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August 17, 2007

Comments

Edris Boey

I understand from this article that Diamond is trying to explain the reasons human history unfolded differently over the past 13,000 years which are namely politics/competition in the various communities/societies and technological advancement and maintenance. While I do agree with Diamond based on the evidence and argument he has provided, I feel that the climate and nature of conditions of the land will also hugely affect what people can do, and how they live, which were only briefly touched by Diamond.

Brad DeLong

Why do people suppose that that is? Why does Diamond soft-pedal the climatic differences between, say, the Canadian prarie in the Americas and the Danube River valley in Europe?

Xing Zhen Wu

Diamond directly goes over the historical development of human society to support his idea that the modern inequal development of society is based on the environmental differences rather than biological differences among pepole. I agree that geographic and climatic differences can casue the difference rate of development, but competition of survival in human socity also plays an crucial role. The compition enhances the technology advancement. That is why stone tool and sailing directions were invented.

Chris Schoeneborn

I found Diamond's insights into why history unfolded as it did very intriguing, especially his geographical explanations for socio-economic inequality over the past thousands of years. I was already aware that Eurasia's location, north of the equator, is a main factor contributing to its economic success, with its relatively temperate climate. It is also interesting to note that every country located along the equator struggles economically, likely due to extreme temperatures. It is unfortunate that the African and South American land masses stretch vertically, from north to south, rather than east to west, such as the United States. I certainly agree with the argument that a people's "success" is due to geographical factors, not intelligence.

Evan Caso

First of all, I would highly recommend Diamond's book titled: Guns, Germs, and Steel. He goes much more in depth in the book obviously. One aspect he does not elaborate on, however, is if geographic differences between the continents foster "different" intelligences. For example, if food is plentiful and the climate is liveable, one can devote more time to education than another person who must struggle to simply survive. It seems to me that people are not smarter than one another in various regions, but simply acquire different skill-sets. Does reciting the Constitution take more intelligence than building a canoe? It is not possible to answer that question quantitatively. The sad fact is that schooling and acquiring booksmarts seem to be the factors associated with an increase in the standard of living. Perhaps the best way to lift many in Africa and South America out of poverty lies in finding ways to increase and streamline food production so human and physical capital can be re-directed to education and innovation.

Amy Kim

Observing how Eurasia was characterized by a high population consisting of constantly competing societies in contact with one another, contrasted to the island of Tasmania's low population of a single society completely insulated from any foreign influence, America’s status as the most affluent country with a high quality of life seems to make sense. This unique melting pot of different sub-cultures and ethnicities in competition with each other to channel one’s own interests, and the nation’s receptive attitude toward the global community with trade and diplomacy bear a striking resemblance to Diamond’s description of Europe as it was at the peak of its conquests of the New World. Such qualities, as Diamond describes, do not allow a high tolerance for technological backwardness and in effect accelerates civil improvement.

Matthew Cohen

I like the way that Diamond brings a scientific approach to history, seeking to explain why the New World had the advantage instead of simply accepting the seemingly racist belief that they were "more advanced." By adopting a line of reasoning that focuses less on the people and more on their surroundings Diamond transcends issues of race and intellect and is able to deduce, for example, why the New World had far more deadly strains of viruses than the Old World as well as why Eurasians were able to produce more food and domesticated livestock. The dichotomy of east/west and north/south continents also provided an excellent example of what happens when plants and resources cannot survive longitudinal shifts, thus affecting the human populations that must depend on them.

Edward Lam

Diamond’s explanation of Eurasian supremacy based on biological and scientific evidence validates many advantages over other continents. However, I am skeptical of the argument that because Eurasians had more time from their domestication and agricultural advantages, they were able to develop their other assets. True it is difficult to pinpoint a sole reason for Eurasian dominance over the rest of the world but I think Eurasians' ability to domesticate themselves through social structuring and education led to the advancement.

Anita Wong

Diamond addresses a few important examples that may determine how technological development and modernization can be the deciding factor of economic growth. Different resources caused the Indians to lack what the Europeans succeeded in constructing (weapons, horses, steel) thus allowing them to become more vulnerable to be subjugated. Climate changes from the north/south, west/east and the domestication of plants and animals in these areas may explain the introduction of diseases, the availability of food and local resources. Not only does geography play a role, but culture and social environments may have also assisted in the way continents developed through public policy and government systems. For example, during the Great Leap Forward (1958), Mao Ze Dong was influenced by the West, so he wanted China to shift away from an agrarian economy to one that was more industrialized. However, at that time, they had a poor program structure and lacked the proper domestic resources to do so.

