We met last evening at Wayne’s house to discuss the May book ‘Guns, Germs and Steel‘ by Jared Diamond. Wayne served grilled burgers (perfectly cooked I might add :-)) with guacamole, chips and a fine selection of beer.
10 of us were at the meeting and the discussion started as per usual with Wayne providing background information on the author. Diamond, a UCLA professor is as Wayne described a polymath ( Thanks for the definition Wayne) a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas; such a person is known to draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems. And that is what Diamond attempted to do in this book. The question he puts all his experience to is why wealth and power become distributed as they now are rather than some other way.
The group was certainly mixed on how well he answered that question. Most members felt he fell far short of the mark. It was a constant theme that he kept going back again and again to the sole idea that geography (which is what he taught at UCLA ) was the answer to everything. That the areas that currently dominate with wealth and power fall in that sweet spot on the globe that lends itself to better food production, via farming or animal domestication, and as such have had a on-going advantage over other areas of the globe. Certainly that is a condensed version of his thesis, but that’s my best take away.
Damian was likely the most vocal of the group in debunking Professor Diamonds thoughts. I sat next to him and saw the pages of notes he had taken which were his points of contention with the book, but I am glad that he felt that the book provoked thought and a chance to generate a good argument.
Next month we are at Craigs for the book ‘Them:Adventures with Extremists‘. Then we will be on hiatus for the summer.