How did Diamond answer Yali's question? (Epilogue)

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laurniko eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The answer to the question Yali asks Jared Diamond that inspires him to write Guns, Germs and Steel is complicated, but it boils down to this: the differences between the histories of people is not about their inner selves, but rather about the environments they live in.

Diamond writes:

I would say to Yali: the striking differences between the long-term histories of peoples of the different continents have been due not to innate differences in the people themselves but to differences in their environments. 

He goes on to explain that if populations had been switched long ago, they would have developed the characteristics of the people who live in those environments rather than retaining the characteristics they have now. Diamond says there are four important aspects of the answer to Yali's question that have to be considered. They are:

  • The differences in plants and animals available for domestication.
  • The rates of diffusion and migration within each continent. Some were less easily traveled than others.
  • The differing rates of diffusion and migration between continents, which affects things like the spread of technology.
  • The area and population size of each continent.

At the end, Diamond says the answers to Yali's questions are probably more complex than Yali would have wanted, and they still leave some issues unresolved. 

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To find the answer to this question, simply look on the very first page of the Epilogue.  There, Diamond says that he would tell Yali that the differences between various kinds of people "have been due not to innate differences" between the kinds of people.  Instead, they have been due to "differences in their environments."

That is the one sentence synopsis of the book.  Diamond has argued throughout the book that Europeans came to dominate the world because of accidents of geography and environment.  He argues that Europeans were lucky, not innately superior.  They were lucky because they inhabited a part of the world that was good for agriculture and, therefore, for having a large population that could lead to having "guns, germs, and steel."

tblackqueen | Student

What are some nongentic answers to Yali questions that Diamond dismisses?

dickcheney | Student

Jared Diamonds argument is riddled with flawed thinking. Europeans were lucky and had good geography well endowed for agriculture? Really, why then is the breadbasket of the Roman Empire in northern Africa? I could go on with other similar examples. In a nut shell why Europeans would be 'lucky' is due to the ancient theological idea that the divine placed it there for them and thus they are the invested or elect people (chosen). Environment plays a role but this is really from a Biological point of view. We find environment played a strong role in Central Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, but go to Ionia and you'll find it was not the 'lucky' of that environment but rather the lacking of it that drove the innovation.

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Guns, Germs, and Steel

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