Yufei Li

I find it interesting that Diamond introduces and closes his article with the concept of the imbedded racism within our history. This concept of bias is also interrelated with Diamond’s discussion regarding whether history and the social sciences in general are looked down upon by numerous physical scientists in part because economic experiments cannot be conducted in a mere laboratory.
In addition, although my fellow students claim that Diamond barely touches upon climate’s effect on societies, the concept of climate in Diamond’s article is a vital one. But the argument is closely correlated with another argument: the availability of animal and plant species for domestication and its adaptability across regions. Therefore it is not mere climate by itself that is the major concern but whether climate provided the resources (animal and plant species) necessary for the rise of a dominating and sustaining civilization.

Simon Shen

Diamond makes a very intelligent and well-rounded argument. However, I feel that he overemphasizes the role of environment in the story of human progress. Sure... population density, domesticable animals, and climate were probably all major factors... but there are fundamental cultural and societal differences between different continents that Diamond fails to address. For example... one can argue that the European focus on capitalism and individual success spurred technological innovation and competition for raw materials, which directly led to a race for resources culminating in the colonization of the New World. In contrast, the communalism found in many New World societies led to a less aggressive attitude towards expansion (except in the case of the Aztecs). There are numerous religious differences as well. A major reason for the demise of the Aztecs was the fact that they made many enemies with neighboring tribes through their religious practice of subjugation and human sacrifice. Most of these tribes banded together behind the Spanish (once they arrived) to topple the Aztec empire. There are countless other cultural and religious factors like this that should not be discounted.

Vinit Sukhija

I, too, find it fascinating that Diamond prefaces the article with a discussion on an inherent trait that all humans possess--that of racism. It's almost a subtle contradiction. Diamond is trying to decipher why civilizations developed so differently, yet he simply does not stray far from the innate human trait of racism. In this fashion, it almost seems like it doesn't matter why civilizations developed differently; groups of one ethnicity will always see other ethnicities as inferior. I do realize that I'm dealing with matters that are only pugnacious, but the topic just seems to trivial to me. Aside from this conviction, I feel Diamond soft-pedals climate and natural resources because the explanation seems almost TOO protrudingly obvious. Climate wouldn't have created any technological discrepancies. It seems like Diamond was searching for an absolute answer, one that would explain every nuance of every culture in the world, including skin color, language, societal habits, etc. He doesn't sugar-coat anything in the article, which I like, but it seems like he didn't really find that concrete answer. There are still too many incongruities to this question. There is no one absolute answer that can explain every difference between cultures.

Minna Howell

I found Diamond's arguments for why history unfolded as it did very convincing and found his theory on how the domestication of animals affected human history especially interesting. When he asks the question of why Europeans colonized sub-saharan Africa before sub-Saharans could colonize Europe he implies an egalitarian view of humans which brings up the somewhat controversial question of would the colonized have done the same to the colonizers had they been in their position. I believe his answer is yes and I find that the way in which he formats his questions throughout the article helps to strengthen his rather scientific argument and discredit any rascist explanation of human history.

Hanwen Chang

This is a very interesting piece by Jared Diamond. He pointed out several points to back up his argument on how geographical explanations are key factors in explaining agricultural and technological advancements among various continents, instead of biological differences, which ultimately decided the fate of a particular race. Given the detailed explanations and arguments, I find Diamond’s theory possible and persuasive. However, I think Diamond should also include reasons such as cultural differences and land/soil quality as few of the many reasons that caused the differentiation on human history. With that addition, his theory will be more plausible and hold a much entrenched perspective.

Jerry Hong

I found Diamond's argument about turning history into science very interesting. My co-workers this summer and I have thought about this very same issue a lot. Are social sciences really a science? Interestingly enough, my answer and Diamond's answer are rather similar. I completely agree that the physical sciences are the "core" science and the social sciences are what make the physical sciences unique.

Now about the racism topic. I find it interesting how Diamond claims that racism occurs because some people do not think others can be educated better. It seems ironic that people who are educated better may think others are "less good." This is because education is necessary to move society forward. The way human lives and how technologies improve are all correlated with how well education is in society. Unfortunately, for every good, there's some evil too.

I agree that there's a possibility that history happened without racism influencing it. However, it seems naive to not take it into account. Hence, I believe Diamond's arguments to be controversial, but they are definitely interesting to think about.

