[Sca-cooks] Guns, Germs and Steel

Sandra Kisner sjk3 at cornell.edu
Mon Jul 28 08:21:37 PDT 2008

>>Haven't read either of the first two, but Guns, Germs and Steel is great! 
>>I thought Jared Diamond's argument in that book was probably going to 
>>lead to debate - is anybody aware of any follow-ups/rebuttals of his 
>I have been curious about that too-the book is pretty all-encompassingl I 
>haven't read Collapse yet; the one he wrote about why civilizations fail. 
>(Guns Germs and Steel is about why they succeed). Due to the way I read 
>non-fiction, it's taking me a while to get through GGS, but it will be 
>going with me on a road trip this week, so I'll get through some more of 
>it. I would be interested to hear of responses to his work, too.

Cornell has been doing an all-the-freshman-read-the-same-book thing for 
some years; the first one was "Guns, Germs, and Steel."  I work in a 
program with several area-studies programs with people from all sorts of 
disciplines.  We decided to read the book too, and got together once a week 
for a month or so to discuss it.  Unfortunately most of the discussions 
centered on pointing out where he got it wrong, or (at best) where his 
interpretation was one of several possible, but not definitively 
right.  The only one that sticks in my mind is his harping on the 
bottleneck between South and Central America, and how it prevented all 
sorts of diffusion.  Yet the similar problem between Africa and the Middle 
East (the Mediterranean was rather a barrier way back when "people and 
civilization" were first developing) is totally ignored.  ISTR something 
about the backward Andean peoples never discovering the wheel, not 
realizing that in that topography wheels are next to useless; pack animals 
(rather than draft animals) are what you're going to have to use.  Not to 
mention that they didn't have cattle or horses, but they did have 
llamas.  And freeze-drying.  Seems like they did pretty well to me!


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