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Jared Diamond, an American scientist
Diamond is an evolutionary biologist with a broad range of experience and is best placed to provide an examination on this topic. His interesting explanations of the differences in intelligence levels between whites and New Guineans portray attempts to steer away from racist ideologies. The general understanding is that most historical analysis explores proximate factors and not the ultimate factors.
Objections to Yali’s question mentioned by Jared Diamond
Yali’s question revolved around the historical inequalities between the whites and the New Guineans. Errington and Gewertz illustrate that Yali posed the question “why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had little cargo of our own?” (13). Diamond, in his response, presented three main objections. First, the chance to interpret the historical dominance of Europe as a justification for its domination is debatable.
Second, Diamond says “no” to the Eurocentric approach in the historical explanation of this set-up and spends a lot of time doing a comparative analysis of other people around the world. The last objective posits that concepts of civilization and development are complex and problematic.
I agree with these objections because they are based on Diamond’s assumptions about “development.” However, Diamond defines human development from the Western perspective of the term and refers to wealth and technology as the defining objects of development and civilization. Whereas most people define civilization and development within the realms of evolution, genetic factors, wealth, and technology, Diamond asserts that an accurate response to Yali’s question does not involve human racial differences at all.
The main argument of Diamonds’ Guns, Germs and Steel
The thesis of Guns, Germs, and Steel by Diamond is to respond to Yali’s question. This is illustrated in the book when the author asks, “Why did human development proceed at such different rates on different continents? Those disparate rates constitute history’s broadest pattern and my book’s subject” (Diamond 16). The main argument of Diamond’s thesis is that historical inequalities between the whites and the New Guineans are not products of biological differences. Diamond posits that such descriptions of differences in development are racist ideologies and genetic explanations.
I agree with Diamond’s thesis because disparate rates have indeed constituted the biggest part of the observed pattern in history. “History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among peoples’ environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves” (Diamond 25) forms the thesis statement of this book. Diamond gives a preview of the thesis statement that “historical inequalities have cast long shadows on the modern world because the literate societies with metal tools have conquered or exterminated the other societies” (13).
Diamond attempts to answer the question behind the difference in the unfolding of history in different continents and explores this question by offering explanations of why these developments began in Europe and not in other parts of the world. Diamond deviates from a narrow-focused on accounts of history and explores this problem of history while arguing that other parts of the world represent the larger population and diversity.
Another interesting part that comes out of this book is the self-chronicle of qualifications for telling this story. Despite varied arguments on the purpose of this step that was provided in the text, the underlying fact that there is nothing wrong with Diamond providing an analysis of himself and stating reasons behind his belief in the ability to tell this story.
Diamond, Jared. Guns, germs, and steel: the fates of human societies. NY: W.W. Norton & Co, 1999.
Errington, Frederick, and Gewertz, Deborah. Yali’s question: sugar, culture, and history. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.