Evan Fleming

I think that Diamond's arguments in regards to the reasons why there are disparities between the continents and human development rates throughout world history are extremely relevant. Commenting to his analysis on the differences between the old world and new world, I think that his explanation for why the new world native americans didn't have the advantages makes alot of sense. However, I think that some of the reasons why new world inhabitants chose not to domesticate were based more so on their culture, ideologies, and values rather than on overall human development and understanding. Additionally, Diamond's analysis for each specific continent is very interesting in seeing the socio-geographical differences between the various regions, and explaining why they evolved a certain way. Diamond builds a very strong case for the inbalanced development between continents, but I think his analysis would carry a little more weight if he spoke about these differences from a perspective that reflects a more recent time period. I believe a contemporary analysis would allow the reader to understand his reasoning with more clarity, and therefore could relate the culture, social, and biological differences that we find between continents in our world today.

Wei Li

I agree with Diamond's interpretation that biological differences are not the determining factors for why different people developed differently. Geography in my mind is the decisive factor for the differences in development. Geography is inclusive of the different natural resources available as well as the climate of the area. Climate drives different groups to develop differently. Eg. If an area is particularly cold, a more advanced shelter may be developed in order to combat this. One facet that I believe is not emphasized enough is the question of isolation. It is my belief that the more isolated people are, the less likely they are to be as developed as the people that are in constant contact with one another. If this is considered, it is no wonder that the Europeans, Middle Easterners and Asians were the most developed people of their times. They were the ones where were able to have continued contact with one another.

Shannon Lee

I agree with Diamond's argument that the evolution or development of a society heavily influenced by the geographical situation. This is because I have taken a course that analyzes the situation of Sub-Saharan Africa today and the geography and climate has a lot to do with their inability to develop as quickly as Eurasia. Most continents are different due to their physical geography and we cannot expect each to develop in the same manner. It is like how even the same species of animals evolve differently in different areas. Thus, I believe we should hold our racial prejudices aside and accept the "underdeveloped" countries and let them grow at their own pace and way.

Yaoyao Wang

Although Diamond provides substantial evidence to support his arguments that different natural environments shaped histories of different continents, I find that he neglects the importance of cultural values on historical developments. Perhaps Diamond is correct in the sense that climates and the availability of animals and plants provided Europeans and Asians more free time compared to Africans and Native Americans. Europeans and Asians used that free time to expand their knowledge. With knowledge came technology, with technology came power, and with power came greed. Of course, with greed came more conquests and the will to gain more territories. Diamond’s arguments are suggesting that if the situation reverses and Native Americans and Africans are blessed with better environments, they would be the conquerors instead of the conquered. I disagree that given the same circumstances, people of different continents would make the same decisions. As Diamond mentions, Europe and other technologically advanced countries enjoyed many opportunities to communicate with the outside world. On the contrary, Native Americans and many African tribes enjoyed their status quo and were not eager to establish an information network with other countries. They were more concerned about the well-being of their tribes and how they could live peacefully according to their traditions. Thus given the opportunity to build better technology or to conquer another race, they probably would chose not to. As for the Europeans, they had every ambition to dominate the world, which suggests extremely contrasting cultural values. Diamond agrees that the difference in human races is not biological but cultural. Therefore he should also agree that human instincts will not aid different races to come to a unanimous decision about world conquering, rather cultural values will guide people to make completely different decisions based on their priorities.

Sean Salas

After reading Diamond's piece, I agree with the author's notion that "Guns, Germs and Steel" are key components that distinguish the form of organization and activities performed by distinct populations across the globe. One must question the relevance of his theory in viewing history in the past decade and century. Such as questioning how difference in technology and social organization (resulting from supeorior handle of guns germs and steel) present themselves as key factors in the US' predominant role in the World Economy. I would argue the US' dominant role in the World Economy IS a result of its superior use and innovation of technology, and a highly competative social demeanor.

Krista Seiden

This article piggy backs a lot off of Diamond's book Guns, Germs, and Steel when it talks about apparent wealth and power as compared to geographic locations and the gift of agricultural plenitude dating back thousands of years. I find it interesting that Diamond blames the different rates of evolution of technologies over 13,000 years for the differences of modern (AD 1500) civilizations. He credits the early development of the ironworks and written language of Eurasia to their ability to reproduce agricultural crops and thus grow their civilizations faster. His comparison of Old world and New world are quite dramatic, but I think the lines of thinking are right on. The old civilizations of the the America's and Australia are not given enough credit for their advanced civilizations due solely to the fact that they did not have iron or steel weaponry and fell easily to the plague brought by the Eurasians. Because these people were so isolated until the modern age, they fell easily to the diseases and "advanced" technology brought after Columbus' and subsequent explorations began. It is a shame that these cultures are nearly extinct because of what Diamond would refer to as bad luck when it came to agricultural development over the previous 130,000 years.

