In what ways does Diamond use science to help construct history in Guns, Germs, and Steel?   

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Since Diamond is a scientist by training, it is not surprising that he uses science to construct history at many points in this book.  Some examples of how he does this include:

  • His discussion of natural selection and the natural history of various plants in Chapter 7.  There, he uses science to determine what kinds of plants would have been feasible and/or attractive for people to domesticate.
  • His discussion of how diseases evolve in Chapter 11.  There, he uses science to explain how and why some diseases evolve to become epidemic diseases that persist in a population.  The presence of these diseases in the "Old World" and their absence in the "New World" are very important to Diamond's history.
  • His discussion in Chapter 5 of radiocarbon dating.  Here, he uses science to help determine when the domestication of plants began in various places.

In these ways and others, Diamond uses science to help construct a history of how some areas came to have "guns, germs and steel" while others did not.

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