What are the three main arguments that Diamond makes in Guns, Germs, and Steel? What evidence does he give? Provide one argument from the first third of the book, one argument from the second...

What are the three main arguments that Diamond makes in Guns, Germs, and Steel? What evidence does he give? Provide one argument from the first third of the book, one argument from the second third, and one argument from the last third of the book. 

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I would argue that we cannot really give you Diamond’s three main arguments in the context of this question because his three main arguments (to the extent that we can identify three of them) are not evenly spread throughout the book.  There is not one main argument in each third of the book the way the question implies.  Instead, Diamond has one main argument.  This argument is that geographic luck allowed the people of some regions to develop farming earlier than others and those who were lucky ended up having wealth and power in the world.  However, it should be possible to at least pick one major argument from each third of the book. 

From the first third of the book, I will look at Diamond’s claim that geography, and not culture, makes some societies richer and more powerful than others.  The most important evidence for this comes from Chapter 2.  There, we are shown that two Polynesian cultures, the Maori and the Moriori, became much different because of their geography.  The Moriori lived on islands where farming was impossible.  They became weaker and poorer and were conquered by the Maori, who lived on New Zealand, where they were able to farm and become richer and more powerful.

From the second third of the book, I will discuss Diamond’s argument that geographic luck is what caused some societies, and not others, to domesticate animals.  In Chapter 9, Diamond argues that only a very few large mammal species are susceptible to domestication.  He shows that no major new species have been domesticated in modern times.  This shows that all the species that could be domesticated were domesticated in previous times.  That proves that societies did or did not domesticate animals based on whether any domesticable animals were available to them, not based on the quality of their cultures.

From the last third of the book, I will take Diamond’s claim that farmers are more powerful than hunter-gatherers and are therefore able to dominate them.  Diamond shows evidence for this in Chapter 19.  For example, he uses linguistic evidence to show that speakers of Khoisan languages (who tend to be hunter-gatherers) were once widespread across Southern Africa.  However, they were conquered by Bantu-speaking farmers who pushed them into areas where the Bantus could not farm.

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