Krista Seiden

This article piggy backs a lot off of Diamond's book Guns, Germs, and Steel when it talks about apparent wealth and power as compared to geographic locations and the gift of agricultural plenitude dating back thousands of years. I find it interesting that Diamond blames the different rates of evolution of technologies over 13,000 years for the differences of modern (AD 1500) civilizations. He credits the early development of the ironworks and written language of Eurasia to their ability to reproduce agricultural crops and thus grow their civilizations faster. His comparison of Old world and New world are quite dramatic, but I think the lines of thinking are right on. The old civilizations of the the America's and Australia are not given enough credit for their advanced civilizations due solely to the fact that they did not have iron or steel weaponry and fell easily to the plague brought by the Eurasians. Because these people were so isolated until the modern age, they fell easily to the diseases and "advanced" technology brought after Columbus' and subsequent explorations began. It is a shame that these cultures are nearly extinct because of what Diamond would refer to as bad luck when it came to agricultural development over the previous 130,000 years.

Angela Le

I feel that Diamond's approach in analyzing history is incredibly similar to modern political economy. It is true that most people view history as a soft science that cannot be measured;however, it is the use of economic and traditional analytic tools like statistics can we begin to understand how economics drives history and vice versa. His article and theories very much reminded me of the book "Freakonomics".

Anthony Samkian

Diamond makes very strong arguments why the geography and environment of Eurasia helped its people develop superior technology than the rest of the world had. He also claims that a greater population leads to more innovation. However, I feel that he should have also pointed out how the growing European population led to greater competition and put an increasing resource constraint on its people, creating a significant incentive to expand their territories. Then there are also cultural differences that play an important role in what use a population makes of its technology. His arguments of why Eurasia had a decisive geographical advantage are very convincing; however, I feel that other important aspects of explaining the European dominance in the modern world were their cultural and economic motives for territorial expansion.

Joseph Chang

I liked it.

And, the article publicizes the book fairly well -- "Controversial... Racism" And yeah "Guns, Germs, and Steel." I already fell for it though and I can say without any hesitation that the book is not nearly as interesting as the title and this article purports it to be (except for the part where he narrates the final battle in which hundreds of thousands of Inca warriors died while "battling" the Spaniards).

Simon Zhu

Diamond's argument here is very compelling, especially considered from a biological point of view. Monoculture is extremely dangerous to a species' survival, as all members of the species will all share the same weaknesses, and might get wiped out in a short time by a common cause. I wonder if Diamond could have chosen better examples for his efficiency comparisons. Although the Japanese meat industry or German beer industry are less efficient, the loss in efficiency is affordable. And if for some reason (war, disaster) there is an endemic disruption of supply chains, people in the United States and other countries that import and ship their food over long distances might face disastrous famines. I don't think the world needs more efficiency as badly as it needs variety and equitable distribution at this point.

Min Ru Jiang

I found Diamond's article interesting. He shows that geographical and environmental differences are closely related to the continental differences. He argues that the biological differences are not the factors of why human history differ from continent to continent. From his continental comparison,I realize that why Europe is superior to other continents like America, Africa, Autralia...etc..
Eurasia is east/west.It has different and advance development such as guns, sword,oceangoing ships, political organization, and writing due to the greater advantages on domesticated plants and animals.

Lara Palanjian

I respect Diamond for his attempt to answer such a broad question and hypothesize what sources have lead to inequalities in modern human societies. He presents the human experience in an evolutionary framework, arguing that history has been ordered by chain reactions that allow societies to translate innate advantages to technological advantages against other societies. He traces the roots of societal inequality to the 1500s, when different civilizations were already on different playing field in terms of modernity and technology. His main thesis is that geographic location and climate, which have allowed domestication of plants and animals and therefore agricultural advancement, are the main sources of the Eurasian advantage. The favorable environment enabled Eurasian peoples to develop agriculture, herding, metallurgy, and “complex political organizations,” as he calls them. His argument is persuasive, yet I would question whether he ignores the role that religious and cultural institutions play in directing societies. Ultimately, I appreciate that his research highlights the fact that economics is a discipline that inevitably interacts with other fields such as biology, biogeography, archaeology, and linguistics, as he claims that these areas helped him arrive at his conclusion.

Donovan Rose

Diamond's argument is logical and appears immune to criticism. His assertion that a continent's axis is a large determining factor in development was particularly compelling. Scientists maintain that regardless of race, human beings share the same brains and other genetic characteristics (pretty much the whole "we are all the same inside" line of thinking). If we are all the same inside, there must be a reason why societies developed differently, and Diamond attacks the reason head-on in the article. Many say that Diamond does not address competition, but he does. The abundance of resources in Europe (due to the spreading of crops and livestock) opened markets for citizens to take advntage of. With these new, plentiful markets, political organization developed, and competition spurred technological advancement, allowing the Europeans to conquer. Diamond's line of reason is completely logical, and I cannot find a tension in it.

