Why do westerners have so much cargo? That is the question,
asked by a
The book earned a Pulitzer Prize and long print runs for its author, and for good reason. Insights emerge from seed distribution studies, linguistic analysis, conquistadors, the Polynesian Diaspora, food production, the wheel, and many other ideas
The author’s intellectual scaffolding carries the natural history of mankind on its substantial framework, and it is tightly argued and convincing in most respects (at least for a lay reader such as myself). Many of the ideas in this book are controversial. Beliefs about cultural hegemony and dominance are commonplace and difficult to resist, particularly in this moment of seemingly unending clashes of civilizations. This book provides a framework within which to understand the gifts (and curses) that geography, climate, and microbiology confer on the development of civilizations, setting aside arguments of who is better or smarter.
It is in the postulation of refutable facts that science gives us confidence. Explanatory ‘science’ such as this compelling book can never convince as reliably. Nonetheless, within the intersection of the melding points of societies and the melting points of alloys, Diamond creates a rigorous, fascinating, and convincing story of cultural destinies that sheds light and enlightenment. But yikes… 30 pages of acknowledgements? Thank heaven they came at the end.
My esteemed colleague, Diane Hillmann, of Cornell University Libraries, recently took me to task for failing to provide metadata for the images that decorate my blog. I told her it was intentional. "I know", she replied, icily.
The picture in this post was taken somewhere over the California Central Valley from my window seat on United flight 351, from Seattle to Los Angeles. I was travelling to the WebWise 2006 conference, about which more later. Seat 6F.