Analysis of “Guns Germs and Steel”
In his book “Guns, Germs, and Steel” Jared Diamond addresses the world history of the last 13000 years, with the main question being “Why is it that Europeans, despite their likely genetic disadvantage and (in modern times) their undoubted developmental disadvantage, ended up with much more of the cargo? ”. Diamond argues that the reason for the different development in different areas of the world is not only dependent on the humans’ biology but rather on their environment. The author’s way of argumentation will be discussed in this critical reflection, focusing on one specific argument from his introduction “Yali’s Question”, more specifically when Diamond argues against a genetic reason for an unequal distribution of wealth on different continents, and the fact that New Guineans are more intelligent than Europeans. The argument is structured into two parts, first of all talking about genetics regarding the intelligence of people comparing New Guineans and Europeans. As Europeans, over time, became resistant to dieseases and today infants survive, regardless of their intelligence.
In New Guinea however, more intelligent people were more likely to survive murders, accidents or providing food. Second, comparing the childhood of children living in New Guinea and Western countries. Children in America spend most of their time watching television or being entertained passively, whereas traditional children in New Guinea spent their childhood actively, mostly outside. Diamond, throughout the book mainly focuses on his own experiences rather than other experts in this field or sources. When looking at the chosen argument, this can be seen by the use of many pronouns such as “my” in the introduction of his argumentation. Referring to personal knowledge can contribute to his argumentation and underline his thoughts, as he personally experienced life in New Guinea. However, in order to prove the examples and facts he gives to support his opinion, Diamond should refer to other sources as well, especially when talking about the past or making specific assumptions. Furthermore, Diamond also makes use of unspecific words like “may”, “probably” and “relatively”. Introducing his argumentation by saying that his “impression that New Guineans are smarter than Westerners may be correct” already shows he is not certain about his point and it cannot be fully proven. Throughout the whole argument, Diamond does not provide specific facts, numbers or statistics in order to confirm his examples. He often generalizes and is vague about his statements.
When, for example, talking about the different childhood in New Guinea and Western countries, he assumes that all western children spend their time being passively entertained. Regarding the children in New Guinea, Diamond only addresses the traditional children. Furthermore, he does not consider the question whether intelligence is dependent on genetics or how intelligence can be measured. One could question if intelligence is only regarding the survival of humans or whether other factors should have been considered. Evidence is lacking, so the reader does not know if his statements are true Diamonds arguments are convincing as they seem logic, regarding the content. Nevertheless, the evidence in form of sources and references is missing, with the result that one cannot know whether his statements are true or false. His argumentation is well structured, but vague and only based on personal experience and knowledge. That is, his overall argumentation can be questioned because of the reasons mentioned above, and other sources or points of view should have been considered.
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