Eric Regan

I think that Diamond raises some interesting points regarding the differences in development between continents over the past 13,000 years. I found his theories regarding isolationism and Tasmania to be the most intriguing, particularly how once Tasmania broke away from Australia they had no means of communicating with the people on the main island, and how they disregarded some of the technologies that they had already learned. Diamond's arguments reminded me of an article I read last year in Econ 115 which discussed geography (climate for crops, disease burdens, navigable rivers) as the ultimate determinant for economic outcomes in particular countries, especially in Africa. In the same way, Diamond focuses on factors like the east/west axis of Eurasia leading to the domestication of plant and animals, which in turn, led to many Europeans being exposed to diseases and developing immune resistance to them.

Ji Y Lee

I find Diamond’s argument lacking in subsistence. It seems like he is trying to base his argument solely on the domestication of animals. The domestication of animals could not have been the sole factor in determining the different evolution of the continents. But his attempt to look at this from a non-racial perspective is quite fascinating.

Wei Shao

In response to Y Lee's comment, I believe that Diamond's argument drawing its roots from the domestication of plants and animals prove to be quite impervious. His reasoning is extremely logical: human civilization is a direct result from the growth of the agriculture society in which the hunter/gatherers were essentially ousted. Thus, the domestication of plants and animals play a significant role, if not the most important role, in the development of human societies as we know it today. Those who lacked the ability to domesticate such plants and animals for their use will ultimately fall behind in the race for social and technological development, and in the long run be eliminated by those who are faster and superior. I find Diamond's theory on the geographical effects quite interesting. I've never quite thought of the American continents and the Africa continent as "vertically" aligned and the main Eurasian continent as "horizontally" aligned, and I've never imagined that such an alignment would have so great of an influence on the agriculture growth in the regions.

Qi Rong, Ng

I find Diamond's explanation about why the history of human societies are so different, very interesting. He listed proximate reasons like military and technological advantages, the spread of contagious diseases introduced by the Europeans, the political organisation and writing and the availability of flora and fauna suitable for domestication and the ease with which they could spread. I agree with his view that other things being equal, the rate of human invention is faster and the rate of cultural loss is slower in areas with competing societies and in contact with societies elsewhere. A case in point can be seen in the olden days China, where their inventions and cultural artefacts are lost due to their 'middle kingdom' attitude which prevents them from interacting with the outside world.

Robert M Lee

I found Jared's article on geographical human advancement throughout history extremely intriguing. Initially, my own thoughts about the socio-economic inequalities of different regions during the 1500's revolved around culture. However, reading Jared's points i realize that geography and location reinforce my views because they have large influences on how people develop their culture in the first place. I wouldn't completely rule out the thought of biological differences between races, but if they do exist I believe they originated between these differences in geography and conditioning over extended periods of time.

Robert Chomik

Diamonds argument is very straight forward, logical and intuitive. It's hard to disagree, even though it's not "scientifically based". I think his analysis of competition and cooperation (or sharing inventions) is convincing. One could directly apply this reasoning why Eurasian countries, especially European, have developed faster in terms of technology: nations have cooperated together (big groups) against others they were in direct competition with and have contacted frequently, at times through trade, at times through war, but always at contact. I also think that Europeans have developed all that Diamond was talking about (political organization, animal domestication, surplus food, etc.) because, in a way, they had to. Starting with surplus food. More than likely they had to figure out a way to store food over the cold winter for a large amount of crops they grew during vegetation season, hence, surplus food or just enough to feed the population over the course of the year. As opposed to the equatorial climate, where fruit, nuts and other sources grow almost year round due to climate. I think that Diamond didn't emphasize enough the environmental factors of developing societies. Why did people start to domesticate plants and animals? Because they had to due to differences in climate or because they lived in closer proximity and had a better chance of creating new ideas? I also think this might be a circular argument.

Joseph Chang

Well the article doesn't go into the different political structures that made western european countries become the dominant region for the past few hundred years, so just going by the article it would seem incomplete...

i.e. Western Europe Vs East Asia circa 1500

East Asia with its rice based society had, by default, a much more densely and heavily populated civilization at the time. Also, up until this period East Asia was also the region in which most technological innovations came from. This is all consistent with his thesis. However, one would then need to explain how this changed to a world where Western Europe became the technological leader and came to colonize large parts of the world.

