It Ain’t Necessarily So

Many of you will have read Jared Diamond’s Pulitzer-decorated book Guns, Germs, and Steel. It makes what has seemed to many (even to me, when I first read it) an overwhelmingly persuasive case that the persistent inequalities in power, influence, and prosperity among the world’s population groups — why, for example, did Europeans colonize the Third World, and not the other way round? — were due entirely to the constraints and accidents of geography, and of native fauna and flora. The book was a mighty affirmation of our era’s hegemonic human-universalist worldview, and along with its Pulitzer, received lavish praise from all quarters. It quickly became a central resource in the modern, Progressive (but I repeat myself) canon.

As time went by I came to understand that the argument put forward in GG&S, while certainly presenting important and clarifying insights and questions, is not quite the slam-dunk it seemed. Now Greg Cochran, co-author of The 10,000-Year Explosion has put up a series of blog-posts examining Diamond’s arguments.

You can read these posts here. And if you haven’t read Cochran’s book: drop everything, follow the link above, and do so at once.

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