This book was absolutely fascinating. It delves into the question as why Western European civilizations became so dominant in the world today, and why other civilizations like Africans and Australian Aborigines did not.
It first debunks the racial question straight out. The Diamond spent some time with a New Guinean man named Yali and found that most New Guineans, even though we would consider them third world and without modern technology, equal in intelligence to us. We are obviously better at certain tasks that deal with technology and crowded civilizations, like navigating through a town, running a computer, etc. But they were superior to us in tracking animals with no trail, building a shelter, etc. They were also apt to learn things just as quickly as us.
So if the question can’t be answered in terms of race or ethnical superiority, then why are Western European civilizations so dominant in the 21st century? (And why have they dominated the world for so long?)
Basically, groups of people have progressed from hunter-gatherers to farmers of agriculture, which leads to specialization of labor, which allows for technological progression. In order for this process to occur, there needs to be plants and animals that are able to be domesticated for human exploitation. There was an abundance of these animals in Mesopotamia, as well as the Eurasian continent. In addition, the Eurasian continent mainly runs along an east to west axis, where as Africa, Australia, and North-South America are mainly north to south axis. This advantage of Eurasia allows for a more stable and continuous climate, which would allow people to transition to agriculture at an earlier time, despite the evidence of the earliest humans in Africa.
As the peoples of Eurasia transitioned to sedentary life styles and specialization of labor, they also began dwelling closer to eachother. This was the early development of cities and then the need for governments. This close quarters of people caused diseases to be spread quickly, allowing for faster development of immunity, and increase in trade of commodities and ideas, also quickening the pace of progression. One reason why certain diseases were picked up from these peoples was through their livestock, since certain animal diseases mutate and are past to humans. They then become human diseases.
When Eurasian peoples began to explore other continents, their diseases were spread to the native people of North and South America, Australia, and Africa. These diseases dessimated huge populations of people in short periods of time, allowing them to be easily conquered.
The book is really a lot more detailed, but let’s be honest, you don’t really care.
I think the argument was extremely persuasive. I remember listening to a class from Professor McSmarty, and in it he quoted a couple of academics who asked the question, “What good has come out of Africa?” Nobody could cite anything worthwhile to originate out of an entire continent, the continent populated by people the longest. But I think this book provides a very good argument as to why white peoples became so dominant in the world.
Why are white Euro descendents so awesome?