And, this can be explained through his argument again. If his phrase "all other things being equal" is taken out and the religious wars of Europe and the various nation states that were created -- and which competed amongst each other -- are considered, then it only makes sense that small nation states which are in constant competition with each other (Protestants vs Catholics) would overtake a complacent Sino-centric world. This is not only consistent with his thesis, but since his argument explains the world so well up until this point, it only makes his argument even stronger.

He's right on the money (but his book sucks except for that part about the Incas).

Xia Hua

Diamond’s point in the article is that different human history is not a result of difference in human intelligence but limit to many factors such as social structures, limitations of the environment due to the difference in geography, difference in cultures developed and different lifestyles. We need modernization. The ones being colonized were farmers, hunters and gatherers different from the modernized way of living. For example the European conquered the Native Americans with modernized weapons and spread germs that killed most Indians before they could reach the battlefield. The two worlds were disconnected, which enabled the difference. I find the topic discussed to be quite interesting and thought provoking. Would human history be the same if we are just one big connected mass of land?

Wing Yim

I found this article very interesting, Diamond analysis the basic sense of the human development differences between the New World and Old World. I do agree that geographical differences led to different people developed differently and also led to the Eurasian become the leader. Agricultural, geographical (east/west axis) and domestication advantages are the main reasons behind why Eurasian became the leader. I think the points that Diamond provided in the article are enough to support his argument. I also like the way he analysis the specific continents in every different ways (geographical, cultural, agricultural and technology development) It was very surprised to me that the animals in Africa are not originally from Africa, they were from the North.

Patrick Humphreys

I thoroughly enjoyed the article and certainly look forward to reading “Guns, Germs, and Steel.” Diamond provides a straightforward and intuitive explanation for the differences in development between continents. I strongly agree with Diamond’s assertion that geography and environment, not race, played the determining role in technological, political, and economic development. It is amazing how he could craft such a compelling argument from such well known facts as the north-south land mass of Africa and South America. I appreciated Diamond’s “hard-science” approach to history; it certainly shed much needed light on the importance of geography and environment. However, I am skeptical that his expertise would make him any more qualified than other social scientists in explaining how culture shaped the development of these different civilizations. I guess my final judgment will have to be rendered after I finish “Guns, Germs, and Steel.”

Erin Trimble

In his discussion of the modern world’s inequalities, Jared Diamond successfully tackles a subject that the majority of historians would prefer to avoid. The apparent racist implications of the differing rates of human development across the globe have made much of the academic community hesitant to study this topic, despite the lack of evidence for biological differences in intelligence between populations. The truth is, race is a social construct—a way of justifying social inequalities by categorizing people based on phenotypical differences, which are often used to explain internal characteristics. Unfortunately, it is our discomfort in discussing race and the lack of a realistic alternative explanation that has led many to accept racist theories regarding human history. Thankfully, Diamond has taken on the challenge and provided us with such an alternative: Guns, Germs, and Steel, in which the explanation of the broad pattern of history is logically traced back not to racial differences, but to the geography of the continents. Though I generally support Diamond’s argument, I agree with several of the comments above that the cultural aspects of a population should definitely be taken into consideration. It’s not as simple as the shape of a coastline or the location of mountain ranges.

Patrick Traughber

Diamond does as excellent job of explaining the conquest of the Eurasian populations throughout the world over those of the Americas, Africa and Australia. It is fascinating to me to think that human progress could be stifled for millions of years (in Africa) by lack of resources and extreme climates. As I read this article I kept wondering what the world would be like if Africa, Australia and the Americas were all more suitable for human development. One thing I would like to note in particular is something I learned in business school over the past summer (who would have though business, history and science would go together?). In one class, we learned about how in order for employees to be most productive and effective, they must have their basic needs satisfied. Our professor showed us a visual of the Maslow's hierarchy of needs. In this pyramid, basic needs such as food, water and sleep must be met before one can advance to the next level. This continues until you reach the top, where morality, creativity and problem solving can be found. I think this is interesting because in the Americas, Africa and Australia, the populations rarely passed the second step, which includes safety of resources. According to this model, since the Eurasian populations were able to secure these lower steps through favorable climates, access to resources, etc., they were able to reach the top and use those tools. Creativity and problem solving were key to being able to explore new territories and establish colonies on other continents.

