Saturday, January 30, 2021

Cochran on Diamond and Guns, Germs, and Steel

Because it come up in the comments I went back and reread Greg Cochran's posts on Jared Diamond  mostly from 2017 - they are mostly negative - and the discussions in his comments sections which are populated by people with both scientific and general knowledge.  Also, occasionally, wit.

It's a fair number of posts, and the topic is controversial.  Still, it may reward your time.  I would pay attention to the dates each one was written, because sometimes the order matters and it is not naturally in the best order.


Texan99 said...

I read that when it came out in 1999 or 2000, enjoyed it, and didn't expect it to engender such fierce debate. I took him to be raising possibilities that had been ignored, more than insisting on new conclusions. Still, it's true that he did tend to push some new conclusions pretty hard without conclusive evidence. It's better to be provocative without straying into the doctrinaire.

He didn't have good evidence for concluding that different crops and animals were more inherently domesticable, but I don't suppose I've read anything since without considering his argument that techniques spread more readily east-to-west than north-to-south, at least in very primitive eras, when the latitude controls so much.

People will talk nonsense about IQ, what it is, what it's worth, whether it matters, how it arises, when and how it confers an advantage in survival. They're so afraid of reaching a conclusion they won't like.

HMS Defiant said...

I read his book shortly after it was published. I found it inciteful, informative and well worth reading. He hit the major take-aways most of the field glossed over. Productivity based on nothing but the grass/grain you had available in your living space at the time, the animals you had available to domesticate and the time that leads to the benefit of many things and erosion of all things. That other guy and his ilk boasting 17 years later of reading a book and finding naught but fault, who cares? Diamond put the study of history and anthropology et al back in the popular vein where it inspired others to dig a little deeper.

All good.

HMS Defiant said...

Ma mere is docent at Smithsonian and the leaps and bounds anthropology have made over the last 30 years boggle the real imagination. Neanderthal, Denisovans and all the rest came out of NOWHERE of the science before Diamond.