

 
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