What aspects of Diamond's arguments in Guns, Germs, and Steel are of value in relation to conventional explanations?
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One of the aspects of this great work of non-fiction that struck me when I first read it was Diamond's insistence throughout his argument that different levels of development are not the result of genetic or cultural factors. He even argues that people emerging from less developed nations such as Papua New Guinea are in some ways more resourceful and adaptable than people from more developed nations. This is a helpful point to remember for those who are keen to explain away differences between cultures as being the result of cultural factors such as laziness or lack of intellligence.
One conventional explanation that Diamond's theories shed light upon is the demise of non-Eurasian communities through the introduction of germs from Eurasian communities. His theory is of value in understanding this because he details how Eurasian immunity was built up originally over time, thus strengthening the communities, while non-Eurasian communities did not experience this immunological build-up and strengthening in the way Eurasian communities did.
I think the greatest value we get from Diamond's arguments is that he addresses old, accepted explanations and brings new light to them. We tend to view the world from an imperialistic standpoint still, whether we realize it or not. Diamond turns that idea on its head.
The most valuable part of Diamond's arguments with relation to conventional arguments is his focus on geographical factors.
Conventional explanations for European dominance do not focus on geography. Instead, they focus on more value-laden factors. They focus on racial superiority or, more often, cultural superiority. In other words, they say that societies that became dominant are simply better than others.
Diamond's geographical argument is meant to destroy this conventional argument. It is meant to persuade us that the societies that came to dominate the world were simply luckier, geographically, than those that did not.
Diamond's geograpical arguments, then, are of value in relation to conventional arguments because Diamond gives us a value-free, non-racist way to understand why Europeans have come to dominate the world.
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