Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Guns, Germs, and Steel

Upon first reading this book, I honestly did not realize what the point that Diamond was trying to make in going through a progression of all these different societies dating back to the pre-Clovis people. I did not understand how it related to science or medicine really. After a few discussions and reading some posts, I realized that a lot of it had to do with nature and how humans in the pre-colonial eras made a living for themselves off of the land they had. Diamond intertwines a mixture of history and sociology but in my opinion he does not discuss science or medicinal techniques as a dominant part of his book.

Diamond goes extensively into the different cultures and societies that were building at different points in time. One of the early societies he starts to analyze are tte Native Americans in the Fertile Crescent and people of New Guinea. These people were extremely important to us today because they helped domesticate animals and were the first ones to hunt and gather which helped the human population survive in times where there was little technology. On page 160 there is a outline of the domesticated animals at the time on different countries. He goes on to state that "This very unequal distribution of wild ancestral species among the continents became an important reason why Eurasians, rather than peoples of other continents, were the ones to end up with guns, germs, and steel," (Diamond 161, 162). I feel that this quote, besides having the title in it, encompasses a lot of what Diamond is trying to achieve in this book. He wants to find out why certain countries and continents ended up like they did. Why some of them had advanced supplies and advanced crops while others lagged behind. He also wants to know what  fueled these differences and why some places did not ever catch up.

Some countries learned to domesticate and use nature to their advantages, like Europe, much quicker than other countries did. In his chapter called "Necessity's Mother" Diamond starts to talk about the first developments of human technologies and he also states that Europe and Russian countries were the first to succeed in these areas, such as ceramics, printing, and anatomy. In fact, Europe was the country in the lead in all aspects, including science and population in general, according to the chart on page 263 even into the 1990s. One of the reasons Diamond states for disparities between the Native Americans and the European societies was the food production differences. While Europe had protein- rich cereals and advanced tools to farm the Native Americans and some other countries did not. Ultimately, Diamond is examining why human societies such as these , that were all in communication with each other, developed completely and utterly differently.

In his afterword, Diamond states "My main conclusion was that societies developed differently on different continents because of differences in continental environments, not in human biology. Advanced technology, centralized political organization,...could emerge only in dense sedentary populations capable of accumulating food surpluses," (Diamond 426). Diamond wants the take away of this book to be that societies develop accordingly depending on the resources at hand, and these can make or break a society as a whole. He might not have used the most concise and precise way to do this. however he provided an extreme amount of details that are beneficial in understanding how societies came to be today.

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