Monday, February 20, 2012

Guns, Germs, and Steel

*Newsflash....I read the first half the wrong book. Fantastic.*

From what I've read (up until chapter 10), I thought Guns, Germs, and Steel was interesting in some ways, but overall kind of dry. I admire the author's intense detail of possible cases and examples supporting the usually all-inclusive hypothesis he sets up (such as the conquering of Latin America by the Spaniards), but personally I was more interested in the way he set up many of his arguments with questions that supposedly have been answered by (usually) white philosophers/researchers/scientists.

One such discussion was about human intellect and how some try to say that white/European people are genetically disposed to being smarter. Diamond goes on to refute this fact by putting this into perspective. Due to the advance of medicine and technology, more and more arguably "less fit" people are passing on their genes to subsequent generations. However, in these isolated societies such as the Guineans, tougher living conditions and the unforgiving nature of disease and disaster have only allowed the "fittest" to survive. I thought that was very interesting, because I, usually think of intelligence in the Western sense, in terms of a knowledge bank. Diamond points out that the people he encountered in New Guinea were among the most intellegent people he's met, but not in a book or subject sense. Additionally he noted that they could take up industrialized methods and techniques very quickly if taught.

On the whole, I was also interested in his emphasis on luck and geography. He points out that geography directly affects wildlife diversity and potential problems for species living in certain areas, among countless other factors. These factors can then be used to how some human societies were able to take advantage of their situation and prosper. I had always learned the history of such sequences was more related to the psyche of the people - the smart and strong conquered, but Diamond's intricate explanations showed me that chance and environment were much more important in the development of history than most think. I thought this ties into our discussions regarding health outcomes in society being a direct effect of one's environment, starting with pre-natal conditions. By reading this, I am leaning much more toward the idea that health is far more effected by environment than genetics, barring genetic disease. I look forward to maybe reading about more of the health effects in history in the second half of the book.

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