According to Guns, Germs, and Steel, how have Middle Eastern Islamic communities been a "case study" for continuity and change in the acceptance of innovation?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Chapter 13, one of Diamond’s main purposes is to argue that there is no systematic difference between the people of different continents in terms of their willingness to accept new technologies.  Some historians have claimed that some societies end up being “backwards” because their cultures are not willing to accept change and new technologies.  They argue that places like Australia ended up with weak societies (in terms of wealth and power) because their people were not culturally willing to accept change.  Diamond does not believe this. 

Instead, Diamond says that cultural receptivity varies widely from place to place even on a given continent.  As he says on p. 253 of the paperback edition of the book

…the development and reception of inventions vary enormously from society to society on the same continent.  They also vary over time within the same society.

What this means is that you cannot say that people of Europe became dominant and people from Africa did not because Europeans were more receptive to change at all times and places.

Diamond uses the Middle East as an example of this.  He says that Islamic societies were once the leaders in education and technology.  This was clearly the case in the Middle Ages.  Around 1500 AD, he says, things changed and Muslim societies became less receptive.

Middle Eastern societies, then, are a good case study because they show that receptivity to new inventions shows much more change than continuity over time.

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