Shuwen (Shirley) Liu

Although I agree with Diamond's argument that Eurasian’s evolution of guns, germs, and steel helped them to become the leader of the world, there are much more reason to explain Eurasian’s successes over the world. I agree that the invention of steel does help Eurasian to build the ship, and later on become the most powerful tool when they colonized different lands. But if other countries chose to do the same thing, Eurasian won’t be as successful as it has to be. While Eurasian chose to expand their control over the sea, many countries chose to expand their territories over the land. Therefore, Eurasian’s evolutions was the main reason for their successes, other countries developing plan also help the Eurasian.

Zheng, Yan Ming

Diamond mentions the effects of geography and competition on the success of different groups. His explanation is very clear, yet I feel not enough of implication for our future. I would like to know what kind of conclusion that we can draw from the past. Theory of geography, or fierce competition? In the early human history, people had to depend on what the earth produces; in the modern times, we are released from worries of food, and big cities flourish not solely because of geography. About competition, I sort of can not accept it. Fierce competition within human groups can turn very ugly. Wars are one consequence of it.

Sung Rho

Diamond mentions about the environmental history and how this has such a huge impact over how the history of the entire world changed. His detailed facts about guns, germs, and steel and how the early generations of people caught over each other for land and resources clearly show that the environment does play a crucial role. However, along with others listen above, I believe that cultural aspects should play another crucial role with the change and the history of our past.

Yu (Ray) Zhao

The argument presented by Diamond in this article presents a rather intricate explanation regarding human evolution since 1500 A.D. For one thing, Diamond is able to present elements that many individuals often overlook when it comes to the race relations aspect of sociology. These include things such as geographical locations and the availability of resources (both in terms of plants and animals). Despite the presence of these overlooked factors, Diamond nevertheless presents his argument in a rather apologetic manner. While racism has been made taboo by standards dictating modern society, Diamond’s arguments tries too hard to justify and downplay potential views that might place one ethnic group over the others. For instance, his arguments of the Australian and Tazmanian society are only presented with correlations that may very well be faulty causations. Overall, Diamond’s article does promulgate new and original insights but the article, in my opinion, is marred by an underlying sense of political correctness.

Eric Ritter

I'm really glad to see Diamond offering such a compelling alternate explanation for why different peoples developed at different rates. This article is a brief overview of what he talks about in more detail in his book Guns, Germs, and Steel. He argues that societies developed at different rates because of biogeographical reasons rather than inherent racial differences. He discusses how the similar climates and season patterns along the Eurasian super continent facilitated the exchange of easily domesticated plants and animals. This encouraged greater technological development and also fostered the development of really deadly diseases. This was why, when Europeans came to the Americas, the Native Americans had a huge disadvantage.

Raymond Kei

Diamond explained the difference in human technological development based on scientific research. He mentioned that the domestication of large animals played a crucial part in human history and refuted the idea that the "western civilization" has higher intelligence inherently. It provoked me to think more deeply about the cause of inequality of difference races both socially, economically, and technologically.

Ronald

Diamond presents an alternative view of the development of racism stemming from the inherent advantages the Europeans had to conquer others. However, Diamond writes little as to why the Asian groups (Chinese, Indians, etc) did not become the conqueror or conquered. I wanted a little more about the history of these groups since facts have told they were actually far more advanced than those of the Europeans at a much earlier date. Was it governmental policy or just a lack of interest? It brings about an interesting discussion as to why the Chinese weren’t the great explorers of the world instead of the Portuguese.

James Bebbington

Diamond's arguments as to why geographic/biological differences are the main factors that have affected development over the last 13,000 years are very logical and compelling. I would suggest there are many other factors that also affect the rate at which a society/group will develop, such as cultural differences, the number of wars fought (which encourage innovation), etc. Most of these other factors, however, are either relatively insignificant or a causation of the geographical/biological differences (eg. in a more denseley populated area there is likely to be more competition, and also more wars, which further increases the development rate). Diamond isolates the factors that were most significant in determining how history unfolded.

Anna Romanowska

Diamond presents an interesting approach to the developement of societies around the world. He want to use scientific methods to prove his hypothesis that the differences in developement are caused by pre 1500 unqualities. His reasoning is very logical and I have no reason not to believe his hypothesis, yet he doesn't explain why history took such a different course in different continents. He clearly stated that there there is no difference between the eastern, western and southern civilizations as far as the inteligence level is concerned. Yet some of them were able to develop faster and come up with innovation that allowed them to get upper hand and conquer the others. This makes me believe that everything that happened in the past couple thousands of years depends mostly on the resourses available in certain geographic regions. this should make Asia, the Middle East and parts of Africa equally well developed or even better developed than Europe, which is not the case...

