Errington and Gewertz are critical of Diamond's larger argument in Guns, Germs and Steel because they think it is based in part on a flawed conception of human nature. Where did Diamond go wrong,...

Errington and Gewertz are critical of Diamond's larger argument in Guns, Germs and Steel because they think it is based in part on a flawed conception of human nature. Where did Diamond go wrong, in their view?
  a. They think that Diamond is wrong in assuimg that all societies strive to produce cargo.
 
  b. They think that Diamond is wrong in assuming that New Guineans had no cargo of their own when the Europeans arrived.
 
  c. They think Diamond is wrong in his assumption that any society, given certain geographic advantages, will inevitably try to dominate or conquer weaker societies.
 
  d. They think that Diamond is wrong in assuming that Europeans were smarter than New Guineans.

Asked on by capima

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This question is a bit difficult to answer.  Two options could potentially be true.  It is clear that Option A is true.  Errington and Gewertz do believe that Diamond’s interpretation of Yali’s question misstates the attitude of the people of New Guinea towards “cargo.”

In Guns, Germs, and Steel, Diamond assumes that all cultures will have more or less the same attitude towards material wealth.  He assumes that all cultures will try to get more material wealth.  Some will be more successful and others will be less successful, but this will be based largely on their geographical circumstances.  Errington and Gewertz dispute this.

To see how this is so, let us look at a few things that they say on p. 25 of Yali’s Question.  They say that Diamond

…misunderstands what many Papua New Guineans desired when he explains the background to Yali’s question…

They go on to say that

…in using the term “goods,” Diamond implies that such items were inherently desirable, instantly recognizable as worth acquiring.

These authors are saying that Diamond thinks that the New Guineans wanted “cargo” because he assumes everyone wants cargo.  They believe that he is wrong. 

On the other hand, Option C is also true.  Errington and Gewertz think that Diamond assumes that everyone will try to dominate other people whenever they can.  They say (p. 11), that he believes that

…human beings necessarily lead their lives so as to extract maximum advantage over others:  give a guy—any guy—half a chance and he will conquer the world…

They clearly believe that this view is wrong.

So which option is better?  I would say that Option C is the better answer because it is more important.  Diamond’s thesis does not fail if New Guineans didn’t want cargo, but it might fail if Europeans dominated the world because they are simply greedier and more inclined to conquer others.

Sources:

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