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The Theme of “Guns, Germs, and Steel”, Essay Example

Pages: 3

Words: 872

Essay

Jared Diamond’s book, “Guns, Germs, and Steel” aims to educate us about the reasons that Eurasian civilizations have survived and managed to conquer other lands while demonstrating that this supposed dominance is not the result of any kind of superior trait such as intelligence, enhanced morality, and better genetics. In the introduction of the book, Jared Diamond states, “History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among peoples’ environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves”. Ultimately, he provided enough evidence to prove this point throughout the book, which causes the audience to agree. Different environments confer different advantages to the people who live there; the groups who are able to succeed do so out of luck as a consequence of the location they were born to. Furthermore, Yali asks, “Why do white men have so much cargo and we New Guineans have so little?” The answer to this question is simply that white men inhabited lands with a greater supply of resources; both physical materials and proximity to other groups of people allowed them to trade and acquire a greater amount of cargo over time.

Diamond begins his historical account by describing how early people lived; everyone was essentially equal to one another. Until 11,000 B.C., people on all of the continents were hunter-gathers and lived similar lifestyles. They lived in big groups for protection, assigned duties to each member of the group in order to ensure survival, inhabited similar shelters, and ate the same food. However, the end of the Ice Age brought about a diversification of environment for these groups of people; since the plants and animals they relied on during the Ice Age mostly died off during the climate change, people were forced to adapt to their new, different surroundings.

Unlike the conditions of the Ice Ace, people across the world found themselves living in environments that differed greatly from one another, and people took advantage of all the resources they had available to them in order to ensure that they would be able to survive. Since these resources were different, the difference we now see between people living in different parts of the world started to form. Diamond says, “The history of interactions among disparate peoples is what shaped the modern world through conquest, epidemics and genocide. Those collisions created reverberations that have still not died down after many centuries, and that are actively continuing in some of the world’s most troubled areas.” He argues that while some of these actions are not justifiable, they shaped the world at the time of the event and continue to do so.

Diamond argues that while intelligence sometimes accounts who survives over who dies within a society, a society cannot be considered intelligent or unintelligent as a whole because it should be defined for its own societal values. Diamond states, “telligent people are likelier than less intelligent ones to escape those causes of high mortality (murder, chronic tribal warfare, accidents, problems procuring food..) in traditional New Guinean societies. However, the differential mortality from epidemic diseases in traditional European societies had little to do with intelligence, and instead involved genetic resistance dependent on details of body chemistry”. He therefore proposes the idea that certain societies, such as New Guinea were at a disadvantage due to environment; because our environment prevented us from having access to diseases and becoming immune, European diseases have a dramatic impact on our well-being. This is one example of how environment puts us at a disadvantage; if we had a higher rate of transmittable diseases and landed on European grounds, we would then have the advantage. Diamond explains that the reason for this evolutionary disadvantage is a direct consequence of our environment; the Europeans had environmental pressure to have their genes mutate and favorable mutations allowed them to be resistant to disease. The people of New Guinea did not have this evolutionary opportunity.

As such, the reason that white men have so much cargo and we New Guineans have so little is due to our environment. Although this seems to be an oversimplified explanation, Diamond explains that our environment contributes to biological differences as a result of available food, housing, diseases, proximity to water and other land features, and climate. These factors then in turn influence trade, communication with other groups of people, and therefore, the ability to produce complex products. Because New Guinea is an island and secluded from other people, we do not have the same trade and communication advantages as the white men and therefore have less cargo.

In conclusion, Jared Diamond’s idea that history and environment of people contribute to the differences that we see among groups of people is a plausible theory. Although biological and other factors do contribute to differences, it is environment that caused these differences initially. White men are able to dominate other racial groups due to pure luck; the locations they were born in allowed them to have access to a vast amount of resources that other locations do not have. As such, New Guinea is currently at a disadvantage; however, as time passes, it is likely that is will be on the same level as the white men due to increased access to resources and immunity to illness.

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