Ronald

Diamond presents an alternative view of the development of racism stemming from the inherent advantages the Europeans had to conquer others. However, Diamond writes little as to why the Asian groups (Chinese, Indians, etc) did not become the conqueror or conquered. I wanted a little more about the history of these groups since facts have told they were actually far more advanced than those of the Europeans at a much earlier date. Was it governmental policy or just a lack of interest? It brings about an interesting discussion as to why the Chinese weren’t the great explorers of the world instead of the Portuguese.

Ronald Yokubaitis

Diamond presents an alternative view of the development of racism stemming from the inherent advantages the Europeans had to conquer others. However, Diamond writes little as to why the Asian groups (Chinese, Indians, etc) did not become the conqueror or conquered. I wanted a little more about the history of these groups since facts have told they were actually far more advanced than those of the Europeans at a much earlier date. Was it governmental policy or just a lack of interest? It brings about an interesting discussion as to why the Chinese weren’t the great explorers of the world instead of the Portuguese.

Christopher Avedissian

Diamond had a very intriguing approach in showing how the rate of development of societies was dependent upon environmental/geographical reasons rather than the superiority of race. There is no difference in the amount of intelligence one can maintain depending on their race. His discussions concerning the climates along Eurasia, from east to west and north to south, was strong reasoning as to why societies were able to encourage advancement within farming or technology. East to west, had the ability to easily exchange plants and such due to similar climates. While north to south, struggled with their geographical situation. Diamond assists in the idea that the advancement of society was not due to racial superiority, but geographical placement. But he should also include within his discussions the values (religion, morals, etc.) each society held.

Christopher Avedissian

Diamond had a very intriguing approach in showing how the rate of development of societies was dependent upon environmental/geographical reasons rather than the superiority of race. There is no difference in the amount of intelligence one can maintain depending on their race. His discussions concerning the climates along Eurasia, from east to west and north to south, was strong reasoning as to why societies were able to encourage advancement within farming or technology. East to west, had the ability to easily exchange plants and such due to similar climates. While north to south, struggled with their geographical situation. Diamond assists in the idea that the advancement of society was not due to racial superiority, but geographical placement. But he should also include within his discussions the values (religion, morals, etc.) each society held.

Christopher Avedissian

Diamond had a very intriguing approach in showing how the rate of development of societies was dependent upon environmental/geographical reasons rather than the superiority of race. There is no difference in the amount of intelligence one can maintain depending on their race. His discussions concerning the climates along Eurasia, from east to west and north to south, was strong reasoning as to why societies were able to encourage advancement within farming or technology. East to west, had the ability to easily exchange plants and such due to similar climates. While north to south, struggled with their geographical situation. Diamond assists in the idea that the advancement of society was not due to racial superiority, but geographical placement. But he should also include within his discussions the values (religion, morals, etc.) each society held.

Christopher Avedissian

Diamond had a very intriguing approach in showing how the rate of development of societies was dependent upon environmental/geographical reasons rather than the superiority of race. There is no difference in the amount of intelligence one can maintain depending on their race. His discussions concerning the climates along Eurasia, from east to west and north to south, was strong reasoning as to why societies were able to encourage advancement within farming or technology. East to west, had the ability to easily exchange plants and such due to similar climates. While north to south, struggled with their geographical situation. Diamond assists in the idea that the advancement of society was not due to racial superiority, but geographical placement. But he should also include within his discussions the values (religion, morals, etc.) each society held.

Katelynn Nguyen

Diamond brings a good point to the table, explaining why different civilizations have evolved differently from the beginning of time. His explanation of the geographical and biological differences on each continent is reasonable in why Eurasia has always had the advantage with their factors and ability to dominate other civilizations. I agree with Diamond's theory on how association with other societies and groups of people can influence the technology of a society in Tasmania and Australia's case. Given that Eurasia was a close knit geographical area, different societies and civilizations were able to communicate with each other, transferring ideas of agriculture, warfare, and etc.

Brandon Leong

Although Diamond makes a good use of examples to explain the different histories of the world, especially how density affected the evolution of diseases in Eurasia, he ignores how density affected the need for technological development or Although Diamond makes a good use of examples to explain the different histories of the world, especially how density affected the evolution of diseases in Eurasia, he ignores how density affected the need for technological development. From what I have learned in Economics of Demography, societies that have a lot more land (thus a less dense population) will do work that is less intensive, such as hunting and gathering. In environments, where there is not a lot of free land, people have to do more intensive work like farming. Thus, all though Diamond touches on the topic of density, he should have explored it a lot of more in terms of how in Eurasia, because they did not have enough land for people to be hunters and gathers, it necessitated that they farm and develop new technology, like steel to make plows, in order to create a sustainable environment.

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